Sergey Tiviakov Can Win King vs. King

Anish Giri (18) is the strongest player in the Netherlands and 27th on FIDE's December list. On his website it says that he is also a regular college student who follows his class every day, with a limited absence allowed by the school during major chess events.

At first sight it would seem that the headmaster of Grotius College in Delft takes an extremely liberal attitude to the concept of limited absence. A brief check of the database shows that in 2012 Giri played in the Istanbul Olympiad, in seven important individual tournaments and in the club competitions of six European countries. Recently he took part in the World Mind Games in Beijing and last week he led a Dutch team to victory in the World Cities Team Championship, held in Al Ain, a city in Abu Dhabi, part of the United Arab Emirates. Limited absence from school, indeed.

He must have a double, who scores high marks for physics and mathematics at school, while the other Anish travels the globe. Maybe they switch functions now and then to keep it interesting. And maybe there is a third one who keeps their website up-to-date with articles and analyses. We Dutch wouldn't know, as all these small Nepalese-Russian kids look alike to us.

Whatever way they do it, for the Dutch chess world it was a stroke of luck that the Giri family decided in 2008 to move from St. Petersburg to the Netherlands. Anish is exactly what a sport federation needs nowadays. He is young, strong, improving, cheerful and outspoken and he can converse with Dutch, English and Russian reporters in their own language.

Recently it became known that in 2013 the Dutch Chess Federation would receive 90,000 euros from the Dutch Olympic Committee to spend on top chess and talent development. This was considerably less than in previous years and there was also the new condition that the money should be spent completely on Giri.

Of course there was some grumbling. Were there no other young talents in the Netherlands? And as he is undoubtedly the highest-earning chessplayer in the Netherlands, did Giri really need that money?

But according to Matthew 25:29 Jesus said: "For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken." This is also the law of sports: winner takes all.

The World Cities Chess Team Championship in Al Ain was contested by 24 cities. The Netherlands were represented by Hoogeveen, a small town with a population of about 50,000. Would this modest provincial town aspire to compete for the world title with places like London, Paris, Chicago, Saratov and Baku? Yes it did, and actually Hoogeveen had the highest rated team, consisting of Giri, Sokolov, Tiviakov and Smeets, a fearsome foursome that would make a good Dutch Olympic team.

Their only connection with Hoogeveen was that they all had played in the tournament that is held there every year.

Giri played well on first board, winning three games and drawing four, but the real hero of the team was Sergey Tiviakov, who had the same score, but had won exactly twice when the Hoogeveen team was in dire need of a win.

The first time was in the quarter finals against Saratov, when he converted a tiny edge against Evgeny Romanov into a win. Winning seemingly unwinnable games with superb technique is Tiviakov's trademark. With a draw in that game Hoogeveen would have been eliminated.

The second time was in the finals against Baku. This time Tiviakov's position was even much more "unwinnable" than that against Romanov. Watching the game live I thought: everything will be alright, for Sergey is a man who would set problems even in a king-vs-king ending.

Sergey Tiviakov-Nidjat Mamedov

after White's 88th move.

Sergey Tiviakov Nidjat Mamedov after White's 88th move.

Sergey Tiviakov Nidjat Mamedov after White's 88th move.


During the last twenty moves White has made more progress than he should have, but of course objectively it is still a draw after 88...Rb5 89.Rxg6 Kxb6. But Black played 88...Kxb6? and after 89.Bd4+ he resigned, because he would lose a piece.

You might call 88...Kxb6 a losing blunder. The word blunder is easily used nowadays, with everybody able to see the computer evaluation dropping sharply.

But one should realize the circumstances. Black had already been living on his 30 seconds increment for a long time, against an opponent adept at using all the little tricks available.

Mamedov was already on a downhill slide. Had he avoided his losing blunder, after a while he would have to defend the ending of rook and bishop versus rook. Defending this ending wasn't even trivial in the era of adjournments. Here, living on increments after six exhausting hours of play, against an accomplished technician, Black would hardly stand a chance, I think.

So, Hoogeveen, a modest spot on the map, became the World City Champion. Its team captain Ivan Sokolov said that they had brought only four players and no non-playing captain or reserve, because they wanted to share their $21,000 first prize between as few people as possible.

Smart thinking. Though Jesus didn't say this, I'm sure the money will trickle down for the general good of Dutch chess.


2012 World Cities Team Chess Championship

Simply click on the game to play through it.