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4 December 2017

In Between Fourchette and Time Trouble

Day one of the Rapid Grand Prix final in the report by Dmitry Kryakvin 

Ugra’s preparations for the upcoming 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Olympiad are in full swing indeed! A huge playhall and modern hotels have already been designed and will soon start rising from the earth to the skies of Khanty-Mansiysk. While all these grandiose events are looming on the horizon, hospitable hosts are busy running regular tournaments of the Russian chess calendar. Following the Governor's Cup, the Ugra Chess Academy and its friendly team, headed by Galina Kovaleva, accommodate 16 of Russia's fastest, strongest and most courageous chess players. This event is known to bear more than one title: the Rapid Grand Prix final, the Russian Rapid Cup final, The all-Russian Top 16 competitions, but it all boils down to a tough, exhausting all-play-all marathon -  a test not for the faint-hearted.

Ugra welcomes you with an open heart. Besides meeting you at the airport, transferring you to/from the venue and serving you an excellent fourchette (which will be envied by many a celebration parties), this place is worth visiting for its special atmosphere. Having had enough of this atmosphere, a battle ensued.

However, the battle was preempted by a technical meeting. The players applied to the chief arbiter Mikhail Krjukov to postpone the game schedule by one hour. A new schedule has received a unanimous approval. Therefore, dear readers, you will also find it easier to keep track of the tournament, especially if your time zone is Moscow.

The Appeals Committee’s headship was then assigned to Igor Lysyj. They quickly decided about other members of this important body - Dmitry Jakovenko, Dmitry Kokarev and Dmitry Bocharov. There was voiced a proposal to include Pavel Ponkratov as well, which ran into Lysyj’s emotional plea to have a pity on the committee. Thus, Pavel Smirnov has ended up in the “magnificent five” instead.

They promised to correct the misspelled word as soon as possible.

The next day the chess filibuster, not appointed into the Appeals Committee to render justice, had anything but an easy start. Following an uneventful draw with his senior (and austere) friend Igor Ponkratov, he received a crushing blow from the rating-favorite Dmitry Jakovenko, who arrived home in the role of a Mallorca triumpher, a tamer of Vachier-Lagrave and a knight of the Alexander Grischuk Order of III degree.

The first tournament encounter to finish was Ponkratov - Lysyj.


Jakovenko – Ponkratov

Round 2

White has just grabbed a pawn, while an attempt to trap the queen with 16...Ba6 drops a second one to 17.Bxf7+! Black was obviously not obliged to do what he did in the game, but the native of Chelyabinsk, to his credit, made everything as spectacular as possible.   

16... d5? 17.Qxb7 Qc5+ 18.Kh1 Reb8 

Is the queen trapped? Alas, no.   


White’s strongest piece is immune, and, following an ante-mortem check, considered a sign of good tone in the Soviet era, Black resigned.   

19…Nxe4 20.fxe4 Ng4 21.Rf1 Nf2+ 22.Rxf2 Qxf2 23.h3 Black resigns..  

However, one of the main favorites then pulled together to win three games in a row! Not without a certain share of luck, though.

Ponkratov – Pridorozhni

Round 3

Following a spectacular 28...Nf4!! 29.Qxe7 Nh3+ White loses the f2-pawn and should resign here and now. Nevertheless, even after 28...Qf6?! Black retains an extra piece, but the filibuster takes a third pawn now, and after 29.Ra2 Bd6 30.Qxg4 he succeeded in outperforming Alexei in his trademark filibuster-like fashion.  

Rapid chess is a world of its own, and, more often than not (even if you are not Pavel Ponkratov), real miracles do tend to occur. Right from the start, the tournament lead has been claimed by Dmitry Kokarev, scoring a sudden victory over his namesake Frolyanov from down the worse ending.

Kokarev – Frolyanov

Round 2

Black has enjoyed a lengthy winning initiative, and Frolyanov was probably feeling averse to making a draw after 48...Kxd5 49.Kf3…

48... Kf4?? 49.b4!, and one of the pawns will definitely queen through a mechanism of “pants”. In the case of Kokarev the pants turn into jeans.   

49…Bd4 50.d6 Kg3 51.d7 Bf6 52.a6 Kxh3 53.a7 Black resigns.. Dmitry Frolyanov, upset as he was, followed this failure by mishandling Paulsen against Maksim Chigaev and is slightly behind the leading players now.  

A real disaster has befallen Semen Khanin. The tournament is known for its tradition to include two female players, winners of women’s and junior girls’ sections.  Harsh men give them a traditionally cruel treatment, last year Sasha Maltsevskaya having to do without any victories and Evgeniya Sukhareva only getting one - in a personal duel against her younger colleague ... This year, however, Alexandra and her co-player from the challenging Ugra tournament Tanya Maletina (a wife of the grandmaster, coach, permanent author of domestic black and white publications and President of the Novosibirsk Chess Federation Pavel Maletin) immediately managed to take the bull by the horns. Tatiana grabbed Sasha’s rook, and Sasha cut the ground from under  Semen’s feet.

Khanin – Maltsevskaya

Round 3

White has been enjoying an effective attack, and checkmating now is 32.Be3+ Qxe3 33.Qd8+ Rxd8 34.exd8Q+ Kc6 35.Qd7+ Kb6 36.Rb5+ Ka6 37.Qxb7#.   

32.Qd8+ Kc6 33.a4??   

A bad blunder in place of a winner 33.Rd1.  

33...Rg1+ 34.Rd1 Rxd1+ 35.Qxd1 Re8 

Black is out of the woods, and, instead of defending his passer with 36.Bg5 Semen goes astray.   

36.Qf3+?! Qd5 37.Qc3+ Kd7 38.Qc7+ Ke6, upon which Maltsevskaya did away with the e7-intruder and went on to checkmate the white king herself.  

If anything, Semen showed his mettle by not losing his heart and taking two excellent games from Pavel Smirnov and Zhamsaran Tsydypov.

Smirnov – Khanin

Round 4

A young player from Berdsk was on the offensive, and managed to confuse Smirnov in the end after sacrificing two exchanges. With flags hanging, Khanin found a practical 42... Qd6 43.h5 Be6+! 44.Rxe6 Qd5+ 45.Kf4 Qxe6 46.Qd3+ f5 47.f3 a5 48.g4 Qf6 49.gxf5 a4, upon which he gradually converted in the queen ending. Still, what a fantastic path to a victory is demonstrated by the engine! 42...Be4+!! 43.Kxe4 (43.Ke6 Bf5+ 44.Kf7 Qd5+ 45.Kf8 Qd6+ 46.Re7 Bg6 also results in a checkmate) 43...Qd5+ 44.Kf4 g5+ 45.hxg5 hxg5+ 46.Kg4 Kg6!!, and White is helpless - 47.Qd3+ f5+ 48.Kh3 Qh1#.

Amazed by Semen’s courage, the local fans even awarded him the title of grandmaster.

But still, if you find such inhuman decisions while pressed for time, you either belong to the "Game of the Month” column, or your opponents to the one titled "I can keep silent no longer".  

Dmitry Kokarev pursued Dmitry Bocharov and Maxim Chigaev, but in  rounds 4-5 Bocharov knocked both his competitors down.

Dmitry Bocharov is on the roll


Bocharov – Chigaev

Round 5


Black has weathered the storm in the defensive and can counterstrike decisively with: 38...Nf4!! 39.Rh6 (bad is 39.Ne2 Qg7 40.Nxf4 Rxf4 or 39.gxf4 Rg2+ 40.Kh3 Qg7) 39...R8g5 40.Qf6+ (40.Qc8+ Kg7) 40...Qxf6 41.Rxf6. Although White manages to liquidate into the endgame, this is not the end of the story yet: 41…Rh5+ 42.Kg1 Kg7 43.Rf5 Rxf5 44.exf5 Nh5 45.Ne4 Nf6, and the white infantry is at risk of perishing.   

38…Qd8?! 39.Rf3 Ne7?   

Maxim could have planted his knight to f4, h4 or even add some oil into the flame by 39...Rf4 40.Rxf4 (40.gxf4 Nh4) 40...exf4 41.gxf4 Qe7, but tiredness makes itself known by round five.  

40.Qh5 R4g7 41.Rf7 Ng6 42.Rxg7 Kxg7 43.Nb5! 

White’s grab on the initiative is firm now.   

43…Rf8 44.Rxf8 Qxf8 45.Kg2 Qa8 46.Nxc7 Qa2+ 47.Kh3 Qxc4 48.Ne6+ Kg8 49.Qf3 Qc1 50.b5   

An immediate 50.Kg4 is stronger.


A fatal error, whereas after 50...Qh6+ 51.Kg4 Ne7 the game continues.  

51.Ng5! Nh8 52.Qf6! 

White king’s march seals the fate of the game.   

52…Qh1+ 53.Kg4 Qd1+ 54.Kf5 Qf1+ 55.Ke6 Qxb5 56.Qe7 Black resigns. It goes without saying that Maxim was very upset with the outcome (as bad luck has it, it is only after stopping the clock that correct moves dawn upon you) and started explaining his opponent where things had taken a bad turn.


With five rounds behind, the overall standings is as follows: 1. Bocharov - with 4.5 out of 5; 2. Kokarev - 4; 3-5. Jakovenko, Chigaev, Ponkratov - with 3.5; 6-7. Pridorozhni, Khanin - 3;8-9. Lysyj, Smirnov - with 2.5; 10-12. Yudin, Potapov, Tsydypov - 2; 13. Frolyanov - 1.5; 14-15. Maltsevskaya, Maletina - 1; 16. Nevostrujev - 0.5.  

However, the fight is only about to start! 

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