Svidler wins golden ticket to Champions Chess Tour

Peter Svidler earned a golden ticket to the $1.5 million Champions Chess Tour this weekend as he won an exciting Chessable Qualifier event. The 8-time Russian Champion triumphed with 5/6 points in a field that included seven top grandmasters who had earned their chance through the Banter Series. 

The Chessable Qualifier was broadcast live on chess24 on Saturday and Sunday, with commentary by Jan Gustafsson and Laurent Fressinet.

The seven grandmasters had earned their rights for another shot at qualifying for the Champions Chess Tour, the $1.5 million sequel to Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, by winning their groups in the chess24 Banter Series.

As Liem Quang Le had already qualified by reaching the semi-final, these seven were left:

  • Two-time British Champion Gawain Jones
  • Former US Champion Sam Shankland
  • Eight-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler
  • New German #1 Matthias Bluebaum 
  • India’s S.L. Narayanan
  • Three-time Azerbaijan Champion Rauf Mamedov
  • Russian youngster Grigoriy Oparin

You can replay all the games from the tournament using the selector below:

It quickly became clear that the rapid event would be a two-horse race between Svidler and Mamedov. They got off to a perfect start with 3/3 after day 1. 

A key game for Svidler was his encounter with Shankland in Round 3. The Russian had just played 15.cxd5 and is doing well, but the following was just a gift:

15…Rfd8? Black had to play Ne4 to keep the game going. 16.Nxf5! Nxf5 17.Bxc5 Rxd5 18.Bd4! and Shankland resigned a few moves later 1-0

But Svidler wasn’t the only player who got a few easy wins in. In an already difficult position against Mamedov, Grigory Oparin fell right into mate.

26…Nxd1? 26…Qb7 is the only try. 27.Bf3 1-0

Another key moment came in Round 6, as Svidler defeated his countryman Oparin, while Mamedov fell short against Shankland in an opposite-coloured bishop-endgame.

Despite being a full point ahead before the final round, Svidler had to fight hard in order to secure the draw he needed in his Round 7 game with S.L Narayanan. He had a few problems and triumped after 69 moves:

“I am very happy to qualify. I enjoyed playing the Legends a lot, so it’s great to get another shot.” Svidler said.

The anglophile Russian is a favourite among chess fans, not only for his skills on the board, but just as much for his commentary. Asked whether he would prefer playing or commentating, he said:

“Commenting is nice, but in 2020, with no real practice available apart from blitz, getting a chance to play against the best is priceless – I miss tournament chess a lot, as I’m sure do most of us.”

Svidler considered himself lucky.

“I played fine, but I also ran unbelievably well (it’s not often you get two full pieces blundered to you in a field this strong, also won a dead lost position vs Gawain).”

Here are the final standings:

The Champions Chess Tour begins at the end of November and with an increased prize fund and a total of 10 tournaments that will last a year, it is bound to capture the imagination of chess fans around the world. 

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