August 2015 Grandmaster Spotlight: Sergei Tiviakov

GM Sergei Tiviakov
GM Sergei Tiviakov

Welcome back! This month we are examining the life and games of GM Sergei Tiviakov. Tiviakov has been a staple of high level tournaments for the last 20 or 30 years. I learned a lot about Tiviakov in doing my research for this post. I remember when I was weaker I saw a lot of his Scandinavian games and that inspired me to play it. There was a brief period like five or six years ago when the 3. … Qd6 variation was in vogue and played at the top levels. I have to imagine that Tiviakov played no small part in that trend. Currently Tiviakov has a rating of 2611.  He’s the eighth highest rated player in the Netherlands. He earned the IM title in 1990 and the GM title in 1991. He still plays in high level tournaments.  Recently Tiviakov was the joint runner-up in the 2014 PokerStars IoM Masters tournament. I found an awesome interview that he did for Some highlights include:

What do you consider your most important contribution to opening theory?

First Sicilian Dragon variation (Maroczy), then the Scandinavian Defence with 3…Qd6). Also Queen’s Indian Defence and Catalan (development of the knight to a6). Also Qe2 in Italian Game and Ruy Lopez structures. And not to forget 2.c3 in Sicilian.


Who is the most irritating opponent you have faced?

Once I played a person who after losing to me smashed his head with a piece and started bleeding. His blood was all over the table.

When Tiviakov was a child he took lessons with Vassily Smyslov. There are some obvious similarities in their play. Both players made great contributions to opening theory. And, both players were/are masters at exploiting small mistakes made by their opponents.

Tiviakov is an innovator who champions some odd lines including the Scandinavian the c3 Sicilian. A classic example of his unique opening play was against a former GM Spotlight player; Emil SutovskyTiviakov annotated this game is for chessbase:

There were at least 24 games that I found that I felt could have made this list. Tiviakov has had a long and illustrious career. He’s beaten almost every top player from the early 90’s through today. I found a nice recent game of his against Anand that demonstrates a nice exploitation of a weak square (d5). Once again Tiviakov shares some of his thoughts on the game for chessbase:

With any luck, you all saw Wei Yi’s “immortal” against Bruzon-Batista. In case you read this blog and somehow didn’t see this game:

Yi’s sacrifice is just like the sacrifice executed by Tiviakov in 1995 against Loek Van Wely:

The next game I found was a tactical melee in the Caro-Kann. His opponent was Michael Adams in the 1994 PCA World Championship Qualifier.

The final game I chose occurred in 2006 against Timman. Tiviakov said that “this game was one of the best games of his life”. Annotations by the ever loquacious Nigel Short for the Guardian:

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