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10 January 2018

How to Catch Up and Overtake?

Traffic jams of Friday, December 22, were something even the old-timers have seldom experienced: either a foreign guest’s arrival was to blame for the overall turmoil in the center, or the pre-holiday race reached its climax, but making it to the Gogolevsky Boulevard became a feat in itself. Nevertheless, Nutcracker is always a holiday and a pleasure to be part of, whatever the obstacles.

An hour after the start of round four, the Russian commentator Evgeniy Najer was joined by the 12th world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, and they kept track of the match developments together. There was a lot to comment upon, as usual.

In the men’s section only one game was other than a draw: Grigoriy Oparin has outplayed Sergei Rublevsky. This duel, as well as a draw in Esipenko-Gelfand, was commented by the English-speaking commentator Evgenij Miroshnichenko as follows: 

“Sergei Rublevsky’s loss was very strange. The opening was handled into a more or less know position of the Najdorf Variation. Upon lengthy maneuvering, Sergey was the first to blunder in time trouble: multiple trades resulted in an opposite-colored bishop ending in which a draw seemed nearby, but a couple of awkward moves by White landed him into a worse situation. White’s case gradually became hopeless, and Sergei ended up losing on time. It is hard to explain what was wrong with him that day. It is one of those games when a winner did nothing to earn his bread. Black just made logical moves, whereas White made the losing ones. 

Andrey Esipenko and Boris Gelfand’s battle was a very interesting one. Boris partly knew something, partly did not, that’s why he was seen discussing something with his younger counterpart after the game. Database is a final point of reference, of course. If not forced, then meaningfully, at least, there arose a position with Black’s rook versus two minor pieces of White’s. Although objectively equal, it was difficult to say off the top of your head whose play was easier. Then the game transposed into a queen ending with up a pawn for Black. White seemed to have an easy draw, but I think Andrey’s play was not exactly precise; however, the position still had a solid margin of safety. Boris did his best, but there was not much to squeeze out, and the encounter ended in a draw”. 

Yuffa - Shirov was a theoretical duel in the Botvinnik Variation, in which opponents, at least Alexei Shirov, made no single move of their own. When the game was over (a draw was agreed after Black’s move 28), Shirov’s clock displayed the remaining time 1:32. The game was closely watched by Evgeny Sveshnikov, one of the main experts of this line back in the 1980s.

Discussing the game Mamedyarov - Artemiev, Alexandra Kosteniuk noted that Black could carry out the pawn break on e5 in the middlegame, upon which Shakhriyar's position would start to ring alarms. However, Vladislav opted for something else, which simplified the position significantly and Black, although not without difficulties, managed to defend down a pawn ending with rooks and opposite-colored bishops.

The classical section saw the Azeri warrior conquering the 2800 summit yet another time, his current rating being 2803.8. Curiously, the footnotes to the poem “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” by Shota Rustaveli point out that some researchers associate the name of the protagonist Tariel, who wears the panther’s skin (more precisely - the leopard’s one), with the Persian name Shakhriar. Well, it is not for nothing that Shakhriyar is reigning now on the Gogol Boulevard: With four rounds behind, his individual performance is the tournament’s best - 3.5 out of 4.

After four rounds the score is 18:14 in Kings’ favor.

In the women’s section Aleksandra Maltsevskaya literally whitewashed Galina Strutinskaia in the King’s Indian. Black’s position out of the opening lacked space, was discoordinated and exposed along the dark squares, while the white army pressed on both flanks, which ended up in Maltsevskaya’s decisive breakthrough.  Black recognized her defeat on move 40.

Elizaveta Solozhenkina and Tatiana Grabuzova handled the opening into the French Defense, in which White seized the initiative in the beginning, but in the middlegame Black fended off all direct threats and, upon a couple of trades, ended up in a better endgame. Solozhenkina lost a pawn and, prior to the time control move, missed mating threats against her king.

Ekaterina Kovalevskaya delivered a nice blow to Ekaterina Goltseva in the ending, thanks to which she won a pawn and converted her edge in the rook ending.

Elena Zaiatz’s edge over Aleksandra Dimitrova was substantial, but the Belorussian grandmaster failed to convert (several computer-like blows were missed along the way). White committed an error in time trouble, upon which the situation equalized, and the game ended in a draw after Black’s move 46.

The best performance in the women’s section so far has been demonstrated by Ekaterina Kovalevskaya - 3.5 out of 4. This is where the efforts for the Superfinal preparation make themselves known!

The match score is 19:13 in Queens’ favor.

The weekend schedules two rounds of rapid chess. The tournament is gradually entering the home stretch.

It’s a good idea to spend the Friday night watching the match F.C. Arsenal -  Liverpool.

Pictures by Eteri Kublashvili

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