Alexander and Alexandra
Decisive rounds of the Russian Superfinal in the review of Dmitry Kryakvin.With the chess calendar featuring the Alexander Lastin Memorial in Stavropol as a follow-up to the Russian Superfinal, it immediately brought to memory Alexander’s getting a car for his victory in the Russian Championship held in Krasnodar (2002). Back then it was the same combination of Alexander (Alexandra!) and a car. However, that car was somewhat cheaper and more national at that. Nothing but omen coincidences! Kosteniuk is believed to win a Superfinal if a local player is admitted and, should a powerful iron horse be at stake, you are surely bound to witness gold awards going to chess personalities named in honor of the Macedonian conqueror.
By the way, when asked by the journalist Evgeny Atarov a decade and a half ago whether Lastin intended to drive, the latter responded with a lightning speed, “I’d rather spare the pedestrians!” As for the former world championess and the national women’s team coach (who used to take lessons from the mighty native of Zheleznovodsk) - there can be no two ways about it. However, with Alexandra’s having mentioned her having no Russian Russian driver’s license yet, her fellow compatriots at pedestrian crossings will be “scared off” by her husband/grandmaster Pavel Tregubov. Joking aside, the brand new “Renaults” have in fact fallen into worthy and safe hands, whereas Kosteniuk and Riazantsev’s opposition have been wheeled over ruthlessly indeed.
Towards the finish line the “ice of draws” in the men’s tournament has broken up and the participants were finally sorted into tournament groups according to their standings, whereas in round nine there almost happened something so much looked forward to by the local audience.
Bocharov (2611) – Svidler (2745)
This game saw Dmitry Bocharov performing in the style which he had employed to terrorize the chess elite a year ago in the Rapid World Championship in Berlin. Svidler had a hard time being pressurized by the field host, who was obviously dreaming of scoring “a goal of consolation”, but it was intervened by the miracles starting to take place in the second time trouble period.
Taking the root pawn with the bishop 61.Bxg7 is the most straightforward solution, since 61…Rd3 is parried by both 62.Bf6 and 62.Rxg5!
61...Rd3 62.Rf7+ Kxa6 63.Rxg7?
As opposed to taking by bishop, this act of rook piracy could have been punished by 63...Bf6! 64.Rf7 Bc3+ 65.Kf1 Rd1+, winning a bishop to attain a drawn position. The Russian championship title record-holder goes for the h5-pawn, which is not up to the task, objectively speaking.
63…Bd2+? 64.Kf1 Rd5 65.c6 Bc3 66.Rd7 Rxh5
Keeping in check both White’s powerful passers, backed up by a rook and a bishop, is an extremely gruelling task. It is only logical that Bocharov could have gained the upper hand in more than one way: 67.Be3, 67.Bg1, 67.Rd8 or even via a more tricky 67.Bd4 Bxd4 68.Rxd4 Rg5 69.Rc4!
A premature advance of the white passer could have landed Peter Svidler into defending a drawn “rook and bishop versus rook” ending: 67...Rh1+ 68.Bg1 Kb7 69.g7 Bxg7 70.Rxg7 h5! 71.Kf2 h4 72.Kxf3 h3 73.Bf2 h2 74.Rh7 Rc1. It is difficult to judge whether Black was unwilling to go for it or missed something, but Svidler’s pushing the game “to the maximum” and his beautiful drawing idea could have run into a nice refutation.
This is the wrong flank to approach Black’s position! Winning was 68.Bb6! Be5 69.g7 Rg5 70.Rd5!, winning the bishop or queening the с7-pawn. Now a chess lord of the northern Russian capital city is given another chance to get rid of the so pesky bishop.
68...Rh1+! 69.Kf2 Be1+ 70.Kxf3
By far more exciting would be 70.Ke3! Bxg3 71.g7 Rg1! (a self-suggestive 71...f2 72.c8Q+ Kxc8 73.g8Q+ Kxd7 74.Qd5+ loses the game) 72.c8Q+ Kxc8 73.g8Q+ Kxd7. Although White is able to capture the black bishop via a tempo game 74.Qg7+ Kc6 75.Kxf3 Bh2 76.Qc3+ Kd7 77.Qd4+ Ke7 78.Qh4+ Kf7 79.Qxh2 Rg6 (ChessPro), the resulting position is a fortress. A wonderful “Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual” tells us that winning the h-pawn requires the white king to be located on the h-file (to get to h5), which is no longer possible.
70...Rh3 71.Ke2 Rxg3 72.g7 Ba5 73.Rd8 Bxc7 74.g8Q Rxg8 75.Rxg8 Draw.
A no less instructive endgame from the theoretical point of view happened in a game of grandmasters who were desperate to get into a plus zone. This is another instance of a sinking boat miraculously rescued.
Inarkiev (2732) – Vitiugov (2721)
The analysis shows 54.g3 hxg3+ 55.Kxg3 as leading to a victory.
Firstly, we take care that the enemy king does not show up on h5: 55…Kh7 56.h4 Kh6 57.Bf3.
Then, we mount our king to d5 and carry out the f4-f5 break while using the trade of bishops as a threat: 57…Bb3 58.Kf2 Be6 59.Ke3 Kh7 60.Kd4 Kg8 61.Ke5 Bb3 62.Be4 Bc4 63.f5 gxf5 64.Kxf5 Bb3.
The last thing to do now is push the pawn to h6 and sacrifice the bishop on f7.
65.h5 Kh7 66.Kg5+ Kg8 67.h6 Ba2 68.Kf4 Bc4 69.Ke5 Ba2 70.Kd6 Bb3 71.Ke7 Ba2 72.Bf3 Bc4
72...Kh7 73.Bh5 Kxh6 74.Bxf7 Bb1 75.Be8 Ba2 76.Bd7 fails to help Black out.
73.Bh5 Bb3 74.Bxf7+ Bxf7 75.h7+, winning. Same goal is achieved via a slightly different move order - 54.Bf3 Kh7 55.g3 hxg3+ 56.Kxg3 Kh6 57.h4, and then we proceed as mentioned above.
A reckless move of the white king afforded Nikita enough time to shore up the g6-g5 advance with his own king. Ernesto must have considered his position to be winning anyway by battling his king’s way towards the black pawns by way of some zugzwang or other ideas, but the game ended in a draw.
55.Kf2 g5 56.Be4+ Kh6 57.Ke3 Bb3 58.f5 Kh7
Black’s defensive ramparts turn out to be impenetrable: 59.Kf3 Bd1+ or 59.Bd3 Bd5.
59.Kd4, and Vitiugov managed to survive the ordeal.
The starting round hero has also failed to cross over into a plus zone. Goganov managed to outplay Kokarev in a complex strategic struggle to miss a forced win, so that the eighth decade of moves could have witnessed some absolutely fantastic lines arising on the board.
Kokarev (2636) – Goganov (2635)
The preparatory 70.Rc6! Qf7 71.Bc5 would have been a more subtle continuation, while now Aleksey could have punished his opponent by 70...Rd2! 71.Qc8 (71.Be7 Nxe7 72.Qe6 Qb5) 71...Qxc8 72.Rxc8 Rc2. Let me note that winning chances were also afforded by a rather effective-looking 70...Nxg3!? 71.Be7 Nh5 72.Qe6! Rd4 73.Rb7 e3! 74.Qxe3 Qc6 75.Qxd4 Qxb7 and White needs to fight hard to not go down in this two versus three pawns ending.
The native of St.Petersburg hastened to take control over the g3-pawn with his queen, but now the position becomes double-edged with both kings in danger.
70...Qe5? 71.Qc8 Nxg3!
Black has to meet the storm with arms wide open since 71...Nh6 72.Re7 Qd5 73.Qe8+ Kf5 74.Qf8 Qxc5 runs into a deadly 75.g4+!
72.Qg8+ Kf5 73.Qc8+
Dmitry decided to call it a day for himself and his fans even if he could plunge into vast complications. Let us have a look: 73.Qxh7+!? Kf4 74.Re7
Our colleagues from ChessPro rightly point out that losing is 74.fxg3+? Rxg3 75.Bf2 Kf3!! 76.Qh5+ Kxf2 77.Rc2+ Ke3 78.Qd1 Rf3+ 79.Kg1 Kf4 since the black king is safe and sound home while being up material.
After 74...Qxc5? 75.fxg3+ Ke3 76.Qxe4+ Kd2 77.Qe1+ Kc2 78.Re2+ Kb3 79.Qb1+Kc4 80.Qa2+ Kd4 81.Qa4+ Qc4 82.Re4+ and it is all bad news for the black king, whereas he is OK after 74...Nf1+ 75.Kg1 Qf5 76.Kxf1 Qxh3+ 77.Qxh3 Rxh3 78.Kg2, even if first having to go through grinding a draw out of the “rook and bishop versus rook” ending.
White retains some practical winning chances after 75...Nf5?! 76.Qh5 Rg3! 77.Qd1! Rxh3+ 78.Kxh3 Qc3+ 79.Kg2 Nh4+ 80.Kg1 Nf3+ 81.Kh1 Qxc5 82.Rxf6+ Ke5 83.Rf7 – White is up an exchange after all, although the black knight is a very powerful piece indeed.
76.Qh8! Rd5 77.Rxf6+ Ke2! 78.Kxg3 Rxc5 79.Qe8 Qxf6 80.Qxe4+ Kd1! 81.Qd3+ Ke1 82.Qe3+ Kf1 83.Qd3+ Ke1, and this chain of other than human moves was followed by agreeing a draw in a game played between Stockfish and the latest version of the upgraded Houdini.
73...Kg6 74.Qg8+ Kf5 75.Qc8+ Kg6 76.Qg8+ Draw.
Finally, round ten has presented the tournament with yet another leader as Vladimir Fedoseev got the better of Dmitry Bocharov’s Caro-Kann.
Fedoseev (2665) – Bocharov (2611)
The initiative clearly belongs to White, but so far nothing heralds such a rapid collapse of the Siberian player’s armed forces as we saw in the game.
16… e5 17.dxe5 Ndxe5?!
The d7-knight used to cover the vital c5-square, which his white counterpart was so utterly pleased to jump into in a short while. In the case of 17...Ngxe5 18.Nfd4 Qe8 19.f4 Nc4, followed by something like 20.Rxc4 dxc4 21.Bxc4+ Kh8 22.Ne6 Rg8 23.Re1 (23.Nc7 is imprecise owing to 23...Qe4!) the position is of a complex nature, although the premier violin unmistakably belongs to Fedoseev.
Another ill-advised move. Black should not have parted with the f7-pawn and preferred 18...Rf7 instead.
19.Nc5 Rf7 20.Nf5 Qf8
One agrees to such Kutuzov-style retreats with the utmost reluctance: 20...Qb8 21.Bh5 Bg5 22.Nd4 Bxd2 23.Qxd2 Nc4 24.Qd1, especially since White has nothing to fear with such a cavalry.
21.f4 Nd7 22.Nxb7 Bb2 23.Rb1 Rxf5
A position similar to mentioned above could have arisen after 23...Nxf4 24.Bxf4 Rxf5.
This being a fatal error, certain resistance could have been upheld by 24...Qb8 25.a6 Nxf4. Bocharov plunges headlong into a desperate counterattack, but his resources are only enough to slightly rattle His Majesty guards’ nerves. Meanwhile 24...Nxf4? is no good owing to 25.Bg4!
25.Qc1 Nh4 26.g3 Re8 27.Rf2 Rxe2 28.Rxe2 Nf3+ 29.Kg2 Nd4 30.Re8+ Kf7 31.Re1Ne5 32.a6 Rh5 33.a7
With the rook pawn being at full speed towards the coveted square and about to promote, its increasing worth is emphasized by the line 33...Nef3 34.h3! Nxe1+ 35.Qxe1 Be4+ 36.Qxe4! dxe4 37.a8Q, in which White remains up material despite having sacrificed a lot of it already.
The final stage of the game sees Vladimir indulging in crushing Black with a series of blows.
34.Rxe5 Nxe5 35.Bc3 Be4+ 36.Kf1 Bd3+ 37.Ke1 Nf3+ 38.Kd1, and Black’s offensive has fizzled out, leaving White up material.
With one round to go the tournament standings were as follows. The top line was shared by Riazantsev and Fedoseev, both players being up to challenging final exams with the black pieces - Alexander was to face Dmitry Jakovenko, who might become champion himself in the best case scenario, whereas Vladimir was pitted against Grigoriy Oparin, who was performing rather decently for the Superfinal first-timer and had seriously chagrined Fedoseev earlier in the Higher League, which Oparin had been a winner of. Catching up with the leaders was still possible for Alexander Grischuk and Evgeny Tomashevsky, who were opposed by Dmitry Kokarev and Dmitry Bocharov, as well as for Peter Svidler, who, however, was to battle against the national team second and his teammate Nikita Vitiugov.
The ultimate round witnessed the following developments: while the St. Petersburg envoys did not find courage to fight each other for life and death, Grischuk and Tomashevsky went all out, tooth and nail.
Grischuk (2752) – Kokarev (2636)
One of the strongest world grandmasters handled the opening in a quite original fashion, suffice it to have a look at the below moves.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Nb3 Nc6 7.Be3 Ng4 8.Bd2!? Nf6 9.h4!?
In his turn Dima showed his readiness for a big fight, and before long both opponents had their forces aimed against each other’s kings.
20…Rxc3! 21.bxc3 Qf2?
As the dragon positions are known for the likelihood of each error’s immediate fatal nature, Kokarev’s ill-advised dumping of his queen into the opponent’s camp is exactly from this category. Swinging the rook into the offensive would have naturally resulted in a perpetual: 21...Rc8 22.Rhg1 (playing with fire 22.f4 Qe3 23.Bxh5 Qxc3 24.Bxg6 Qxc2+ would be hazardous only for White, while there is no defending against checkmate following the most effective 22.Rdg1 Qc7 23.Qxh5 Qxc3 24.Bd1 Bxb3 25.axb3 Rc5!) 22...Rxc3 23.Qxh5 Bxb3 24.axb3 Rxb3+ 25.cxb3 Qxb3+.
Closing in on the poor invader, followed by its throwing over the board powerfully by the defending rooks.
There is no rescuing the position: 22...Bc4 23.Rdf1 Qg3 24.Rfg1 Qf4 25.Qxh5.
The h-file is to stay closed by all means: 23...Nxh1 24.Nxe6 fxe6 25.hxg6.
24.Qxg5+ Kh7 25.Rdf1 Nxf1 26.Rxf1 Nxf3 27.Qc1 Black resigns.
Bocharov (2611) – Tomashevsky (2724)
Evgeny was carrying out his offensive with great enthusiasm so that the black rooks, assisted by the bishops and pawns, should be driving Bocharov’s king against the wall, but the mutual time trouble introduced its own adjustments into this seemingly clear-cut scenario.
27… Ra2+ 28.Kd3 Bf6 29.Ke4 R8a3 30.Qh5
The g4-square should be kept in check since 30.Qf1 Bg4 would be an altogether easy victory for Black.
30...g6 31.Qd1 Ba4
If the available resources are not sufficient for checkmating, Black should throw in the pawns - 31...Bg7, and the f7-f5 puts an end to the fugitive’s dreams of escaping.
This is not the way to go about the position, making its fate rather unclear now, although uncovering something as tricky as 32...Bc3 33.Qf1 f6!! 34.c5 Bc2+ 35.Kf4 h5! to have the white king trapped in the mating net is anything but simple.
33.Kf4 g5+ 34.Kg4
With no more checks at Black’s disposal, it is Bocharov who threatens to take over the offensive, even more so since he can dispense with delivering any checks to rely on his two connected passed pawns to complete the job for him.
34…Bg6 35.Qe8+ Kg7 36.Nf5+ Bxf5+ 37.Kxf5 h5?
A tenacious struggle was to be upheld by 37...Rxg2 38.Be5 Rf3+ 39.Ke4 Rf1 40.Bxf6+ Rxf6, whereas now the Novosibirsk grandmaster could have turned the tables completely!
Allowing a knockout blow, while 38.Qc6! Bd4 39.Kxg5 Rxg2 40.Kxh5 would have yielded a rich harvest.
38...Rxg3! 39.hxg3 Rf2+ 40.Qf3 Rxf3+ 41.gxf3 h4 42.gxh4 gxh4, and Evgeny Tomashevsky clinched a medal.
Meanwhile, the leaders’ paths were fated to follow different trajectories: while Fedoseev came under massive offensive of his younger opponent and failed to put up a decent resistance, Riazantsev had a true “game of his life”.
Oparin (2617) – Fedoseev (2665)
Black has lost an opening duel, but it seems that Vladimir’s a-pawn moves followed by Ra5 are aimed at uncorking a sacrifice in his trademark style. Something along the lines of 17...Bxa3!? 18.bxa3 c5 19.Nf5 Qf6 20.Ka2 (or 20.c4 Qc3 21.Rc1 Qxa3 22.Rc2 Nd5!?) 20...Be6+ 21.c4 Rb5 22.Rb1 Rxb1 23.Kxb1 (bad is 23.Rxb1? Qc3) 23...Qc3 24.Rc1 Qxa3 – even though Black’s play is incorrect, White has to come up with precise refutation moves nonetheless. It has been so many times already that the native of St. Petersburg came out of plight smelling like a rose!
However, Fedoseev displayed hesitation to enable Oparin’s forces barraging fire at the black garrison from close range.
17… Be5? 18.f4 Bd6 19.h6 g6 20.Rhg1 Ra6
If you have to make such moves, nothing good should be expected of it.
21.Qd3 Nd5 22.e5 f6 23.Nf5! Bxf5 24.gxf5 Nxe3
Although 25.Qxe3 Bc5 26.Qc3 Bxg1 27.Rxg1 should also attain the set goal, Grigoriy’s plan is a lot juicier and more to the style of Chigorin.
Black is incapable of dealing with all attacking pieces at once: 25...Nxd1 26.Nxf6+ Kh8 (26...Kf8 27.fxg6 Bxe5 28.g7+ Kf7 29.Qxh7) 27.fxg6 hxg6 28.Qxg6.
26...Qxe4 27.d7 is a crucial intermezzo.
27.Rde1 Kf8 28.fxg6 hxg6 29.Rxg6 Nxf4 30.Qg3 Nxg6 31.Qxg6 f5
I slightly wish the game saw 31...Qf7 32.h7! Qxg6 33.h8Q+ Qg8 (33...Kf7 34.Nxd6#; 33...Ke7 34.Nxf6+) 34.Qxf6+ Qf7 35.Qh6+ Qg7 36.Rf1+ Kg8 37.Nf6+, winning.
32.Qxf5+ Black resigns.
Jakovenko (2714) – Riazantsev (2651)
Attempting to stop the bullet-proof Riazantsev required his opponent taking some drastic measures. In the diagram position one cannot but pay immediate attention to the a1-knight, complemented by his a3-fellow. However, as you already know from Aleksey Goganov’s experience in this tournament, we did a good job of beating the hell out of Siegbert Tarrasch’s theory, having established along the way that, in truth, the knight on the rim is not dim!
Indeed, after 19.bxc4! Nxc4 (or 19...dxc4 20.N1c2 Ned5 21.Ne3) 20.Nxc4 dxc4 21.Nc2 e5 (21...Nd5 22.Na3) 22.Na3 (once again via the edge of the board!) Jakovenko could have obtained a very promising position, but his indecisive play afforded Alexander enough time to conveniently rearrange his forces to buttress the crucial c4-square.
19.Be3?! Nec8 20.Nb5 Qd7 21.Qd2 Nd6 22.Nxd6 Qxd6 23.Qb2 Rc8 24.Nc2 Be7 25.Ra1 cxb3 26.Qxb3 Nc4
Although a strategic superiority belongs to Black, his position is not without defects, such as the a5-pawn, for one. Even in the case of a simple 27.Bxc4 dxc4 28.Qb2 Bd3 29.Rfb1 Qc6 30.Qc1 Rhf8 31.Rb5 Rf5 32.Rab1 White has trump cards of his own.
27.Bc1 Qc7 28.Ra2 Rh7 29.Re1 Bd6 30.h3 h5!
This is trumpeting for the start of offensive, which crowned Alexander with the well-deserved gold medal. The pawn is not to be captured - 31.Bxg5? Bxh3! 32.gxh3 Rg7 33.h4 Nd2 34.Qb5 Qf7, for example, 35.Ne3 Qf4, checkmating. However, massive exchanges would have allowed White staying in the game: 31.Bxc4 Qxc4 (31...dxc4 32.Qb5) 32.Qxc4 Rxc4 33.Ne3 Rxc3 34.Nxf5 exf5 35.Bxg5.
31.Ne3?! Nxe3 32.Bxe3 g4 33.h4 g3 34.Rb2
As White is unable to keep the g-file closed (34.f3 Bf4), all black pieces join the offensive now.
34...gxf2+ 35.Bxf2 Be4 36.Qb6 Rg8 37.Bf1 Bh2+ 38.Kh1 Rhg7 39.Qxe6??
For better or for worse, the queens should have been traded off: 39.Qxc7+ Bxc7 40.Kg1 with the idea of bribing free at the cost of just a pawn after 40…Bxg2 41.Bxg2 Rxg2+ 42.Kf1. It would be unfair to credit White with a lot of hopes, but (Peter Veniaminovich will keep me honest on that) this tournament has seen much worse situations wriggled out of.
39...Rxg2 40.Rxb7+ Kxb7, and Jakovenko shook hands with the new 2016 Russian Champion.
In Kolomna I had the occasion to query Sasha about his Superfinal participation history. The qualification record of the Moscow-Chelyabinsk grandmaster is filled with events that can be classified as anything but plain sailing, him having failed to qualify into the premier Russian competition on multiple occasions owing to inferior tie-breakers. He also shared that it was in the Superfinal that he had been faced off with the great classics for the first time in his life and how Riazantsev’s opening repertoire used to be coming completely apart under their pressure. Following the Higher League closing ceremony we kept company on the way from the skating center to the hotel, and the fourth prize winner was literally glowing with happiness despite having failed to take any medal. Alexander Riazantsev was eager to take part in the “Super”.
Two years ago, when all Russian giants were overtaken by Igor Lysyj, as well as this time around when the final tournament standings were announced, I used to come across certain experts’ statements in the social networks in which they claimed the Superfinal’s lineup allegedly lacking in strength and that an imaginary Caruana would have drummed up something in the range of “+5” in such an event. That is to say, look who is winning! Let me put it this way: I will not say anything about Caruana, but I have seen two games between Vachier Lagrave and Dmitry Kokarev. In both games Dima defeated number three of the world ranking list as if he were a mere first category player. It would be very interesting to know exactly how many points a foreign grand would score in the Higher League in the first place... As for the success of Lysyj or Riazantsev, I am absolutely convinced that this is not a bare reflection of the talented grandmasters’ great potential. Somewhere up there Caissa took notice of the remarkable work that Igor and Sasha had dedicated to the memory of the tragically deceased Igor Kurnosov and paid them back hundredfold...
Hurry up to do good deeds! This is true even if winning a Superfinal is not one of your targets.
Final tournament standings:
1. Alexander Riazantsev - 7 points out of 11; 2. Alexander Grischuk, 3. Evgeny Tomashevsky - 6.5; 4-5. Peter Svidler, Vladimir Fedoseev - 6; 6-9. Grigoriy Oparin, Nikita Vitiugov, Dmitry Jakovenko, Aleksey Goganov - 5.5; 10. Ernesto Inarkiev - 5; 11. Dmitry Kokarev - 4.5; 12. Dmitry Bocharov - 2.5.
As usual, all games with sidelines can be replayed with the aid of our website viewer.
In the women’s section of the tournament firmly in the driver’s seat was Alexandra Kosteniuk, but at the finish she and her husband-coach Pavel Tregubov had to live through a few unpleasant moments.
Ubiennykh (2346) – Kosteniuk (2537)
With White having powerful compensation for the queen, Alexandra should have chosen between a passive defense 31...Qg5+ 32.Kf1 Rb8 or an active one 31...Nf6 32.Rxb7 Rc1+ 33.Bxc1 (33.Kg2 Qg5+) 33...Qxd4+ 34.Kg2 Qxd3, because the knight jump 31…Ng5? could have backfired with a lot of troubles.
It would be absolutely out of place to believe that a human player might come up with a computer sequence 32.Kg2 Rb8 33.Re8+ Rxe8 34.Rxe8+ Kh7 35.f6+ g6 36.hxg6+ fxg6 37.Re7+ Kh6 38.h4!! Qxh4 39.Rxb7 Qh3+ 40.Kg1! Nxf3+ 41.Kf2, although 32.f6 gxf6 33.h6 looks very attractive indeed. Ekaterina, being a very strong tactician (her final standings should not be misleading to anyone) from Krasnoyarsk, had a powerful knight shot in store for her opponent prepared well in advance.
32...Nh3+ 33.Kg2 Qh4 34.Ne6!
A very unpleasant move to face in time pressure, making it hard to pin the blame onto the former world champion in that she failed to counter it with 34...d4!! 35.Bxd4 fxe6. Now that the bishop is taken note of, Black escapes with a draw: 36.Be5 (36.Rxg7+ Kf8) 36...Rc1 37.Rb8+ Kh7 38.fxe6+ Kh6 39.Bxg7+ Kxg7 40.Rb7+ Kh8 41.Rb8+ with a perpetual. On the other hand, 40...Kf6? is punished by 41.Rf7+ Kg5 42.Re5+ Kh6 43.Rh7#.
34…fxe6? 35.Rxg7+ Kf8
The cases of a tailender upsetting a leader are known to have happened more than once in the history of chess. This said, Ubiennykh could have added up to those cases via 36.fxe6! Nf4+ 37.Kh1 Nxe2 (37...Nxe6 38.Rxe6) 38.e7+ Qxe7 39.Rxe7 Kxe7 40.Bxe2 Rc2 41.h6 with an easy victory. However, it was not to be, not this time.
36.Rg4?? Nf4+ 37.Rxf4 Qxf4 38.fxe6
Now Alexandra started playing with great enthusiasm: 38…Ke7 39.Be5 Qg5+ 40.Bg3 Rc3! 41.Bg6 d4!, and it so happened that White ended up not making even as much as a draw.
Kosteniuk (2537) – Ovod (2362)
Despite a dominant lead over the rest of the field, the leader took a principled decision to plunge headlong into the sharpest line of the French Defence arising after 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5, although the seasoned Alexey Dreev in his interview to the chess-news recommended to best avoid the doubled-pawn structures in crucial tournament games. Ovod took up the challenge, allowing the game to become a jewel of the women’s tournament.
White can now grab the exchange with 61.Nxb7 Nxb7 62.Re1!, and after 62…Nxc5 63.dxc5 a2 64.c6 Rd8 65.Qc1 Qxc1 66.Rxc1 Nxe5 67.Rf4 the chances are equal, although Black’s position with the knight and pawns is preferable from the practical point of view. However, being what she is, Kosteniuk is known to place material much lower than initiative in her hierarchy of values.
61.Rxc4!? dxc4 62.Nxc4
One would like to say that the queen is hanging, but in fact you can not take it! A death threat is looming over the pride of Black’s position - the a3-passer. For a few days the Novosibirsk and Moscow rumors had it that there was no saving White’s position any longer, but had Evgenija found an indirect defense of the pawn 62...Rd5!, it would have already been White to seriously contemplate in search for equality.
Thus, bad is 63.Nxa3? Rxc5, 63.Qf3?! Qb3 64.Nxa3 Qxf3 65.Rxf3 Nc6 promises only certain chances for a draw, whereas 63.Qg3 Qb3 64.Nxa3 Qxg3+ 65.fxg3 Nc6 66.Nc4 Nxd4 67.Nb6+ Rxb6 68.Bxb6 Nf5 69.Rxf7 Nh6 70.Rg7 Ng4+ 71.Kh1 Rd1+ 72.Bg1 Nf2+ 73.Kh2 Ng4+ 74.Kh1 leads to a draw, but at any moment with the flags hanging it is much more comfortable if you play with the black pieces.
The sudden turn of events had Ovod lose her bearings as she gave up her passer, upon which there was no bailing out any longer.
62…Qb3? 63.Nxa3 Nc6 64.Qc1!
Even the following swindle fails to come to Black’s rescue: 64...Nxd4!? 65.Bxd4 Qa4 (Black drops a rook after 65...Rxd4 66.Qc8+ Ka7 67.Qc5+ Qb6 68.Nb5+) 66.Be3 Qxh4+ 67.Kg1 Qa4 68.Nc2 Rdc7 69.Rf4!! Qxc2 70.Qa3+ Kb8 71.Ra4, and White’s attack is decisive.
65.Nc4 Nxd4 66.Nb6+
Even stronger is 66.Rf4, intending 66…Ne2 67.Nb6+.
66...Rxb6 67.Bxb6 Nc6 68.Rf4 Qb5 69.Bc5 Nxe5 70.Qa1+ Kb7 71.Qxe5, and White gained the upper hand.
It should be noted that at all critical moments Alexandra was at her best, which resulted in the final breakaway from the rest of the field being as many as 1.5 points! The second place was taken by Natalija Pogonina after winning the principled game from an outstanding player, who prefers taking no prisoners, native or foreign.
Gunina (2535) – Pogonina (2484)
As White is outplayed, Valentina quite reasonably opted for a pawn sacrifice in an attempt to avoid sad fate in the ending.
22.f5!? exf5 23.Bxd5 Qxd5 24.Qxd5 cxd5 25.c6 Rc8 26.c7 h6 27.Re2
The strong passed pawn binds Black hand and foot, so that after 27.Rc5 Rxa2 28.Re2 White is not without hopes to bail out. For some reason Gunina refrains from going after the enemy pawns.
28.Rc5 with the idea of 29…Bxd4?! 29.Rxd5 was the last opportunity that White missed.
28...Kh7 29.Rd2 b3 30.Ke2 b4 31.Rc6 Bg5 32.f4 Be7 33.Kd1 Ra7 34.Rd3 Raxc7 35.Rxc7 Rxc7, and Natalija had no problems converting her up two pawns superiority.
Although Pogonina was half a point behind Anastasia Bodnaruk with one round to go, the derby of two St. Petersburg players saw Anastasia go down to Ovod.
Ovod (2362) – Bodnaruk (2463)
I believe that nails are manufactured of exactly such Superfinal participants! Following something like a game with Kosteniuk, ordinary people would enter their hotel rooms to condemn to oblivion even as much as their own existence, but Evgenija showed up as sound as a bell to tear the black king to pieces while sacrificing material along the way. That was round 11 already!
15.Nxe5! Nxe5 16.Qh5+ Kd8
There is no escape from the center: 16...Ng6 17.0–0–0 Bd7 18.Re1+ Kd8 19.Bh4+ Nxh4 20.Qxh4+ Kc8 21.Rg3 Qh7 22.Qxd4.
17.Qh4+ Kd7 18.Qxd4 Ng6
White can nicely seal the fate of the game in all lines: 18...Nc6 19.Qd3 Qf6 20.Bh4! Qxd6 21.Bf6! Qxd3 22.Rxd3+ or 18...f4 19.0–0–0! fxg3 20.Rxg3 Qf6 21.Nf3 Ng4 22.Qc5 Bg7 23.Qc7+ Ke8 24.Re1+ Kf8 25.Nd4, – this line involving sacrifices would be the most spectacular one.
The alternative line is not difficult to calculate: 20...f4 21.Bh4+ Nxh4 22.Rxh4 Rh7 23.Rxf4.
21.Nf3 Bg7 22.Ne5 Bxe5 23.Bxe5 Rf8
23...Nxe5 24.Qxe5 Rf8 25.Re3 a6 26.Qe7+ would be another way to finish off the game.
24.Rxh6 Nxe5 25.Qxe5 Qe8 26.Qc3 Qc6 27.Qg7 Re8 28.Qf6+ Black resigns.
One cannot but feel sorry for Alisa Mikhailovna Galliamova. After the tournament the disappointed Kazan chess player, who was twice a scratch away from the world champion’s title in her career, recalled her bitter losses in Novosibirsk (allowing Pustovoitova to queen her pawn, etc.). An arithmetic calculation would have turned “-3” into “+3” and the medal, but history does not know the subjunctive mood.
Kashlinskaya (2462) – Galliamova (2450)
Black’s up a piece is coupled with her being on the offensive, which was to be crowned by 60...Rxb2! 61.Qf7+ Ka6 62.Kxb2 Bd4+ 63.Ka2 Qd2+ 64.Kb3 Qb2+ 65.Kc4 Qa2+. However, Galliamova trades winning a game for winning a pawn.
60… Qd4? 61.Qf7+ Ka6 62.Rc3 Rxg2 63.Qe6 Qd1+ 64.Ka2 Kb7 65.f4 Rg7?!
With Black’s advantage overwhelming, she only needed to consolidate with 65...Qd6. There happens a complete turn of tables as it is already the black king which is under threat now.
66...Kb8! 67.Rd3 Re7! 68.Qf5 Qh1 69.Rd8+ Ka7 70.Rd7+ Rxd7 71.Qxd7+ Qb7 would have allowed Black staying in the game, not to mention her being up a bishop still, whereas now a heavy artillery of White starts delivering iron gifts into the royal residence.
67.Rd3 Qh5 68.Rd8 Qf7+ 69.b3 b5
69...Qb7 70.Qa4+ Qa6 71.Ra8+ - Black’s defensive ramparts were only seemingly robust.
70.Qa8+ Kb6 71.Rb8+ Kc7 72.Rb7+, which, however, offered a poor consolation to Alina.
Final tournament standings:
1. Alexandra Kosteniuk - 8.5; 2. Natalia Pogonina - 7; 3. Anastasia Bodnaruk - 6.5; 4-7. Olga Girya, Valentina Gunina, Daria Charochkina, Daria Pustovoitova - 6; 8. Evgenija Ovod - 5.5, 9. Aleksandra Goryachkina - 5; 10. Alisa Galliamova - 4; 11. Alina Kashlinskaya - 3.5; 12. Ekaterina Ubiennykh - 2.
This is it for this tournament. Preparations for the 2017 chess season are in full swing already. I wonder, which city is going to host the next Superfinal. We are already looking forward to more exciting competitions from the ambitious project “Chess in museums.”