14 June 2016
Round One of the Russia – China Match in the Review of Sergey Shipov.
First of all, I would like to congratulate our country’s chess payers and our chess federation on return into a freshly renovated Central House of Chess. For over half a century this chess sanctuary has been our country’s major center of chess development. It was this building (previously known as the Central Chess Club) in which I used to participate in my first truly important tournaments when still a boy. At the beginning of the new century the Central Chess Club building started deteriorating rapidly. As luck would have it, the new federation leadership has had enough time and money to get around to major overhauling. It has all been done and dusted: the building has once again got its young appearance and attractive looks.
Making a traditional match with the Chinese team part of the housewarming celebrations is an excellent idea.
On the negative note, our men’s team is represented with the stand-by reserve. On the positive note, each of its members has a powerful incentive at this particular moment. This is so because for them this is the last chance to prove their worth and earn the right to represent the country at the Olympic Games in Baku. This said, the first four board players, not participating in this match, will most likely be part of the team. As for board five, this position is still vacant. This is, in fact, a qualification tournament for our men players in its own way.
Meanwhile, the Russian women’s team lineup for the match is close to optimal (absence of Kosteniuk is the only obvious flaw). However, there is a serious amount of competition in the women’s team, too, since it is the match against China in which two or three players from the current roster must prove their claim so as to secure the ticket to Baku.
Although the lineup of the Chinese squad is not ideal either, I will refrain from intruding into their sovereign affairs... I will not touch upon this point any further.
Round one marked a significant advantage of the Russians. Judging from the close-up on the screen, I came to the conclusion that the Chinese players have not yet had time to adjust themselves properly to our time zone and cold weather, unusual for this summer period. Some of them emitted a clear signal of not having had enough sleep - as simple as that. In general, the game of our opponents lacked its usual vibrancy.
Judging by the content of round one games, Russia was closer to a lopsided victory than China was from a drawish outcome. Matlakov and Dubov were unable to convert their promising position, while Pogonina was up against a definite amount of problems in her game against Guo Qi. It turns out that the bulk of unscored goals is in our favor.
In my opinion, Jakovenko and Gunina’s wins stand out as a highlight of round one. Dmitry’s game went off to a tough and somewhat double-edged strategic battle. When commenting on the game for the audience, the winner acknowledged that in the middle of the game the chances were mutual. Valentina was true to her trademark style, escalating the tension and, as usual, outcalculating her opponent in the complex type of game.
Unfortunately, there is no wiping out the spectacular defeat of Anastasia Bodnaruk. She virtually drew the fire upon herself, which did not take long to come down. Ding Yixin’s attack was brief and merciless.
I think the Chinese players will gradually shape up as the match progresses. Therefore, there is no whatsoever reason for our folks to relax. The struggle has just begun...
Pictures by Eteri Kublashvili