Person of day   -  14 FEBRUARY 2021

SERGEI TIVIAKOV

SERGEI TIVIAKOV

Sergei was born in Krasnodar. In the 1970s, chess players from Kuban were on the rise and soon Krasnodar had a group of strong, young players: Pavel Tregubov, Alexander Polulyahov, Sergei Nadyrkhanov, Sergei Beshukov and the finest representatives of that generation- Vladimir Kramnik and Sergei Tiviakov- became grandmasters of extra class.

Sergei Tiviakov first rose to prominence at the end of the 1980s. The chess player from Krasnodar soon entered the Soviet tournaments of the highest class, having become a master of sport at a young age. In 1989, Tiviakov- still without an international rating- was included in the qualifying tournaments of the GMA in Moscow where he caused a true sensation, fighting the world’s strongest grandmasters as equals. In the seventh round, playing with blacks figures, Sergei faced Indian wunderkind Vishy Anand and decisively defeated his opponent, beginning a long period of being a difficult opponent for the future world champion. His total of 5,5 out of 9 brought the rating-less participant an Elo of around 2500.

In 1990, Sergei Tiviakov came second at a tournament of young masters in Oakham, leaving behind Anand, Michael Adams, Peter Svidler and Vladimir Akopian and then he won the U18s world championship, overtaking Vladimir Kramnik. A year later, Tiviakov played in the last USSR championship, which was regulated according to the Swiss system, and split 11th place with Alexey Shirov, Rafael Vaganian and Andrey Harlov. Soon, the chess player from Krasnodar infiltrated the elites after winning the exceptionally-strong Alekhine Memorial in Moscow in 1992. The young grandmaster’s class was confirmed by a knockout-tournament in Tilburg, where Tiviakov made it to the quarter-final; he knocked out Anand but then lost to Viktor Korchnoi.

After Garry Kasparov’s and Nigel Short’s refusal to play the match for the world championship under the guidance of FIDE, the chess world split apart, with two competing organisations holding qualifying rounds simultaneously. Sergei Tiviakov performed spectacularly at the PSA inter-zonal tournament and qualified for the candidates’ matches. His opponent was the rising star of English chess, Michael Adams. At the qualifiers in Groningen, during the decisive contest between Tiviakov and Adams, fortune favoured the Russian, but their subsequent match proved very difficult for the player from Krasnodar. The Englishman took the lead- 2:0. Sergei Tiviakov fought back- 2:2. Adams regained the lead- 3,5:2,5, but Tiviakov's determination turned the match into a tie-breaker- 4:4, where Tiviakov eventually lost after six additional rapid matches.   

In 1994, Sergei came second in Wijk aan Zee and then performed brilliantly for the Russian team at the Olympiad in Moscow, winning 6,5 out of 9 points. In the middle of the tournament, the main host team lost ground to the group of leaders, but Tiviakov became one of the locomotives for the future gold medallists, winning his final four matches. The chess player from Krasnodar successfully participated in the strongest super-tournaments of that time, but two sub-par performances at Russian championships led to the exclusion of the hero of the Moscow Olympiad from the national team.

In 1997, Sergei Tiviakov took part in the first FIDE knockout world championship, but in the third round he lost to his old acquaintance, Michael Adams, and two years later he lost in the second round to Vladimir Kramnik. In 1999, Tiviakov changed federation from Russia to Holland, where he regularly played in championships and who dreamed of strengthening its national team. With their latest recruit, the Dutch team came second at the European championship in 1999 and in 2001 it won gold of the Old World largely thanks to Sergei’s spectacular performance- 7 points out of 9. Four years later, Tiviakov became the two-time European championship as a member of the Dutch team and in 2008 he won the individual European championship.

Sergei Tiviakov is a strong positioning player with a wonderful endgame technique and a tested debut repertoire. The variant of the Scandinavian defence which involves the Queen’s retreat to d6 is wholly based on the three-time European champion’s ideas.