The Play for Russia Charity Tournament played on lichess.org, ended on May 14, with a determined Alexander Grischuk overcoming first Vladimir Kramnik and then Evgeny Tomashevsky to win the event.
Facing Vladimir Kramnik, Grischuk seemed to have his work cut out for him when he lost the first semi-final game with the white pieces. In a must-win situation, Alexander scored an extremely important victory in the second game with Black - ensuring the two played an Armageddon decider.
Kramnik chose to play with black pieces, needing just a draw to secure his slot in the final. Facing a must-win situation once again Grischuk played valiantly, and after obtaining a better position he finished things off with winning tactics. A distraught Kramnik had to step away from the computer briefly, before conceding defeat.
When talking with GM Evgenij Miroschnichenko and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni on the Lichess stream later, Alexander remarked that he felt these two games against Kramnik were the “cleanest” and “most beautiful” games he played in the entire event.
Photo: Theo Heinze
With Kramnik eliminated, on the other side of the draw the two-time Russian champion, Evgeny Tomashevsky, faced off against eight-time Russian champion, Peter Svidler. Playing precise and positional chess, Tomashevsky secured a convincing win in his first game and then drew the second - guaranteeing his place in the final with Grischuk.
The final match took only three games instead of four, with Grischuk emerging victorious in each encounter. After a fiercely contested battle in the first game in which Tomashevsky at some point had an upper hand, Grischuk came out with a victory - following up quickly on his success in the second encounter. Evgeny had better chances in the third game but mishandled his position in the time scramble and eventually lost.
Alexander Grischuk: "All three final games turned out to be very complex. Evgeny had an advantage both in the first and third games, and the second one was more or less equal. I was lucky to win. But the most important thing was that this event took place in general. The struggle was very exciting in all its stages. I'd like to thank the participants, everyone involved, everybody who gave donations and, of course, Vladimir Kramnik as he was the main initiator of the event."
Photo: Maria Emelianova
By the end of the event, a massive 24,670,000 roubles ($335,000) was raised as donations for Russian charities, in the battle against COVID-19. Grischuk shared that the impact homeless are feeling right now was an issue close to his heart - and that he had chosen a nationwide Russian charity to receive the part of the prize fund he represented. The prize fund, raised by the participants was distributed equally among the charities of their choice regardless of the final standings.
Whilst the event and the excitement of top-level chess is now over, donations will still be accepted by the Russian Chess Federation until the end of the week. Further information on how to donate and the biggest sponsors are available on the Russian Chess Federation’s website.
A massive thank you to all sponsors, players, organizers, and chess fans who made this amazing and worthwhile event a true success. The tournament was initiated by the participants and organized with the support of the Chess Federation of Russia, the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation, the Timchenko Foundation, the Ramax group of companies, and Gazprombank (Switzerland). Match TV, a media partner of the tournament, provided the coverage and live broadcast.