(After) Russian Higher League and Superfinal
This webpage is updated only sporadically, for two reasons: 1) lack of time and 2) I basically include only topics that are a) (hopefully) interesting for an international audience but b) hardly covered by other English-language sites. This doesn’t happen every day or month … .
“Russian chess news and interviews in English” used to be covered by Chessintranslation – but this site, while still worthwhile visiting, is “dead” since August 2013. For a reason: Owner and content provider Colin McGourty was hired by chess24; elements of his former own site now appear there every now and then, among much more. “Chess in Google Translation” is also one of my ‘hobbies’ (if needed, with help from people fluent in Russian), but this time I took a different approach: contact a player directly via his chess24 profile, questions and answers in English.
This post includes excerpts from two articles previously published in German – one after he won the semifinal (Higher League) of the Russian championship, the second one after he scored a respectable 50% in the Superfinal that included several 2700+ players. Title photo from the Superfinal coverage of the Russian Chess Federation. Grigoriy Oparin may still be relatively unknown outside of Russia, and even within Russia somewhat in the shadow of other young players. Back in December 2014 Colin McGourty wrote about him on the occasion of the “Christmas Nutcracker” event (Russian version of ‘Rising Stars vs. Experience’): “The least known player in the tournament …” – not only compared to the ‘old ones’ Shirov, Morozevich, Leko and Dreev, also compared to the other teenagers (at the time, two had their 20th birthday after then and before now) Artemiev, Fedoseev and Dubov. This may have changed a bit over the last almost two years – because of Oparin’s successes and because Dubov somewhat stagnates.
The first source to consult is often Wikipedia; their article starts with “Grigoriy Oparin (Russian: Григорий Опарин; born 1 July 1997 in Munich, Germany) is a Russian chess grandmaster.” As the Higher League finished on 1 July 2016, he made himself a nice present for his 19th birthday, but – nice trivia at least for a German audience – why was he born in Munich? This was one reason to contact him, but first a photo of “young” Oparin:
This was at the World Youth Championship U20 2012 in Athens (photographer Andreas Kotokanis, found at Wikipedia). Apparently (see below) this event wasn’t too important for him, but he participated anyway – scoring 7.5/13, not bad for a 15-year old, players ahead of him included Rapport, Ipatov, Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi, Wei Yi (actually younger than Oparin) and from a Dutch/German perspective Van Kampen, Huschenbeth and Bluebaum. The picture on Oparin’s FIDE rating page also seems a few years old.
Now the first exchange with Grigoriy Oparin:
TR: Dear GM Oparin,
Congratulations on your win at the Russian Higher League, nice birthday present for yourself! I will cover the event for a German chess site and, as my audience probably doesn’t know much about you, include a short paragraph “Who is Grigoriy Oparin?” [a recent article included “Who is Farrukh Amonatov?”]. Curious question for a German readership: Why were you born in Munich? (Easier to understand/speculate why Zhukova was, back in 1979, born in “Dresden, East Germany”).
One/two/a few general sentences about yourself would also be appreciated – while I already have some tidbits, e.g. consecutive draws against Anand and Nakamura in Gibraltar earlier this year.
Best regards, Thomas Richter (contributor to chess-international.de)
Oparin: Good evening, Thomas! Thank you for congratulations! My father and mother are physicists and at that date they were working at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics – MPQ (Garching, Germany). That’s why I was born in Munich. 2 months later our family moved back to Russia. When I was 4 years old, my father brought me to the chess club. At 6 years old I took 3rd place at Moscow Championship under 10. In 2004 I won bronze medal at Championship of Russia under 8 and in 2005 won the same Championship. In September 2007 I became the vice-champion at EYCC under 10.Starting from 2008 I preferred to take part in the competitions with adults and didn’t really focus on getting medals in Youth Championships. At the end of 2009 I already got 3 IM norms but got my IM title only in 2011 after finally crossing 2400. In July 2013 I won silver medal with the Russian team in the World Youth Chess Olympiad under 16. A couple of months later I won Open Tournament in Trieste and got my 3rd GM norm (and GM title as well). In March 2014 I shared 10-24 places at EICC scoring 7,5/11 but … got a “lucky” 24th place and didn’t qualify to World Cup in Baku. Next month I took 1st place at Russian Junior Championship under 21.But my last success is probably the biggest one so far. At the moment I’m studying in the Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH). My specialty is Fundamental and Applied Linguistics. Among other subjects I’m learning Chinese language Best wishes, Grigoriy
The next photo – also from the Russian Chess Federation – was taken during the Higher League event:
No need yet to dress up, and maybe no time between events to get a haircut? A few months later, he scored 50% in the Superfinal, playing several interesting games, reason to contact him again:
TR: Dear Grigoriy, As a follow-up to the semifinal (Higher League), may I ask your comments on the Superfinal? My take: You can probably be satisfied with both the result and the “content” of at least some games. Arguably (games against Goganov and Jakovenko) scoring a bit better than “deserved” – but that’s part of playing creative and risky chess!? From a Dutch perspective, a bit reminiscent of Jorden Van Foreest – but winning your (stronger) national championship the first time you participated would be too much to ask or to good to become true!?
Oparin: Good evening, Thomas! Sorry that it took me so long to answer your message, was really busy at university.Well, the overall result is quite good, but honestly before the tournament I wanted to fight for qualifying into the next Superfinal (1-3 places get it). Though almost after the start of the tournament I understood that I am far from the best form, was making too many mistakes almost in every game. The only game I am proud of is the last one [crushing win against Fedoseev]. I can’t say that I scored better than I should. Yes, I was totally lost against Kokarev and Jakovenko, was much worse in the game with Goganov. But on the other hand, I myself missed many tactical shots. For example, 28.Be5 against Riazantsev, 30…dxc4 against Inarkiev (in my opinion, I played a great game until that moment, just don’t trust computer evaluations, they are probably wrong) or incredible 59…g5!! (really nice idea!) against Bocharov. I also was very close to draw against Grischuk (51…b5 52.axb6 Nxb6 53.Rxa6 Rf6 wasn’t that hard to find). So 50% is close to logical result. As for my style, I played a way too solid chess in the last tournaments (+2 =7 in Abu Dhabi Masters says a lot…), so it was the plan to take more risks (like playing only Najdorf with black pieces).
I see his point about “50% is close to logical result”, while my attitude (also regarding my own amateur games) is: “There’s no bad luck in chess – blunders and missed opportunities are your own responsibility. There can be luck in chess if the opponent goes wrong.” He omitted three games from his event summary – relatively uneventful draws against Tomashevsky and Vitiugov, and a wild one against Svidler. After that game, Svidler (as after every round) produced a video for chess24 (from round 3 onwards only available for Premium members), towards the end he said this about Oparin: “”He would probably like to have more points, we all do … . But I am very impressed with his play and feel we’ll see more from him.” Whether this compliment was all genuine or slightly poisoned (“didn’t expect much from him …”), it contrasts with Oparin’s rather critical assessment of his tournament.
The second German article has diagrams and brief summaries of nine games out of eleven (even briefer summaries without diagram for the remaining two), here I only include the “really nice idea” that both players, or at least Oparin, had missed:
Black to move, what to do? White has an extra pawn, black has perpetual check, does he have more? The game continued 59.-Ne3+ (no question mark as black gets a second chance) 60.Kh2 Nf1+ 61.Kg1 (61.Kh3? f4! wins for black, I choose not to provide details) 61.-Ne3+? (here the question mark is objectively correct) 1/2.
What did he miss? As already mentioned by him: 59.-g5!! (61.-g5!! would be just as strong, but let’s analyze – obviously engine analysis – after 59.-g5). What is black threatening? After e.g. 60.Qxa6 or 60.bxa6 60.-Ng3+ 61.Kh2 Dh1+ 62.Kxg3 Qxh4+ 63.Kf3 Qe4+ 64.Kg3 Qf4+ 65.Kh3 Qh2 mate. What happens after 60.hxg5? 60.-h4! 61.f4 Ne3+ (61.-Ng3+ also wins, but one variation is enough) 62.Kf2 Nd1+ followed by 63.-Nc3+ (knight check or discovered check) and 64.-NxQa4 – unless white opts for 63.Kf3 Qe4 mate. Is it that easy if black finds 59.-g5 ? No, white can play 60.Ng6+ Kg7 61.Qxa6 Ne3+ 62.Kh2 Ng4+ 63.Kg3 and now e.g. 63.-Qe1 (any queen move attacking f2 is good – but 63.-Qc2 as white can then force an exchange of queens). Again first a quick loss for white: 64.Qa2 Qc3+ 65.f3 Qc7+ 66.Kh3 Qh2 mate (or for beauty’s sake 66.-Nf2+ 67.Qxf2 g4+ 68.fxg4 fxg4 mate [68.-hxg4 mate is also fine]). And now the main line: 64.hxg5 Dxf2+ 65.Kh3 Qg1 66.Kg3 h4+ 67.Nxh4 Qh2+ 68.Kf3 Qxh4
I am not 100% sure whether this wins for black – only one pawn to give company to the extra piece, he has to watch out for the white b-pawns and possible perpetual checks. Not a trivial, but maybe a “technical” win for black!? Time considerations: Oparin spent a bit more than a minute on 59.-Ne3+ and four minutes on 61.-Ne3+. Some time left to think – maybe he “felt” that he has more than perpetual check but didn’t see how to play on?
P.S.: Oparin’s current break from university is the European Club Cup where he might be able to practice Chinese with a few players, and face strong non-Russian opponents in a few rounds (depending on the results of his team Zhiguli, he plays board 2 behind Sjugirov). His chance to be in the spotlights: We (chess-international.de) received a press release from Zurich: “In honor of the unforgettable chess legend Viktor Kortchnoi, who passed away June 6th, the Zurich Chess Club will organize at Easter time from April 13th to 17th 2017 at the Kongresshaus in Zurich a grandmaster tournament with the two world champions Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand and the worldclass players Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler as well as the best player of the “Nutcracker Event” 2016 in Moscow and the best Swiss chessplayer Yannick Pelletier. They will play 7 rounds with a time control of 45 minutes and 30 seconds per move and a Rapid Tournament with a time control of 10 minutes and 5 seconds per move on the last day.” All he has to do is win the upcoming “Christmas Nutcracker”. Another chance might be Tata Steel Chess 2017, Challenger Group – but the field wasn’t yet announced.