During the USSR’s golden decades of chess supremacy the annual Soviet championship was a major event keenly followed by players worldwide. Its winners included the legends Mikhail Botvinnik, Boris Spassky, Mikhail Tal, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov. It often lasted a month and up to 20 rounds and it was played before packed audiences in Moscow, Leningrad or Kiev. Combative, tactical games, opening novelties and creative ideas abounded.
This week’s 2015 Russian championship provided a low-key contrast. The country’s only top-10 grandmasters, Vlad Kramnik and Alex Grischuk, were absent, two-thirds of the games were drawn and the venue was the distant town of Chita in Siberia, close to the Chinese border. Peter Svidler, seven times champion, was among the favourites but he was crushed early in this week’s puzzle and never recovered, winning only one game.
Yet the event still gave hope to Russian fans who see their once all-conquering GMs outpaced by the world champions Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand, the ambitious Americans and the young Chinese.
The winner, Evgeny Tomashevsky, 28, is known as ‘The Professor’ due to his studious looks, strategic playing style, good education and spectacles. Tomashevsky is the world No13 and his strong 2015 results show he is still advancing. Sergey Karjakin was half a point behind and the 25-year-old, who was the youngest ever GM at 12, has shown his class by two victories in Norway ahead of Carlsen, plus his second to Anand in the 2014 candidates.
Even more significant was Vladislav Artemiev, only 17, in joint fourth place. The Omsk teenager is emerging as the world’s most promising junior next to China’s Wei Yi. Final scores were Tomashevsky 7.5/11, Karjakin 7, Nikita Vitiugov 6.5, Artemiev and three others 5.5.
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