1 November 2016

A Prelude to the Battle for Renault

Rounds 6-8 of the Russian Superfinal in the review of Dmitry Kryakvin.

During the second half of the competition the battlefront theater was joined by my colleague Vladimir Barsky, who recorded the viewpoints of the most distinguished members about the games Grischuk - Svidler and Riazantsev - Kokarev, accompanying them with appropriate first-hand explanations and impressions. I started feeling a bit down at first, foreboding that similar trends in the men’s section of the Superfinal will make me switch over exclusively to the women’s chess. As opposed to that, with the finish line getting nearer, the Lords of the chess board threw all caution to the winds, unsheathing their swords to plunge into a melee.

Tilted out of his knightly saddle more than any other player was Dmitry Bocharov. Here they are, these tricky round robin tournaments. You give way once, and everyone starts recognizing you as a potential customer. “The field host” had opportunities to appreciate the power of Ernesto Inarkiev and Nikita Vitiugov’s offensive punches.

Inarkiev (2732) – Bocharov (2611)
Round 6

15… Bb4

The first computer line is quite entertaining - 15...Nh8!? 16.a6 (16.Bd2 Nb8) 16...b6 17.Bb5 Nb8. Our first review with Aleksey Goganov’s games makes it perfectly clear that a knight in the corner does a good job of safeguarding the defensive ramparts from anything terrible, but the idea of mounting the bishop on b4 looks very compelling indeed.

16.a6 bxa6

Now was a great chance to unravel the knot of his pieces with a sort of compensation we would typically expect of the Benko Gambit: 16...Ne7 17.axb7 Rc7 18.Rxa7 Qb8 (ShessPro), but the trades on a6 leads to no fatal consequences yet.

17.Bxa6 Rb8 18.Nd3 Be7?

However, this is a bad blunder already, allowing Ernesto to virtually stalemate his opponent’s pieces. 
18...Qb6, intending 19.Ra4 Ba5!, looks nice; constructing barricades via 18...Ne7 19.Qa4 Bxd3 20.Bxd3 a5 21.g4 f5 or 21.Qd1 f5 was another option. In the game the bishop failed to live up to the scenario of “The Hobbit, or There and Back Again”.

19.Bd2 Nb6 20.b3! Na8 21.Ba5 Qd7 22.Qc2 

The black army is almost devoid of any moves, and the relative activation already costs the life of the a7-pawn.

22…Bd8 23.Nc5 Qe7 24.Bxd8 Rfxd8 25.Bd3 Nf8 26.Bxh7+ Nxh7 27.Qa2 Nc7 28.Qxa7, and Inarkiev won the game.

Vitiugov (2721) – Bocharov (2611)
Round 8

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 b6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.Qxc3 0–0 8.Bg5 d6 9.Nd2 c5 10.dxc5 bxc5 11.e3 Nbd7 12.Bd3 h6 13.Bh4 a5 14.0–0 Qb6 15.Rfe1 d5?!

Black is well on track, with the traditional Karpovian continuation 15...g5 16.Bg3 Nh5 (let us recall Karpov’s historical rivalry with Kasparov, who tagged this line as a “hybrid”) guaranteeing him a comfortable position.

Bocharov opted for a central play, pinning his hopes on the d5-d4 breakthrough and the power of his b7-bishop, but it turned out that a pair of white bishops was more than looking forward to a similar active display from his opponent’s battalions.

16.cxd5 exd5 17.Rac1 Rac8 18.Bf5! 


The only opportunity to go on fighting on equal terms was a rather wild-looking 18...g6!? 19.Bxf6 gxf5 20.Bh4 a4, when it turns out that despite the compromised pawn structure of Black’s he cherishes ideas of mounting his knight on d3 or piling up against g2. For example, 21.Qc2 Qg6 22.Bg3! (a careless 22.Qxa4? is punished immediately: 22…Ne5 23.Qb3 Ba8 24.Bg3 f4!) 22...c4 23.Nf3 Nc5 24.Nh4 Qe6 25.Nxf5 Nd3 26.Nd4.

White is obviously fully compensated for the missing exchange and has a more pleasant game, but the irrationality of the arising setups affords Black decent practical chances. However, you need to be a young Nakamura to get away with it. Now Dimitry’s pieces fell prey to a herd of berserk elephants.

19.e4! Re8

Both 19...dxe4 20.Nc4 and 19...d4 20.Qh3 Ne5 21.Bg3 would be bad news for Black.

20.Bg3 Rcc8 21.e5 d4 22.Qb3 Qc6 23.Nf3

Black is up against an unpleasant choice of either parting with the d4-pawn or with a piece. There is no postponing it either: 23...a4 24.Qa2 Nh5 25.e6, winning.

23…c4 24.Qd1 Qc5

24...Nh7 25.Be4 would change nothing.

25.Bh3 Bxf3 26.gxf3 Rcd8 27.exf6 Rxe1+ 28.Qxe1 Nxf6 29.Qe5 Nd5 30.Bf5 Black resigns.

Nikita could have completely turned the tables in this not overly fortunate for him event, but the day before the encounter with Bocharov he had failed to convert his edge against Jakovenko.

Jakovenko (2714) – Vitiugov (2721)
Round 7

Black caused a lot of pressure during the game, but the native of Nizhnevartovsk, known for his endgame skills, defended tenaciously, so that winning was associated with finding out a delicate bishop maneuver, mentioned by Maxim Notkin and Adam Tukhaev.

45...Bd5!! 46.b6 (After 46.a6 Rc2 47.Bxe3 Rg2+ 48.Kf1 Kxh3 Black threatens to deliver a check from с4 – this is the point that makes the whole difference! A bishop is superior to pawns after 46.Bxe3 fxe3 47.Rxe3 Rxb4) 46...Rc2 47.Bxe3 Rg2+ 48.Kf1 Kxh3 49.Rc1 fxe3 50.Rc3 Kg4 51.Rxe3 Rb2 52.Re7 Rxb4 as White is behind with his counterplay.

A self-suggesting move 45… Kg3? ran into a double sacrifice that would embellish even such a great book as “Remember Opponent”.

46.a6! Bd5 47.Bxe3!! Rc2

Following 47...fxe3 48.Rxe3+ Kf4 (after 48...Bf3 49.Rxf3+! Kxf3 50.b6 Rxb4 51.a7 Rb1+ 52.Kh2 Rb2+ Black has to put up with delivering a perpetual) 49.Ra3 Rxb4 50.a7 Ba8 51.Rd3 Rxb5 52.Rd8 Be4 53.a8Q Bxa8 54.Rxa8 h5 Black is formally up a pawn, but snatching a victory from Jakovenko in such a position with material on a single flank only is impossible, even if your name were Carlsen.

48.Bxf4+ Kxf4 49.Rd1! Bf3 50.b6 Kg3 51.b7 Rg2+ 52.Kf1 Rf2+

With 52...Rh2? failing to 53.b8Q+ or even 53.b8B+, Vitiugov delivers a perpetual for want of anything better.

53.Kg1 Rg2+ 54.Kf1 Draw.

However, even if fortune favored Dmitry in his duel with a powerful northerner, the game against the Higher League winner saw Jakovenko drop a crucial half point.

Oparin (2617) – Jakovenko (2714)
Round 6

Being caught in a vice grip of the classical player, the young man is separated from making a draw by a lengthy distance of tightrope walking. The computer, an iron and fearless creature, stops at nothing to grab control over the e5-square: 26. f4?! gxf4 (26...g4 27.Qa3) 27.gxf4 Nd6 28.Qa3. He says “well” in a position in which the protein mind of Jakovenko’s opponent would be speculating whether or not he would live to make the time control.

In his turn, Grigoriy made up his mind to open up the game to be able to deliver a perpetual to the black king.

26.Qb3 Qa6 27.Kd1 exd3 28.Bxd5 Nxd5 29.Qxd5 Ne5 30.f4 Qa4+?!

An additional analysis is required for the line 30...gxf4 31.gxf4 Ng4 32.Ke1! Nxe3 33.Qd7+ Kh6 34.Qe8 – is White able to make a draw in this position? But here intervened a mutual time trouble, which left opponents with only enough time to calculate a short line, make a move, and put it down on their scoresheets.


31.Nb3!! Qxa2 32.Kc1! d2+ 33.Kc2! would be a splendid solution to keep White in the game. He would follow the displacement of the knight from e5 by getting rid of the d2-pawn at the opportune moment, whereas the black queen needs time to get back into the game yet.

31...Qc2! 32.Qxb7+ Kg6 33.Qe4+?

Transition into a knight ending promises no easy life for White: 33.Qb3 Nf3+ 34.Kf2 Qxb3 (34...Nxd2? 35.Qg8+ Kf5 36.Qh7+! Ke6 37.Qg8+ Kd7 (37...Kd6 38.Qd8+) 38.Qf7+ Kc6 39.Qe8+ is a draw by perpetual, however fantastic it might seem! It seems as if both opponents believed the black king to end up escaping from the pursuit.) 35.Nxb3 Nxh2 36.Nd2 h4 with decent winning chances.

Although Grigoriy left the queens on the board, he is now forced to witness Jakovenko’s ruthless elimination of his queenside.

33...Kh6 34.fxg5+ Kxg5 35.Qf4+ Kg6 36.e4 Qxb2 37.h3 Qxa2 38.g4 hxg4 39.hxg4 

White is nowhere near delivering a perpetual as the black king is under the safe aegis of his own knight. Winning was 39...Qe6! Or 39...Qb2! 40.Qf5+ Kf7 41.Qh7+ Ke8 42.Qg8+ Ke7 43.Qg7+ Nf7, but here a sudden amnesty was granted.

39…Qa1+ 40.Kf2 Qh1??

It was not yet late to go for 40...a5 or 40...Qd4+.

41.g5!, and, much to his horror, Black discovered that after 41...Kh5 42.Nf1! Ng4+ 43.Ke1 Qg2 44.Ng3+ Kh4 45.gxf6 the outcome of the game might run counter to expectations. 

Therefore, Black had to resign himself to a peaceful fate after 41…Qh8 42.Nf3 Nxf3 43.Qf5+ Kf7.

Someone might claim that Oparin was simply lucky, but I would not subscribe to this opinion. With the ambiguity of problems that the Muscovite is up against in a lot of his games being very substantial, Grigoriy often manages to display the will of power and courage at critical times and in critical positions. Everyone willing is free to try saving an equally suspicious position against a 2730-rated player.

Meanwhile, the tournament lead has been taken by Alexander Riazantsev, who takes no prisoners on his way to be properly equipped for racing across Chelyabinsk in a brand new “Renault Kaptur”, along with the main local racer Sergei Matsenko. Sasha’s pursuer are many, and the final rounds certainly promise to be very exciting. 

Among the mid tournament events worthy of noting is Ernesto Inarkiev’s “comeback”. This is yet another instance of Grigoriy’s tragically missing on his chance.

Inarkiev (2732) – Oparin (2617)
Round 8

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.f3 h5 10.Nd5 Bxd5 11.exd5 g6 12.0–0–0

Trendy nowadays is 12.Be2 Bg7 13.0–0 (13.Na5 Qc7 14.c4 e4, as in Caruana - Gelfand, 2014) 13...b6, as in Caruana- Giri, 2016 or 13...e4, as in Anand - Gelfand, 2016.

12...Nb6 13.Kb1

Despite a couple of conceptual defeats that Black has suffered in the line 13.Qa5 Bh6 14.Bxh6 Rxh6, the overall evaluation after the exchange of bishops is acceptable for him. The pawn sacrifice idea was first employed a year ago by the Moldavian grandmaster Dmitry Svetushkin.

13...Nbxd5 14.Bg5 Be7 15.c4!

Svetushkin - Baklan, 2015 saw 15.g3 Nb6 16.Bxf6 Bxf6 17.Qxd6 Qxd6 18.Rxd6 Bd8 19.Bh3 0–0, but Ernesto’s plan does not include the trade of queens as he uncorks a very aggressive novelty instead. 


Although 15...Nf4 16.Bxf4 exf4 17.Qxf4 0–0 18.g4 backfires miserably for Black, in the subsequent game Oparin also ran up against difficulties. 

Inarkiev’s recipe seems to be so effective that I failed to uncover an antidote even in the home analysis. Here is another log into the fire of the currently popular debate about whether or not one should spend time for studying of chess openings.

16.Na5 Rb8 17.c5 d5 18.c6 b6 19.Nb7 Qc8 20.Qe3! 

Following a series of forcing moves this sudden fork serves to emphasize the triumph of White’s whole idea: in a short while the European Champion emerges up a pawn already.

20…Qe6 21.Qxb6 Rc8 22.Bxf6 Qxf6 23.Bxa6 0–0 24.Rc1 Rfe8 25.Rhd1 Bf8!

In his turn, Oparin gets down to lining up a battery along the big diagonal. As the extra White’s a pawn serves to shield the king, no queenside pawn storms should be expected in the near future.

26.Bf1 Bg7 27.Rc2 Re6 28.Na5 Qe7 29.a3 Kh7 30.Bc4?

This optimistic move nearly ruined Ernesto’s perfect performance in this game. The bishop shot is stronger after the preparatory 30.Qb7 Qd8 31.Bc4 Rb8 32.Qa7 e4 33.fxe4 Rxe4 34.Nb7, whereas now Grigoriy could have boldly grabbed the offered pieces to plunge headlong into the abyss of complications. His chances of emerging out of it in one piece would have been higher than those of the white army commander.


Thus, after 30...dxc4! 31.Rd7 Qf6 32.Rxc7 Rxc7 33.Qxc7 e4 34.fxe4 (34.Nxc4 Rxc6 35.Qb7 exf3 36.gxf3 Qxf3 would be very simple for Black to find out. Inarkiev was probably pinning his hopes on 34.Qg3, but after the incredible 34…Qd8! 35.c7 (35.Nxc4 Qd1+ 36.Rc1 Qd3+ 37.Ka2 e3! 38.c7 Rc6) 35...Qd1+ 36.Rc1 Qd3+ 37.Rc2 (37.Ka2 Rb6) 37...exf3 38.c8Q Re2 39.Qxc4 Qd1+ 40.Ka2 Rxc2, even the second queen fails to save White!) 34...Rxe4 35.Ka2 c3 36.bxc3 Re3 37.Qb6 Rxc3 38.Qb2 Qe6+ 39.Nb3 Rxc6 40.Rxc6 Qxc6, and Black has excellent chances to win the game.

The immediate central breakthrough ran into the tactical blow against d5.

31.Rxd5! exf3

In the case of 31...Nxd5 32.Bxd5 Black’s counterplay is nipped in the bud.

32.Rd7 Re1+ 33.Ka2 Qe4 34.Qf2 Qe5 35.Nb3 fxg2 36.Qxg2 f5 37.Nd4 Re4 38.Nf3 Black resigns.

The tournament standings after round 8 are as follows:

1. Alexander Riazantsev - 5 points, 2-6. Alexander Grischuk, Dmitry Jakovenko, Peter Svidler, Vladimir Fedoseev, Evgeny Tomashevsky - 4.5; 7-8. Aleksey Goganov, Nikita Vitiugov - 4; 9-11. Grigoriy Oparin, Dmitry Kokarev, and Ernesto Inarkiev - 3.5; 12. Dmitry Bocharov - 2.

In fact, this “multi-draw” spectacle leaves a lot of conceptual issues unresolved yet. Indeed, who is going to be the hero to score as many as two games in as many as 11 rounds? Will the field host score a consolation goal after all?

As for women, a seemingly boiling hotbed of intrigue around the top place would suddenly begin to cool down as Alexandra pulled the control column as far back as she could to see her plane soar into the sky, while her rivals’ vehicles suddenly had their engines malfunctioning.

Ubiennykh (2346) – Pogonina (2484)
Round 7

This is something to think about for Black. Although 17...Bd5 seems logical, it it answered by 18.Nb5 Qc6 19.Nd6. Now the sacrifice of exchange 19...Bxa2?! 20.Nxc8 Rxc8 21.Rxa2 Nd5 22.Rd4 Qxc3 23.Qd2 is most likely to be insufficient, whereas 19…Rd8 20.c4 Bxf3 21.gxf3 Nxf3+ (ChessPro) looks very decent as affording a substantial compensation for the sacrificed material.

However, a lengthy period of thinking was followed by Natalija’s committing a bad blunder.

17… Nc4?? 18.Nb5

Black’s home rank issue proves to be his downfall: 18...Qc6 19.Bxc4 Qxc4 20.Rd8+! There followed yet:

18…Qe5 19.Bxc4 Rxc4 20.Qxc4 Qxe3+ 21.Kh1 Bxf3 22.Qd3, and Pogonina stopped the clock.

This rather annoying blunder revived a 10-year old event.

Kryakvin – Pogonina 
Saratov 2006

There suggests itself 20...Qf4 21.Qxe7 with a typical compensation for the missing pawn inherent for this dragon variation line. Not that it suggests itself - there is not a single alternative to that. However, Natalija would not make a move. The seconds and minutes on her clock were melting away. It gave me enough time to take a walk, look at leaders and my friends’ positions. As for Natalija, she was still hesitant about making her move. “What is she possibly thinking about?” I wondered. Here my opponent startled from thinking and quickly landed the queen on f4. “Believe it or not, it took me so long to calculate 20...Qb4??, when I suddenly realized that I blunder 21.Rd8+!” sadly admitted my opponent after the game.

This brings to mind the works of Jansa and Hort (I do not mean only “The Best Move”, however), where the authors reasoned about the amount of blunders in a grandmaster’s career, their nature, and, what is interesting, the cyclicity of this phenomenon.

One more player to misstep was Olga Girya, yet another Kosteniuk’s rather energetic competitor in the contest for the gold medal.

Ovod (2362) – Girya (2446)
Round 8

Evgenija has apparently studied the article by Alexey Kuzmin, published in one of the latest issues of the “64” chess magazine, in which another theoretical revelation of the famous coach and a great master of literary style recommended opening the game with d4, followed by developing the bishop to f4 and taking it from there ad exemplum of Gata Kamsky. Since Ovod has been consistent in committing her dark-squared bishop to “Gata’s” position recently, it came as no surprise to Girya.


Black would have had problems neither after 15...Bg6 16.Nxg6 hxg6 nor even after the provocative 15...Bf5, but Olga decided against exchanging another pair of minor pieces and followed suit of her famous teammate.

15…Ng6? 16.g3! Nxh4 17.fxe4 Ng6 18.cxd5 exd5 19.exd5

It turns out that the white pawn does not readily lend itself to winning back, whereas the black bishop’s lack has seriously weakened the b7- and f7 squares. The most tenacious continuation would be 19...Ne7!? 20.e4 f5 21.Qb3 Kh8 22.Qxb7 fxe4, although White’s perspectives are objectively higher. However, the way Black handled the game ended it rather grimly for him.

19…Qxd5? 20.0–0 Qg5

Although 20...c6 fails to 21.Bc4, now grief comes from another side.

21.Qb3 Re7 22.Qxb7 – and Ovod went on to convert confidently.

On the other hand, a step forward towards the prize podium was made by Anastasia Bodnaruk, who capitalized on Valentina Gunina’s “tilt” in a precise fashion. Alexander Motylev was on target to say that when writing the book “Risk and Bluff in Chess”, Vladimir Borisovich Tukmakov should not have so easily dispensed with the games by the many-time Olympiad Champion.

Gunina (2535) – Bodnaruk (2463)
Round 7

White hoped to trap the enemy queen, but her intention met little understanding.


Now the rook retreat to h2 is crushed by 19…eхf3, forcing Valentina to lead her king into the wild. This trick is known to have a rich history of testing, suffice it to recall another epic game Kovalevskaya - Gunina. However, Bodnaruk was adamant in her precision.

19.Rxe4 Qh1+ 20.Kd2 Bf5 21.Re7 Rd8+ 22.Ke3 


Had Anastasia unleashed a spectacular 22...Nf6!! 23.gxf6 Qxh6+, she could have painted a picture in the style of Dallas-1963: at first Lee Harvey Oswald’s rifle makes its presence known to distract the police and public’s attention, followed by the presidential motorcade in the middle of the street fired at by another professional sniper. Nevertheless, an unsophisticated inclusion of the knight into the game was enough to seal its fate.

23.Bxc4 Nd5+ 24.Bxd5 Rxd5 25.Ke2 Bd3+ 26.Ke3 Bb5 27.Qe4 Bxc6

With White’s last hope done away with, the dormant Gunina’s queenside leaves her with zero chances of rescuing the game.

28.Qc4 Rd7 29.Re4 Bxe4 30.Qxe4 Rd1 and Black won shortly after.

Meanwhile, the former world champion did not waste time and strengthened her position by beating the current holder of the Russian champion’s title.

Kosteniuk (2537) – Goryachkina (2460)
Round 8

Each side has its trump cards: the belligerent 35...Ke7 36.Rg7 a4 looks great, but Goryachkina sticks to a passive tactic.

35…R6h7 36.Rdg1 Nc8?!

The knight was dreaming of another fate: 36...d4!, and its inclusion into the game via d5 could have put White up against significant defensive challenges. Now Kosteniuk shifts the burden of struggle onto the queenside, which produces an immediate effect.

37.Rc1 Ne7 38.c3 Ke8?

Further resistance could be maintained via 38...Rg7! 39.Rxg7 Kxg7 40.Qg2+ (40.cxb4 Qxb4) 40...Kf8 41.cxb4 Qxb4, and 42.Qg5 Rg8 leads only to a perpetual check: 43.Rc8+ Nxc8 44.Qd8+ Kg7 45.Qg5+.

39.cxb4 Qxb4 40.Rc3 Kd7 41.Qf2 Nc6?

At least one idle rook should have been switched into play via 41...Rb8. 

A reckless knight jump thirsted for a showcase punishment: 42.Rxc6! Kxc6 43.Qa7, but even having exchanged the poor knight that failed to succeed in life the Moscow grandmaster breaks through Black’s fortified zones. 

42.a3 Qb5 43.Nd4 Nxd4 44.Qxd4 Rb8 45.Rgc2 Rb7

The plight of the black rooks is also highlighted by 45...Qb7 46.Qg1! as there is no longer any defense for Black.

46.Qg1 Black resigns.

Finally, the Bodnaruk - Charochkina derby became one of the most dramatic encounters of the tournament, which I was let in the know by the chief arbiter Maxim Ivakhin. The first interesting moment of this round six duel was the participants-arbiter dialogue after the time control move.

Bodnaruk (2463) – Charochkina (2366)
Round 6


It turned out that both Bodnaruk and Charochkina kept wrong move orders in their scoresheets by having put down only thirty nine moves, one move short of the specified time control limit. As the clock time was incremented, Anastasia made her next move. Here the vigilant Ivakhin grew suspicious and performed an advanced comparison of the played number of moves against the recorded broadcasting: indeed, the time control was over with the required number of moves made.

When Charochkina’s clock displayed 0:29 minutes, the grandmaster from St. Petersburg applied for the game history verification, bearing in mind the  precedent well known as “a sticky finger”, which fell to Mikhail Krjukov’ lot to sort out. Indeed, in the case of only 39 moves Charochkina’s game would have been immediately forfeited. However, with the arbiter having performed an advanced checking already, no awkward pause took place as the opponents restored the correct move order and resumed the game.

Meanwhile, the chief arbiter noted that Dasha, being a very nice and educated girl, plays a bright and wonderful sort of chess. Her handwriting, however, is a picture language of the Aztecs. If really needed to have something restored by it,  Ivakhin would have had to summon the forensics team from his native Novokuznetsk.

As for the position, Black’s being down a pawn was soon joined by new challenges, which allowed Bodnaruk to easily attain new material gains.

41…Qd5 42.Qxd5 exd5 43.Rb6 Ba7 44.Rxh6 Bxd4 45.Rg6 Kh7 46.Rd6 Re8 47.Rxd5 Bxe5 48.Bxe5 Ne6 49.Rd7+ Kh6 50.Kg2 Nc5 51.Bg7+ Kh7 52.Ra7 Nd3 53.Bf8+ Kg8 54.Bd6 Re4 55.Kg3 Rd4 56.Ra6 Nc1 57.Kf3 Nb3 58.Be7 Rf4+ 59.Kg3Nd4 60.Bxg5 Ne2+ 61.Kh4 Rxf2 62.Be3 Rf3 63.Bd2 Rd3 64.Ra8+ Kh7 65.Bg5 Rf3 66.Ra7+ Kg8 67.h6 Nd4 

Black tries but fails to hold on to the last frontier. Any reasonable move would be decisive now: 68.Rg7+ Kh8 69.Re7, 68.Re7, 68.Bc1, 68.Kh5, but the Russian blitz champion hastened to come down hard on the black king.

68.h7+? Kh8

With the black king pressed to h8 by the the h7-pawn, the stalemate ideas clearly advance to the forefront, whereas winning the game now is as spectacular as it is difficult to discover. The point is that the next two moves should be spent for engineering a cover for the king: 69.Bd2!! Ne6 70.Rb7!! (a trivial 70.Bb4 does not work out because of 70...Rb3 71.Bd6 Rb5!, taking control over the fifth rank and cutting off the white king) 70...Nf4 71.Bc1 Rh3+ 72.Kg5 Ne6+ 73.Kf5 Rf3+ 74.Kxe6 Rf6+, and the white king zigzags away from the pursuit: 75.Kd7 Rd6+ 76.Ke7 Re6+ 77.Kd8 Re8+ 78.Kd7 Rd8+ 79.Kc6 Rd6+ 80.Kb5 Rd5+ 81.Kb4 Rd4+ 82.Kb3 Rd3+ 83.Kb2 Rd2+ 84.Kb1, winning.

Anything other than such inhuman work is doomed to failure, which Bodnaruk came to find out before long. After 69.Kh5 Ne6 70.Bh6 Nf4+ 71.Kg5 Ne6+ 72.Kg6 Nf8+ 73.Kh5 Rh3+ 74.Kg5 Ne6+ 75.Kg6 

75...Nf8+! 76.Bxf8 Rh6+ Anastasia took the pesky rook, having had enough of dragging her king across the board. This draw can be safely put on a par with the labors of Hercules!

The situation after round eight is as follows:

1. Alexandra Kosteniuk - 6; 2. Anastasia Bodnaruk - 5; 3-4. Olga Girya, Daria Charochkina, Natalija Pogonina - 4.5; 6-9. Valentina Gunina, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Evgenija Ovod, Daria Pustovoitova - 4; 10. Alisa Galliamova - 3; 11. Alina Kashlinskaya - 2.5; 12. Ekaterina Ubiennykh - 2. 

Catching up with the former world champion will be very difficult indeed, especially since we know that other than Alexandra’s excellent physical form and loving husband/coach, her success is also contributed into by her lucky Superfinal sign. However, nothing should be ruled out with three rounds to go yet. This is the reason we are so captivated by the women’s chess!