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Christmas Goodies from Russia

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They may not care too much about December 25th in Russia, but the land of Tchaikovsky gave us a few sugarplums today at the Russian championship. The crosstable news was 16-year-old Kalmykian Sanan Sjugirov, an infant neither tender nor mild, demolishing leader Peter Svidler in just 23 moves. It may take a few minutes to figure out exactly why Black is resigning, especially since White's last move is prophylaxis, but the tactical threats are overwhelming and Black loses material by force. Of course you need your opponent's help to win that quickly, but still impressive play from the teen, who was mentioned as a seven-year-old (? something like that) in JC Hallman's 2003 book "The Chess Artist." (A book I wanted to like, and did for moments. But overall I was turned off by too much overwrought prose and too many of the cliches that non-chess people are inevitably attracted to when writing about chess and chess people.)

On the black side of a Caro-Kann, Svidler pushed a few too many Pawns That Must Not Be Pushed and his position was soon crawling with more weaknesses than a French alcoholic in a room full of escargot au vin rouge. That derailed Svidler's heretofore smooth run to his umpteenth Russian championship title, though it's not as if anyone else is running away with it. Grischuk now leads on +2 after beating Riazantsev in a powerful game, if beating the Alekhine's Defense deserves so much credit. Timofeev spooned out the real sugar against Khismatullin, ending with a rook sacrifice to take four connected passed pawns and a knight against two rooks! Fabulous stuff. Every year this event produces as many or more exciting games as the usual supertournament invitationals and this edition is no exception so far. Sharp, fighting chess from top to bottom. Grischuk is already the only player without a loss, a remarkable and indicative stat.

Santa went from sack full of goodies to lump of coal mode for Tomashevsky in his game against Alekseev. Black was doing what Black usually does in the Benoni at this level -- suffer and pray desperately for a tactical miracle on the kingside. And lo, what should arise on the g-file with such a clatter? Not eight tiny reindeer, but a mating attack! Alekseev may or may not have taken one pawn too many on the queenside, but he definitely slipped up in getting his queen back on defense. 34.Qc4 looks like enough, though White is still going to have to navigate some rough waters. After 35.Bxf3?? Black is ready to go all little drummer boy on white's king. Do you see what I see? 35..Rg7! is instantly crushing. Black's move was still winning, but he let another clear win get away a few moves later when he missed the nice 37..Ng4! and White doesn't have a perpetual after 38.Rxf8+ Kxf8 39.Qxd6+ Kg8, just a few more checks and eventually f2 explodes. Black still had an extra piece and all the chances in the game, but a few more slips and it ended in perpetual check.

Another favorite, Jakovenko, wasn't so lucky. All was not silent or bright for him as he got blown out of the manger by Vitiugov. Black was already up a pawn and for choice when he got to play the cute 26..Rxh2+! Black finished the first time control with all the precision of drunken lumberjack with a rusty chainsaw, but he got the job done in the end to move to +1 and join Svidler a half-point behind Grischuk with four rounds left to play. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a leaping minor piece with excellent outposts in the center.


Merry Xmas everyone.
Nice write-up by Mig, as usual.
Sanan Sjurirov- another promising junior, likely to be snapping at Carlsen's heels within the next decade. There are exciting times ahead.

"an infant neither tender nor mild"

good one sir. As per use.

Merry XMas everyone.

Is the PGN file (http://tal.russiachess.org/games/2009/sf2009.pgn) correct for Alekseev x Tomashevsky ? 54. Ke4 would lose the game for white.

looking at the file of the timofeev game, late last night, after way too much.... aaaaa no it wasnt egg nog, i thought that somebody was kidding
rb5 was bloody good

Merry Christmas to you Mig and to all who read your blog. Excellent word-smithing as usual, thanks for the early Christmas morning chuckle!

My vote for someone to keep an eye on now and in the future: GM Nikita Vitiugov. Play over some of his games, you'll be entertained and rewarded.

Why on earth was Svidler playing a Caro-Kann? When I first looked at the game, I thought the players' names were reversed....Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Frohe Weinachten, and a Joyeux Noel to all!

Timofeev-Khismatullin was nice... four connected passed pawns. Two opposing rooks literally got run over by the stampede of pawns.

Perhaps this is as good a time as any to thank you, Mig, for all your work this year.
And give my regards to the two charming ladies closest to you!

"overall I was turned off by too much overwrought prose" followed by "his position was soon crawling with more weaknesses than a French alcoholic in a room full of escargot au vin rouge" ?

Ahem, pot/kettle etc. :)

But you made up for it with "to all a leaping minor piece with excellent outposts in the center." Same to you and thanks as always for the great commentary.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, Mig,

You do a great job, no matter what everybody says!

Sombre Christmas Goodies: thanks to Daaim Shabazz for getting so involved in the online obits/tributes to IM Michael Schleifer. You asked for remembrances, and unfortunately mine may be too colorful for publication. But I'll allow that, sadly, it was not surprising that such a short term was set to the life of this brilliant and mercurial chess master. RIP Michael.

"You do a great job, no matter what everybody says!"

If this had been written by someone else, I would probably have thought that "everybody" and "somebody" had been mixed up in the above sentence, but somehow I think it wasn't in this particular case... ;o)

Thanks Clubfoot. Of course I understand your "colorful" reference. He certainly was an interesting figure.

About Sanan Sjugirov, I see the initial hype of beating Svidler was overblown in the chess media. He's languishing near the bottom. Good accomplishment though. He's still quite young.

Yep, second Daaim. I'm personally more impressed with Maxime Vachier-Legrave. I think that kid will be knocking on the top fifteen in about a year.

Back in Moscow, Mr. Sjugirov ran into a swinging mace when he played Grishuk. Nice game by Alexander. Watching it live, I didn't get the late pawn pushes until he sprung the queen move.

Hmmm, I think it's a bit odd to compare Sjugirov (*1993) with Vachier-Lagrave (*1990). Among those born in 1993, he is lagging behind Wesley So (much more hyped, e.g. by Susan Polgar) and Parimarjan Negi.
It's not that his win against Svidler was a "one-game wonder", he had two major successes earlier in 2009:
- 7.5/11 at the European Chess Championship (seeded 98th, finishing 16th, gaining 28 rating points). He qualified for the World Cup, where Fressinet was too strong in round 1
- 7/11 at the Russian Men's Championship Higher League (gaining 21 points), the qualifier for the Superfinal.
At the Superfinal, he had clearly the lowest rating - qualifying was a success, the tournament a learning experience, the win against Svidler icing on the cake.

Generally it seems he hasn't played much yet outside of Russia. He would fit well in Corus C or B (by age and rating), maybe next time?

A while ago a poster at Chessvibes suggested him as a future world champion. The general reaction (which I would endorse) was "a bit premature to say so, but it would be one hell of a prediction".

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 24, 2009 11:24 PM.

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