Chess

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST tournament in this year's Russia Cup (effectively their Grand Prix) took place in St Petersburg from 2 to 10 November.

This massive, 142-player, nine-round Swiss, packed with grandmasters, was designated the Chigorin Memorial after Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (1858-1908), acknowledged as the founding father of the Russian Chess School. He has been commemorated many times in tournaments won by no fewer than five world champions - Lasker, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Spassky and Tal - not to mention such luminaries as Korchnoi, Polugaevsky and Taimanov.

From 1947 onwards the Chigorin Memorials were held mainly in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, but in 1993 they moved to St Petersburg where the list of winners has been far from lightweight; in successive years, Dreev, Ibragimov, Burmakin, Fedorov and Oll; Sakaev; and Volkov and Scherbakov.

This year's tournament, too, ended in joint victory for Sergei Volkov, who reached the last round in the delightful position of being able to agree a quick draw with Alexander Grischuk to ensure that the two of them were at least first equal on 7/9. In the event, nobody else caught them, though there were nine players on 6.5.

The names of the two winners may not be terribly familiar (in fact, this also applies to the chasing group of nine). But you can gather the murderous intensity of the event from the numerous "casualties"; just glancing down the list I noticed among many others Kharitonov and Malaniuk on 5.5/9 and Karen Asrian from Armenia, who eliminated Matthew Sadler in the recent Fide knockout world championship in Las Vegas, on just 5.

Normally an immensely sensible player, Volkov, like most other strong players, can occasionally go berserk. He was certainly out for blood in this game from the penultimate round, and finally hit the target with immediately fatal results for his opponent.

5 Bd2 is unusual in the opening - White normally plays 5 Bd3 or 5 Qc2. Volkov revved up with 9 Qf3 and then let rip with g4, h4-5xg6 and, arguably most committal of all, 15 e4.

White lost a pawn but developed a very dangerous attack and while there may be some defence round about move 25 - 25 ...Nxf4 loses to 26 Qc6+ Kf8 27 Rxe7 Qxe7 28 Bxf4 but perhaps eg 25 ...Qc8 - as played, White crashed though. At the end 30 ...Kh7 31 Qh1 is a highly aesthetic checkmate.

White: Sergei Volkov

Black: Alexander Lastin

Queen's Gambit Slav

1 d4 d5

2 c4 c6

3 Nc3 Nf6

4 e3 e6

5 Bd2 Nbd7

6 Rc1 b6

7 cxd5 exd5

8 Bd3 Bb7

9 Qf3 Be7

10 Nge2 Nf8

11 g4 Ne6

12 h4 g6

13 h5 Rg8

14 hxg6 hxg6

15 e4 dxe4

16 Nxe4 Rc8

17 b4 Rc7

18 Kf1 Rd7

19 Re1 c5

20 bxc5 bxc5

21 Nxf6+ Bxf6

22 Be4 Bxe4

23 Qxe4 Bxd4

24 Nf4 Re7

25 Rh7 Rh8

26 Rxf7 Rxf7

27 Qc6+ Qd7

28 Rxe6+ Kf8

29 Qa8+ Kg7

30 Rxg6+ 1-0

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