15 April 2016

Cardboard Breakwaters

The starting rounds of the V.Sergievsky Memorial in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

The Vladimir Sergievsky Memorial is venued in one of the most spacious halls of the Ice Stadium “Cheboksary-Arena”. Prior to the start of round one, the tournament participants and guests were welcomed by Michael Ignatiev, the head of the Chuvash Republic. In a brief and energetic speech he wished success to every professional and amateur of chess and concluded it by making the first symbolic move in the game of the tournament rating favorite Sergei Rublevsky. 1.е2-е4!

The starting line has been toed by 157 participants, including 22 grandmasters - eight out of whom used to be the Russian Champions of different years. The top ten looks very impressive indeed:  Rublevsky, Khismatullin, Alekseev, Lysyj, Morozevich, Dreev, Motylev, Kobalia, Volkov, and Predke. While as many as 25 players are rated above 2400, there are only six players in the range between 2300 and 2400, which vividly testifies as to the substantial gap between the favorite group and the rest of the field. Therefore, the initial two rounds didn’t bring much in the way of surprises, while round three gave start to hobnobbing between masters and grandmasters. 

Rublevsky – Papin 
Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3

With the black pawn committed to e6 the transposition into the Alapin system is rather unpleasant for Black.

3…Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.Bc4 d6 6.d4 cxd4 7.cxd4 Be7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Qe2 b6 10.Rd1 Bb7 11.Bxd5!?

This line is currently subject to extensive debating.


Better is 11...Bxd5 12.Nc3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 d5 14.Qg4 f5 15.exf6 Rxf6 16.Bf4 Nc6 17.Rac1 Qd7 18.Ne2, as used to be played as White by the Italian grandmaster Michele Godena on numerous occasions. Following this move the structure starts bearing close resemblance to the famous game Botvinnik - Alekhine in which White scored a convincing victory.

12.Nc3 Na6 13.Nb5! Nc7 14.Nxc7 Qxc7 15.Bg5!

White trades off all “irrelevant” pieces and ends up in a position with a good knight versus a bad bishop.


Probably better is 15...Bxg5 16.Nxg5 dxe5 17.dxe5 Rac8 18.Nf3 Rfe8, when the bishop’s return into the game is not out of the question yet, even though at the cost of the d5-pawn. 

16.Rac1 Qd7 17.Bxe7 Rxe7 18.Qd3 h6 19.Qa3!

This is a somewhat unexpected, but strong manoeuvre nonetheless: the struggle revolves around control over the dark squares.

19…Re6 20.exd6 Rxd6 21.Ne5 Qd8 22.Rc3 Re6 23.Rdc1 f6 24.Nd3

This is perhaps the only inaccuracy committed by White in this game. 24.Ng4! would have retained all benefits of White’s position, whereas 24…Re4 25.Ne3 Rxd4 would have been met by 26.Rc7.


The passive type of defense is doomed, and Black should have sought his counter chances through 24...Re4! In this position after 25.Rc7 Rc8! White cannot take the bishop - 26.Rxb7?? in view of Rxc1+ 27.Nxc1 Re1#. Should White play 26.Rxc8 Bxc8 27.Qxa7, then 27…Bf5 and Black is close to equality.

25.h4 Kh7 26.Nf4 Re4

Now it is too late as White is in time to hook up to the g7-square.

27.Nh5 Re7

Losing is 27...Rxd4 in view of 28.Rc7 Rd1+ 29.Kh2! Rxc1 30.Rxg7+ Kh8 31.Qg3 Qb8 32.f4 and Black gets mated shortly after. 

28.Rg3 Bc8 29.Qd3+ f5 30.Qf3 a5 31.Qf4

Rublevsky handles the game in a classic style by feeling his way through the weakened dark squares.  The game could have been decided on the spot using tactical means: 31.Nxg7! Rxg7 32.Rxg7+ Kxg7 33.Qg3+ Kf7 34.Rc7+ with decisive threats. For example: 34…Bd7 35.Qd6 Ke8 36.Qg6+ Kf8 37.Qxh6+ Ke7 38.Qg7+ Ke8 39.Rc1 etc.

31...Bd7 32.Rc7

More precise would be 32.Qd6 Qf8 33.Kh2, which transposes into the position that happened in the game. 


More stubborn is 32...Rc8, although after 33.Rb7 Rc6 34.Re3 Black is not to be envied anyway.

33.Kh2 Rc8 34.Qd6 Rxc7

35.Rxg7+! Qxg7 36.Nxg7 Bc8 37.Ne8 Black resigns.

Bezgodov – Lysyj 
French Defense

The 2014 Russian Champion, Igor Lysyj, is a renowned French Defense expert. In this game, however, it became clear that he either forgot something or got it otherwise wrong, having turned into a co-author of a beautiful short game as a result of that.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 0–0 8.Qd2 b6 9.0–0–0 Bb7 10.Bd3 Nd7 11.h4 Be7 12.Qf4


The famous game Nepomniachtchi  – Salgado, played in 2015 in Reykjavik, saw Black almost arriving at equality after 12...Nf6 13.Nxf6+ Bxf6 14.Ng5 h6 15.Nh7 Re8 16.Nxf6+ Qxf6 17.Qxf6 gxf6 18.Rh3 Kf8, even though he still failed to make a draw after all.

13.Neg5 Nf6 14.Ne5 c5 15.Rh3 cxd4

If you chose to trust Megabase, a draw was agreed at this point in the Pozo - Nogueiras encounter, played in Cuba in 2016. This is a somewhat strange decision, especially since White’s position looks so overwhelming.  The 1993 Russian Champion Alexei Bezgodov goes on pressurizing his opponent on the kingside. 

16.Rg3 Qc7

Although this move seems losing by force, what other alternatives are there to be offered Black instead? 16...h6 is highly unpleasantly met by the unhurried move 17.Re1, while 16...Qe8 is answered by the straightforward 17.h5.


White is in train for preparing the subsequent combination. The immediate 17.Nxh7 Nxh7 18.Qh6 fails to Bg5+ (with check!), although yet another shot was available at this moment: 17.Bxh7+! Nxh7 18.Ngxf7, and Black’s defenses collapse. 


Following the path of least resistance. Black would not have remained without defensive resources after 17...g6 18.Nxe6 Qd6! 19.Nxf8 Rxf8 – even though Black is down an exchange, his pieces are active, whereas White needs to spend a couple of tempi to regroup his forces. 

18.Nxh7! Nxh7 19.Qh6 Black resigns. 

Morozevich – Glek

This is yet another French Defense encounter. Black has lined up all his pawns along the light squares - a construction resembling breakwaters, but the wave of white pawns brings these fragile structures down.

21.g4! h4 22.Ne1 Qd7 23.f4 c5 24.dxc5 Bxc5 25.Nf3 Ng8 26.Rhf1 Ne7 27.Ng5 Nc6 28.f5!

If my memory serves me right, it was Nimzowitsch who was very vivid in his description of a huge amount of inner energy released by pawns rushing forward.

28…Raf8 29.fxe6 fxe6

It might look as if Black features a definite amount of counterplay thanks to the double-attack on the e5-pawn, but this is just an illusion.

30.Rf6! Rxf6

30...Nd8 can be simply answered by taking a pawn 31.Bxg6. The e6-pawn can be surrendered neither, therefore Black is bound to trade off a pair of rooks.

31.exf6 e5 32.Bxg6 Kb6 33.Bf5 Qd6 34.Ne4! Qd8 35.g5 d4 36.g6 Black resigns.

Khismatullin – Evdokimov

The mighty Denis Khismatullin would outplay his opponents in endgames.

All White’s pieces are aimed towards the queenside, which becomes the arena of decisive battles. 

21.Na5! Rxc1 22.Rxc1 Rd7 23.Rc8+ Kf7 24.Rb8 b5 25.Ra8 Nc7

More stubborn would be 25...e5 26.Bb2 Nc7, when White at least needs to withdraw one of his bishops from its active position.

26.Ra7 Bd6


The white rook is followed by other pieces infiltrating the black camp.

27…Re7 28.Nb7! Be5 29.Bc5 h5 30.f4 Bb2 31.Nd8+ Kf8 32.Rxc7 Black resigns.

Nozdrachev – Motylev

It seemed for a long time that there was no avoiding the “bishop and knight versus king” ending for Black, in which Alexander would be in need of coming up with the «W-letter» knight manoeuvre with only incremented seconds on his clock. However, luckily for him the opponent answered 62...Nd2+ by sidestepping his king into the wrong direction – 63.Ke1, and after 63...Be2! White had to resign. In order to avoid getting mated White needs to play 64.f3, but following 64…Nxf3+ 65.Rxf3 Bxf3 Black ends up in a position with a bishop pair rather than with a knight and a bishop.

Timofeev – Volkov

Although White has succeeded in winning two pawns in the course of a tense struggle, the position remains very sharp. White needs to give one pawn back so as to consolidate his position: 30.Nf4! Bxf4 31.exf4 Qh2+ 32.Kf1 Qxf4 (weaker is 32...Qh1+ 33.Ke2 Qxg2 34.Rd8+ Kg7 35.Qc3+ f6 36.Rxg8+ Kxg8 37.Qc4+ Kh8 38.Qe6) 33.Qd3 Rg6 34.Qd8+ Kg7 35.Qd4+ Kg8 36.Ng3 Ne3+!? 37.Kg1 with reasonable winning chances.

Instead, there followed a “blunder of the day”: 30.Rd7?? Nxe3! 31.fxe3 Qe1#.

Gunina – Alekseev

This game turned into a first mini-sensation of the tournament:  one of the Elo-favorites suffered a defeat.  However, he was knocked down by the Olympiad Champion, which is not as humiliating as that.

White has just finished treating her opponent’s king to a half dozen of checks, having improved on the position of her queen and now threatening to advance the passed pawn. 

75.a4 Qb6+

It’s Black’s turn to annoy his opponent with checks. 

76.Ka3 Qc5+ 77.Kb3 Qb6+ 78.Kc3 Qa5+ 79.Kd3 h5

The right to give checks changes hands once again. Valentina walks along the trodden path: she first improves her queen position and follows it up with advancing her pawn.

80.Qc4+ Ke7 81.Qb5! Qa8 82.Qg5+ Ke6 83.a5 Qa6+ 84.Ke3 Qa7+ 85.Ke2 Qa6+ 86.Kf2

Having descended down the board, as if stepping down a ladder, the king has found a safe harbor from being subjected to further checks. 


This is a fatal error committed with only seconds on the clock. Further resistance was to be maintained by 86...Kd7, when White is unlikely able to take the last remaining black pawn since after 87.Qxh5 Qf6+ Black is most likely to be in possession of the perpetual check.

87.Qe3+! Black resigns.

After the end of four rounds, Denis Khismatullin, Alexander Motylev and Sergey Volkov remain undefeated. Another four rounds are scheduled on Tuesday.