29 September 2018

A Tricky Scotch

Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili reporting about round four of the Olympiad in Batumi

We can safely state that playhall No.2 has everything in good shape now. At least, this is how it felt like during the first half hour allowed us for filming. It is even more spacious than in the main playhall, and there is much less tense visible on players’ faces now. The FIDE presidential candidate Nigel Short, who was heading in that direction at the start of the round, shares our point of view.

About twenty minutes after the start of the round the press center launched an audio test, but for some reason the notorious microphone test phrase "one, one, one, one" was heard resounding across the playhall. Payers’ faces broke into smiles, and it was amusing to hear Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu demonstrate his command of the Russian language.

This day I managed to communicate a little with the sixth World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze:

– Maia Grigorievna, what section of the tournament will you rather focus on: womens or mens?

– I mostly watch games played by our national teams. It amounts to 24 games per day, which is quite a number; therefore, there is little time left for other games, unfortunately. However, I hope that leaders will be determined soon, followed by key matchups and more level and interesting games. Following each round we award a prize for the best game among men and women, but such fights are yet to be seen (laughing).Until this moment, the prizes have been awarded not to "elite" chess players, but to those from the lower tier. 

– Which Georgian chess players’ games appeal most to you? 

– I'm rooting more for third teams because they are so young. I want them to perform decently because this is a very important debut for them. I think they are in their element here. The men's team performed very well against the Americans. Therefore, they keep their heads cool and will undoubtedly show themselves, in my opinion. 

As for the main teams, our women are quite capable of competing for first, while our men's team has improved a lot. I pin hopes on their leaping forward and ending up in top five. 

– In what way do the modern Olympiads, played in the computer era, differ from those in which you participated?

– They differ, and differ a lot! The computer has extended the boundaries of chess in all directions, as well as giving new opportunities. This is a positive note. However, the way chess players exploit it sometimes borders on insanity, because they usually have 20-25 moves to cram into their heads. Glued to the computer screens, they no longer move chess pieces with their hands. In addition, such training takes up way too much time, as well as making their heads too weary for thinking over the board. 

As you know, home prep for the upcoming game is the most difficult part of the work. This is very hard on a human player even from a medical point of view - take my word as a doctor. There is no restoring the damaged nerves, as they say. The time spent for preparation in front of a PC is a huge stress for the body. Just look at how the pre-computer era chess players used to enjoy more longevity, suffice it to recall Smyslov’s playing for decades! Meanwhile, longevity of modern athletes' careers is constantly on the decrease, explained by a person’s inability of sustaining this much pressure and stress over long periods of time. 

Now everyone is nervous, worried, taking hours to get prepared for the game, which results in a state of mind inconsistent with lengthy games in store for them. A person is able to show only half his potential over the board, whereas the creative potential is gone. Another point is that players might possess hardware of different capacity, thus creating a disbalance of forces. 

This is how it came to me to get rid of this computer "invasion" and achieve a certain balance of forces.I labelled it MayaChess, as is the case with the Fischer chess (laughing).Drawing of lots is followed by setting up a position from any opening up to move 15 for the players to take it from there. It puts everyone on equal footing and reduces to a minimum the role of home prep. It serves as an incentive for players to delve into real chess and start improving their overall understanding. 

We have already given it a try in a rapid event, in a Cup bearing my name. Participating in it were members of men’s and women’s national teams. It proved very exciting indeed. The participants were happy about being free of having to prepare and cram their heads with lengthy lines. It was about enjoying pure chess. It is about whoever is more talented or skilled.At the same time, there is neither psychological stress nor computer influence. However, a single event is not enough. I am just being lazy now - I have about two hundred positions, but I need to get more, which involves working on it all the time. If you have some thousand positions under your belt you can organize even a Swiss tournament. 

– Dont you want to become a national team coach, having such an amount of insight into chess and psychology.

–There is no way I would like to because I would make a poor captain or coach (laughing). You have to have a certain knack for it - a coach does not need to be a strong player. A person gifted to be a captain or coach will definitely do a better job of training. 


The Russian women’s team keeps recovering and rehabilitating following a defeat in round two. This time Sergei Rublevsky’s trainees defeated Israel 3:1.

The first to score was Valentina Gunina. Our Valentina was performing so quickly and confidently that her clock displayed as much as an hour and fifty minutes when the game was over. 

White did not castle in the English Opening, but transferred her king via f1 to g2 and started binding her opponent’s position in the center and on the kingside. Valentina opened up the h-file and had her queen penetrate the opponent’s penultimate rank. Black was not helped even by long castling and the trade of queens; a spatial edge and a bishop superior to a knight gave White two extra pawns, which she brought home in a confident manner.

The second to strike was Olga Girya, who has the following to share about her game:

– The opponent’s choice of opening came as a surprise to me(it was handled into a rare line of the Queen's Gambit Accepted - Ed.) as I was not recalling the lines. There arrived a moment when I sacrificed an exchange. 

Girya – Gutmakher

White on move

10. Bxb4! Qxa1 11. cxb5 Qd4 12. Qb3 c5 13. Bc3 Qd6 14. Bc4 Nd7 15. Bxf7+ Ke7 16. Nd2 Nh6 17. Bd5.  

– I seem to have an excellent compensation, and her position crumbled shortly after. Honestly, I was somewhat surprised by my opponent’s persisting for so long while down a piece; she was obviously unwilling to disappoint her teammates with a quick resignation. 

Alexandra Kosteniuk and Natalija Pogonina confidently drew their games with the black pieces. 

Our men’s team went down to Poland, although the start of the match looked very promising for our team. Making an easy draw as Black was Sergey Karjakin -- after a little over an hour Jan-Krzysztof Duda offered him a draw upon making sure that Sergey was well-versed in a long theoretical line resulting in an equal endgame. Ian Nepomniachtchi stood slightly better vs Radoslaw Wojtaszek, whereas Vladimir Kramnik did have a substantial edge as Black over Jacek Tomczak. However, raising concerns was Dmitry Jakovenko’s position: he treated the opening in an adventurous manner uncharacteristic of him so that his bishop found itself locked out of play on h7.

Meanwhile, Kramnik’s game saw inexplicable events happening.

Tomczak – Kramnik

Scotch Game, С45

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.h4 Qe6 9.g3 Nb4 10.c4 Ba6 11.Bf4 d5 12.a3 Bxc4 13.Qd1

Black on move

White has blundered something in the opening and could have paid for it after 13...Qg6! 14.Bxc4 (too grim-looking is 14.axb4 Qe4+ 15.Kd2 Qxh1) 14...dxc4 15.0–0 Nd3, with a solid edge for Black. However, Kramnik misses on this opportunity.

13...Bxf1 14.Kxf1 Na6 15.Nc3

Stronger is 15.Nd2 Nc5 16.Nf3 with a double-edged game.

15...Nc5 16.b4 d4! 17.bxc5 dxc3 18.Qd4

Black on move


Yet another decision hard to fathom. Supposedly, Vladimir was unhappy about something after 18...c2 (although the engine thinks highly of Black’s position arising after 19.Rc1 Rd8 20.Qc3 Rd1+ 21.Kg2 Qd5+ 22.Qf3 Rxh1 23.Rxh1 Bxc5). If so, why not transposing into a favorable ending with only two results possible after: 18...Qd5 19.Qxd5 cxd5 20.Be3 Rb8 21.Ke2 Kd7.

19.Qxc3 Qd5 20.Kg1 Bxc5 21.Rc1 Bb6 22.h5 00

After 22...h6 Black was probably apprehensive of 23.e6.

23.h6 Rfe8 24.hxg7 Re6 25.Bg5

Black on move

Tension in the position has escalated. White has opened up the h-file; although his g7-pawn seems doomed, it proved very much alive. Black was bound to come up with 25...Bd4! 26.Qc2 Rg6!, and the rook is not to be taken – 27.Bxd8? Rxg3+; therefore, White has to answer 27.Qf5 Re8 – the initiative is with Black now.

25...Qa2?! 26.Rh2 Rd5?

Black obviously misses the opponent’s threat entirely. On the other hand, 26...Rde8 27.Bf6 gives him an unpleasant position.

27.Qb4! c5

27...Re8 is met decisively by 28.Qe4.

28.Qh4 h6 29.Bxh6 Qb3 30.Bd2 Kxg7 31.Qh8+ Kg6 32.Qh7#.

Nepomniachtchi’s conversion of a small edge looked so easy and natural that it could make even Carlsen envious. Unfortunately, Jakovenko failed to find his way around the complications and went down eventually.

Well, going into round five both Russian teams find themselves in the role of pursuers; still, the distance ahead is quite lengthy and it is not yet too late to make things right.

On September 27, the Arkady Dvorkovich Team Chess Lounge was opened in Zhasmin Lounge Bar located near Sheraton Hotel.  One can play chess, get to know more about Arkady Dvorkovich’s election campaign, pose questions to the FIDE presidential candidate and members of his team. Alternatively, one can simply relax in a cozy atmosphere, communicate with people and have a good time since the Lounge Bar features a big swimming-pool on its premises, among other things.   

The first event held there was the Chess Ladies’ Dinner, which a former world women’s champion Zhu Chen had invited her colleagues at. The Dinner was attended by former world champions Nona Gaprindashvili and Susan Polgar, grandmasters Bachar Kouatly, Victor Bologan, and Mikhail Kobalia, Chairman of the Belarus Chess Federation Anastasia Sorokina and other well-known chess players and organizers.