23 December 2016

Catching on a Virus of Draws

Round One of the Nutcracker in the review of Eteri Kublashvili.

The starting round of the generation tournament “Nutcracker”, taking place in the Central House of Chess these days, seemed to promise a lot in terms of other than draw games, but, alas, those expectations have never materialized. As was aptly noted by Sergey Shipov, the players acted as if succumbed to a virus of draws. Out of eight games of the match between “Kings” with “Princes” and “Queens” with “Princesses” only two resulted in a victory of either side.

Move one in the Dubov - Shirov game was made by Oleg Skvortsov, one of the tournament sponsors. Daniil confidently voted for 1.e4, and here we go.

Grigoriy Oparin’s victory over Alexei Dreev allowed “Princes” taking an early lead in the race. The 2016 Higher League winner confidently converted his being first player edge in the English Opening, where queens were exchanged as early as move seven.

Grigoriy Oparin highlighted Alexei Dreev’s rather restricted opening repertoire, which enabled him to narrow down his preparation to some very specific lines. In his turn, Black spent lots of time trying to solve his opening problems only to find himself in a passive defensive stance nonetheless.

Oparin – Dreev

Black has concrete problems defending queenside pawns, while in Oparin’s view the following Dreev’s move has most likely to do with some sort of a blunder. 15…b6? 16. Nd4 Nb8 17. Bf4 Nd7 18. Nxc6 Nxc6 19. Rxd7 – the fall of the first pawn was soon followed by that of the second. At the stage of conversion Black managed to put up some fight when it came to time trouble, but on move 41 Alexey Dreev had to acknowledge his defeat.

Alexander Morozevich could have avenged the “Kings” in his game against Vladimir Fedoseev. I remember the latter saying in Novosibirsk that he was very happy when facing the Caro-Kann defense, whereas today he decided to go for it as Black himself. We have yet to know Alexander Morozevich’s attitude towards his opponent’s choice, but Alexander’s out of the opening position looked very promising anyway. A subtle and ingenious play with same-side castled kings allowed White launching hostilities against the opponent’s king. On move 29 Fedoseev lashed out with an overly sharp move as a result of his unwillingness to defend passively, overlooking White’s nice-looking rejoinder.

Morozevich – Fedoseev

Black’s hurried 29…Rc3? was ingeniously met by 30.Ra8! to leave Black down a pawn. 

30…Bxg5 31. Rxf8+ Kxf8 32. hxg5 Qa7 33. Bxg6.

Fedoseev went on to demonstrate wonders of creative play and escaped in a queen ending down a pawn, in which Morozevich allowed the trade of queens at a certain moment, apparently underestimating Black’s defensive resources in the resulting pawn ending. Soon the opponents had new queens, and even though White was still up a pawn he was unable to sidestep a draw by perpetual.

Daniil Dubov and Alexei Shirov’s duel was rich in content. They handled the opening into one of the Giuoco Piano lines with White sacrificing a pawn. The middlegame was a double-edged position with excellent compensation for the missing material for White. Dubov’s active play resulted in restoring material balance and putting his opponent up against certain problems in a rook ending with opposite-colored bishops. Nevertheless, the Muscovite failed to convert his edge into something tangible, although his e-passer advanced to the sixth rank looked very menacing indeed. The opponents agreed to a draw after move 49.

In the game of Boris Gelfand and Vladislav Artemiev there was exchanged not a single pawn! The Slav proved a real stronghold, some sort of a Black Castle, which neither side managed to break into, although the first player, the Israeli grandmaster, was persistent in searching for a crack in the opponent’s structure. However, the game ended in a draw.

It is to be recalled that a classical game victory counts for 2 points and a draw for 1 point. Therefore, round one has Princes leading with a 5-3 score.

The more experienced generation took its own back owing to Queens outplaying Princesses by the same score.

The overall victory of Queens was secured by Elena Zaiatz defeating Aleksandra Dimitrova in Ruy Lopez as Black.

Dimitrova – Zaiatz

Having played 17. a5? Aleksandra overlooked the central blow: 17…Nxd5! 18. exd5 e4 19. Ra2 exf3 20. Qxf3 Re8 – even though the material balance is level, only Black benefited from opening up of the position as her successfully regrouped pieces started delivering the utmost level of performance, upon which the e-file was taken control of to become the main highway of Black’s active play. Elena’s precise actions converted her edge into a full point. 

Within a hair of destruction was Ekaterina Kovalevskaya, playing as Black against Aleksandra Maltsevskaya. White carried out a splendid offensive against the king, but succumbed to a temptation of winning the queen when winning the game was so close at hand.

Maltsevskaya - Kovalevskaya

Both 30. Qh6!, and a less obvious 30. Bxg6! would have immediately crushed Black’s position. However, Aleksandra opted for 30. Rf8+?, and after 30…Qxf8 31. Nxf8 Kxf8 it was already her turn to bail out by perpetual.

Galina Strutinskaya salvaged a difficult position against Elizaveta Solozhenkina and vice versa Alisa Galliamova could not convert her edge against Polina Shuvalova.

Round One is 5-3 in Queens’ favor.

Let me remind you that the Russian language stream is provided by Sergey Shipov and that in English by Evgeny Miroshnichenko. Not a few people came to listen to the commentators, watch the games live and simply get in touch with each other. We look forward to full house on Sunday!

Round two parings:

“Kings” - “Princes”

Morozevich - Oparin, Gelfand - Dubov, Fedoseev - Dreev, Artemiev - Shirov

“Queens” - “Princesses”

Strutinskaya - Maltsevskaya, Galliamova - Dimitrova, Solozhenkina - Kovalevskaya, Shuvalova - Zaiatz.

The event is organized by the Russian Chess Federation, Chess Creativity Support Foundation “Ladya”, and the entrepreneur Oleg Skvortsov, who organizes the traditional Supertournament in Zurich.