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Voronezh Masters 2019: A tournament where it is not so easy to gain rating or make norms!

by Rupali Mullick - 18/06/2019

People often say that it is quite easy for Indians to go outside the country and gain rating or score their norms. All those who people say this must surely not have visited the Voronezh Masters taking place in Russia. It is one of the strongest tournaments taking place on Russian soil and a host of strong GMs, IMs and and under-rated Russian players compete at the event making it a test of fire for any upcoming chess player. This year six Indians have taken part at the 21st edition of Voronezh Masters. The tournament began from the 10th of June and we have the halfway report from the venue by Rupali Mullick, who is present with her son Raahil. A report filled with pictures, annotated games and an interview with tournament director GM Alexander Raetsky. 

Voronezh Chess: Three leaders at the Alekhine Memorial 2019

The 23rd Voronezh International Chess Festival is being held in Voronezh, Russia from the 10th June 2019. Conducted every year in the month of June, since 1997, it takes pride in being one the oldest and the most coveted chess festivals in Russia. Also known as the Alekhine Memorial, this event is dedicated to the memory of the first Russian world chess champion Alexander Alekhine.

The playing hall of the Alekhine Memorial in Voronezh

The Alekhine Memorial is one of the most colourful tournaments in Russia. Apart from the attractive Chess960, Rapid and Blitz one day tournaments, there are three classical chess tournaments: Master Open is the main event for players with ELO >2200, FIDE Open is a rating tournament for players with Elo < 2200; and Sail of Hope is a special tournament for handicapped players.

The main arbiter of the Master Open 2019 is IM+IA+IO Vladimir Staratorzhsky, the head of the arbiter's commission of the Russian Chess Federation

There are 115 participants in the Master Open tournament including 23 GMs, 1 WGM, 22 IMs, 3 WIMs, 24 FMs and 5 WFMs. There are players from 12 countries (Russia, India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Latvia, Moldova, and USA) with 90 players from various regions of Russia. Six Indian players have participated this year, including GM Abhimanyu Puranik, GM Visakh N. R., and youngsters Sakhsham Rautela, CM Raahil Mullick, WIM Rakshita Ravi and WFM Savitha Shri. 


After 5 rounds there are three leaders, IM Sergey Pavlov (UKR),  Arseniy Nesterov (RUS) and Azamaty Utegaliyev (KAZ) each at 4.5 points out of 5. Eight players follow closely with 4 points out of 5. 

Going into the fifth round, IM Sergey Pavlov (left) was the sole tournament leader with 4/0/4. In round 5 however, he was unable to bring home the full point against GM Nikita Maiorov and had to settle for a draw. 

Untitled Azamat Utegaliyev  fought hard with his black pieces on table 2 and took home the whole point against FM Nikita Afanasiev

Table 3 also saw an upset as untitled Arseniy Nesterov defeated IM Rios Cristhian Camilo, also with the black pieces!

The Indian Grandmasters Abhimanyu Puranik and Visakh N R are both at 3.5 points out of 5 and have a good chance of catching up if they can finish well in the last 4 rounds. The claim to the Master Open title is still wide open and we hope for a very exciting finish!

Abhimanyu Puranik is the top rated Indian at the event. He lost one of his game to leader Sergey Pavlov. Currently he is on 3.5/5.

India's recently minted GM Visakh NR hasn't lost a game yet. He has three draws.

Rakshitta Ravi is on 1.0/5 and will be looking forward to come back strongly at the event

Savitha Shri is on 1.5/5. She won her fifth round and will be looking to extend her winning streak after the rest day!

Saksham Rautela with his ChessBase India t-shirt. Saksham scored quite an upset in round two when he beat IM Ivan Provotorov

Raahil Mullick is on 1.5/5. This picture was taken before his game against GM Sergey Volkov.

The young Kazakh talent Suaut Nurgaliev with his mother!

Standings after Round 05

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
123IMPavlov SergeyUKR2473Украина4,516,014,04
235Nesterov ArseniyRUS2423Новгород4,515,514,04
319Utegaliyev AzamatKAZ2495Казахстан, Уральск4,514,512,04
413GMMaiorov NikitaBLR2527Беларусь, Минск4,018,015,03
512GMSvetushkin DmitryMDA2532Молдова, Кишинев4,016,013,54
64GMShaposhnikov EvgenyRUS2572Саратов4,015,013,03
720IMBelyakov BogdanRUS2483Салехард4,014,512,53
21GMZakhartsov VladimirRUS2480Москва4,014,512,53
24IMRuiz Castillo Joshua DanielCOL2472Колумбия4,014,512,53
109GMMeshkovs NikitaLAT2550Латвия, Рига4,014,012,03
1114GMShariyazdanov AndreyRUS2526Екатеринбург4,013,511,54
1218IMRios Cristhian CamiloCOL2513Колумбия3,516,514,03
133GMRozum IvanRUS2572Вологда3,516,014,52
1411GMPuranik AbhimanyuIND2548Индия3,516,014,03
1516FMAfanasiev NikitaRUS2524Москва3,515,514,03
1622GMPotapov PavelRUS2479Салехард3,515,013,02
29IMUlko JaroslavRUS2438Москва3,515,013,02
188GMFedorov AlexeiBLR2553Беларусь3,514,512,53
1917GMVisakh N RIND2518Индия3,514,011,52
2039FMRodin DmitrijRUS2403Воронеж3,513,512,53


For chess book lovers!

How inspiring it is to play with the world champions watching you!

One of the reasons why this festival has been so successful all these years, is because it is always organised by the same close-knit team led by GM + IA + IO + FT Alexander Raetsky. The Chess Festival is supported by Voronezh region governor Alexey Gordeev, Voronezh region government, and the Association of Chess Professionals.
It speaks volumes about the strength of the event that all our super talents like Pragg, Nihal, Gukesh etc. have played here in the past and have not been able to score their norms. Alexander Raetsky tells us about the Voronezh Open and more in this interview!

About the author:

Rupali Mullick is the mother of eleven-year-old Raahil Mullick, an upcoming chess talent from Mumbai. She has a Ph.D in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a partner at JVM Industries. Her husband Prashant is a FIDE Rated player making them a complete chess family.  


17th of June was a rest day at the tournament. The event will resume from 18th of June. You can follow the games live here.

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