For anyone rushing out to copyright that moniker in order to sell commemorative mugs, mouse pads, and teddy bears with Peter Svidler's face on them, any American chess fan can tell you that the title is already taken. Walter Browne won six US titles from 1974-83, even more impressive than it looks since that span included only seven events. Peter Svidler just won his amazing sixth Russian title, his first since 2008 and 17 years since his first in 1994. Since Russia went solo in 1992, only one other player has won more than once, Morozevich in 1998 and 2007. In 2004 the championship was supercharged into a superfinal, a round-robin that mixed qualifiers with the heavyweights who often chickened out of the big opens.
The 2011 edition was perhaps the strongest yet, if also the smallest. All of Russia's top stars were there, plus qualifiers Timofeev and Galkin. Kramnik turned up for just the second time, joined by Grischuk, Morozevich, Svidler, Nepomniachtchi, and new Russian number one Sergey Karjakin. No insult to Jakovenko or Vitiugov, who are currently rated higher than Moro and Nepo, but there's no doubt the latter two are the marquee names. The sporadically retired Morozevich actually dropped below 2700 on the last list and is ready to add over 40 points on the next one after his results in the Russian Ch and Biel. Great to have him back.
So a short sprint it would be, just seven rounds with one rest day. +2 was looking good for a share of first in such a tough field. But instead of conservative play we got a real firefight with under 50% of games drawn. No one escaped without a loss, though Timofeev and Galkin were knocked around as Elo expected, both going winless. Svidler started fast out of the gate, beating Kramnik in the first round when Big Vlad couldn't keep the fires burning after an enterprising piece sac. Then after two draws Svidler won three games in a row to lock up the title. The final table looks closer than it was due to Svidler's loss to Morozevich in the final round. Clinching the Russian championship with a round to spare is no small feat, especially in an event of just seven rounds. Svidler played a lot of excellent defense, twice winning with counterattacks. When he got the chance to go on the offensive he was just as impressive, outplaying Galkin and Nepomniachtchi with powerful efforts. It was a particularly sweet win for him since it came right on the heels of his mediocre showing for Russia at the World Teams.
Kramnik continues to impress with his aggressive play, not to say devil-may-care. After losing the Anand match Kramnik started sacrificing pawns in the opening on a regular basis and now he's chucking pieces around like a Spaniard heaving tomatoes during the Tomatina. Of course such risks don't always pay off, although Kramnik's other loss came in his beloved Berlin, to Karjakin, who just beat Kramnik's Petroff a few months ago. Kramnik compensated with three wins to tie for 3-5th with Karjakin and Grischuk. He also pulled off his "I want to win with black so I will play the Pirc and you will think you can beat me but you will lose because I am Kramnik and you are not" trick against Galkin in the final round. He first did this against Smeets at Wijk aan Zee last year, though it didn't work out against Naiditsch at Dortmund 2010, when the lower-rated player did beat him. There were many other wonderful games in Moscow, a real Russian feast.
Next up, the FIDE World Cup in, where else, Khanty-Mansiysk. Round one is on Sunday the 28th. As I mentioned here before, the number of top players not participating guarantees that at least one or two top-tenners won't be in the next world championship cycle, assuming FIDE actually sticks to its own rules. Nakamura qualified by rating but just tweeted he's off to Vancouver for two weeks. I hope he's preparing for the Bilbao Grand Slam Final, which is at the end of September. Aronian, Carlsen, Topalov, and Kramnik are also absent. I'll start a separate thread for this one tomorrow, have to get our upset picks in! (Leko-Shankland, hmmm...)