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. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 c5 4. d5 Bg7 5. e4 d6 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Bg5 h6 8. Be3 e6 9. Qd2 exd5 10. cxd5 Nh7 11. Bd3 Nd7 12. Nh3 Ne5 13. Nf2 f5 14. Be2 g5 15. exf5 Bxf5 16. h4 b5 17. hxg5 hxg5 18. Nxb5 Rb8 19. Nc3 Qe8 20. Rc1 c4 21. O-O White 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. Bxa7 Only a computer could be this greedy, but it might be the best move. After:
22... Rb7 23. Bd4 I don't believe Black has enough compensation for his two-pawn material deficit. Still, after:
23... Bd3! 24. f4 Bxe2 25. Qxe2 Nf3+! 26. Qxf3 Qxf3 27. gxf3 Bxd4 I would rate Black's chances of drawing are higher than White's chances of winning.  )
22. Nfe4 This looks very natural and would probably be my choice.  )
22. f4 Qh4! Black need not fear fxe5.
23. fxg5  )
22... Qh4! 23. Kg2 It 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. Kh1 Rf6 And 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. Rh1 Qxh1+ 25. Kxh1 Nxd2 And Black would have a decisive material edge.  )
24... Be5! White cannot stop the threats of Qg3 and Qh2
25. Rh1
25. Rg1 Bg6! 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. Kf1 Bd3+! 27. Be2 White is still up a piece and it almost looks like he is surviving, but...
27. Nxd3 Qxf3+ 28. Nf2 Qxh1+!  )
27... Rxb2! 28. Qxb2 Qxe3 The attack continues to rage.
29. Bxd3 cxd3 White is up a rook for the moment, but he cannot prevent d2; he is lost.
30. Rc2
30. Rd1 Bxc3  )
30... dxc2 31. Qxc2 Rxf2+! The last finesse.
32. Qxf2 Qxc3 With 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
33. Qf5 Qc1+ 34. Kg2 Qd2+ 35. Kf3 Nf8!  )
33... Qc4

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. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Qf3 Bb4 8. Nxc6 dxc6 9. a3 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 Qa5 11. Bd2 O-O 12. Bd3 e5 13. a4 Be6 14. c4 Qc7 15. a5 c5 16. O-O Nd7 17. Rfb1 Rab8 18. Rb3 Qd6 19. h3 b5 20. axb6 Rxb6 21. Rba3 Rfb8 22. Kh2 f6 23. Qg3 Bf7 24. Bh6 Bg6 25. Be3 Qc6 26. Qg4 Nf8 27. Ra5 Ne6 28. h4 Be8 29. h5 Bd7 30. Qg3 Bc8 31. f4 exf4 32. Bxf4 Nxf4 33. Qxf4 Rb1 34. Rb5! A surprising and clever tactic in what looked like an innocuous position.
34... Rxa1 This is the only way to maintain material parity, but the White rook on the back rank will lead to a decisive attack.
34... R1xb5 35. cxb5 And the rook on b8 is attacked and not defended.
35... axb5 36. Qxb8  )
34... R8xb5 35. cxb5  )
35. Rxb8 Kf7 36. Qg3 Qd7 37. e5! Hammering at Black's king position.
37... fxe5 38. Bxh7 The rest was agony for Grachev.
38... Qg4 39. Bg6+ Kf6 40. Rb6+ Kg5 41. Qxe5+ Bf5 42. 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
a6 14. 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:
14... Qd7 15. Qf3  )
14... g6 15. Bh6!  )
15. Ng5! Well calculated.
15... Qd7
15... Bxg5 16. Bxg5 Qxg5 17. Bxd5+ A key move.
17... Kh8 18. Bxc6 Bxc6 19. Rxe5  )
16. c4! White breaks up the center.
16... bxc4 17. dxc4 Nf6?
17... Nb6! If Black had played this move, the position would have remained complex and the evaluation unclear.  )
18. Bc3! e4 It 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... g6 This was comparatively better for Black, but I still would prefer White's position.
20. Qxd7 Nxd7 21. Nxe4! fxe4 22. Bxd7 Nd4 23. Ng2! Since Nf3 does not work:
23... Nf3+ 24. Kh1 Nxe1? 25. Be6+ Rf7 26. Rxe1!  )
20. Raxd1 g6 21. Bxf5! Forceful and strong.
21... gxf5 22. Nxf5 Black is faced with all sorts of threats and he cannot handle all of them.
22... Bc8 Not a happy move but what else?
22... Rae8 23. Nxe4! And the knight on f6 is pinned.
23... Ng4 24. Nxe7+ Rxe7 25. f4 Black will be much worse after Nxc5, when White's four pawns are much better than the Black knight.  )
22... Bd8 23. Rd7! Nxd7 24. Nh6#  )
22... Rad8 23. Nxe7+ Nxe7 24. Rxd8 Rxd8 25. Bxf6  )
23. Nxe7+ Nxe7 24. Rd6! h6
24... Ne8 25. Rh6 Did not offer much relief for Black.  )
25. Nxe4 Nxe4 26. Rxe4 Ra7 27. Rxh6 The dust has settled and White four very good pawns for the piece he sacrificed. In addition, Black's pieces are still poorly coordinated.
27... Bf5 28. Rf4 Raa8 29. h3! Simple and very effective. What is Wlack's next move? White is threatening Rh8+.
29. Rh8+ Kf7 30. Rxf8+ Rxf8 31. g4 Rg8! 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. f3 White should win but the game is not yet decided.  )
29... Ng6
29... Rae8 30. Rh8+! Kf7 31. Rxf8+ Rxf8 32. g4 Rg8 33. Kh2 And White is winning rather easily.  )
30. Rxf5! A fine decision.
30... Rxf5 31. Rxg6+ Kf7 32. Rg7+ Kf8 33. f4 With four pawns for the exchange (including three that are connected and passed) White has a decisive advantage.
33... Rd8 34. Kg2 Rd3 35. Rc7 Ke8 36. Be5 Rf7 37. Rc8+ Kd7 38. Rxc5 Ke6 39. 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. c4 f5 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 d6 5. Rb1 e5 6. b4 e4 7. Bb2 Nc6 8. Nh3 Nf6 9. Nf4 g5 10. Nfd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 Ne5 12. Bxe5 Bxe5 13. d4 Bg7 14. e3 O-O 15. h4 c6 16. Nc3 g4 17. Qd2 Be6 18. Bf1 a6 19. a4 c5 20. bxc5 dxc5 21. d5 Bd7 22. Be2 Qf6 23. Rc1 Qd6 24. Rb1 Qe5! The start of an ingenious maneuver.
25. Rc1 Rf6! This is awesome. Black reroutes the rook from f8, where it was quite passive, to b3!
26. O-O
26. a5 This was probably more resilient though Black would have been better after:
26... Rb8! 27. O-O b5!  )
26... Rb6! 27. Rc2 Rb3 28. Rfc1 Rd8 29. a5 Qc7 30. Ra2 Qe5 31. Na4
31. Rac2 I doubt Fedoseev would have repeated the position, but I can't understand why White didn't want to try.  )
31... Qe7 32. Qd1 Rb4 33. Rb1 Be8 34. Nb6 h5 35. Qc1 Bc3! 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. Bd1 Bg6 37. Rb3 Rxb3 38. Bxb3 Qf6 39. Na4 Bb4 40. Qd1 Rd6! Black clears d8 for the queen. The White pawn on a5 is a target.
41. Nb2 Not a happy move but what else?
41... Qd8 42. Qa1 Bc3! 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. Bc2 f4! Black opens lines on the other side.
44. Qb1
44. exf4 e3! 45. Bxg6 e2! The point of Black's previous play.  )
44. gxf4 Qxh4  )
44... fxg3 45. fxg3 Rf6! 46. Bxe4 Qd6 The 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.