Aeroflot Open R 5+6: Tournament lead changes hands
After each of the last two rounds of the Aeroflot Open, a new player took over the tournament lead. Four rounds into the event, tournament lead was shared between three players: Bologan, Petrosian and Artemiev. Beating Bologan in the fifth round, Artemiev took sole lead. But this was very short-lived; just one round later, Artemiev was overtaken by his namesake, Vladislav Kovalev. Among the Indians, Sasikiran, Karthikeyan and Sethuraman share the third spot with eight other players while the star of the first four rounds, Eesha Karavade lost back to back games in rounds 5 & 6 and dropped to the 41st place.
The fifth round of the Aeroflot Open saw the tournament's first sole leader emerge. Beating one of his co-leaders Victor Bologan, Vladislav Artemiev took the sole lead while the third co-leader, Tigran Petrosian was held to a draw by Dmitry Gordievsky. Meanwhile, Eesha Karavade, who was in shared second place at the commencement of the round, suffered her first loss of the tournament to Vladislav Kovalev.
The top board clash between Artemiev and Bologan began as an English but transposed into a kind of reversed French Defence. But unlike as in the French Defence, both black and white tried gaining space on the kingside. Quite early in the game, Bologan was able to advance his pawn up to h2 but as play progressed, Artemiev was able to encircle and execute the pawn. A few more exchanges led the players into an endgame in which Artemiev was able to exploit his central passer to the fullest. By the 46th move, white's queen's pawn was unstoppable.
The lowest rated player of the tournament, Eesha Karvade had stunned everyone so far with her unbeaten 3.0/4 but luck wasn't on her side in round five as she lost the first game of the tournament to Vladislav Kovalev. From the black side of a Sicilian Defence, Eesha was faced with an unusual variation by white which eventually resembled a Maroczy Bind.
Sacrificing a pawn, Kovalev got good activity for his pieces and after queens were traded, he was further able to gain more space. Nevertheless, the position looked dreadfully well until the endgame when Kovalev came up with a neat king march that caught Eesha's pieces in a bind. Rooks were traded on the 57th move and by then, black's position had begun looking precarious. In the next few moves, Kovalev forced the exchange of his bishop for black's knight and, finding the right maneuvres, was about to win a pawn by force when Eesha decided to throw in the towel.
Murali Karthikeyan faced his second straight 2700+ rated opponent in round 5 after having beaten Rauf Mamedov in the previous round. This time again, despite his modest rating sub-2600 rating, Karthikeyan was up for the task.
With the black pieces, the Tamil Nadu youngster had no problems equalising in the Ragozin variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. Within 34 moves, the players had exchanged a big bunch of pieces and had reached a double rook endgame with equal pawns. Given that there wasn't a lot to play for in the position, the players agreed to a draw by mutual agreement.
Rank after round 5
|2||40||GM||Petrosian Tigran L.||ARM||2589||4,0||2||2625||2795|
If round five saw the tournament's first co-leader emerge, round six saw him dethroned. Vladislav Artemiev, who had taken the sole lead in the tournament having beaten Victor Bologan in the previous round, saw his lead slip out of his clasp as he lost to his namesake Vladislav Kovalev in the very next round.
Artemiev was faced with the 3.Bb5 variation against his Sicilian and as early as on move 7, the Russian teenager found a crafty way of rerouting his knight. In the ensuing position, Kovalev had a slight advantage because of his extra space and the limited mobility of Black's light-squared bishop. The position wasn't so bad for Artemiev but Kovalev kept pushing energetically and, after a few errors by his opponent, was able to bring home the full point.
Krishnan Sasikiran's game against Aryan Tari was one of the most turbulent games of round six. As soon as the middlegame arose, vicious attacks were witnessed on both sides of the board. While Tari ripped open the queen-side to eke out a pawn, Sasikiran went on the offensive on the king's wing.
The long, tactical sequence that followed, left the Norwegian with three pawns for a piece. But Sasikiran's extra piece along with his initiative on the king-side turned out to be a bit too much for Tari to handle. In the end, Sasi, with a crafty sequence of knight moves caught the black king in a mating net and forced resignation.
The all-Indian encounter between SP Sethuraman and Aryan Chopra concluded with a surprising win for the former. The two battled in the Saemisch variation of the King's Indian wherein Chopra forced his opponent to go on a king march. Sethuraman had the better position for the most part of the game but on his 32nd move, a missed tactical shot by Sethuraman re-established equality.
This wasn't, however, the end of the story. Just four moves later, on move 36, Chopra blundered mate in one and gifted his opponent the full point. Given that this happened only four moves before the first time control, this might well have been the case of a time-trouble mishap.
The second highest rated player in the tournament, Vidit Gujrathi is still looking for his first win in the tournament. In round 6, he was paired to play against the child prodigy from Uzbekistan, IM Nodirbek Abdusattorov. With the white pieces, the 13-year-old International Master went for the razor-sharp Keres Attack to counter Vidit's Sicilian Najdorf.
Vidit was able to equalise very comfortably out of the opening but that was only as far as he could get. Although objectively equal, the position was still razor sharp when the young International Master sacrificed a full rook and forced a perpetual.
Standings after round 6
|5||40||GM||Petrosian Tigran L.||ARM||2589||4,5||2||2624||2795|
|18||35||GM||Antipov Mikhail Al.||RUS||2598||3,5||3||2638||2681|
About the Author
FIDE Instructor Niklesh Kumar Jain Jain is an international chess player who has participated in tournaments in almost in 20 different countries, winning the international tournament in Sri Lanka in 2010. He also worked for a television network as an anchor and news writer for two years, and reported in Hindi during World Chess Championship 2013 and 2014. Niklesh loves to write about tournaments and do interviews with chess champions. He has ambitions to become a grandmaster, but at the same time loves to train young talent. He strongly believes chess should be the part of every school curriculum, to face the challenges of the 21st century.