51-st Russia Championship
St Petersburg 28 July - 08 August 1998

Games with java viewer
Photo Gallery
GM Mark Taimanov - chief of the press center.

Press Release 08.08.1998
11th round

A notable event for the chief of the press centre was that the day of the last round appeared uniquely carefree. The majority of duels were finished quickly and practically without struggle by friendly handshake and occassions for the customaty waste of analysis was rare! The peaceful tone was set by the leaders. Preferring to hold in their hands a "titmouse in Las-Vegas" rather than the "champion's crane" in the Russian sky , one by one came to be finished in a draw in the games of the leading echelon. Two hours hadn't passed and the stage was almost empty; the leaders only having to wait until the end of the round and wait on the consequence of other games, as far as the distribution of the first places depended from final results sometimes the most unlucky of the participants. Those are the caprices of a system of Bukhgolts coefficients. Perhaps it is even less fair than penalties in soccer. Against a background of rather colourless draws there was a brighter looking duel between M.Kobalija - O.Korneev. In a sharp variation of the "Four knights game", where Black sacrifices a pawn for the initiative at an early stage, the contenders up to the 17-th move were confidently following by game Shirov-Short in Novgorod, but on the 17-th move Kobalija applied a novelty ( instead of 17.0-0 - 17. Ng2!? ). The idea of the manoeuvre was the consolidation of his forces and an aspiration to neutralize the Black's main attacking resource - the break-through f4. Nevertheless O.Korneev had all the same to resort to this method even if it meant material loss, for if White has time to castle, Black's business would become simple joyless. Their now emerged puzzling complications, in which the White king tried to slip away from direct threats, and Black had to put on the mantle of a new attack with plentyful sacrifices. Eventually Kobalija managed to safely overcome all danger and, when his king took cover in the silent harbour of the Queen's side, Korneev was dished. An excellent achievement by the young grandmaster. In the " second echelon " there was more liveliness. In truth, in two games - S.Volkov-Y.Yakovich and A.Rustemov-A.Lugovoi - the outcome of the battle was determined, alas, by crude mistakes, but in another - the struggle was more substantial. S.Voitsekhovsky spectacularly crushed A.Galkin. In a typical Queens gambit accepted position he used classical means for this variation to break-through in the centre and his vigorous advance on the King side. Sacrificing at first a bishop, and then a rook, he striped the cover of the Black king position, has created an irresistible attack, and on the 35th move Galkin resigned. This beautiful ending gives Voitsekhovsky the right to apply for a special prize " For the best attack ". From other matches it should be noted that S.Tiviakov confidently outdid E.Solozhenkin in a typical "spanish" visciously manoeuvrable game. E.Sveshnikov in a poor position overlooked simple tactical threat by I.Ibragimov ( 36. f5! ) and could not maintain the position. S.Dvoiris in a firey tactical exchange smartly overcame V.Burmakin. A.Galliamova confidently achieved a victory over E.Sapunov. As these games ended the chances of the players changed like shares on the stock exchange. But the tense pressure reached an apogee, when the outcome of the struggle for the champion's title appeared... in the hands of participants playing for thirteenth place - P.Tregubov and S.Smagin. It was calculated, that in case of a Smagin win the title for the fourth time would be P.Svidler, and for other outcomes - for the first time to A.Morozevich. ( Alas, the best player of all, Sakaev, only achieved third place ). Fate appeared favourable to the young grandmaster - Smagin lost. So, 1-st place A.Morozevich 2-nd place P.Svidler 3-rd place K.Sakaev 4-th place S.Shipov As well as the competitive result of the leaders, other results were judged for creativity: The Jury composition of G.Sosonko, B.Khropov and M.Taimanov, having considered the games submitted by participants, have determined laureates in eight categories: Prize " For the best game of the tournament " GM K.Sakaev ( for the game Sakaev-Rublevsky ) Prize " For the best theoretical novelty " GM K.Sakaev ( for the game Sakaev-Koblija ) Prize " For the best attack " IM S.Voitsekhovsky ( for the game vs. A.Galkin ) Prize " For the deepest strategic plan ", providing by GM S.Dolmatov in a game with S.Ivanov And also: Prize to the best young participant of the championship GM M.Kobalija Prize to the best participant of the championship, representing St.Petersburg GM P.Svidler Prize for the highest creative achievement GM A.Galliamova Prize to the best "senior" of the championship for high creative achievement GM Y.Razuvaev

Press Release 07.08.1998
10th round

The round began with a peculiar record. The first result was fixed when only 3 minutes had passed. S.Ionov with S.Dvoiris agreed on a draw on...the 9th move. It means only that for for some the last two rounds were only a beginning to the decisive phase of the struggle, for others the tournament was effectively finished yesterday... Certainly at the centre of attention was a meeting of the leaders. The all-knowing computer has prompted the fact that in large competitions these countrymen have met 11 times, and in 7 games with white P.Svidler has won 4,5 points against 2,5, and K.Sakaev with white in 4 games - 2,5 against 1,5. However, the balance of 6:5 to the benefit of Svidler is honourable to both parties. Today's game developed unusually. Begun as a reply to the move 1. e4 Sakaev for the first time ( in any case against Svidler ) elected the Russian Game, and in one popular variation the contestants quickly made 14 theoretically well known moves. Their own creativity began with the novel lunge 14... Na5 ( usually played is 14. ... Bd6 ), when Sakaev, faithful to his active style, sacrificed a pawn for fast mobilization of his forces. Probablly this idea "was already in the air ", and Svidler has not caught unawares. He accepted the sacrifice and rather harmoniously arranged his own forces. However the activity of the black pieces was a determined compensation for an insubstantial material deficit. This evaluation probably shared by both players, and as soon as the 18th move (from which their "own" play yielded only four and a half) the leaders agreed to draw. Their example was followed by A.Dreev and E.Pigusov. But the position,in which their world existed, by no means looked equal - White had... an extra piece. That is why the decision of the contestants requires a clarification. First of all, it not so paradoxical, for it is well known in the theory of the Nimtsovich defence and usually the dangerous initiative delivered by the opening leads to an extremely sharp and tangled game with mutual chances, for a sacrificed piece Black gains a dangerous initiative. Numerous analysis (including computer) result in a conclusion with approximate equal chances. Consequently, if the players did not undertake special preparations in the spirit of this risk, there isno basis to condemn this early draw. Multiexperimental E.Bareev in meeting with young M.Kobalija in Dutch defence ( with rearrangement moves from Queen's Gambit ) a long time and persistently find out chances on achievement any item of position advantage, but unsuccessfully. Kobalija strongly " holded a zone " and has confidently finished the game up to draw. Difficultl to explain the logic of development of events in the duel A.Shchekachev-S.Shipov. A characteristic Sheveningen variation build-up (though formally the game began as an English), Shchekachev utilizing the languid game of the contender, arranged his forces harmonically and rather actively on classical models for an approach to the King side. If he had made a classical lunge on move 19 with the knight on d5, which the is drawn to make, Black's business would at once become unenviable (19...exd5 20. exd5 and now, if 20... Bd7 then 21. Rxe7, and on 20... Be8 - 21. Bxf6 Bxf6 22. Qf5 ); but the young GM made an attempt to reinforce his pressure by crossing a rook on the third rank. It cost several tempii and gave time to Shipov to consolidate his defence. The business was resolved absolutly dramatically. Rashly opening the centre, Shchekachev deployed his pieces extremely unsuccessfully and not only did not achieve any benefit, but also enlivened the long-ranged pieces of his opponent. Already in a bad position he missed the mate. It is distressing not that the young GM did not find the right plan and even made an error but that he does not know the elementary methods of attack, so typical in the Sicilian defence. Conversely, the game A.Morozevich and S.Rublevsky was conducted rather academically and professionally. A Long manoeuvring struggle in a closed position entered a dynamic stage when Morozevich executed a break-through on the King's side ( 16. f5! ), which resulted in the appearance of a vulnerable pawn e6 in the Black camp. It is necessary to give due credit to the enterprising young GM, who resourcefully created breaches in Rublevsky's strenghs. Using the activity of his pieces, Morozevich compelled a transition to an endgame where his bishops supervised the whole board. The main problem for Rublevsky was the hobbled knight on the 8th rank. Morozevich achived a refined final combination, and this liquidation decided the outcome of the struggle to his own benefit. Fascinating events occured in the duel V.Popov - V.Zviaginsev. After originally being outplayed in the opening Zviaginsev was already aspiring to the initiative by the 12th move, and perhaps recklessly, gave back the queen for two pieces. Black's position looked rather threatening, but White's large material superiority allowed him to "ransom himself" by returning a part of his gains and after the game had simplified and passed to an endgame White's advantage of additional material became argued a simple technical victory. Deserving complete recognition is the creative achievement of S.Dolmatov. In a game against S.Ivanov he invented an interesting manoeuvre in a known variant of the French defence: 14. Qh3, improved the dynamic prospects for White. Ivanov has high skill in the protection of constrained positions, but this time he could not oppose the continuous escalation of White's pressure on the King side. Dolmatov conducted his approach without hurry, but very vigorously. He managed to drive in a pawn wedge at f6 inhis opponent's camp andit, to a decisive degree predetermined the development of the final events. Black's pieces had difficultly in protecting the position of the Black king and, not shying from a sacrifice, Dolmatov "landing a powerful force" of pieces in the breaches made in the position of the enemy's castled king. Under the inevitable threat of mate Ivanov resigned. It remains to add, that S.Smagin inexplicably lost an absolutaly equal endgame to V.Epishin. So, the number of leaders with 7 points was increased to 4, and their direct pursuers with 6,5 points has decreased to 6.

Press Release 06.08.1998
9th round
The hero of the day is again K.Sakaev. His play in the game with M.Kobalija deserves maximum praise. In a sharp variant of the Slav Defence he has confidently pursued a well-known variant, connected with a pawn sacrifice for the initiative, which theory evaluates fairly ambiguously. Practice has shown that White's problems in managing his dynamic resources are not less complex than Black's problem in defence. In any case, the balance of existing games in this variation is about equal. But Sakaev had his own opinion on this matter, reinforcement by preparation. In position, arising after the 11th move,instead of the usual 12. Bxc4 ( for which he was obviously prepared ) he made a new and very strong move 12. Nc5! The purpose of the manoeuvre - to allow development of Black's knight b8 to d7, to ensure a powerful and unassailable bishop on e5. Probably, theoretical researches ( and they will undoubtedly follow ) will show that a deeply complex problems were delivered by Sakaev's novelty, but obviously, Kobalija did not negotiate them. After castling he could not avoid opening the "h" file; his King got under direct attack, and defensive resources to resist were obviouly inadequate. Sakaev continued with his customary energy, and concentrated powerful forces on the King's side, so by the 25th move his young contender was already defeated. A magnificently creative Petersburger achievement! Sakaev was the first to move into clear first place in the tournament table. In truth, his sole leadereship was not for long. One of the main favorites P. Svidler quickly overtook his countryman. The duel P.Svidler - S.Smagin was rather fascinating. The contestants very quickly and confidently made 21 moves, as they were certainly following the game Ionchuk-Murdziya, played five years ago in Poland. Only on the 22nd move Smagin deviated ( instead of 22... Nd7 - 22... b3 ), probably connected to a plan of contrplay. The position appreciably become more acute, when with a temporary Bishop sacrifice he opened the game on the Queen side. Seemingly, Smagin's pieces had taken up threatening positions, but, as is shown in the current struggle, Svidler's deeper creative interpretation of the position showed only a temporary initiative for Black with no real prospects ( besides there were concerns withthe advanced pawn b3, and the concentration of White forces on the King side, whereas the Black king having insufficient defenders, became threatened. At this moment Smagin unexpectedly decided to undertake a desperate course, probablly connected with a tactical miscalculation. By and large, having recaptured one of two pawns, he had not achieved sufficient compensation. To complete his misfortunes in an already hopeless position Smagin lost on time. The duel of the third pair of leaders between A.Dreev and A.Shchekachev was very adventurous. After apeculiarly played variation of the Indian defence Dreev obviously overlooked simple tactical threat ( 14... c4! ), after which be is compelled to part with a piece. To his credit he negotiated this with fortitude and with great inventiveness found counterchances. Shchekachev spent a lot of time s earching for the best continuation and decided not to tempt fortune by accepting a draw offered by Dreev. An important victory was the defeat by S.Rublevsky over S.Ivanov. In a quiet variant of the French defence after a number of simplifications had arisen, a position with a small advantage to white (open "d" file!). Although Black's problems did not look complex, they required accurate defence, as Rublevsky with great imagination found ways of developming the initiative ( 19. BЕ3!, 21. Ng5!, 23.Rd4!, 25. d5, 27. Rf6! ). For a long time Ivanov defended with his customary perseverance, but when the main difficulties were already overcome, his blunder was to exchange the remaining pieces and risked (always requires special consideration) moving into a pawn endgame, where the opponent had a remote passed pawn. Now all depended on the struggle for "tempo", and it transpired that in this quiet struggle Ivanov was doomed. On the 51st move Ivanov was dished. The appreciably improved young GM A.Morozevich, in his duel with D.Yevseev in a known variant of the Chekh defence, for a long time maneuvered with his opponent in search of a bridgehead for offensive operations. A signal to particular action was the advance of white's pawn ( 19. е5 ), which would seem to determine White's chances on the King's side. However Morozevich managed to coolly neutralize this intention of his opponent and strongly blocked approaches to his king. Probably at this critical moment Yevseev lost objectivity and groundlessly played an "all or nothing" attack, leaving to mercy the fate of his Queen's side. From this plan of commiting all his forces, he has suffered many losses. It predetermined the outcome of the struggle, and Morozevich won.

Press Release 05.08.1998
8th round

       Only 4 rounds to the end of the championship, and the leaders are unusually tightly grouped, which is why all attention is absorbed by duels on the proscenium.
        Very a propos,therefore was the meeting of M.Kobalija - P.Svidler. In a double-edged popular variant of the Sicilian defence, after 11 moves well known to theory, Kobalija avoided beaten tracks and instead of the approved 12. Nf5 played the quieter 12. Nb3. Svidler reacted in a classical way, and with the temporary pawn sacrifice ( 16... d5 17. ed5 Bb4 ) intercepted the initiative. Black's position looked rather speculative, but perhaps 19... Qxe5 was not best. With the accurate manoeuvre 21. Rf4 Kobalija strengthened his position and Svidler had duly to offer the draw, which was accepted. Unfortunatelly, such fascinating events did not continue to a logical conclusion, The result was taken purely for competitive reasons, although in the final position Kobalija had a potentially profitable opportunity to complicate the struggle.
In the forcing variation 22. Bd4 Qxe1 + 23. Qxe1 Nf3 + 24. Bxf3 Rxe1 + 25. Kf2
the endgame would precipitate, where despite a slight material disadvantage (bishop and pawn against rook), the initiative would undoubtedly belong to White. For example, 25... Rb1 26. Bxf6! gf 27. Ke3!
        Rather than quickly accepting a peaceful decision like countrymen S. Ivanov and K. Sakaev. On the board was more opportunity for a pithy struggle, but here also competitive positions have superceded over creativity. However, this draw benefitted Sakaev. He is a typical "white player," and safely passed a "black" day satisfactorily.
        Deeper development in the duel S.Dolmatov - S. Shipovalso also ended peacefully. In a Sicilian Defence the partners played out a double-edged variant  of in the Sheveningen system, where White sacrifices a central pawn with the purpose of openning the game and throw over his forces to the King side. This variant has a rich precedent in ways of developing the
initiative, as well as defence methods, and is well investigated.
      Not surprising, as in today's duel, Dolmatov and Shipov were easily enmeshed in strategic problems, and after a short flare of "hand-to-hand" fighting the game passed into an endgame, not giving either party any optimistic hopes, and drawn on the 29-th move.
    The brisk struggle deployed all over the board was seen in the duel of S.Volkov vs A.Dreev. The players played a peculiar "hybrid" from several variants of the Queens' Gambit, and after opening the centre both sides had their trumps - White a "good" knite on e4, Black - a "good" bishop on d4. Chances of the parties were provisionally equal, but Volkov imprudencely allowed a Queen exchange, and in the arising endgame Black's pieces appeared more active. Probably Volkov had enough resources for the neutralization of pressure. However, the young master again demonstrated an insufficient skill in playing  endgames. Dreev skillfully used his
opportunities and achieved an important victory.
        A. Shchekachev and S.Smagin had a long typically  Spanish "entrenchment"
manoeuvrability struggle. But when the partners had moved pieces to scheduled active outposts, there began an unexpected double-edged tactical skirmish, in which both GMs displayed a lot of inventiveness. However here also interesting developments did not received a logical
completion. In an undefined position the players agreed a draw.
     As a tragedy it is possible to name the loss of A.Galliamova. In the "closed" variant of the Sicilian Defence she skilfully used the passive play of  A.Morozevich and defeated him, by using classical strategic rules, well know to us. Black's initiative on the Queens' side had taken a threatening character, and in searching out any conterchances Morozevich rushed in with a desperate attack.  At first Galliamova reacted confidently and coolly to this action - and creating "luft" had moved one of the three pawns protecting the king, and that, objectively speaking, guaranteed a simple win. But, unfortunatelly,several intervening mistakes, destroyed all
Galliamova's achievements. The errors were followed one by another, and instead of a deserved victory Galliamova received an offensive setback. Morozevich had no merit in it...
     The most extendsive game was V.Yemelin and S.Rublevsky. Here was a persistent and hard struggle, in which the chances of the parties often interchanged. Eventually, in the double-edged endgame the rival forces were exhausted and with a rook against bishop ending the partners agreed on a draw.
     In a long endgame with about equal chances V.Vorotnikov in a game with A.Kharlov did not maintain the pressure, overestimated his chances and suffereded serious material loss. On the 65th move he recognized himself as defeated.
     From results of the "second echelon" a victory should be noted by E.Bareev over A.Poluliakhov. One of the favorites of the championship, the GM from Moscow with ELO 2690, unexpectedly became the unlucky person of the championship, but due to this win (after an energetically conducted attack) he at last moved to a 50% match-score.