Chess Piece

Aeroflot Open “A”
Moscow, Russia
Feb. 19–27, 2020

Final Top Standings:

1–4. IM Aydin Suleymanli AZE 2474, GM Rinat Jumabayev KAZ 2646, GM Rauf Mamedov AZE 2643, GM Aravindh Chithambaran (IND 2630, 6.5/9

5–10. GM Aleksej Aleksandrov BLR 2592, GM Vugar Asadli AZE 2538, GM Adhiban Baskaran IND 2654, GM Manuel Petrosyan ARM 2590, GM Mustafa Yilmaz TUR 2607, GM David Paravyan RUS 2629, 6.0/9

11–27. IM Bharath Subramaniyam IND 2402 (11 years old!), Sanan Sjugirov RUS 2674, GM Pouya Idani IRI 2577, GM Mikhail Antipov RUS 2562, GM Praggnanandhaa R. IND 2602, GM Mikhail Kobalia RUS 2609, GM Sethuraman S. P. IND 2641, IM Sadhwani Raunak IND 2522, GM Aleksandr Rakhmanov RUS 2645, GM Gabriel Sargissian ARM 2689, GM Alexander Riazantsev RUS 2639, GM Vladislav Kovalev BLR 2650, GM Ilia Smirin ISR 2615, GM Aleksandr Shimanov RUS 2587, GM Arjun Erigasi IND 2653, GM Rasmus Svane GER 2608, GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac ROU 2626, 5.5/9

Total Participants: 97 players

Time Control: 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, followed by 15 minutes play-to-finish with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1

IM Aydin Suleymanli

The Aeroflot Open is an annual open chess tournament played in Moscow and sponsored by the airline Aeroflot. It was established in 2002 and quickly grew to be the among the strongest open tournaments in the world. First prize for the “A” tournament is €18,000 (about P1 million). The winner is usually invited to the Dortmund superGM chess tournament to be held in Germany later in the year, but for the current edition the organizers announced that this tradition (begun in 2003) has been discontinued.

Three strong open tournaments are held simultaneously but our focus will be on the strongest one, the “A” tournament which imposes a minimum rating of 2550 on its would-be participants. However, for young and upcoming players the organizers often give special dispensation to play. Good for Suleymanli and the 11-year old Bharath Subramaniyam from India, at one time among the leaders of the tournament!

GM Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan, a former child prodigy but now at 31 years old considered a veteran, is the sentimental favorite of the tournament organizers as he is the only one among the participants who has a 100% attendance in all 18 editions of Aeroflot. Indeed, after three rounds GM Mamedov was in the solo lead, having won all his games up to that point. He held the top spot almost up to the very end, but the 14-year old Aydin Suleymanli caught up with Mamedov in round 8 with his own 3-game winning streak from rounds 6-8. After the cessation of hostilities in the final round 9 there was a 4-way tie for 1st and, with a higher average opponents’ rating, Suleymanli was awarded the gold trophy.

Aydin Suleymanli, born March 22, 2005 is still only an International Master but his 2791 performance rating in this event was more than enough to earn his second GM norm. As the BW reader will no doubt recall you need three norms and minimum ELO rating of 2500 to get the full title.

Suleymanli’s favorite game is his win over Ilia Smirin in the 7th round.

Suleymanli, Aydin (2474) — Smirin,I lia (2615) [A21]
18th Aeroflot Open-A 2020 Moscow (7.10), 25.02.2020

Playing Black in the following game is Ilia Smirin, one of the greatest living experts in the King’s Indian Defense (he wrote an acclaimed book about it in 2016 called “King’s Indian Warfare”). Born January 21, 1968 in Vitebsk, Belarus, he was strong enough to play in the Finals of the Soviet Chess Championships before he migrated to Israel in 1992. He has won the Israeli Championship 3 times, competed in 4 FIDE World Championships and three FIDE World Cups.

1.d4 d6 2.c4 e5 3.e3 Nd7 4.Nc3 g6 5.g3 Bg7 6.Bg2 Ne7 7.Nge2 0–0 8.0–0 f5 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.e4 c6 11.Be3 Qc7

With the idea of …f5–f4.

12.Qd2 Nb6 13.b3 f4!? 14.gxf4 exf4 15.Nxf4 Bxc3

This was part of Smirin’s idea when he played 13…f4. The White queen is diverted from its defense of f4.

16.Qxc3 Rxf4 <D>


Naturally Smirin expected the continuation 17.Bxf4 Qxf4 when he would have two knights against White’s rook and pawn. He was counting on his queen’s proximity to the enemy king to drum up some attacking ideas, but …


An almost incomprehensible piece sacrifice, that is, for someone like me. Suleymanli thinks his dark-squared bishop is more valuable than the enemy rook and refuses to take back the exchange. He reasons that Black has serious weaknesses on the dark squares and the bishop can exploit this either by means of Bh6 or Be3–c1–b2.


Smirin was understandably surprised by White’s move and took 30 minutes over his reply.

What happens if Black withdraws the rook?

Going 17…Rf8? is definitely bad because 18.Bh6 Rf7 19.Qe5! and the black queen has nowhere to go unless he wants to allow the mate after 19…Qxe5 20.Rd8+ Rf8 21.Rxf8#

Relatively better is 17…Rf7, but it still loses to 18.c5 Nd7 19.Rd6 b6 20.Rfd1 Nf8 21.Bh6 Ba6 22.Rf6!

It appears like 17…Nd7! is the best defense when White still has the upperhand but Black is far from losing.

18.c5! Rh4

It is now too late for 18…Nd7 19.Rd6! (the queen’s defense of the f4–rook is blocked while the Black bishop on e6 is also threatened) 19…Rf6 20.Bg5 Nc8 21.Rxd7 Qxd7 22.Qxf6 it is now White who is a pawn up and Black’s weaknesses persist.

19.Rd6! Nd7?

The only defense is 19…Nec8 the rook on d6 of course cannot move because of the mate on h2, but 20.Qf6 Nxd6 21.cxd6 Qxd6 22.Qxh4 material parity has been restored and White’s attack is still there.


White is clearly winning now. By the way, don’t fall for 20.Rxe6?? Qxh2#.

20…Bh3 21.Qc4+ Kf8 22.Bxh3 Rxh3 23.Qe6 Rxe3 24.Rxd7 Qxd7

There is nothing else.

25.Qxd7 Rxe4 26.Qd3 Re6 27.Qd7 Re4 28.f5 gxf5 29.Rxf5+ Kg7 30.Rg5+ Kf6 31.Rg3 b5 32.Qd6+ Kf7 33.Qh6 1–0

Terrific tactics. In round 8 we get to see a positional masterpiece. The Iranian GM Parham Maghsoodloo went for a risky pawn grab in the opening but Suleymanli knew what to do.

Maghsoodloo, Parham (2674) — Suleymanli, Aydin (2474) [D35]
Aeroflot Open A 2020
Moscow RUS (8.5), 26.02.2020

1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Be7 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 Nf6 6.e3 Bf5

Even Garry Kasparov has played this way, daring White to take his b7–pawn by means of Qd1–b3xb7.

7.Qb3 Nc6 8.Qxb7

Topalov discovered the move 8.g4!? here. The idea is that 8…Nxg4 weakens Black’s d5–pawn while 8…Bxg4 puts the bishop on a less than optimal square. I should caution the reader here though that everything is not so clear, and in fact 8.g4 cost Irina Krush her USA women’s championship in 2011. In her tiebreaks with Anna Zatonskih she played this twice and lost both times. Those two wins were the margin of victory for Zatonskih. Maghsoodloo avoids all of that and goes for the main line.

8…Nb4 9.Rc1

An alternative for White to play 9.Bb5+ Kf8 first to prevent Black from castling, but then again it sort of restricts the movements of the White queen. We won’t go into all of that theory.

9…0–0 10.Qxc7

[10.Bxc7 Qc8 11.Qxc8 Rfxc8 Just transposes to the game.]

10…Qxc7 11.Bxc7 Rfc8 12.Bf4 Ne4 13.f3 Nxc3 14.bxc3 g5 15.Bg3

White will untie the knots his position is in after 15…Nxa2 16.Ra1 Nxc3 17.Ba6 Bb4 18.Kf2 Re8 19.Ne2. Remember he was 2 pawns up to begin with.


To prevent White’s Ba6.

16.a4 Na2 17.Ra1 Nxc3 18.Ne2 Bb4!? 19.Kf2 Bc2! 20.Nxc3 Bxc3 21.Ra2?

[21.Ra3! is the only move that holds. After 21…Bb4 22.Ra1! Black can either go for the draw by repetition with …Bc3 or continue fighting with …Bg6]

21…Bb1! 22.Re2

[22.Ra3 Bb4 23.Ra1 (23.Rb3 Rc2+ 24.Be2 Ba2 25.Rd3 Bc4) 23…Rc1 White is still all tied up]

22…Rc4! 23.Rc2!?

A desperate trap.


[23…Bxc2? 24.Bxc4 dxc4 25.Rc1 will pick up one of the bishops]

24.Kxe1 Rxc2 25.h4 Rac8 26.Bd6 R8c3 27.hxg5 Rb2 0–1

White gives up as 27…Rb2 28.Kd1 Ba2! followed by Bb3+

This is the second consecutive year where the Aeroflot Open had a surprise winner. In 2018 62nd seed Kaido Kulaots (43 years old at that time) won the title and this year it was the 71st seed Aydin Suleymanli (from the opposite side of the age spectrum at 14 years of age) who grabbed the title. They are now calling him the “New Beast from Baku” after the original “Beast,” the 13th world chess champion Garry Kasparov.

In March of this year IM Aydin will be participating for the first time in the Championship of Azerbaijan. Let’s see if he can keep up his momentum.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.