We recently quoted former World Champion Alexander Khalifman describing 16-year-old Daniil Dubov as “devilishly talented”. In Dmitry Kryakvin’s final report on the Russian Higher League Khalifman goes into greater detail and graphically describes what awaits Dubov when he takes on the likes of Kramnik and Svidler in the main Russian Championship in little over a month’s time.
Khalifman was impressed with what he saw of Dubov in Tyumen:
You can no longer call Danya a green player. I watched with great interest as he escaped from one situation after another. He’s a very good, dynamic tactician, and he always finds solutions even when it seems as though the resources of a position have been exhausted.
Dubov secured qualification for the main Russian Championship, or “Superfinal”, with a round to spare. The first games of that event are due to be played on the 3rd August, with Kramnik, Karjakin, Morozevich, Svidler and Grischuk all invited.
Dubov went astray in the final round of the Higher League. The problem wasn't the Richter-Rauzer Sicilian he played against Evgeny Alekseev, but the flawed "improvement" on his and Sergey Shipov's analysis that he found at the board
Khalifman foresees trouble ahead for Dubov:
Above all, his problem will be the opening, because the elite guys in the Superfinal will do terrible things to the Rauzer and the Volga Gambit. It’s obvious, though, that if Dubov does a great deal of work on improving his battle readiness in the opening Russia will soon have a new and strong 2700-player.
A great deal has changed in the way the opening is studied nowadays, and the information which we would cut out of journals and put into filing systems can now be mastered in 5 minutes of double-clicking. I remember I had cards spread out in boxes… Now that’s simply amusing! I only bought my first computer when I became a grandmaster, and it was of much less use than they are today. Back then it took a great deal of time to learn a new system, while now the opening is bread and butter for a young chess player who wants to progress. After all, it’s become much easier to learn if you’ve got the desire.
The step up to the elite grandmasters is staggering in that regard. You tell me Svidler played 1.g3 against Kramnik? But that was a whole concept. If Peter Veniaminovich had played 1.h3 and won then I’d capitulate in the face of your evidence, but instead he’d no doubt worked out and analysed a great deal. Volodya didn’t quite know something, underestimated a little, and that was that. I heard the term “sub-opening” used by one well-known grandmaster about the King’s Indian Attack, but that turned out not to be the case. You can’t even imagine the degree to which Svidler is crying poverty when he talks about his opening knowledge, given his absolutely colossal memory.
And from the example of the brilliant Galkin – Kramnik game you can see what happens when a normal grandmaster encounters a monster. In that case there wasn’t any preparation at all, and Volodya went for a position which Houdini evaluates as +0.5 for White.
You don’t quite have to suspect the great of something supernatural, although the power of their openings is, of course, imposing. Therefore Dubov’s in for a hard time in Moscow.
Khalifman’s own tournament was unspectacular, starting with 8 draws and 1 win in the first nine rounds. He then lost in the penultimate round and won his last game to finish in 20th place on 6/11. However, there was a non-chess factor at work:
A big role was nevertheless played in this tournament by a fierce heat wave. I can’t speak for the unsuccessful Jakovenko, Nepomniachtchi and Inarkiev – perhaps Ernesto, who grew up in Frunze and Elista, will say that such a heat wave was nothing for him – but the high temperature and humidity had a monstrous effect on me. Naturally I ended up living in the shower of my hotel room, with the cold water turned on. I suspect it wasn’t easy for others as well, especially as we’d flown here with the weather forecasters predicting it would be +25 or +27, only to encounter this mockery. We hadn’t been promised such terrible “thirties”. The hall itself was very good and comfortable, but preparing in the hotel was impossible. There’s an X factor for you.
Khalifman on the challenge awaiting Dubov