The field includes some top players and a couple of them have produced really exciting games.

In a summer of so many great chess tournaments, it is possible to overlook one named for Anatoly Karpov, the former World Champion, that is taking place in the Siberian town of Poikovsky in Russia. Over the years, the tournament has become an important part of the chess calendar. The competition usually consists of an interesting stylistic mix of generally Russian-speaking grandmasters rated between 2650 and 2750. Though it isn’t a top, top event, it often produces some great chess! 

This year, the field is quite evenly matched. In the first four rounds, before the rest day on Wednesday, none of the players managed to break away from the pack. Indeed, four players, including Radoslaw Wojtaszek, the highest ranked player, who is from Poland, share the lead, each with 2.5 points.  

So far a majority of the games have been drawn, and a few of them, especially the matches between the Russian players, haven’t been too exciting. There have been some draws which went deeply into well-analyzed variations, as often happens in games between old friends. And some of the draws were a consequence of the positional style of several of the players, which was developed during the Soviet era when some of them learned to play. But a majority of the games have been pretty hard fought. 

A few of the decisive games have been exceptional because of the efforts of some of the players. In the past, Emil Sutovsky of Israel, 38, and Viktor Bologan of Moldova, 44, liked to play magnificent attacking games. Both are past their prime, but they continue to have interesting ideas and their energetic play in the tournament has been refreshing.

Sutovsky is president of the Association of Chess Professionals, which takes up a lot of his time. But his play hasn’t been disappointing. In the following game he was surprised in the opening by Dmitry Jakovenko of Russia, 33, who came up with a mind-blowing idea of how to gain an enormous initiative and dominate a position:

Jakovenko, Dmitry vs. Sutovsky, Emil
17th Karpov Poikovsky | Poikovsky RUS | Round 2.3 | 24 Jul 2016 | ECO: A34 | 0-1
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb4 6. Bc4 Nd3+ 7. Ke2 This is a well-known variation. Now Black usually continues Nf4
7... Nxc1+!? 8. Rxc1 a6 This is an idea for Black that was recently played by a couple of ambitious players. It is very provocative to continue so blatantly to ignore development -- just compare the White and Black pieces! But Black's plan does force White to react quickly, because if Black is able to complete his development, he will have a perfect position.
9. d4 b5 10. Bd5 Ra7 11. Ne5!? This is quite new territory, but I suspect that both players had some knowledge about this position from home preparation. If they didn't, it would be remarkable, as finding good moves in such a position is very difficult during a game.
11... e6 12. Bc6+ Ke7! Black is threatening f6, and though his development lags, he doesn't seem to be doing so badly because it is not clear how White can create any threats.
12... Nxc6 13. Nxc6 would be an unpleasant fork  )
13. Qd2 f6 14. Nd5+! I feel this was probably prepared by Jakovenko. I don't imagine anyone finding such an idea over the board. Sutovsky was probably caught off guard, but he responds admirably.
14... exd5 15. Rxc5! dxe4
15... fxe5 16. Qg5+ Kf7 17. Qxd8  )
16. Rhc1 It is amazing how White can continue playing with an initiative as if nothing happened; fxe5 seems impossible, so how is Black supposed to develop?
16... Be6 17. Qe3 Qd6! Sutovsky continues to find sensible moves.
18. Qxe4
18. d5 Bf5 19. Rxb5! Threatening Qxa7 was the strongest idea.  )
18... Kd8 White is no longer dominating the position because Black is about to complete his development. White also might lose a second piece.
19. Bb7! the only way to survive.
19... fxe5 20. Rc8+ Bxc8 21. Rxc8+ Kd7 22. dxe5 White should be completely lost -- he is basically down a rook and a piece! But, for the moment, he is actually able to continue with few problems:
22... Qe6 23. f4!! Who is counting the material!! The rook on c8 completely controls the position.
23... Qg4+ 24. Ke3 I can barely express how ridiculously crazy this position to me. White is threatening Qd5, so Sutovsky naturally plays
24... Ke7 25. Rxb8 Perhaps too ambitious.
25. Qb4+!? would force the situation, but I don't think White thought his position was better.
25... Kf7 26. Bd5+ Kg6 27. Rxf8 Rxf8 28. Qxf8 Nd7 29. Qd6+ Nf6 and Black will probably be able to survive. I would even prefer his position as the White king looks very shaky and the Black king will be perfectly safe on the kingside.  )
25... g5! A straightforward move - Black wants to play Bg7 and creates annoying threats as well.
26. f5?
26. g3! had to be played. It is hard to imagine that White does not have to be continually aggressive when he is down a rook, but he can.
26... gxf4+ 27. gxf4 threats like Qb4+ keep Black in the game. And after
27... Qg1+ 28. Ke2 Qxh2+ 29. Kf1 it doesn't look like Black has more than a perpetual check. In addition, Bg7 would be very bad because
29... Bg7 30. Qb4+ Kf7 31. Bd5+ Kg6 32. Qe4+ Kh6 33. Rb6+!  )
26... Qxe4+ 27. Kxe4 Bg7 28. f6+ Kd7! This is perhaps what Black missed.
28... Kf7 29. Bd5+ Kg6 30. Rb6 would still not be easy to win for Black.  )
29. Rxh8 Bxh8 30. Bd5 Rc7 31. Kf5 a5 32. Bf7 Kd8 33. Bh5 Rc2 34. Bf3 g4 35. Kxg4 Rxb2 36. Kf5 Rc2 37. Ke6 Ke8 38. h4 Rxa2

White’s play was incredible, but the sudden way Black turned things around was equally impressive. The win put Sutovsky among the leaders, but in the fourth round he was outplayed by Wojtaszek which brought him back to an even score.

Another amazing initiative was created by Bologan against Anton Korobov of Ukraine:

Bologan, Victor vs. Korobov, Anton
17th Karpov Poikovsky | Poikovsky RUS | Round 2.1 | 24 Jul 2016 | ECO: D12 | 0-1
Bh5 11. e4!? A bizarre novelty. White doesn't seem to be developed enough to play this way.
11. O-O-O is a more common move.  )
11... dxe4 12. fxe4 O-O 13. e5 Very aggressive. At this point, it is not clear if White is self-destructing, or playing some amazing moves.
13... Nfd7 14. Bg2 f6
14... Bxh4 15. gxh4 would be very dangerous for Black -- without the dark-squared bishop the Black king is very exposed.  )
15. c5! Bf7 16. O-O fxe5 17. Bh3! An amazing sequence of moves is finished and White's pieces seem a lot better co-ordinated than Black's and Black also has no easy way to develop.
17... Bxh4 18. Rxf7! The idea behind Bh3! White needed to be very accurate at this point and Bologan clearly took a lot of time on his clock.
18... Rxf7 19. Bxe6 Nf8 20. Bc4 It is remarkable that White is able to play calm moves like this and maintain his initiative. His threat is Rf1, which would be crushing.
20... Bf6 21. Ne4! and another piece gets involved! The coordination of White's pieces is like a symphony.
21... Ng6 22. Nd6 Nh8 Ugly, but it is the only way to defend.
23. dxe5 Bxe5 24. Rf1?? Alas, White misses that after Bxd6 - cxd6 - Qb6!+ forces the exchange of queens. Then Black is ahead too much material. Instead, White had a beautiful win:
24. Re1!! Bxd6 25. cxd6 if Qd7, then just Re7 is crushing.
25... Qb6+ 26. Qxb6 axb6 27. Re8#  )
24... Bxd6
24... Bxd6 25. cxd6 Qb6+  )

Bologan played an absolutely marvellous game, but chess can sometimes be cruel. What a tragedy! Korobos’s win put him among the leaders, while Bologan slipped to last place. 

More than half of the tournament still remains and I think that first place will probably come down to a battle between players like Dmitry Andreikin of Russia and Wojtaszek. Since none of the players have found it easy to score points, first place might be decided by whichever player is able to better capitalize on a small advantage in one of the remaining games.


Parimarjan Negi is an Indian grandmaster who is the second-youngest ever to earn the title (at 13 years 4 months and 22 days). Ranked No. 90 in the world, he just finished his sophomore year at Stanford University. He can be found on Twitter at @parimarjan.