Heading into the final round, no less than six players had a realistic chance for first place. Four decisive games ensued and Alexander Riazantsev emerged victorious. World Chess’s columnist walks readers through how it all unfolded.

The Russian Championship finished Thursday with a surprise winner, 31-year-old Alexander Riazantsev. He once reached a peak rating of 2720 in July 2012, but his current rating of 2651 made him the eighth seed in the twelve-man field. His plus-three score of 7 out of 11 put him in clear first, half a point ahead of Alexander Grischuk and Evgeny Tomashevsky. Further behind were other top players rated over 2700, including Peter Svidler, Ernesto Inarkiev, Nikita Vitiugov, and Dmitry Jakovenko.

Many rounds had a high percentage of draws. In Rounds 2, 6, and 10, five of the six games were drawn, and it was six for six in Rounds 3, 7, and 9. As a result, the field was closely packed coming into the last round, with Riazantsev and Vladimir Fedoseev tied for first with 6/10, half a point ahead of Grischuk, Svidler, Tomashevsky, and Jakovenko, and a point ahead of Vitiugov and Aleksey Goganov. With eight players having a chance to at least tie for first there was plenty of motivation for a fighting round, and that’s just what happened.

The games Vitiugov-Svidler and Goganov-Inarkiev were drawn, taking all of them out of contention, but the other four games were all relevant to the race for first. Grischuk won with a near miniature (25 moves or less) over Kokarev in a theoretically significant variation of the Najdorf Sicilian Defense.

Grischuk, Alexander vs. Kokarev, Dmitry
69th ch-RUS 2016 | Novosibirsk RUS | Round 11 | 27 Oct 2016 | ECO: B90 | 1-0
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Nb3 This move hardly even existed as a tournament option until recently, but now there's a little cottage industry growing around it. Its main advocate is the Polish grandmaster Mateusz Bartel. It is in part a high-class waiting move, waiting to see whether he plays ...e6, ...e5, ...g6 or some other committal move.
6... Nc6 7. Be3
7. Be2 is also possible and popular, keeping g4 under control not just to stop any ...Ng4 ideas, but also to push the g-pawn.  )
7... Ng4
7... e6 is more common, after which White generally goes for the attack with
8. g4  )
8. Bd2
8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3 is also possible, with some resemblance to the line 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3.  )
8... Nf6 9. h4 Varying from another game in which Kokarev had Black. One subtle idea is that when the bishop goes to g5 later, Black will be able to kick it with ...h6 but not with a subsequent ...g5.
9. Bd3 g6 10. Bg5 Bg7 11. Qd2 h6 12. Bh4 g5 13. Bg3 Nh5 14. O-O-O Na5 15. Nd5 Nxb3+ 16. axb3 b5 17. Be2 Nxg3 18. hxg3 Bb7 19. f4 e6 20. Nc3 Rc8 21. Kb1 b4 22. Na4 Bxe4 23. Bd3 Bc6 24. Qxb4 Rb8 25. Qa3 O-O 26. Nc3 Bxg2 27. Rhe1 a5 28. f5 Bh3 29. fxe6 Bxe6 30. Be4 Rb4 31. Bd5 Re8 32. Bc6 Re7 33. Nd5 Bxd5 34. Bxd5 Rd4 35. Rf1 Qb6 36. c3 Rxd1+ 37. Rxd1 Qf2 38. Bc4 Qxg3 39. Qxa5 g4 40. Qf5 Qf3 1/2-1/2 (40) Oparin,G (2597)-Kokarev,D (2624) Kolomna 2016  )
9... g6 10. Bg5 The coffeehouse move
10. h5 looks interesting, but White need not burn his bridges.  )
10... Bg7 11. Qd2 h6
11... O-O? is asking for trouble. Now White will play
12. h5 and hack away at the Black king. After
12... Nxh5 13. Be2 Nf6 14. Bh6 Black is forced to give up the exchange, as something like
14... Be6? loses to
15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. Qh6+ Kg8 17. g4! Bxg4 18. Nd5 Re8 19. Nxf6+ exf6 20. Bxg4 Rxe4+ 21. Be2  )
12. Bf4 Now Black can't castle until he plays ...h5. That will give White a hook for his attack with f3 and g4.
12... Be6 13. O-O-O h5 14. Kb1 O-O 15. f3 Rc8 16. Bh6 Bxh6 17. Qxh6 Qb6 18. g4 As advertised. So far we've been focusing on White's attacking chances, and they are genuine. But Black is still okay, provided he plays extremely accurately.
18... Ne5! 19. gxh5 Nxh5 20. Be2 Threatening f4.
20... Rxc3! 21. bxc3 Qf2? This is a natural move, attempting to create havoc in White's position. The bishop is hanging and ...Ng3 is in the air, and most of White's pawns look like ripe fruit for the picking. What Kokarev underestimated is how vulnerable his queen will prove to be.
21... Rc8! was best. Both sides need to play precisely here, and a draw would be the logical result after
22. Rhg1 Rxc3 23. Qxh5 Bxb3 24. axb3 Rxb3+ 25. cxb3 Qxb3+  )
22. Nd4! Ng3 23. h5!
23. Rhe1 isn't as strong, though it too keeps a winning advantage.  )
23... g5
23... Nxh5 24. Rdf1 Qg2 25. Rfg1 Qf2 26. Qxh5 is too easy.  )
23... gxh5 24. Rdg1  )
24. Qxg5+ Kh7 25. Rdf1! Not the only move, but an elegant way to finish the game.
25... Nxf1 26. Rxf1 Nxf3
26... Qh2 27. Rg1  )
27. Qc1 White will be a piece up for nothing.
27. Qxe7 also wins, but the text is simpler.  )

Grischuk’s final score of 6.5 points was equaled by Tomashevsky, who won with Black in a topsy-turvy game against Dmitry Bocharov.

Bocharov, Dmitry vs. Tomashevsky, Evgeny
69th ch-RUS 2016 | Novosibirsk RUS | Round 11 | 27 Oct 2016 | ECO: E32 | 0-1
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 b6 5. e4 c5 6. d5 Qe7 7. Ne2 exd5 8. exd5 d6 9. Bd2 O-O 10. O-O-O
10. f3 makes sense, avoiding Black's next.
10... Ba6 11. a3 Ba5 12. O-O-O Bxc4 13. Ng3 Bxf1 14. Rhxf1 Nbd7 15. Nf5 Qd8 16. Bf4 Ne5 17. Nb5 Nfd7 18. Nbxd6 c4 19. Kb1 Qf6 20. g4 b5 21. g5 Qd8 22. Nb7 Qc7 23. Nxa5 Qxa5 24. Bd2 Qb6 25. Bc3 f6 26. gxf6 Rxf6 27. Rg1 g6 28. Nh6+ Kf8 29. Ng4 Rf5 30. Qd2 Nxf3 31. Qh6+ Ke8 32. Rg2 a5 33. Qxh7 b4 34. d6 Kd8 35. Re2 Rf8 36. Bg7 1-0 (36) Abel,D (2446)-Kacheishvili,G (2597) Las Vegas 2014  )
10... Ng4 11. Re1 Despite the rating gap, White's
11. Be1 may have been better than Bocharov's new try.
11... Qg5+ 12. Qd2 Qf6 13. Ng3 Bxc3 14. Qxc3 Qxc3+ 15. bxc3 f5 16. h3 Ne5 17. f4 Ned7 18. Bd3 g6 19. Bd2 Nf6 20. Rhe1 Na6 21. Nf1 Nc7 22. Nh2 Bd7 23. Re2 a6 24. Nf3 b5 25. Be1 bxc4 26. Bxc4 Bb5 27. Bxb5 axb5 28. Ng5 Ncxd5 29. g3 Rfe8 30. Rxe8+ Rxe8 0-1 (30) Lehtila,T (2131)-Kulaots,K (2571) Jyvaskyla 2016  )
11... Nxf2 12. Rg1 Nd7?! The obvious
12... Ng4 may be the better bet.  )
13. Nd4 Qxe1+
13... Ne5 14. Nf3  )
13... Qf6 14. Nf3 h6 15. h3  )
14. Bxe1 cxd4 15. a3 After
15. Bxf2 dxc3 16. bxc3 the key question is whether Black can create a fortress based on his control over e5. For example:
16... Ba3+ 17. Kb1 Ne5 18. Bd4 Bc5 19. Bd3 g6 20. Bxe5! dxe5! 21. Re1 Bd6 22. Qa4! Rb8! 23. Qxa7 f5 and it's hard to tell at a glance whether White will have the wherewithal to break Black's blockade.  )
15... Bc5?
15... dxc3 16. axb4 cxb2+ 17. Kxb2 Ng4 followed by . ..Nge5 again looks like a good defensive setup.  )
16. b4 d3 17. Qd2 Ne4 18. Nxe4 Bxg1 19. Bg3? After
19. Nxd6 Bxh2 20. g3 Bg1 21. Qxd3 White is on the road to victory.  )
19... a5! Black's counterplay comes just in time.
20. Bxd3 axb4 21. axb4 Ne5! 22. Nxd6 Nxd3+ 23. Qxd3 Bd7 24. Kb2? Unfortunately for White, this doesn't stop anything Black wants to do; if anything, it creates some new tactical liabilities.
24. Nb5  )
24. Be5  )
24... Ra4 25. Qb3?
25. Be5 Rxb4+ 26. Kc2 was still only slight worse for White.  )
25... Bd4+ 26. Kc2 Rfa8 All Black's pieces are now participating in the attack.
27. Qf3 Ra2+ 28. Kd3 Bf6 29. Ke4 R8a3 30. Qh5 g6 31. Qd1 Ba4 32. Qe1 Bc2+?? Many moves won, the simplest being
32... h6 , supporting a later .. .Bg5+.  )
33. Kf4 g5+ 34. Kg4 Bg6
34... Ra8 35. h4  )
35. Qe8+ Kg7 36. Nf5+ Bxf5+ 37. Kxf5 h5? Giving White a second chance to win the game, but in what was likely mutual time trouble the advantage changes hands once again.
37... Rxg2  )
38. Qe4?? This self-block of White's king loses to a simple tactic.
38. Qc6! wins. Black has no good checks, and he is forced to either surrender the g-pawn or (in case of ...Bd8 or ...Be7) to allow Be5+. In both cases White's advantage is enough to win and then some.  )
38... Rxg3! 39. hxg3 Rf2+ 40. Qf3 Rxf3+ 41. gxf3 The time control has come, but it's too late for White to save the game.
41... h4 42. gxh4 gxh4 After
42... gxh4 43. Kg4 Be7 freezes White's queenside pawns, and then the win is trivial.  )

If Fedoseev, a young (21-year-old) star could also have won with Black, then he would have finished ahead of Grischuk and Tomashevsky and guaranteed himself at least a tie for first place. Fedoseev’s opponent, Grigoriy Oparin, only 19, hadn’t enjoyed a particularly good tournament up to that point, but he won with an impressive attack to dash Fedoseev’s championship hopes.

Oparin, Grigoriy vs. Fedoseev, Vladimir
69th ch-RUS 2016 | Novosibirsk RUS | Round 11 | 27 Oct 2016 | ECO: C65 | 1-0
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Qe2 Not an especially common move, but having been used by Magnus Carlsen and Veselin Topalov, among other very strong grandmasters, it's a move that Black must take seriously.
6... Nd7
6... Qe7 7. Nbd2 Bg4 8. h3 Bh5 9. a3 Nd7 10. b4 Bd6 11. Nc4 f6 12. Ne3 a5 13. Nf5 Qf8 14. bxa5 Rxa5 15. O-O Qf7 16. a4 Nc5 17. Qe1 b6 18. Nd2 Rxa4 19. Nc4 Bf8 20. Be3 Kd7 21. Qc3 Nxe4 22. Nxb6+ cxb6 23. dxe4 Qc4 24. Qd2+ Kc7 25. g4 Bg6 26. Rfd1 1-0 (26) Carlsen,M (2855)-So,W (2770) Bilbao 2016  )
6... Bg4 7. Nbd2 Nd7 8. h3 Bh5 9. Nf1 Bxf3 10. Qxf3 Qe7 11. Ng3 g6 12. O-O Nf8 13. Be3 Ne6 14. Ne2 O-O 15. Qg3 Bxe3 16. Qxe3 c5 17. f4 exf4 18. Nxf4 Nxf4 19. Rxf4 Qe5 20. Raf1 Qxb2 21. Qxc5 Qb6 22. Qf2 Rad8 23. Rf6 Qd4 24. g4 c5 25. Kg2 c4 26. Rxf7 Qxf2+ 27. R7xf2 Rfe8 28. Rf3 Re5 29. Rb1 Ra5 30. Rb2 b6 31. Kf2 h5 32. gxh5 Rxh5 33. Rb4 1-0 (33) Dominguez Perez,L (2720)-Kasimdzhanov,R (2696) Baku 2016  )
7. Be3 Bd6 8. d4 O-O 9. Nbd2 exd4 10. Nxd4 Nb6 11. O-O-O Just one more illustration of the remarkable flexibility of the Berlin: the generally solid 4.d3 system is about to turn into a race with attacks on opposite flanks.
11... a5 12. g4 a4
12... Qe7 is an interesting move, in part aimed at punishing a3 in reply to ...a4, as Black can then consider ...Bxa3.  )
13. a3 Re8
13... Qe7 14. Kb1!  )
14. f3
14. Nf5  )
14... Bd7 15. h4
15. Nf5  )
15... Qe7! 16. Kb1! Ra5
16... Nd5! keeps the game from getting out of hand. White is only slightly better after
17. Nc4 Nxe3 18. Qxe3 Bc5 19. Qc3  )
17. h5! Be5
17... h6 stops White from playing h5-h6, but at the cost of making a later g4-g5 a serious threat.
18. Rhg1  )
18. f4 Bd6 19. h6 g6 20. Rhg1 White is probably winning here. Black has no counterplay to speak of, and sooner or later White will break through on the kingside or in the center.
20... Ra6 After
20... Bxa3 21. bxa3 Qxa3 White is worse after every move except
22. Qd3 ; unfortunately for Black, White is winning here.  )
21. Qd3 Nd5 22. e5 f6 This expedites Black's defeat, but "better" moves last longer without giving him any real chance to resist. This at least forces White to find good moves to keep a winning advantage.
23. Nf5! Bxf5
23... gxf5 24. gxf5+ Kh8 25. Rg7 Qf8 26. Rxd7  )
24. gxf5 Nxe3 25. Ne4!
25. Qxe3 Bc5 26. Qc3 Bxg1 27. Rxg1 also wins.  )
25... Nd5 26. exd6
26. fxg6 Nxf4 27. Nxf6+ Qxf6 28. exf6 Nxd3 29. f7+  )
26... cxd6
26... Qxe4 27. d7 Raa8 28. dxe8=Q+ Rxe8 29. Qxe4 Rxe4 30. fxg6 hxg6 31. Rxg6+ Kh7 32. Rg7+ Kxh6 33. Rg4  )
27. Rde1 Kf8 28. fxg6 hxg6 29. Rxg6 Nxf4 30. Qg3 Nxg6 31. Qxg6 Black's material advantage won't survive White's threats, which include h7 and Rf1.
31... f5 32. Qxf5+
32. Qxf5+ Qf7 33. Qxf7+ Kxf7 34. Nxd6+ is the simplest win.  )

All the other results put Riazantev in position to take clear first if he could win. Doing so against the highly-ranked Jakovenko, who would tie for first with a win, would not be easy – especially as Riazantsev had Black. The opening was a sharp variation of the Advance Caro-Kann Defense and a key moment came on move 13. By playing 13.c4, White would have had excellent chances, but after Jakovenko’s 13.c3, the game became less clear. White still had some chances later, but the trend was in Riazantsev’s favor and he outplayed his opponent. While he won the World U-12 Championship in 1997, it’s likely that the current result is the best of his adult career.

Jakovenko, Dmitry vs. Riazantsev, Alexander
69th ch-RUS 2016 | Novosibirsk RUS | Round 11 | 27 Oct 2016 | ECO: B12 | 0-1
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Ne7 6. O-O h6 7. Nbd2 Nd7 8. Nb3 Qc7 The immediate
8... g5 is the main move at the moment, played by many elite grandmasters incluing WorldChess's own Sam Shankland.
9. Ne1 Qc7 10. Nd3 Ng6 11. Ne1 Ne7 12. f4 O-O-O 13. Nd3 Ng6 14. Bg4 Bxd3 15. cxd3 gxf4 16. Bxf4 Nxf4 17. Rxf4 f5 18. Bh5 Nf6 19. Kh1 Nxh5 20. Qxh5 Qg7 21. Rf3 Rg8 22. Rg3 Qh7 23. Rxg8 Qxg8 24. Rf1 Qg5 25. Qxg5 hxg5 26. g4 fxg4 27. Rf7 Re8 28. Kg2 Be7 29. Kg3 b6 30. Kxg4 Kd7 31. Rf3 1/2-1/2 (31) Nakamura,H (2798)-Shankland,S (2661) Saint Louis 2015  )
9. Bd2 g5
9... a5 is also common, to prevent Bb4, and only after
10. a4 the continuation
10... g5 .  )
10. Rc1
10. Bb4  )
10. a4  )
10... a5 11. a4 Bg7 12. Ne1
12. Qe1 b6 13. c4 is the alternative, offering Black the d5 square in return for open lines on the queenside.  )
12... c5
12... O-O  )
12... Nxe5?! 13. dxe5 Bxe5 was tried once and Black escaped with a draw, but after
14. Nf3 Bxb2 15. Rb1 Bg7 16. Nfd4 White's active pieces make his piece more valuable than Black's mass of pawns.  )
13. c3? After
13. c4! Black is in some trouble.
13... cxd4! 14. Nxd4 dxc4 15. Nb5 Qb8 16. Nd6+ Kf8 17. f4 gxf4 18. Bxf4 Bxe5 19. Rxc4 Qxd6 20. Qxd6 Bxd6 21. Bxd6 Ke8 22. Nc2 favors White, whose bishop pair outweighs Black's extra pawn, especially given the lack of harmony in Black's position due to his king.  )
13... c4 14. Na1 Nb6 15. b3
15. f4 gxf4 16. Bxf4 is complex and approximately equal.  )
15... O-O-O?!
15... O-O  )
16. Nec2! f6 17. exf6 Bxf6 18. Na3?!
18. Ne3 Kb8 19. bxc4 Nxc4 20. Nxc4 dxc4 21. Nc2 Nd5 22. Na3 Nb6 23. Nb5 /+/- is seriously better for White. Black's queenside weaknesses are chronic, while White's kingside is far more stable and without any targets for Black to pursue.  )
18... Kb8?!
18... Qc6  )
19. Be3?
19. bxc4 Nxc4 20. Nxc4 dxc4 21. Nc2 transposes to the line given in the previous note.  )
19... Nec8 20. Nb5 Qd7 21. Qd2 Nd6 22. Nxd6 Qxd6 23. Qb2 Rc8 Black has managed to keep control over his queenside weaknesses, while White's knight remains dormant on a1.
24. Nc2 Be7! 25. Ra1 cxb3! 26. Qxb3 Nc4
26... Qc7  )
27. Bc1?! White wants to play Na3 without surrendering his light-squared bishop, and Black keeps preventing it.
27. Bxc4 Rxc4 28. Na3 Rc6 29. Nb5 was a better choice, giving up some light-squared control to activate the knight.  )
27... Qc7! 28. Ra2 Now
28. Na3 costs the exchange:
28... Bxa3 29. Bxa3 Nd2  )
28... Rh7! Again preventing Na3.
29. Re1
29. Na3 Nxa3 30. Bxa3 Qxc3  )
29... Bd6 30. h3 h5!?
30... Bh2+ 31. Kh1 Bf4 /-/+  )
30... Rg7!  )
31. Ne3? The greedy
31. Bxg5? is bad on account of
31... Rg7 32. h4 Bh2+ 33. Kh1 Rxg5! 34. hxg5 Nd2 35. Qb2 Qf4 36. Ba6! Rc7 37. Ne3 Qh4 38. Qxd2 Bg4!! 39. Nxg4 Bf4+ 40. Kg1 Bxd2 41. Rxd2 hxg4 42. g3 Qxg5 The best move is  )
31. Bxc4 , which appears to equalize. There are some interesting lines here, including the fantastic
31... g4 32. Bf1 gxh3 when Black enjoys full compensation despite being almost a full piece down. In fact, White must walk a narrow path to prove equality:
33. Ne3! Be4 34. f3! Bh2+ 35. Kh1 Qg3! 36. fxe4! Qxe1 37. Qd1! Qh4! 38. gxh3 Bf4 39. Qd3! Qe1 40. Qd2 Qh4 41. Qd3 Qe1  )
31... Nxe3 32. Bxe3 g4 33. h4 g3 With a weak king and the c-pawn ready to drop, White's position is lost.
34. Rb2 gxf2+ 35. Bxf2 Be4
35... Qxc3 is also good.  )
36. Qb6 Rg8?!
36... Bh2+ 37. Kh1 Qf4 38. Bf1 Bg3  )
37. Bf1 Bh2+ 38. Kh1 Rhg7 39. Qxe6? A blunder on the penultimate move of the time control.
39. Qxc7+ Bxc7 40. Kg1 Bxg2 41. Bxg2 Rxg2+ 42. Kf1 R2g6 was a better and safer bet for White, while his best practical try was  )
39. Rxe4!? dxe4 40. Qxe6 , when g2 is no longer a problem and White can hope to be a nuisance on the queenside with his pieces all pointing in the general area of Black's king.  )
39... Rxg2! 40. Rxb7+
40. Bxg2 Bxg2#  )
40... Kxb7!
40... Qxb7 41. Bxg2 Rxg2 42. Rxe4 Rxf2 43. Re2 Rxe2 44. Qxe2 allows White to pose some minor practical problems, though his position remains lost.  )

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Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.