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11 December 2018

The Youth and Prof Kokarev

Dmitry Kryakvin reports about round two of the Russian Cup final

There is no arguing about the game of chess never dying as long as women play it. Once the stakes raised, the men's section of the Cup had all games drawn, whereas the first (and only) draw among women happened as late as at the semi-final tiebreak! Therefore, let’s award the girls with the right to make the first move and start this report with their games.

Having won the U20 Russian and U18 World championships this year, as well as delivering excellent performance in the Superfinal and defeating Alexander Morozevich in the Grand Prix rapid final, Polina Shuvalova is now quite serious about appropriating another trophy from Khanty-Mansiysk, with four victories out of four games helping this cause of hers greatly! Daria Charochkina did her best by putting up stubborn resistance in a slightly worse position, but there is nothing simple in bailing out from the young successor of Capablanca!

Shuvalova – Charochkina

Semi-final, game one


Despite the doubled pawns, the strong knight gives Black real chances to escape in one piece, but Shuvalova’s methodical performance resulted in resignation of her opponent after both weaknesses’ elimination.  


Keeping the black king cut off makes no special sense since the rook belongs on a6.  


A slightly tougher is 42...Ne4 43.Bxc4 Nxf2, but here 44.d6 gives Black hard time keeping the passed pawn at bay.  

43.Ra6 Kd7 44.Bh3+ f5 45.f4 Rc7 46.Bg2 Rb7 47.Kc3 Rc7  


Capablanca's fundamental rules in action! Because Black is better off marking time to avoid the worst, Shuvalova has no problem eliminating the first weak pawn.  

48…Rb7 49.Bf3 Rc7 50.Be2 Rb7 51.Bxc4 Ne4+ 52.Kc2 Nd6 53.Be2, and with the downfall of the second weak pawn a dozen of moves later, Black’s entire defensive formations crumbled.  

With Charochkina’s attempt to bounce back coming to naught, Shuvalova was the first to book a place in the finals since Guseva vs Girya failed to determine a happy owner of the second ticket in the classical time format.

Guseva - Girya

Semi-final, game two


Girya’s optimistic attack in game one had her miscalculating and going up in flames, but in the return game she managed to achieve complex game in the Stonewall. The position is ripe for a strike, and Girya decides to take a chance.  

33...Rxg5! 34.fxg5 f4 35.Qf3 Qxg5 36.Rc7 Nf6 37.Rf1 Rxe2 38.Ra7

Is the bishop trapped? No, this is no more than an optical illusion – with the white queen overloaded, not only does the black bishop stay alive, but joins the offensive at that.  

38…Bd3 39.Ra8+ Kf7 40.Ra7+ Ke6  

Even though Black puts everything into the attack, there is nothing decisive in view yet; therefore, White can just mark time with some precise moves like 41.Rb7. Guseva decides to make a useful waiting move by removing the king from the linear pin, placing it into the diagonal one instead.  

41.Kh1? Rxg2! 42.Qxd3 Ne4 43.Qh3+ Rg4 44.Rc7 Kf6 45.Rc2 Rh4, and it was over before long, sending the opponents to prepare for the upcoming tie-break.  

Each of the opponents had an endgame edge in their tie-break games, but it is Marina Guseva who goes further as the one managing to convert it into a full point. We feel for Olga, who has demonstrated an amazing willpower, as well as for the local audience who has lost the last Ugra representative in the tournament; however, the Shuvalova - Guseva final will certainly be a worthy conclusion to the women's Russian Cup and turn over a new page of chess history since neither Polina nor Marina has ever won the Cup before.

Bronze medalists Olga Girya and Daria Charochkina

It is too early to talk about the finalists in the men's tournament yet, but it does not mean the quarter-finals should be omitted entirely. The above-mentioned four draws were not as lukewarm as one might be inclined to think; thus, Artyom Timofeev has gradually outplayed Aleksey Sorokin, but the latter managed to escape, whereas Kirill Alekseenko has passed up a mathematical win over Alexey Sarana.

Alekseenko - Sarana

Quarterfinals, game one


White’s plan is simple - to push the pawn as far as possible in the hope that Black fails to keep up with two birds, i.e. to get control of the c8-square and promote own passers far enough. Alekseenko’s conversion was smooth to a point, but there was no avoiding technical issues along the way.

45.c4 g5+ 46.Ke4 h5 47.c5 h4 48.c6 Bf5+ 49.Kd5 h3 50.c7+ Ke7 51.Ra8 g4 52.Ke5 

The text wins as well, but 52.Rh8! was an immediate killer. If 52…g3, then 53.Ke5 Bg4 (after 53...g2 54.Kxf5 g1Q 55.c8Q Qf2+ 56.Ke5 the king runs towards the c8-queen and the game is over), and precise now is 54.Rg8! to eliminate the opponent's bishop; e.g., 54…h2 55.Rg7+ Ke8 56.Rxg4 – and it is time for resignation.  

52...h2 53.Rh8 Bc8! (only chance) 54.Rh7+ Ke8 55.Kf4 h1Q 56.Rxh1 Kd7 57.Rc1 Kd6  

Bringing the point home only needs White to get rid of the g4-pawn, upon which White will have an easy time bringing the king to the queen side to decide the matter. With Black’s movements confined, the following scenario is feasible: 58.Kg3 Kd5 59.Rc2 Kd6 60.Rc4 Kd5 61.Rxg4, getting down to plan’s stage two. As if forgetting about the opponent’s pawn existence, he makes up his mind to bring the king to the queenside without any ado.  

58.Ke4 Bb7+ 59.Ke3 Bc8 60.Kd4 Kd7  

The final part of the duel goes other than ideal with two possible scenarios - either Sarana manages to push the pawn even further, upon which a draw becomes inevitable, or Alekseenko eliminates the dangerous runaway passer and prevails. That Friday evening Fortuna ended up siding with the current winner of the Russian Championship’s Higher League.  

61.Rc3 Kd6 62.Rc2 Kd7 63.Ke3 Kd6 64.Ke4 Bb7+ 65.Kd4 Bc8 66.Rc3 Kd7 67.Rc5 Kd6 68.Kc4 g3 69.Kb5 g2 70.Rc1 g1Q 71.Rxg1 Kxc7 agreeing to a draw shortly after.

The overall picture turned upside down in the return games: Sarana – Alekseenko and Sorokin – Timofeev faded into the background as Dmitry Kokarev and David Paravyan, playing against Nikita Afanasiev and Dmitry Bocharov respectively, queened their pawns and secured at least one more round in the capital of Ugra.

Kokarev – Afanasiev

Quarterfinals, game two


A rare junior is capable of standing up to Dmitry Kokarev, and Nikita was no exception. Dmitry is a stern examiner! He even defeated Vachier-Lagrave, of all people!

Black’s position is difficult, and he tries to lessen the pressure by trading a queen for a pair of rooks, but to no avail.

25...Bxe5 26.dxe5 Qxd1+ 27.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 28.Kc2 Rd7 29.b3 Nb6

Were the knight in time to plant itself on d5, Afanasiev’s chances for tie-break would have increased significantly, but a couple of pawn stabs kills any intrigue once and for all.

30.h6 f6 31.e6 Rb7


A final touch. The painting is finished, you just need to put a signature to it.

32…g5 33.Qd6 Rc8 34.Bxb6 axb6 35.e7 Kf7 36.Qd8 Black resigns.The youth is maturing, snapping at older generation’s heels, knocking out the likes of Jakovenko, who is almost invincible in the Ugra land; meanwhile, Kokarev will have none of it as he has again made it into yet another semifinal.

A young strong chess player has put it this way, “Kokarev’s king performs Nutcracker all the year round”.

The semifinal will see Kokarev vs Alekseenko. The latter has defeated Sarana in the rapid by gradually outplaying as White and escaping in one piece as Black despite walking on thin ice. However, tie-break No.2 has seen a lot more dramatic finale.

Timofeev – Sorokin

Quarterfinals, rapid game two


In rapid game one, and for the most part of the second, Aleksey Sorokin was fighting fire with fire, but ended up making a couple of inaccuracies and falling into many difficulties for that reason.34.Qf3 followed by Rce5 is a very decent continuation as the black pieces fail to act together in a harmonious way, whereas the f4-pawn, depriving the white king of g3, is about to fall. The Kazan grandmaster made do without the queen move, missing a tactical blow worthy of as much as a qualification into the semifinal.  

34.Rce5?? Rd1! 35.Bxd1 Rxd1  

There is no helping it, forcing White to part with material and any hopes on qualifying into the next round. Of course, Artyom would not give up and did his best to put up a fight and pose problems, but it was to no avail against Black’s huge safety margin.  

36.Re1 Rxe1 37.Rxe1 Qxe1 38.Qxc7 Qxf2 39.Qf7  

One might think that out of sheer joy Black has let go of any edge he had since any knight move fails to a back-rank checkmate, nor can it be defended by the queen; however, there is still a way out via regrouping.  

39…Qg3+ 40.Kh1 Qe1+ 41.Kh2 Ng6, and Sorokin brought the point home, although Timofeev had practical chances to bail out along the way.  

I fancy the triumphing city of Barnaul!

Thus, the semifinals feature a native of Moscow, of St. Petersburg, a regional superhero and a promising young fighter - there was hardly anyone betting on Aleksey Sorokin to go ahead this far. The women's final has a no less interesting situation than that: gaining from one tournament to another, Shuvalova will meet Guseva, who will do her best to go down into the history of the Russian Cups chronicle. Khanty-Mansiysk is now ripe for decisive chess battles! 

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