30 June 2018

A Flood of Grandmasters!

Dmitry Kryakvin reports about the start of the Russian Championship Higher League in Yaroslavl

“What a pity! Our community could have been part of the FIFA World Cup as well!” lamented a taxi driver on a way to the hotel with a group of chess players when driving past the Shinnik stadium. “Now they are golden, even Saranks hosting matches, and here this bluebird of football happiness flying someplace else. 

Indeed, it so happened that in the beginning of summer the lot of main chess arenas fell to the cities bereft of the World Cup, such as Voronezh and Yaroslavl. We are only left to envy Stanislav Yanushevsky in Samara as they are in equal measures enjoying performance of the leading football teams and the Polugaevsky Memorial afterwards. However, the Yaroslavl event is not just a holiday, but an outstanding one at that! Alexey Moskvin, a chief arbiter and organizer of the Higher League in Yaroslavl, admitted in an interview to a local journalist, “This is a flood of grandmasters! This is the most significant chess tournament in the history of the Yaroslavl Oblast!“ 

Participants are staying and playing in the best Yaroslavl hotel called Ring Premier Hotel. This is a real thing with four starts and red caviar. It all comes at a non-aggressive price of 2000 rub, meals included, provided that you do not mind sharing your room. Regional players, facing an eternal business trip financing issue, had rooms booked in a more affordable hotel Kotorosl

The technical meeting had Alexey Moskvin and Alexander Tkachev speak a lot about having taken the previous Higher League into consideration in terms of providing adequate illumination and spacing chess boards so as to give room for players’ hands. Besides, air conditioners were checked for water leakages. Standing on duty in the lobby is a waiter to bring you tea or coffee on first demand. A menu is obviously limited because of the lunch and dinner’s modest prices, but the cooking is of high quality. During the players' meeting Ernesto Inarkiev complained about the evening mishap - with the grandmaster abstaining from pork, whatever food offered as a second course was eaten up. Tournament director gave his notebook a harsh look when putting down this complaint and promised to sort things out, which gives hope that the problem will never be brought up again. 

The line-up is very strong, with the only exception of Vladislav Artemiev not making it after having won in the exhaustive Universiade (the Internet is teeming with horrors about the conditions that the event’s participants had to survive). On the other hand, there have gathered as many as five European champions of different years, three of whom answered the questions by journalists before the start of round one. The participants’ questions, in turn, were processed by the indefatigable Alexey Moskvin. 

A native of the Yaroslavl Oblast and a pupil of the Rybinsk Chess School, Vladimir Potkin, spoke in detail about the tournament’s significance for the regional chess. Another native of Rybinsk, Evgeny Najer, also uses Yaroslavl as a site for walks and transits to Moscow. Finally, Vladimir Motylev shared about the importance of youth battles versus national team coaches and recalled visiting the Kremlin Stars to take an autograph from Viktor Korchnoi. 

Ring Premier Hotel is located in the heart of the city. Situated nearby are churches, cathedrals, an embankment, and a beautiful park. I will do my best to visit all of them during the tournament.  Some of it is given in the picture gallery to this report. Meanwhile, let us go back to the playhall to see how things stand after round one. 

Despite the difference in level and ratings of opponents, round one in the women's section was marked by an incredible rivalry. Elena Tomilova defeated Zalina Lingur within a couple of hours, but Elena's neighbors in the top section of the contestant list had a very difficult time indeed... 

Dimitrova – Shuvalova

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bd3 Bxd3 6.Qxd3 e6 7.Bg5 Qb6 8.Nd2 c5 9.c4 Qxb2 10.Rd1 

The U19 champion has handled the opening into one of the most principled lines of Caro-Kann with 3.е5. In response, a 2017-superfinalist and a 2018-European Championship revelation has embarked upon a no less principled queen sortie. This trendy theoretical setup offers a greedy 10...Qxd4 11.Qb3 Qxe5+ 12.Ne2 Qc7, whereas the Russian Team championship saw 10...Nc6 11.Ngf3 Nb4 12.Qe2 cxd4 13.0–0 Rc8!? uncorked by the national team and Sergey Karjakin’s armor-bearer,   as in Iljiushenok – Riazantsev, 2018. The last word in this line is yet to be said for both colors.   

Instead, Polina had something missed or mixed up only to find herself under a crushing attack.  

10…cxd4? 11.cxd5 exd5 12.e6! Qb6  

Bad is 12...fxe6 13.Rb1 Qc3 14.Qg6+ Kd7 15.Ngf3.   

13.exf7+ Kxf7 14.Rb1 Qe6+   

14...Qa6 15.Qxd4 helps neither.   

15.Ne2 Nd7 16.Rxb7 Be7?   

It loses immediately, but 16...Qc6 17.Rb1 is grim-looking as well.   

17.0–0 Nc5 18.Qf3+ Nf6 19.Nxd4 Qa6 20.Rc7 Qd3 21.Qxd3 Nxd3 22.Nf5, winning shortly after.   

I recall Alexandra's game against the now youngest world grandmaster Praggnanandhaa from India played at the 2017-Chigorin Memorial, in which the latter was literally whitewashed by the Russian female junior. After that, the patrons of the young genius rightly decided that there was no need to go to Russia, and easily made all the norms in Europe. Thus, no one is safe as Black when facing Dimitrova.  


Voit – M. Baraeva

Black is undoubtedly compensated for the missing exchange, with everything to play for for both players; however …24.Bg2?? Qхa2!, and it was already Baraeva who ended material up and bringing it home.   

The following could have joined the realm of evergreen games.   

 Legenko – Potapova

The tactical sequence 22.Qxf7+!! Kxf7 23.Bd5+ Re6 24.Bxe6+ Ke8 25.Bxc4+ Ne5 26.Rxe5+ could have marked its place in the history of Kamchatka chess, but it was not to be. 

22.Nxc4? Bb5? 23.N6e5?   

The windmill is even more picturesque after 23.Qxf7+!! Kxf7 24.Bd5+ Re6 25.Bxe6+ Ke8 26.Bxd7+ Kf7 27.Be6+ Ke8 28.Bxc8+ Kf7 29.Be6+, winning.   

23...Nc5? 24.Rd7??   

24.Nd6! Bxd6 25.Rxd6 allows White maintaining a strong offensive. Now Margarita does not let go of her chance.   

24...Qxd7! 25.Nxd7 Rxe1+ 26.Bf1 Nxd7, and the U21 Russian Champion’s rooks proved superior to the queen..   

The women’s section is wrapped up by a cute-looking sequence from the Chelyabinsk player. 


Vinokur – Charochkina


11.Qh5+! g6 12.Nxg6 Nxg6 13.e5, and it cost Black the a8-rook and the game.   

The men's section had the favorites performing much better - the superior in ratings had to stop the clock only in two games. It was not without some mishaps, though.   

Predke –  Fakhrutdinov


The d3-pawn gives Black decent counterplay, but it is not as bad as that for White, after all.  

38.Rb4?? Rc2+ 39.Ke3 Re2+ 40.Kf4 d2 

Good Lord! Now, there is no stopping the pawn withing giving up material. 

41.Rd1 Bc2 42.Rxd2 Rxd2 43.Rxb5 Bb1 White resigns.   

Let me add that Daria Voit and Aleksandr Predke have arrived from that very Universiade. Their start makes you realize that Artemiev is probably the wisest of mortals. On my part, I wish the unlucky to take a rest, relax in a luxurious spa zone of the hotel and ... catch up with the rest of the world!   

There are two female chess players participating in the tournament of the strongest sex, them being Olga Girya and Aleksandra Goryachkina. If Olga was upset by Mikhail Kobalia, Alexandra managed to deal with Evgeny Alekseev. By the way, coming up soon is a book co-authored with Roman Ovechkin about Goryachkina’s career in chess. Not only is it a biographical work, but also a manual for those who just get down to storming the heavens of the children and adult Olympiads. Roman and I have put in a lot of effort, and Aleksandra’s father Yuri was busy pulling our rare materials from family archives; so, I recommend the book wholeheartedly.  I would like to add that in round one my co-author was an inch away from defeating Dmitry Gordievsky, but a critical moment saw Dmitry put up a fierce defense, and the game ended in a draw.   

Below is an extract from the game of an Udmurt State University student, who had no fear plunging into complications.   

Paravyan – Sychev


Although White has sacrificed a pawn and his piece play looking impressive, the Moscow champ has his pieces well deployed either. David delivers a blow worthy of Bronstein, with mind-boggling complications to follow. 

21.Bxg6! Bxg6 22.Nxg6 Kxg6 23.Rg3+ Kh7 24.Qc2+ Kh8 25.Qg6 


A fantastic blunder! A saver is 25...Qf8! 26.Rd5 (nothing is gained by 26.Rg5 Rxg5 27.hxg5 Ne7 28.Qxh5+ Kg8) 26...Nd3+!! 27.Qxd3 (27.Kg1 Nf4) 27...Nb4 28.Qd4 Nxd5 29.Nxd5 Qf7, with any result possible.   

26.Qf6+ Kh7 27.Qg6+ Kh8 28.Nd5! Nd7   

There is no saving it now: 28...Qg8 29.Nxe7; 28...Rh7 29.Nf6.   

29.Nf6 Nxf6 30.Qxf6+ Kh7 31.Qg6+ Kh8 32.Rd5 Ne5 33.Rxe5! dxe5 34.Qxh5+, and Black gave up in view of an inevitable checkmate.   

“Here I am going down to a miner!” – a participant of the All-Russian tournament blurted out in a fit of temper after having been defeated by Stepan Levitsky. It happened only 100 years ago. Well, a century later the miners show up rated up to 2650 already…   

Finally, the openings in the games Popov - Gaifullin and Tekeev - Esipenko took very interesting paths. The eхf6 Caro-Kann enjoys resurgence, and Hansen’s rook pawn march is scrutinized by theoreticians. The European Championship saw Motylev employ this line, and the Russian Team Championship brings to memory the Khanin – Oparin encounter.   

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ exf6 6.c3 Bd6 7.Bd3 0–0 8.Qc2 Re8+ 9.Ne2 h5!?

From now on the model games take different trajectories. After 12.Bd2 Nf8 13.Rae1 Bc7 14.b3 Ne6 15.f4 Qd6 16.Bh7+ Kf8 17.Be4 Bd7 18.Qd3 g6 Esipenko got a promising position, but Tekeev went all out with 19.f5!? and managed to stay afloat in mind-boggling complications that ensued. Popov, on the other hand, came up with a shrewder sequence as White, never giving Artur a chance to carry out the main idea of building up a battery.  

10.0–0 h4 11.h3 Nd7 12.Be3 Nf8 13.Qd2 Ng6 14.Rfe1 Bc7 15.Nf4 Nf8 

It turns out that 15...Qd6 runs into 16.c4 Nxf4?? 17.Bxf4, while с4-с5 is a potent threat. Black sounded a retreat only to find himself in a plight.   

16.c4 Ne6 17.d5, and Gaifullin went down in a heroic battle.   

All in all, the games of this line leave you with the impression that if you are talented and strong, h7-h5 can be uncorked even on move one! Nevertheless, let us wait and see what the future theory has in store for us.   

So, the tournament and all the fun is just beginning out here! See you again after round three.