Wednesday 02 June 1999
Nine clubs from all over Russia took part in an all-play-all competition from 16 to 24 May in St Petersburg, with six players from a list of seven playing in each match. In the end "Ximik" Belorechensk, with all grandmasters - Dreev, Tregubov, Kotsur, Malaniuk, Poluljahov, Beshukov and Galkin - were first on 31.5/48, ahead of "Siberia" Tomsk (starring Zvjaginsev, Pigusov . . .) 31, and the powerful "Petersburg Kings" (Khalifman, Sakaev . . . ), surely the pre-tournament favourites, on 29.
The "Ximik" top board, Alexei Dreev, made the best score, not only on board one but also overall - 6.5/8. Here is how he defeated the St Petersburg top board.
In a highly theoretical Grunfeld, Black had a couple of opportunities earlier to capture on d4, but White would always have obtained excellent compensation at the very least.
If 17 ...Bxd4 18 h5 is obvious and very dangerous though a line like Bxb2 19 Rc2 Qxd1 20 Rxd1 Be5 21 hxg6 Bd6 is far from clear. In any case, Black should probably have tried something "risky", since as played White got a pleasant clear advantage.
Not 22 ...gxh5? 23 Rg3+! but 22 ...g5 looks like an improvement, and if 23 Rxc8+ Rxc8 24 Rg3 Rc5 25 Be3 Re5! preventing 26 f4?? in view of Rxe3! 27 Rxe3 Bd4. Khalifman instead sought solace in the opposite coloured bishops which, it's true, tend to lead to a draw without other pieces; but the presence of the rooks rendered Black's task practically hopeless. Khalifman lost on time at the end but he was gone, anyway.
White: Alexei Dreev
Black: Alexander Khalifman
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