Formerly a feared place of exile, Siberia - once described by Russian author Maxim Gorky as the “land of ice and chains” - is now prosperous from oil and gas revenues, allowing it to finance the many tournaments now held in the once notorious frozen tundra. And with all the oligarchies now in Siberia, they can also easily afford to sponsor a star-studded team that this week won the Russian Team Championship.
With twelve of the world’s top 30 (and 32 of the top 100) in action this week in the famous Pearl Hotel - that held many strong events in the Soviet past, such as the Chigorin Memorials - in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the big favourites were Siberia of Novosibirsk, who had the elite top two boards of former world champion Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Levon Aronian of Armenia. They also had former Russian champion, Dmitry Jakovenko on three, Chinese star Wang Yue on four, and Anton Korobov of Ukraine on five - the only team in the competition with the first five players rated 2700+.
And with this formidable line-up, Siberia brought the heat to dominate arguably the strongest team championship in the world, as they easily won the title by winning ever match for a perfect score of 14/14. In second place, on 11-points, was University (Belorechensky), with last year’s champions Bronze Horseman of St. Petersburg, with 9-points, in third place.
The Siberian top-ranking outfit may well have taken all the glory with the title, but in the last round, the best game prize of the team tournament went to former Russian champion Ian Nepomniachtchi of SHSM Moscow, that included a stunning queen sacrifice.
Ian Nepomniachtchi (SHSM) - Sanan Sjugirov (Zhiguli)
Russian Team Championship, (7)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 Nc6 7.g4 Qb6 8.Nb3 e6 9.f4 Be7 10.Qe2 Nd7 11.h4 With the aggressive pawn storm from White, this isn't going to be a dull draw. 11...Qc7 12.Be3 b5 13.Bg2 Nb6 14.0-0-0 Nc4 15.g5 Bd7 16.Kb1 Rc8 17.Rhe1 0-0 18.Bc1 Not only preserving his bishop, but also defending against any potential ideas in the future from Black of a .. .Nxb2 and a discovered attack on c3. 18...N6a5 19.Ka1 Na3 20.bxa3 Qxc3+ 21.Bb2 Qc7 Also an option was 21...Nxb3+ but after 22.cxb3 Qc7 23.Qd2 Rfd8 24.Rc1 White has (marginally) the better of it, as his queenside pawns are better than in the game continuation. Instead, Black believes he is much better with... 22.Nxa5 Qxa5 23.f5 Rfd8 It looks scary, but 23...f6 was the solid option; trying to limit the attacking scope of White's bishop down the b2-g7 diagonal. 24.f6 Bf8 25.Rf1 b4 If 25...g6 26.h5 and White opens a new line of attack down the h-file. 26.axb4 Qxb4 27.Qf2 Be8 Black's trying to defend all the attacking points whilst keeping his structure solid, hoping he can get to an ending where he could well be better. Good in theory, but.... 28.h5 Qc5 29.Qg3 Qxc2?! Hindsight is always a wonderful thing. And in view of what happens, Black would have been better with 29...Rb8 with the idea of sacrificing the exchange with a ...Rxb2, as he will have good drawing chances with his dark-squared bishop and the weak White king. 30.g6! fxg6 31.hxg6 Bxg6 32.Bh3 Rc5 32...Re8 33.Rc1 Qxe4 34.Rxc8 Rxc8 35.Re1 is easily winning - and if 32...Rb8 33.Bxe6+ Kh8 34.Bb3 Qxe4 this time there’s the "other" stunning sacrifice 35.Rxd6!! 33.Bxe6+ Kh8 34.Bb3 Qxe4 (See Diagram) 35.Qxd6!! This is the sort of stunning move that can be said to make opponents "fall off their chairs". The unexpected queen sacrifice quickly mates in all variations. 1-0