Of all the non-World Championship titles available, few even go anywhere near approaching the status of “Chess Champion of Russia.” Many top countries such as Armenia, the Ukraine, the U.S. and now rapidly-rising China may well have established themselves as national chess powers. But, it is very difficult for anyone to argue over Russia’s historic pre-eminence in the game.
To become that country’s champion means surpassing some of the best players anywhere - and so strong that its in two-tiers, with a “normal" national championship qualifying players into the seeded “superfinal” that decides the title. Russia (including its Soviet Union period) has produced more World Champions than any other country, and the national title has been held by many of them; for instance, Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, and Vladimir Kramnik.
The latest to be placed alongside that hallowed list is 28-year-old Evgeny Tomashevsky, from Saratov, who top-scored on 7.5/11 to take his first Russian Championship title in Chita a couple of days ago. The final scores were: 1. E Tomashevsky 7.5/11; 2. S Karjakin 7; 3. N Vitugov 6.5; 4-7. V Artemiev, D Jakovenko, D Dubov, D Khismatullin 5.5; 8-10. I Lysyj, P Svidler, I Bukavshin, 5; 11-12. A Motylev, I Khairullin 4.
Tomashevsky, partly for being a positional player, partly for wearing glasses and being well-educated, earned himself the moniker “Professor” among his grandmaster colleagues. And he certainly gave a few lectures in Chita. He won four games and didn’t lose any en route to his first title. Here’s a sampler:
Evgeny Tomashevsky - Ivan Bukavshin
68th Russian Championship Superfinal, (9)
Semi-Slav Defence, Anti-Moscow Gambit
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 This is an aggressive, often wild gambit that spurns the more simpler life of the Moscow Variation with 6.Bxf6 Qxf6. 6...dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.Qc2 Nh5?! This is unusual - the standard option has been 10...Nbd7 11.Rd1 Qb6 that has been seen many times in tournament praxis. 11.Be5 Rg8 12.h4 This is typical of this line: White has to open the game up as quickly as he can to make use of his better developed pieces. 12...Nf4 13.hxg5 hxg5 14.Bxf4 gxf4 15.d5 Again, opening the game up - Black can't take on d5 as White will have a Rd1 catching Black's king and queen in the middle of the board. 15...Nd7 16.0-0-0 Qb6 17.dxe6 fxe6 18.Nd4 Nc5 19.Bh5+ Ke7 20.Be2 After doing the damage of displacing the king with 19.Bh5+, Tomashevsky returns the bishop to stop ...Nd3+. However, he could have gone straight for the jugular here with 20.e5! Nd3+ 21.Rxd3 cxd3 22.Qxd3 Rd8 23.Nf5+ exf5 24.Qxf5 and Black's king is caught in the wilderness with no defence, as 24...Rg7 25.Ne4 c5 26.Nd6 is very strong. 20...Rd8 21.e5 Rg7 22.Nf3 b4 23.Ne4 Rxd1+? (See Diagram) Black panics in a very difficult and tense position, and tries to ease the pressure swirling around his king by exchanging rooks. Normally this is the best thing to do in such positions, but not here. Instead, Black's only chance of survival was with: 23...b3! 24.axb3 Nxb3+ 25.Kb1 Qa6! 26.Qxc4 Qxc4 27.Bxc4 c5 and, after the liquidation of the position, it is very difficult for White to even think of winning this. 24.Rxd1 c3 Now, with the exchange of rooks, the same saving resource doesn't work anymore: 24...b3 25.axb3 Nxb3+ 26.Kb1 Qa6 27.Qxc4 Qxc4 28.Bxc4 c5 as White has the winning resource now of 29.Nf6! 25.Nd6 b3 While Black tries to complicate things with an attack, it simply fails. 26.axb3 Nxb3+ 27.Kb1 cxb2 Remarkable as it may seem, the Black pawn on b2 perfectly shields the White king! 28.Bc4 Nc5 29.Nh4 Nd7 If 29...Qa5 Black get's blown away with 30.Nhf5+! exf5 31.Nxf5+ Ke8 32.Nxg7+ Ke7 (32...Bxg7 33.Qg6+ Ke7 34.Qf7#) 33.Nf5+ Ke8 34.Nd6+! Bxd6 (34...Kd8 35.Nxb7+ Kc7 36.Nxa5 easily wins) 35.Qg6+ Kd8 36.Qxd6+ Ke8 37.Qg6+ Ke7 38.Qf7#. 30.Ng6+ White now quickly coverts his big advantage to a win. 30...Kd8 31.Nxb7+ Kc7 If 31...Qxb7 32.Nxf8 wins the house. 32.Nd6 Qa5 33.Ba2 Now Black's only threat has disappeared. The remainder of the game is purely academic. 33...Rxg6 34.Qxg6 Qxe5 35.Ne8+ Kb6 36.Qxe6 Qxe6 37.Bxe6 Nc5 38.Ba2 1-0