With two rounds to go, the team has an almost insurmountable lead.
Team Siberia is close to winning the Russian Team Championship. With two rounds to go, Siberia has 10 points, giving it a three-point lead over SHSM, which is in second with seven points. With two points awarded for a match victory, and one for a draw, Siberia only needs two draws or one win to clinch the title.
Team Siberia has been led by the performance of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbiajn, who has been playing well recently, including winning the Gashimov Memorial last week. In Round 4 of the team championship, Mamedyarov, who had Black, beat Evgeny Najer of Russia (who recently tied for first in the Karpov Poikovsky tournament):
Najer, Evgeniy vs. Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar
Premier League Russian Teams |Sochi, Russia |Round 4 |05 May 2017 |ECO: D70 |0-1
1. d4Nf62. c4g63. f3c54. d5Bg75. e4d66. Nc3O-O7. Bg5h68. Be3e69. Qd2exd510. cxd5Nh711. Bd3Nd712. Nh3Ne513. Nf2f514. Be2g515. exf5Bxf516. h4b517. hxg5hxg518. Nxb5Rb819. Nc3Qe820. Rc1c421. O-OWhite is up a pawn and has an edge, but the position is very tense and one mistake can spell disaster. 21... Qh5!This is both the strongest move objectively and also creates the most practical problems for White. 22. g4?A bad oversight.
( 22. Bxa7Only a computer could be this greedy, but it might be the best move. After: 22... Rb723. Bd4I don't believe Black has enough compensation for his two-pawn material deficit. Still, after: 23... Bd3!24. f4Bxe225. Qxe2Nf3+!26. Qxf3Qxf327. gxf3Bxd4I would rate Black's chances of drawing are higher than White's chances of winning. )
( 22. Nfe4This looks very natural and would probably be my choice. )
( 22. f4Qh4!Black need not fear fxe5. 23. fxg5 )
22... Qh4!23. Kg2It looks like Black is in trouble. White has prevented Qg3, is threatening to play Rh1, and the Black bishop on f5 is attacked. But Mamedyarov was ready for it:
( 23. gxf5?Qg3+24. Kh1Rf6And White would soon be mated. )
23... Nxf3!Energetic and very strong. Black clears the e5 square for a bishop, with a gain of tempo. 24. Bxf3
( 24. Rh1Qxh1+25. Kxh1Nxd2And Black would have a decisive material edge. )
24... Be5!White cannot stop the threats of Qg3 and Qh2 25. Rh1
( 25. Rg1Bg6!Black would save his bishop, open f-file for his attack, and White would still have the same problems. White would not be able to save the bishop on f3, after which he would lose. )
25... Qg3+26. Kf1Bd3+!27. Be2White is still up a piece and it almost looks like he is surviving, but...
( 27. Nxd3Qxf3+28. Nf2Qxh1+! )
27... Rxb2!28. Qxb2Qxe3The attack continues to rage. 29. Bxd3cxd3White is up a rook for the moment, but he cannot prevent d2; he is lost. 30. Rc2
( 30. Rd1Bxc3 )
30... dxc231. Qxc2Rxf2+!The last finesse. 32. Qxf2Qxc3With two pieces for a rook, Black has a decisive edge. I find it ironic that after playing Nxf3 and Rxb2 sacrificing a knight and a rook in the end, Black has a material advantage. 33. Kg2
Siberia’s victory in Round 4 was due to the victory of Alexander Grischuk of Russia over Boris Grachev, one of Grischuk’s compatriots. The game featured a pretty tactic that tilted the balance decisively in Grischuk’s favor:
Grischuk, Alexander vs. Grachev, Boris
Premier League Russian Teams |Sochi, Russia |Round 4 |05 May 2017 |ECO: B46 |1-0
1. e4c52. Nf3e63. d4cxd44. Nxd4Nc65. Nc3a66. Be3Nf67. Qf3Bb48. Nxc6dxc69. a3Bxc3+10. bxc3Qa511. Bd2O-O12. Bd3e513. a4Be614. c4Qc715. a5c516. O-ONd717. Rfb1Rab818. Rb3Qd619. h3b520. axb6Rxb621. Rba3Rfb822. Kh2f623. Qg3Bf724. Bh6Bg625. Be3Qc626. Qg4Nf827. Ra5Ne628. h4Be829. h5Bd730. Qg3Bc831. f4exf432. Bxf4Nxf433. Qxf4Rb134. Rb5!A surprising and clever tactic in what looked like an innocuous position. 34... Rxa1This is the only way to maintain material parity, but the White rook on the back rank will lead to a decisive attack.
( 34... R1xb535. cxb5And the rook on b8 is attacked and not defended. 35... axb536. Qxb8 )
( 34... R8xb535. cxb5 )
35. Rxb8Kf736. Qg3Qd737. e5!Hammering at Black's king position. 37... fxe538. Bxh7The rest was agony for Grachev. 38... Qg439. Bg6+Kf640. Rb6+Kg541. Qxe5+Bf542. Bxf5
Siberia kept on rolling in Round 5, winning another key match over Zhiguli, by the margin of 4.5-1.5. Siberia’s first victory in that round was by Ian Nepomniatchi of Russia, who won a quick game over Jakov Geller, another Russian grandmaster:
Nepomniachtchi, Ian vs. Geller, Jakov
Premier League Russian Teams |Sochi, Russia |Round 5 |05 May 2017 |1-0
a614. Nh4!White eyes the weakened f5 square, which is hard for Black to defend. 14... f5?!This looks very natural -- Black defends f5 with a gain of tempo, gains space in the center, etc. But he runs into a problem:
16. c4!White breaks up the center. 16... bxc417. dxc4Nf6?
( 17... Nb6!If Black had played this move, the position would have remained complex and the evaluation unclear. )
18. Bc3!e4It looks as if Black has solved all of his problems -- he has a solid central pawn chain with no major weaknesses. But Nepomniatchi has other ideas: 19. Bh3!Qxd1?
( 19... g6This was comparatively better for Black, but I still would prefer White's position. 20. Qxd7Nxd721. Nxe4!fxe422. Bxd7Nd423. Ng2!Since Nf3 does not work: 23... Nf3+24. Kh1Nxe1?25. Be6+Rf726. Rxe1! )
20. Raxd1g621. Bxf5!Forceful and strong. 21... gxf522. Nxf5Black is faced with all sorts of threats and he cannot handle all of them. 22... Bc8Not a happy move but what else?
( 22... Rae823. Nxe4!And the knight on f6 is pinned. 23... Ng424. Nxe7+Rxe725. f4Black will be much worse after Nxc5, when White's four pawns are much better than the Black knight. )
( 22... Bd823. Rd7!Nxd724. Nh6# )
( 22... Rad823. Nxe7+Nxe724. Rxd8Rxd825. Bxf6 )
23. Nxe7+Nxe724. Rd6!h6
( 24... Ne825. Rh6Did not offer much relief for Black. )
25. Nxe4Nxe426. Rxe4Ra727. Rxh6The dust has settled and White four very good pawns for the piece he sacrificed. In addition, Black's pieces are still poorly coordinated. 27... Bf528. Rf4Raa829. h3!Simple and very effective. What is Wlack's next move? White is threatening Rh8+.
( 29. Rh8+Kf730. Rxf8+Rxf831. g4Rg8!And Black can struggle on for a while. If White had already played h3, he could slide the king to one side and recover his piece. 32. f3White should win but the game is not yet decided. )
( 29... Rae830. Rh8+!Kf731. Rxf8+Rxf832. g4Rg833. Kh2And White is winning rather easily. )
30. Rxf5!A fine decision. 30... Rxf531. Rxg6+Kf732. Rg7+Kf833. f4With four pawns for the exchange (including three that are connected and passed) White has a decisive advantage. 33... Rd834. Kg2Rd335. Rc7Ke836. Be5Rf737. Rc8+Kd738. Rxc5Ke639. Bc3
One nice thing about team tournaments is that it is interesting and exciting to follow the performance of the teams and also of individual players. One player who has really stood out is Vladimir Fedoseev of Russia.
Fedoseev is one of the streakiest and most volatile players I have ever seen. When he is in form, he is an amazing player. I particularly enjoyed his Round 4 demolition of Igor Kovalenko, a Ukrainian-born grandmaster who now plays for Latvia:
Kovalenko, Igor vs. Fedoseev, Vladimir
Premier League Russian Teams |Sochi, Russia |Round 4 |05 May 2017 |ECO: A10 |0-1
1. c4f52. g3g63. Bg2Bg74. Nc3d65. Rb1e56. b4e47. Bb2Nc68. Nh3Nf69. Nf4g510. Nfd5Nxd511. Nxd5Ne512. Bxe5Bxe513. d4Bg714. e3O-O15. h4c616. Nc3g417. Qd2Be618. Bf1a619. a4c520. bxc5dxc521. d5Bd722. Be2Qf623. Rc1Qd624. Rb1Qe5!The start of an ingenious maneuver. 25. Rc1Rf6!This is awesome. Black reroutes the rook from f8, where it was quite passive, to b3! 26. O-O
( 26. a5This was probably more resilient though Black would have been better after: 26... Rb8!27. O-Ob5! )
( 31. Rac2I doubt Fedoseev would have repeated the position, but I can't understand why White didn't want to try. )
31... Qe732. Qd1Rb433. Rb1Be834. Nb6h535. Qc1Bc3!A nice tactical resource. The computer evaluation is that chances are equal in this position, but that seems ludicrous. White has no active plan and is just trying to hold his position together. 36. Bd1Bg637. Rb3Rxb338. Bxb3Qf639. Na4Bb440. Qd1Rd6!Black clears d8 for the queen. The White pawn on a5 is a target. 41. Nb2Not a happy move but what else? 41... Qd842. Qa1Bc3!Now White is suffering from all kinds of pins. Note that all of his pieces are on the queenside. Since the pawn position on the kingside is locked, this might not seem like a big deal, but... 43. Bc2f4!Black opens lines on the other side. 44. Qb1
( 44. exf4e3!45. Bxg6e2!The point of Black's previous play. )
( 44. gxf4Qxh4 )
44... fxg345. fxg3Rf6!46. Bxe4Qd6The pawn on g3 has been critically weakened. White had seen enough and resigned.
Round 6 is Tuesday and then the tournament finishes on Wednesday with Round 7.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.