28 February 2019

Turning Black into Joy

The “Aeroflot Open” finale in the review of Eteri Kublashvili

February 27 marked the end of an international festival Aeroflot Open-2019. This year was the tournament’s edition No.17.

The main section listed over 100 players. Leading either alone or jointly with someone throughout most part of the tournament was a seasoned Krishnan Sasikiran, but a final round draw with Wang Hao stopped him from clinching into the share of first. The Indian grandmaster ended up with 6.5 points to take a clear third.  

Meanwhile, sharing a lead with Sasikiran into the last round were Kaido Kulaots (Estonia) and Haik Martirosyan (Armenia), who managed to win their games. A young Armenian grandmaster scored a spectacular victory over his compatriot Tigran L.Petrosian to clinch into the share of first with 7 points under his belt.  

In the middlegame of Petrosian – Martirosyan White sacrificed a pawn in the obvious hope of getting at the uncastled black king sooner of later. Nevertheless, the 9th world champion’s namesake’s plan failed as Black fended off all direct threats and castled on move 28 while retaining extra material. Martirosyan’s queenside passers were so potent that White gave up an exchange for one of them, but that only resulted in a very difficult position for White. 

Finishing the game was a nice sacrifice of a rook that was never unaccepted, though:

Petrosian – Martirosyan


45Rh1!+ 46. Kg3 Rh3+! White resigns.

However, Haik Martirosyan refused from any post-game commenting, leaving us without his impressions of the game and of the tournament in general.  

Kulaots – Khismatullin was the last to finish and bring victory to the first player. Although Kulaots and Martirosyan finished with 7 points each, becoming a victor was the Estonian grandmaster as the one having played more games as Black than as White and scoring four out of five of them at that.  

After the game the Estonian grandmaster agreed to answer my questions.

– Kaido, my congratulations on your victory! The last round game seems very exciting and rich in content. What are your impressions?

- Thank you. Going into the game, I realized that I had to play for a win because sharing 6 out of 8 were as many as three players, me included. Having better tiebreakers, I would have become a winner in case of three draws, but there was no feeling confident about this particular scenario. A draw giving him nothing, Denis Khismatullin was obviously aiming at victory either. It was an uncompromising fight right from the very beginning. Denis carried out the following combination in the middlegame:

Kulaots – Khismatullin

28Rxe2!? 29. Rxe2 Qa1+ 30. Kh2 f3+ 31. d6 – a very important intermezzo to have up your sleeve.


31fxe2 32. dxc7 Qe5+ 33. f4 Qxc7 34. Rxd8+ Qxd8 35.Qxe2 

The sequence has left White up a pawn first, winning yet another one shortly after. However, the engine points to 32Re8!, forcing White to bail out via 33. Rd7 e1Q 34. Qxf7+ with a perpetual – E.Kublashvili

The resulting queen ending with three vs one on the kingside must be winning, but it was not as plain sailing as that in the game. I am happy to have managed to bring it home after all. 

– What about your performance here in general?

– This is a shock! For everyone, including me. Were there anyone telling me before the tournament that I would win four games as Black, I would never have believed him. I liked my games in the Sicilian Defense. I mean my first game against the young Iranian Maghsoodloo Parham, World Junior Champion, and against yet another young Iranian Alireza Firouzja. The ultimate round game was crucial, or course, and it lived up to my expectations.

– Winning an open tournament is always a challenge, especially the one having such a tough lineup as Aeroflot. What is your recipe?

– This is a tough one and takes time to go through all possible reasons. I think besides pure chess one needs to be in a good physical shape as well. 

– Has the round one emergency situation somehow influenced the outcome of the event?

– By the way, its timing was good because my position was not very good at that moment (laughing).All in all, you better be ready for various situations that may happen in life. I have been in chess too long now, but this experience is a new one for me.

– You claim that your position was not a satisfactory one at the moment of emergency. How did you open your game next day, I wonder?

– I opted for the same opening, the Najdorf, but the opponent was the first one to sidestep. 

– It may be premature to talk about it yet, but this victory qualifies you into the Dortmund. What are your expectation of that super tournament?

Having never been part of any classical super tournaments, it is hard for me to tell of any expectations. If I manage to perform there as I have here, everything will be OK, hopefully. 



With 6 points under their belts, Maksim Chigaev, Ernesto Inarkiev and Alexey Sarana are the best among the Russian players. 

Tournament B had 126 players from 17 states. The first place is with Stanislav Bogdanovich, who has scored 7.5. A point behind are international masters Tigran Harutyunyan (Armenia), Mahammad Muradli (Azerbaijan), grandmasters Daniil Lintchevski (Russia) and Sundar Shyam (India). Additional tie breakers landed Harutyunyan second and Muradli third.

Winning the C tournament with 100 players out of 19 countries is an international master Timofey Iljin (Ukraine) with 7.5 points. Half a point behind are FIDE master Balgan Bayarmandakh (Mongolia), Artur Karagezyan (Armenia) and Elisha Lukin (Israel). This is exactly the order the additional tiebreakers have sorted them out into. 

Speaking at the closing ceremony were the tournament director Alexander Bach, RCF Executive Director Mark Glukhovsky and chief arbiter Andrzej Filipowicz, who thanked all participants for uncompromising and fair play, also thanking partners for a longstanding financial support and assistance in organization of events. 

After the award ceremony, the floor was given to the winner, who joked that the main tournament of Aeroflot Open had never been won by a participant rated this low. This was met by Alexander Bach saying that Aeroflot Open had never been won by a player rated over 2700.

The world champion was not slow to react as well: Magnus Carlsen congratulated the winner in Twitter in his trademark humorous style:


Let me add that February 28 is the day when the grandmaster from Parnu is celebrating his birthday, this victory being the best birthday present one can imagine! Our congratulations!

The prize fund amounted to 120 000 Euro. Special prizes were to be received by best veterans, women and junior players (for a total sum of 2500 Euro). 

Besides Aeroflot, the chess festival was co-organized by the Russian Chess Federation and the Association of Chess Federations.