20 November 2016

Better Be Alkaloid Than Sveti Nikolaj

Dmitry Kryakvin sums up six key Euro Cup results.

This year's European Chess Club Cup has brought together a plethora of stars, both young conquerors of rating heights and legends whom we've been supporting for years. There were many strong teams, a dramatic intrigue, and fireworks in the games... The only thing in which Novi Sad 2016 wasn't lucky is that it coincided with the "match of the century" between two child prodigies and historical rivals, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin. A new chess tale about their confrontation is unfolding in the faraway New York, so one has to view the games late in the night, and they finish in the morning for those who live in Russia's eastern part. Naturally, neither you nor I sleep enough, so I won't tire dear readers by a lengthy report of the encounters in Serbia. I'll just keep to the main facts.   

For example, I really like the format of the popular portal sports.ru led by the charismatic Yuri Dud; my colleague Oleg Barantsev is in charge of the chess section there. When there's too much information and it's not easy to digest it, bloggers use the formula "10 Things You Need to Know about the Champions League", or "8 Most Dramatic Events of the Recent Euro Hockey Tour Stage." I'll also try to highlight the key events that took place last week in the former cultural capital of Marshal Josip Broz Tito's empire.     

1. Azerbaijan changes format: national stars instead of legionnaires.

The last five years' most famous super club, the two-time European Champion SOCAR, has failed to come to Novi Sad. It's still unclear what the reason was, the loss to  Siberia in 2015, too much money spent on the Olympiad, or change of the general strategy of the country's club leadership? But the fact is still a fact: most Azerbaijani players moved to Odlar Yurdu, the brainchild of Emil Sutovsky, the ACP (Association of Chess Professionals) president. Every year, Sutovsky had been using the Euro Cup to test young and promising Baku stars and those who couldn't make it to the main team. The former farm team looked very intimidating this year and included Mamedov, Radjabov, Guseinov, Naiditsch, Safarli, Emil himself, and the young Durarbayli and Abasov. Only the formidable Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was missing: he had joined Serbia's VSK. It turned out that the decision to send Odlar Yurdu was taken just before the tournament, and Shakhriyar, who was assisting Karjakin at the pre-match session, was by then bound hand and foot by a contract with the Serbians.          

Odlar Yurdu's progress proved to be far from easy. Already in the second round, the team had a draw against Beer-Sheva, famous for its team spirit (Postny, Roiz, Huzman, Greenfeld, Mikhalevski, Khmelniker), and the match was crucial for the playing captain: on the opposite side there were players of the Israeli team who finally came to Baku as a result of the Gelfand vs. the Israeli Chess Federation scandal.   

The Azerbaijani team continued its advance, and on the way to the final battle they had to cross swords both with Siberia and the high-ranked OR Padova (Italy) represented by Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian, Gelfand, Leko, Bacrot, and the Italians led by Vocaturo. The Siberians put some strong pressure against the rating favorites and Korobov made short work of Abasov on the last board, but suddenly the Taran-Vorozheikin-Maletin team faced a backlash reminiscent of the Olympiad.

Grischuk, Siberia (2751) – Naiditsch, Odlar Yurdu (2686)
Round 4 

Which is stronger, the knights or the bishops? White's king feels uncomfortable, so the tempting line is 27.f3 Bf5 (if 27...h6 28.Nc4, then the d6 pawn is attacked) 28.Qc3 Qa7+ 29.Rf2, and all the fight is ahead. It seems that Alexander was already facing time trouble or had overestimated his chances when giving up the g5 pawn.

27.Qc3? Rg4+ 28.Ng3

If 28.Kh2 Qe8, the white king is in dire straits.

28...Rxg5 29.Nde4 Rg6 30.Kg2

There is no restoring material equality: 30.Qxa5 h5, so it's necessary to clear the h1 square for the white rook.

30...Qb5 31.Qc4 Qb7 32.Rc1 h5 33.Kh2?

And this is capitulation. The scary line is 33.Qc7 Qxd5 (if the queens are exchanged, 33...Qxc7 34.Rxc7, and the black bishop runs out of squares even on such a big board: 34…Bf5 (34...Bg4 35.f3; 34...Be8 35.Kh2 h4 36.Nf5; 34...Bb5 35.Kh3) 35.Nxd6, and White has nothing to complain of) 34.Kh2 h4 35.Qxd7 hxg3+ 36.Nxg3 Qf3, but there's 37.Qc8+ Bf8 38.Qc2!. White is a pawn down, but the fight continues.

33...Bg4 34.f3 Bxf3 35.Nf5

A desperate attempt to muddy the waters, but Arkadij solved this puzzle easily.

36…Qa7! 36.Rf1 Bg2! 37.Nh4

There is no 37.Rg1 Bxe4 38.Rxg6 Qf2+ or 37.Re1 Bxe4 38.Qxe4 Qf2+ 39.Kh3 Rg4, and White trades off the pieces while he already lacks two pawns.

37...Bxe4 38.Qxe4 Rg4 39.Qe1 Bh6!

The King's Indian bishop goes out for a hunt. 40.Ng2 Qg7 41.Qf2 e4 is completely hopeless, but pushing the sole knight forward won't help the Russian player either.

40.Nf5 Bf4+ 41.Kh1 Qd7 42.Qe4 Kh8 43.Rg1 Rh4+!

It's not necessary to blunder into checkmate: 44.Nxh4 Qh3#; however, the king can't escape now.

44.Kg2 Rh2+ 45.Kf3 Qc8 White resigns.

A reverse situation occurred in the match versus Padova: Sutovsky won an exemplary game against Navara (you can find the beautiful ending in our section "Position of the day"), while Mamedov was able to upset one of the world's best players on board one.

Vachier-Lagrave, OR Padova (2811) – Mamedov, Odlar Yurdu (2684)
Round 6

Rauf launched an aggressive counterattack, and after 37...e4! White needs to find a series of incredible computer moves to save the game: 38.Rg7+ Kxg7 39.Qxd8 Nxf3 (if 39...Bd6, then 40.Bf4!) 40.Bxh6+ Kxh6 41.Qxf8+ Kh7, and now 42.Ke3! Ne5 43.Bh3! Nxc4+ 44.Kd4! helps White to give perpetual check.

Mamedov broke through in the center by using a slightly different move order, but didn't take into account his resourceful opponent's response.

37… Qf6 38.Bg2 e4 39.f4!

White is not afraid of the scary black pawns, and now it's the Azerbaijani's turn to save the game: 39...Nf5! 40.Bxe4 Qd4+ 41.Kf3 Qg1! 42.Bxf5 (nothing is achieved by 42.Bd5+ Kh8 43.Bc3+ Bg7) 42...gxf5 43.Qxf5 Qd1+ 44.Kg2 Qe2+ 45.Kh3 Qf1+ 46.Kg4 Qd1+, and a perpetual check again.

39…Ne6? 40.Rc6! Qd4+ 41.Be3

An unpleasant surprise: Black's pieces hang, and his passer d3 can only help him transfer into an unpleasant endgame with opposite-colored bishops and without material.


41...Qd7 42.Rxe6 d2 43.Bxd2 Qxd2+ 44.Qxd2 Rxd2+ 45.Kf1 results in a transposition of moves. An effective solution with a temporary queen sacrifice hardly changes anything.

42.Bxd4 Rxd4 43.Qa4 d1Q 44.Qxd1 Rxd1 45.Rxe6

The е4 pawn will be traded off for the a2 pawn: there is little material on the board and different-colored bishops, but White has great chances for a win with the rooks on the board.

45…Rd2+ 46.Kf1 Kf7 47.Rxe4 Rxa2 48.Re5 Bb4 49.c5 


The last mistake. Black should have forced a rook exchange urgently after pushing the white king away: 49...Ra1+ 50.Kf2 Ra2+ 51.Kg1 Ra5! 52.c6 Rxe5 53.fxe5 Ke7 54.Bd5 Bc3 55.e6 Kd6; it's a draw without kingside pawns, but even with the extra material Maxim would have had to show great technique to save the match. In the game, it was enough for Vachier-Lagrave to push the pawn to c6 and create a threat to the square g6.

50.Bd5+ Kg7 51.c6 White resigns.

In the last round, the team of friends of the RCF PR Director, Kyrillos Zangalis, faced a really challenging opponent: VSK Sveti Nikolaj, represented by Mamedyarov, Rapport, Morozevich, and players of the Serbian team. The encounter started quite favorably for Odlar Yurdu, since Richard Rapport, the best team player of all time, performed 1.b3, 2.Bb2, 3.Nc3, 4.d4, 5.f3, 6.Qd2, 7.0-0-0 against Radjabov, following which Teimour had to pull his wits together and checkmate the white king on move 25. The hero of crucial matches Arkadij Naiditsch strangled Morozevich in a lengthy endgame, and the match would have ended in a routing but for another twist of fortune.

Sutovsky, Odlar Yurdu (2625) – Markus, VSK (2652)
Round 7 

Emil Sutovsky completely outplayed Robert Markus, and he only had to convert the edge. Black's position is bad both with and without the queens due to the weakness of the f7-pawn: 23.Bc4 Qc8 24.Bb3 Bg5 (24...b5 25.Rxf7!) 25.Qf5 or 23.Qe2 Qc8 24.Qc4. But here the ACP leader overlooked some unexpected counterplay by his seemingly paralyzed opponent.

23.b3? Qc8! 24.Bc4

24.c4 Rd8 would have resulted in total exchanges, but Emil calculated an interesting line...

24...b5! 25.Bxb5

There would have been a nice compensation for the pawn after 25.Bd5 Qxc2 26.g3 Kh8 27.Qh5. It was clear that Black's remote passed pawn was getting nowhere and the game would probably be drawn, but Sutovsky was not eager for a draw at the moment.

25...Qxc2 26.Bc4?!

It's again a draw in the line 26.Qf3 Rd8. White is playing with fire, and the greatest danger here is that his game involves a miscalculation.

26...a4 27.Rc7 


A disaster! If 28.Bxf7+? Kh8 29.Rxc2 bxc2, the black pawn can't be stopped, and now White has to seek a draw convulsively.

28.Kh2 Qxf2 29.Rxf7??

With the rook exchange 29.Rc8, the commander of the white pieces could be expecting the hard-fought draw, since the passed pawn was stopped for now: 29…b2?? 30.Rxf8+ Kxf8 31.Qc8+ Ke7 32.Qc7+ Ke8 33.Bb5+ Kf8 34.Qc8+ Ke7 35.Qd7+ Kf8 36.Qe8 – checkmate.

29...Rxf7 30.Qc8+ Bd8!

Like in the famous game Taimanov vs Larsen. The bishop counter-sacrifice fully destroys White's attacking mechanism.

31.Qxd8+ Kh7 32.Bxf7 Qxf7 33.Qc8 Qf4+ 

Robert took leave to celebrate the win, and the disappointed Emil, after three hours of worries for Safarly who was trying to save the game, left to write a post on Facebook.

The calculation of tie-breakers showed that even 4.5-1.5 would not have sufficed for the Azerbaijani to make it to the top three: they would have become fourth. As it was, Sutovsky's regrettable loss even left them in the fifth place since under the current tie-break system it is much more beneficial to thrash a weak team than to have a draw with titans. It seems that with the current number of strong teams, the seven rounds of the Euro Cup are no longer enough, to consider it from the point of view of finding out the strongest and not the convenience of amateur teams.

2. The meaning of bad luck: another misfortune of the Russian chess figurehead. Siberia only takes the sixth place.

In 2015, the powerful team with Vladimir Kramnik on the first board crushed its competition at Russian and European championships like a road roller, winning almost all the matches! But Siberia faced objective issues in this spring's Sochi Championship: some of the players were in poor form and the mighty warrior Levon Aronian had left the team. The Siberians had a hard time in the battle versus Moscow and St. Petersburg, but autumn gave the European trophy's current holder a chance to come back. Even this summer, the superclub's players didn't know if they would go to Novi Sad or not, but in November the Siberian assault force represented by Kramnik, Grischuk, Tomashevsky, Li Chao, Korobov, Rublevsky and Bocharev was reinforced by none other than Anish Giri.     
The start was quite promising: after warming up in the first two rounds, Siberia took revenge on the Muscovites for the spoilt spring event. The match started with a series of quick draws, but then Tomashevsky won Zvjaginsev's pawn, and the European champion made a blunder on the first board, so rare for him in individual events.   

Inarkiev, ShSM Legacy Square (2714) – Kramnik, Siberia (2810)
Round 3 

Two bishops in Kramnik's hands are a deadly force. Vladimir even defeated supercomputers with them in human vs. machine matches. So even with the best 22.Na5, Ernesto would have had to find out the most precise moves, and the optimistic rook intrusion found a mathematically exact retort.  

22.Rd7? Bxc4 23.Rxc4 Bd6!

The rook is trapped, the only thing left is to give it away for the highest price possible. 

24.Bxc5 Nf8 25.Bxd6 Nxd7 26.Rxc7 Nb6 27.a5 Nd5 28.Rb7 Red8 29.Bg3 a6

Finally Zvjaginsev saved the game, while Kramnik converted his edge with great technical prowess – 3.5-2.5.

In the fourth round, the above-mentioned 3-3 against Odlar Yurdu happened, while Siberia's next opponent was Ashdod, who brought to Serbia Ivanchuk, Vallejo, Smirin, Volokitin, Moiseenko, Georgiev, as well as Kogan and Golod as bench-warmers. The opponents exchanged blows on the last boards: Moissenko skillfully won in an endgame with rooks and different-color bishops against Li Chao, while Korobov fended off convincingly Georgiev's King's Indian attack that for some reason emerged from the Grunfeld Defense. The second-board encounter became the decisive one, and its outcome was clear from the opening.

Giri, Siberia (2767) – Vallejo, Ashdod (2716)
Round 5 

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.0–0 c5 5.c4 d4 6.e3 Nc6 7.exd4 cxd4 8.d3

The Modern Benoni has nowadays gained popularity with White, and Anish is one of the line's main followers. How should Black play now? The sweeping 8...Bd6 doesn't promise Black an easy life: 9.Na3 0–0 (9...e5 10.c5! Bxc5 11.Nc4 Nd7 12.Re1 with a powerful compensation for the pawn, Giri ― So, 2015) 10.Nc2 e5 11.b4, Gupta ― Georgiadis, 2015, with initiative on the queenside, so Black has been turning frequently to the more modest 8...Be7 9.Na3 0–0 10.Nc2 a5 11.Re1 Re8, Din Lijen ― Mamedyarov, 2016, or 11...Ne8, Kunin ― Korobov, 2016.

The Spanish grandmaster opted for the standard "Nimzowitsch pirouette", but he was unable to place the knight on the blockade square without losing a tempo, which White usually does in similar positions.

8…Nd7 9.Re1 Be7 10.Na3 e5 11.Nc2 a5

Vallejo probably thought that a well-know tabiya would now emerge with a transposition of moves, 12.b3 0–0 13.Rb1 Re8 (13...Rb8 14.h4 f6 15.a3 b5 16.Nd2 Na7, Vitiugov ― Bukavshin, 2015) 14.a3 f6 15.b4 axb4 16.axb4 Nb6 17.b5 (the immediate 17.Nh4! is stronger) 17...Nb8 18.Nh4 N8d7, Topalov - Caruana, 2016.

But Giri started to prepare the standard breakthrough without further ado, and it turned out that Black lacked the coveted tempo for consolidation. 

12.a3 0–0

12...f6 weakens the set of light squares: 13.Nh4! (13.Bd2?! Nc5) 13...0–0 14.f4 with initiative.

13.Bd2 a4

13...Nc5 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.Rxe5 Nxd3 16.Rd5! is bad, and the Stockfish recommendation, 13...Bf6 14.b4 Re8, is not too pretty for a human either. Vallejo tried to do without weakening, but as soon as he covered up one side, trouble came from another side.

14.Nb4 Bd6

14...f6 15.Nh4 isn't pretty again, but protecting the pawn with the bishops leaves the square g5 without control.

15.Ng5! Nc5 16.Ne4 


A bad blunder. It's clear that after 16...Nxe4 17.Bxe4 Bd7 White's position is promising, but the material is equal and the fight is still ahead.

17.Nxd6 Qxd6 18.Nxc6 bxc6 19.Bb4, and Black lost an exchange: 19…Qf6 20.Bxf8 Kxf8 21.Rb1 Bf5 22.Qf3 

The Dutchman who was born in St. Petersburg converted his undeniable advantage with confidence.

The Siberians secured a footing in the second place and would now face Alkaloid that had started with five wins in a row. We'll talk about the winning team later, while in this match there were five draws and it was Siberia's playmaker who was to tilt the balance.

Korobov, Siberia (2689) – Yu Yangui, Alkaloid (2721)
Round 6


Anton had completely outplayed the Chinese legionnaire, and the simple 66.Be5 would have brought the point home: a piece would have been lost in the pin. But for some reason, Korobov didn't play it, and the fight continued.

66.Ke1? Qd7 67.Qe4+?

It's not so easy to calculate that if 67.Qd5! Qxd5 68.cxd5 c4 69.Bd4 Kg8, the decisive strategy is the white king's promenade: 70.Kd1 Kf7 71.Kc2, with a subsequent Bc5. Korobov decided to trade off his strongest pieces with a different disposition, but amazingly it proved to be a draw.

67...Kg8 68.Qg6+

White could still have taken back a move: 68.Qd3! Qe6 69.Kd1, and Black would have had a hard time to protect all its weaknesses.

68...Kf8 69.Qf6+ Ke8 70.Qh8+ Ke7 71.Qg7+ Ke8 72.Qg8+ Ke7 73.Qh7+ Kd8 74.Qxd7+ Kxd7 


A walkaround on the left doesn't change anything: 75.Kd1 Ke6 76.Kc2 Be5.

75...Ke6 76.Bg7

How disappointing! Let's check: 76.Kg2 Be5! 77.Bc1 Bd4 78.Kf3 Kf5 79.Bxe3 Bxe3 80.Kxe3 Ke5, and the pawn endgame is drawn: 81.Kd3 Kf5 82.e3 Ke5.

76...Kf7 77.Bb2 Ke6 78.Bg7 Kf7 79.Bb2 Ke6 Draw.

Anton and the Siberian captains will probably have dreams about the position before move 66 for a long while now. Korobov's missed win directly affected the situation before the final match versus St. Petersburg. Not only did the trophy's existing owners lose an important team point, but the Kharkov player, upset by this misfortune, also asked to be put in reserve for the decisive battle. The Ukrainian really lacked in the battle versus Medny Vsadnik: Giri performed a model siege of Dominguez's isolator with the major pieces on the board, putting this game in one line with the classical examples of play by Botvinnik and Karpov. Vladimir Fedoseev, the "joker" of St. Petersburg pack, leveled the score on the last board, however. Everything was now decided in the Tomashevsky ― Bu Xiangzhi game, where Evgeny's win would bring his team a silver (Siberia's tiebreakers were lower than those of Alkaloid).

Tomashevsky, Siberia (2722) – Bu Xiangzhi, Medny Vsadnik (2698)
Round 7



Evgeny was skillfully leading the game towards a victorious end, but the Chinese, like it often happens, resisted with all his might and made the way to achieving the goal much more difficult. 

The correct move is 62.Re3+! Kd5 (the endgame study-like winning line is 62...Kd6 63.Re6+ Kc7 64.b5! Nxa4 65.Rc6+ Kb8 66.Ke3!, and the king traps the rook!) 63.a5 Nc4 (giving away a piece doesn't work here: 63...Rxb4 64.Nd3 Rb1 65.Nf4+ Kc4 66.axb6 Rxb6 67.Ng6, and the knight is about to destroy Black's last hope).

64.Rd3! Rxd3 65.Nxd3 Kc6 66.Nf4 Nd6 (or 66...Kb5 67.Nh5 Kxb4 68.a6) 67.Ne6 g6 68.Nd4+ Kd5 69.Ke3 Nc4+ 70.Kd3 Ne5+ 71.Kc3, with a win in a knight endgame.

62...Nd5 63.Rb3

I suspect that Tomashevsky didn't like the line 63.Ra3 Nxb4 64.a6 Rd2+ in principle: what if the extra piece can't be converted into a victory in such a position? But the edge passed pawn's "neighbor" can't become a queen either: the centralized black pieces are well prepared for such a development.

63...Rd2+ 64.Kf3 Ra2

The immediate 64...Kd4! is even more precise.


The cunning 65.Nd7+ Ke6 (65...Kd6? 66.Rd3!) 66.Nf8+ Kf7 67.b5 Rxa5 68.Nd7 Ra7 69.b6 Rxd7 70.b7 Rd8 71.b8Q Rxb8 72.Rxb8 g5 73.Ke4 Ne7 doesn't win: it's a fortress on the board. The straightforward 65.b5 Rxa5 66.Nd7+ Kd6 67.b6 Ne7 68.b7 Nc6 69.Nxf6 (69.b8Q+?! Nxb8 70.Nxb8 Kc7  with a clear draw) 69...gxf6 70.Rb6 Ke5 71.Rxc6 Ra3+ 72.Ke2 Rb3 73.Rc7 Kd6 74.Rh7 Kd5 75.Kd2 Rb6 complicates Black's task, but due to the particular pawn structure the white king can't come to the b7-pawn's rescue. In the game, the Chinese found an easier way to defend.

65...Kd4! 66.Ne6+ Kc4 67.Rb1 Rxa6 68.Rc1+ Kxb4 69.Nxg7 Ra2 70.Nh5 Rh2, and it became clear that Medny Vsadnik would take the second place.

71.Nf4 Nxf4 72.Kxf4 Rxh3 73.g5 fxg5+ 74.Kxg5 Rc3 75.Rxc3 Kxc3 76.Kxh4 Draw.

The final score was 3-3, and Siberia, like the Azerbaijani, were behind the Moscow team and Ashdod by tiebreakers. The latter team, although losing the pivotal match against Kramnik's team, had routed the weaker teams ruthlessly. The Siberians were probably even more disappointed than Odlar Yurdu, but these are the harsh laws of club sports... If you can't score a goal, you shouldn't blame the tiebreaking system!

3. They managed without Nepomniachtchi. ShSM Legacy Square unspells the Euro Cup. Third place.

Let's continue the talk about bad luck, even more so since the Moscow team has been considered a record-breaker in this area over the last few years. Doom followed the Russian capital's players: bad pairings, poor luck with tiebreakers, and many other misfortunes. They couldn't even make it to the Euro Cup once. But after the crisis passed, ShSM Legacy Square played just brilliantly at the Russian team championship. And then an unpleasant surprise happened: the Smagin ― Zlochevskij club went to Serbia without the Russian team's forwarder, the chess jaguar Ian Nepomniachtchi. And given that Sergey Karjakin couldn't play at the Euro Cup by definition, the task of the Muscovites, who left home with just one reserve player, became twice as difficult. Each player of the Moscow team, including Inarkiev, Dubov, Malakhov, Zvjaginsev, Grachev, Najer, and Popov, literally played for two. 

A loss to Siberia didn't weaken the Moscow team's pressure, and to be honest, it's not easy to pinpoint any critical game in their match fate. ShSM thrashed its Austrian and Belgium rivals, and then defeated Zhiguli by a large margin. The latter team made a stir in the first half of the distance by knocking down Novy Bor, the 2013 champion (the Czechs were never able to make it back to the first tables), and Ladya (Kazan) and almost having a draw with the future winners, the Macedonians. The adamant coach of the Ukrainian women's team, Mikhail Brodsky, defeated Najer after Nedev and Murtazin, but Moscow responded with as many as four strikes!  

According to the final round's pairings, Legacy Square was Alkaloid's opponents, and the game ended in six draws. On board one, Din Lizhen put some pressure on Ernesto Inarkiev's position, but the game converted into a rook endgame, where Mark Dvoretsky's disciple is considered to be a great expert ― and with good reason.

Ding Liren, Alkaloid (2764) – Inarkiev, ShSM Legacy Square (2714)
Round 7



Much stronger and trickier is the waiting move 47.Kc1! – to save the game, Ernesto would have had to find some endgame study ideas, since there is no safe haven for Black's ship after 47…h6 48.f4! (48.Rc7+? sets the black monarch free: 48…Kf6 49.Ra7 Kg5 50.f3 h4 or 50.Ra8 Kg4 51.a7 Kh3) 48...Ra3 49.f5, and the g3 pawn is indirectly protected while this happens to be a zugzwang.

47...Kf7 48.Rc7+ Ke6 is an option.

If 48...Kg6, the method that occurred in the game wins: 49.Ra7! Kg5 50.f3 Ra3 (a tempo is lacking in the line 50...h4 51.gxh4+ Kxh4 52.Rxh7+ Kg3 53.Ra7 Kxf3 54.Ra8 Ke3 55.a7) 51.Ra8 h4 52.f4+ Kh5 53.gxh4.

But the familiar mechanism works even here: 49.Ra7 Kd5 50.Ra8 Kc6 51.f4, and the second passer can't be stopped.

47...Kf7 48.Rc7+

The location of the pawn on f3 doesn't allow going back to the game described in the previous comment: 48.Kc1 Kg7 49.Rc7+ Kh6 50.Ra7 Ra3, and Black has the time to harass the kingside pawns.

48...Kg6 49.Ra7 Ra3 50.Ra8

The last chance, but Ernesto saw in advance that his king would hide in a pretty "castle".

50…Kh6! 51.Kxc2 Rxf3 52.a7 Draw. 

Ernesto Inarkiev and Ding Liren

Some people might now say that the Muscovites are lucky, but shouldn't ShSM get a compensation for the several years when Caissa was with their opponents?

The Moscow team finally gained Euro Cup medals

4. Peter's wise advice: Medny Vsadnik's medal-winning secret. The second place.

In recent years, the country's champions showed some very stable performance among the Old World's strongest teams: they won the Euro Cup in 2011 and were in the top three twice more. This European event also started in quite a promising way: Medny Vsadnik won the first four matches and, among other things, thrashed mercilessly the six stars under St. Nicholas's banner. With such a team as Svidler, Dominguez, Vitiugov, Bu Xianzghi, Matlakov, Rodshtein, Khairullin, and Fedoseev, its captain Vladimir Bykov doesn't have to worry for St. Petersburg's chess reputation.   

A face-to-face battle with their main rivals was ahead, and the team's leader provided substantial aid here: Peter Svidler cold-bloodedly scored a point in a game against Ding Liren.  

Ding Liren, Alkaloid (2764) – Svidler, Medny Vsadnik (2742)
Round 5


Does White have a good compensation for the pawn? With his next two moves, Svidler knocks the queen off the central position and afterwards makes his opponent's knight flee to the corner.

34… Rd3! 35.Qe5 Qc5 36.Na8 Rd2 37.Re3?

You don't want to exchange queens here, but it was 37.Qf4 Rc2 38.d6 or 37...Qd4 38.Qxd4 Rxd4 39.Nc7 that would have left chances for rescue. Din decided to do without half-measures, but it was his opponent and not White that threatened checkmate as a result.

37...Qc1+ 38.Re1 Qc2 39.d6

The central pawn is the Chinese's last trump. Of course, a harakiri in the white king's citadel is much more fun than the grim 39.Qf4 Nxd5.

39...Rxf2 40.Bxb7 


The control move! The concluding line 40...Rh2! 41.Qf4 Rxh3 42.Bg2 Ng4! 43.Rc1 Qe2 would have looked quite like Peter's style.


41.Qd4 is more resistant, but even here there is 41…Qb3 42.Kh2 Bf1!! 43.Nb6 (43.d7 Qxb7) 43...Rg5 44.Qe3 Qb2+ 45.Kg1 Bxh3, and the rest is much easier.

41...Bc6 42.Bxc6 Qxc6 43.Nc7 Qxd6 44.Qc3 Kh6 White resigned, deciding that playing Svidler with two pawns down was pointless.

But in return, two of the St. Petersburg's white colors were lost: Dominguez was outplayed by Andreikin, while Kryvoruchko created a small masterpiece in an endgame with Fedoseev. Medny Vsadnik, which went berserk after the loss, clobbered Beer-Sheva 5-1, and then the ultimate round came when the St. Petersburg team encountered Siberia. As you already know, the famous "Bykov rule" works for the matches between the two teams: if Kramnik defeats Svidler, then Siberia wins, and if he doesn't it doesn't.

This time Peter played a reliable game with the world's ex-champion, and their tense 87-move game was never beyond equality. Moreover, Svidler made an important contribution in general success... during a team meeting! In the Medny Vsadnik camp, the opinion prevailed that it was necessary to place the reliable Maxim Rotshtein on the sixth board since Vladimir Fedoseev hadn't recovered from the loss against Kryvoruchko. Vladimir himself wasn't too keen to join the fight. But Svidler insisted pointedly: we barely have any attackers in the team, so Fedoseev should play and do his best. Maybe he'll be lucky. The experienced grandmaster might have seen it in a crystal ball: Giri was already feasting on Dominguez's pawns, but a retaliatory point was about to be scored on board six.  

Rublevsky, Siberia (2689) – Fedoseev, Medny Vsadnik (2673)
Round 7


The Russian women's team's senior coach played the opening aggressively and pushed a pawn to d6, hinting unequivocally that it was an advantage and not a weakness. Fedoseev disagreed, and after 22.Qh4! Qb2 23.Qg3 the opponents would have had to continue this fierce opening to see whose strategy would prevail. At a pivotal moment, however, Sergei was too quick to protect the e5 pawn excessively and overlooked a sudden attack. 

22.Bc3? Bxf2+! 23.Rxf2 Qe3 24.Rd1

The piece is regained in any case: 24.Qa3 Rfc8.


Another technical intermediate move that prevents White from stepping up his game. And after 24...Qxc3, 25.Nd4 would have followed.

25.Qd4 Rxc3 26.Re1 Bg6 27.Bf1 Qxd4 28.Nxd4 Rc5

The queens are traded off, and after 29.Rfe2 Rfc8 White doesn't have a chance to save the game. Rublevsky found the only practical chance: he abandoned the e5 pawn and brought his pieces forward to support the passed pawn and crush Black's queenside.

29.Nb3! Rxe5 30.Rxe5 Nxe5 31.Nc5 Rd8 32.d7 Bf5 33.Rd2 Kf8 

Destroying the "backbone" on d7 is just a matter of time, since the black king is already on its way. And now, after several moves, Rublevsky could have transferred to an endgame after an approximate line 34.Nxa6 Nc4! 35.Rd4 e5 36.Rd5 Rxd7 37.Rxb5 Rd1 38.Kf2 Bd3! 39.Bxd3 Rxd3, but here the chances to save the game would have been slim, and the opponents understood it only too well.

34.Rd6 b4! 35.Be2 Bb1!

Fedoseev avoids the trap: 35...Ke7 36.Rxa6 Nxd7 37.Ra7 e5 38.Bb5, and the win is missed.


It was probably time to give up on the passed pawn: 36.Rd2 Ke7 37.Rb2 Bf5 38.Rxb4. I won't try to guess to what extent the Petersburg chess player's task would have been made more difficult, but the game would have certainly been longer.

36...Bxa2 37.Nxb4 Bc4!

The bishops are traded off, after which "Private Ryan" dies in vain.

38.Bxc4 Nxc4 39.Rc6 Ne5 40.Rc8 Ke7 41.Rc5 f6 42.Rxe5 fxe5 43.Nc6+ Kxd7 44.Nxd8 Kxd8, and the pawn endgame is easily won for Black.

As Вu Xiangzhi saved his game, the score became 3-3, and Medny Vsadnik won the silver.

The players from St. Petersburg didn't look upset by the draw with Siberia

5. Macedonian team of the Russian dream. First place.

Alkaloid is an excellent name, it's music for a Russian man's ears. When a modest Macedonian team consisting of local players became a superclub in 2008-2009, correspondents from the RCF and ChessPro savored this juicy and meaningful name in almost each of their reports from the Euro Cup. And now that Alkaloid finally made its dream come true after five years of absence on the European arena, I was told that an eponymous Russian team should come to the Zhemchuzhina hotel in Sochi for the Russia 2017 team championship and that it would consist of six leading chess romanticists and musketeers of modern time.

But let's look away from the tempting door of our home mini bar. Alkaloid AD Skopje is a company that has for many years specialized on manufacturing drugs, cosmetics and chemicals and processing plant raw materials. One of its executives is a chess fan and has put a lot of effort into setting up a superb team: Din Lizhen, Andreikin, Eljanov, Jakovenko, Yu Yangyi, Kryvoruchko, and two indigenous players, Nedev and Pancevski. The recipe is simple and time-proven, and with enough funding available you don't have to be a medical market leader: take four skilful, aggressive chess players and add a couple of Chinese for luck.    

After facing tenacious resistance from Zhiguli in round four (as I read somewhere in a Togliatti chess blog, every "alkaloid" should be afraid of a Zhiguli car running a red light), the Macedonian champion played its "golden match" against Medny Vsadnik in the fifth round.

Dominguez, Medny Vsadnik (2752) – Andreikin, Alkaloid (2736)
Round 5



White's position is alarming, and Leinier could have thought about how to complicate the game: 35.Bxa6!? c5 36.Nxe6 fxe6 37.Bc4 (37.Bf1? Nd5 loses) 37...Nxg2 38.Qd3 d5 39.Rxh1! Rxh1+ 40.Rd1 Nf4 41.Qd2 Rxd1+ 42.Qxd1 Kc7! (42...dxc4 43.Qd8+ Ka7 44.Qa5+). I read on ChessPro about this position that White was having trouble defending it (queen+knight!), while Western reporters suggested 43.Bb5 with a computer evaluation -0.10 and said it was a dead draw! Whom should I believe?

However, the choice between "to beat or not to beat" was very simple here, as Dominguez immediately faced a hail of blows in the game.

35...Nd5 36.Qd3 Nb4 37.Qe3 Nd5 38.Qd3 Nb4 39.Qe3 Qa5! 40.a4 


After gaining some time for thinking before the control (I haven't seen the old Soviet rule being applied for a long time!), Dmitry made a decisive strike.

41.exd5 Rxd2 42.Rxd2

The endgame 42.Qxd2 Qxd2 43.Rxd2 Rxf1+ 44.Kb2 Bxd5 is hopeless.

42...Rxf1+ 43.Ka2?

43.Kb2 Qxd5 would have been more resilient, and although this position is easy to assess according to master Mnatsakanian, White could have played for a little longer here. The king's ill-advised retreat jeopardizes the pawns a4 and f3.

43...Bxd5 44.Kb2 Bxf3 45.Qd3 Be4 White resigned.

Fedoseev, Medny Vsadnik (2673) – Kryvoruchko, Alkaloid (2702)
Round 5


The bishop is a very strong piece, and it might seem that White is running no risk. But we must consider the potential strength of the "reserve passer" b3, which Yuriy used ingeniously.  

46…Ne8!! 47.Ke6?

The knight's determined retreat could have resulted in a just as determined retreat of the white king: 47.Kc4! Kxg4 48.Kxb3 f5 49.Kc4 f4 50.b4 Nd6+ 51.Kd5 – the bishop is willing to be sacrificed for the sake of the pawn, and the knight doesn't like those a-file passers...

47...Kxg4 48.Kd7 f5 49.Kxe8

49.Bd4 f4 50.Kxe8 b6 51.Kd7 c5 52.Bxc5 bxc5 53.a5 c4 54.a6 c3 would have continued the agony. In the resulting queen endgame, the white king is positioned too badly and some extra "obstacles" remain on the board that prevent the weaker side's queen from checking and pinning the opponent's pieces close to the promotion square.

49...c5!, and the play on the opposite flanks gave Alkaloid's Ukrainian legionnaire a full point.

In the final rounds, the Macedonian club had combative draws against Siberia and ShSM and passed through its Russian opponents with flying colors, finishing in first place! Congratulations to the team with such a rich name, and particularly to my namesakes, Andreikin and Jakovenko! 

Your ship will sail in the Euro Cup depending on how you name it.

Results. 1. Alkaloid (Macedonia) – 12, 2. Medny Vsadnik (St. Petersburg), 3. ShSM Legacy Square (Moscow), 4. Ashdod (Israel), 5. Odlar Yurdu (Azerbaijan), 6. Siberia (Novosibirsk) – 11 each, 7-11. Zhiguli (Samara region), Novy Bor (Czech Republic), VSK (Serbia), Zurich (Switzerland), Ladya (Kazan) - 10 each.

6. Russia also has a medal in the women's tournament: Ugra took the third place.

To conclude, a few words about the contest among fair ladies. The winner was the Monaco superclub (Hou Yifan, the Muzychuk sisters, Cramling, Skripchenko), followed by the key members of the Georgian national team (Dzagnidze, Batsiashvili, Khotenashvili, Melia, Mikadze). The bronze went to Ugra from Khanty-Mansiysk ― congratulations to Anna Ushenina, Natalija Pogonina, Lilit Mkrtchian, Marina Nechaeva, Baira Kovanova, and their coach Pavel Lobach. On the whole, the third place was decided between the Yugra players and their compatriots, but in the end the players from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kazan were lower in the tournament table. 

Ugra comes up to the mark

To be honest, I was surprised by ShSM's experimental composition. Where is Alexandra Kosteniuk? Where is Valentina Gunina? Where is Olga Girya? Together with Ian Nepomniachtchi's absence, this gives some unhappy thoughts. It appears that Moscow is running out of money! For example, I recently played for a team of journalists in the Moscow rapid and blitz championships. Think about the following: the prizes there were 50% of the tournament fees. 

If you haven't paid attention, I repeat: THE PRIZE FUND OF THE OFFICIAL MOSCOW CHAMPIONSHIP STOOD AT 50% OF THE TOURNAMENT FEES. In Moscow! Clearly, Moscow has run out of money. It seems that only people full of enthusiasm are still playing there. Fortunately, Russia may be running out of money, but it will never run out of such people.

To conclude, all the games of the report are in our viewer.

Official website photos