23 September 2019

Commemorative Year of Maestro Petrov

Dmitry Kryakvin’s report about Rounds 7-9 of the Women's FIDE Grand-Prix in Skolkovo 

As the science city starts feeling the hot breath of the final round with prizes and qualification points at stake, the ladies have set to work with renewed vigor. It is renewed in the literal and figurative senses since the decisive ratio has increased from two to four games.

We wrapped up the previous report with a question if anyone was going to stop the world champion. Indeed, a mighty Chinese's score was perfect, and her performance that of a world champion. In round seven, she defeated the hero of the first few rounds.


Gunina – Ju Wenjun

Is is very naive to think that Gunina was unaware of 27.Nf5! Rxd2 28.Ne7+ Kh8 29.Nxc8 Rxd1+ 30.Rxd1 Nc5 (it is worth keeping the pawn as opposed to 30...Rxc8 31.Rxd7 Rb8 32.Rxf7 b5 33.Rf3) 31.Nd6 Kg8 32.Rb1 Rb8 33.e5, and White makes a draw thanks to her active pieces. The Russian must have thought that the b7-pawn is sooner won back with queens on the board, underestimating a subtle regrouping of the opponent’s army.

27.Rac1?! Qd8 28.Qb4 Ne5!

Instead, 28...Qb6?! 29.Qxb6 Nxb6 30.Nb5 gives White certain drawing chances.

29.Kg2 Rd7! 30.Qc5

The pin along the d-file is dangerous, and care should be taken in advance to neutralize it with 30.Rd2.

30...Ng6 31.f4?!

The queen on c5 is misplaced as it is subject to b7-b6. In connection with this, 31.Qa7! was a nice idea to meet 31…b6? with 32.Nхe6! Pawns do not move backward, and the white king’s position is seriously compromised. Two weaknesses are usually enough for a win.

31...h6 32.Rc3 b6 33.Qb4 Qa8! 34.Re1 Rfd8



35.Nf3 would have allowed staying in the game, whereas the text leaves the king without defenders.

35...Qa2+ 36.Kh3 Rd2 37.Rh1 Nxf4+! 38.Kg4

38.gxf4 R8d3+ 39.Rxd3 Rxd3+ 40.Kh4 Qf2+ leads to checkmate, and the alternatives are no better.

38...Nd3 39.Qe7 Nf2+ 40.Kf3 Nxh1, and White resigned in view of a checkmate after 41.Nxd8 Rf2+ 42.Kg4 Qe2+.  

However, in the next round Gunina indirectly influenced the course of the tournament race. She was to meet Kateryna Lagno, who would face the Chinese player in the following round. Before that, Lagno alternated calm draws with high-class victories, but Gunina managed to annoy her national teammate seriously.

Gunina – Lagno



A fatal blunder. A draw is reached by 76...Re5+! 77.Kd4  

77.Kf2 Rf5+ 78.Kg1 h3 is an easy draw, whereas 77.Kd3 gives Black an option to avoid what happened in the game via 77…Rd5+! 78.Kc3 (78.Ke4 Rd2=) 78...Kg3 79.Rb2 Rf5 80.b5 Rf2 81.Rxf2 Kxf2 82.b6 Kxg2 83.b7 h3 84.b8Q h2, with a draw.  

77...Re2 78.b5 Rxg2 79.b6 Kf3 80.Rb3+ Kf4 81.b7 Rg8 82.b8Q+ Rxb8 83.Rxb8 h3 84.Rh8 Kg3 85.Ke3 Kg2= (85...h2 86.Rg8+ Kh3 87.Kf2 is losing). 

77.Rb2 Re5+ 78.Kd4 Rf5 79.b5 Rf2 80.Rxf2 Kxf2 81.b6 Kxg2 82.b7 h3 83.b8Q h2

Now the white king is a step closer to the theater of action, which is of paramount importance.

84.Qb7+ Kg1 85.Qb1+ Kg2 86.Qc2+ Kg1 87.Ke3 Black resigns as she is checkmated.  

It has brought to memory yet another standoff of the rook vs. the h-pawn, which happened in one of the decisive games of the Candidates tournament in Kazan.  


Goryachkina – Lagno

Kazan 2019


54.Kd2 h3?

Saving the day is 54...c3+! 55.Ke3 (55.Kxc3 h3; 55.Ke1 h3 56.Kf1 h2) 55...c2 56.Rg8+ Kh2 57.Rc8 Kg3 58.Rxc2 h3, with a draw.

55.Ke3 h2

55...Kg2 56.Ke2 c3 57.Rg8+ Kh2 58.Kf1 c2 59.Rc8 Kg3 60.Kg1 is no longer working for Black.

56.Rg8+ Kh3 57.Kf2 h1N+

Although the knight is misplaced and White needs time to do away with the c-pawn, Black cannot profit from this delay.

58.Kf3 Kh2 59.Rh8+ Kg1 60.Rc8 Nf2 61.Rxc4 Nd3

61...Nh3 62.Kg3 loses immediately.

62.Ke3 Ne5 63.Re4 Nc6 64.Re6, and Goryachkina's hunting down the knight was deft and confident. There is much in common between these two endings.  

It was definitely something for Lagno to get angry about as a chess player! The followup of one of the strongest chess players in the world was a literal annihilation of the champion's defenses.

Lagno – Ju Wenjun

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bf5 7.0–0 Be7 8.Re1 0–0 9.c4 Nc6 10.cxd5 Qxd5 11.Nc3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Bxd3 13.Qxd3 Rfe8 14.Bf4 Bd6

This event has already seen the Chinese player make a confident draw with 15.c4 Qh5 16.Bg3 b6 17.Re4 Bxg3 18.hxg3 Rxe4 19.Qxe4 Qg6 20.Qf4 Qd6 21.Qe4 Qg6 22.Qf4 Qd6 23.Qe4 Qg6, as in Paehtz - Ju Wenjun.


This stronger move was first employed in Iljiushenok – Iljin, 2018.

15...g6 16.Ne4 Re6

The Kazan GM opted for 16...Kg7, and the female world champion preferred to have the f6-square covered with the rook.

17.Nxd6 cxd6 18.Rxe6 fxe6 19.Rb1 b6


Still following her home analysis, Lagno had 1h 33min on her clock! This is when the Chinese athlete used some 20 minutes to think the position over; on the one hand, you want do deal with the a2-pawn, on the other hand, 20...e5 21.Bh6 Qxa2 22.Re1 Re8 23.f4 Qd5 24.fxe5 dxe5 25.h5 e4 26.hxg6 hxg6 27.Qg3 looks dubious for Black. The white bishop is ready to help the white queen weave a mating net around the exposed black king.

20…Rf8 21.Bh6 Qf5 22.Qf1!

This subtle move is also part of the home prep as the queen does a double job of defending the f2-pawn and the rook.

22…Rc8 23.Re1 e5

It was Lagno's turn to delve into the position, and she found a subtle queen pendulum-like maneuverer to shake Black's defenses.

24.Qa6! Qd7 25.Qd3 Re8 26.Qf3 Nd8 27.dxe5



This move gives Black real problems. This square is best reserved for the knight. Therefore, 27...Qe6 was better, smoking the white bishop out with the following move.

28.Qg4! dxe5

28...Rxe5 29.Rxe5 dxe5 30.Qc8 Qe8 31.Bg5 is losing.

29.Rd1 Ne6?

Black is in for hardships in the ending - 29...Qe6 30.Qxe6+ Nxe6 31.Rd7 Rc8 32.Rxa7 Rxc3 33.Rb7 or 33.Ra8+ Kf7 34.Rh8, even more so with the queens on the board.

30.Qa4! Nc5 31.Qc6 Rb8 32.Rd5! Qe7

Black's forces are disorganized: 32...Ne4 33.f3 Nf6 34.Rd6 Ne8 35.Rd7, and two most powerful pawn levers end up crushing Black's defenses.

33.h5 gxh5

33...g5 34.Rd6 Kh8 35.Rf6 brings no relief either.

34.f4! Qb7

Or 34...exf4 35.Rg5+, winning.

35.Qf6 Qf7 36.Rd8+ Black resigns. This is a brilliant victory, and, in my opinion, the best game of the tournament so far!

Having scored three wins in a row, this failure of the Chinese played into Humpy Koneru's hands as it enabled her to take over the lead.

Koneru – Stefanova


32.Rg5+ Kh6??

It loses immediately. Black needed to fight for a draw with 32...Bg6 33.Qc5 (after 33.Re5 Qf6 34.Rxe7+ Qxe7 35.Rd7 Qf7 36.Rxf7+ Rxf7 it is a fortress) 33...Rf5 (less reliable is 33...Rf4 34.Re5 Rf5, losing the е7-pawn) 34.Qd4+ Qf6 35.Rxg4 Qxd4 36.Rgxd4 e5, and, with a pawn for the exchange, Black has good chances to escape by advancing her pawn to e4 to be reliably protected by the g6-bishop.

33.Rh5+ Kg7 34.Qg5+ Qg6

34...Bg6 35.Qh6+ Kf6 36.Rf8+ is an immediate resigns.

35.Qxe7+ Rf7 36.Qe5+ Qf6

36...Rf6 37.Rg5, winning a queen.

37.Qxe4 g3+ 38.Kh3 Qxd8 39.Rxh7+ Kg8

There is no saving the game now: 39...Kf8 40.Rh8+ or 39...Kf6 40.Qf4+.

40.Qg6+ Black resigns.  

Paehtz – Koneru was the same line of the Petroff Defense as Lagno – Ju Wenjun with the only exception that Koneru opted for a different move order, actually favored by the Chinese national team players!

Paehtz – Koneru  

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bf5 7.0–0 Be7 8.Re1 0–0 9.c4 Nc6 10.cxd5 Qxd5 11.Nc3 Nxc3 12.bxc3

12…Rae8 13.Bf4 Bd8 14.c4 Qd7 15.Bxf5 Qxf5 16.Be3 Bf6 17.Rb1 b6 18.Qa4 Qd7 19.Rbd1 Re7 20.Kf1 h6 21.d5 Na5 22.Qxd7 Rxd7 23.Rc1 c6 24.dxc6 Nxc6

Black has solved her opening problems, and had Paehtz played 25.Red1 Rfd8 26.Rхd7 Rхd7 27.a4, followed by c4-с5, a draw would have been agreed soon after.

25.c5? b5! 26.Red1 Rfd8 27.Rxd7 Rxd7 28.Nd2 Rd3

The c5-pawn proves a liability rather than an asset! It is soon that the black king approaches her, like a predatory spider to a butterfly caught in his web.

29.Rb1 a6 30.Nb3 Kf8 31.Ke2 Rd5 32.Rc1 Ke7 33.Nd2 Nb4! 34.a3 Nc6

An important nuance: the bishop is threatening to land on b2.

35.Nb1 Kd7 36.Nc3 Bxc3! 37.Rxc3 Ne5 38.h3 Kc6 39.g4 Nc4, and Black had no problems pressing her edge home. A textbook conversion!  

Seeing a great number of games opened with the Petrov’s Defence at the tournament, the audience started jokingly wondering if it was all to honor the memory of the first national maestro Alexander Petrov? Indeed, the Western literature names the Russian game the Petroff Defense, and FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich has recently sent a congratulatory message to Pskov to the compatriots of our celebrated maestro.  

Having defeated Valentina Gunina, Humpy Koneru is now first with 7 of 9! The world champion is with 6.5, while Aleksandra Goryachkina and Kateryna Lagno have 6 and 5.5 points respectively. Goryachkina is obviously trying to avoid revealing her opening preparation and maximum potential. Her match with Ju Wenjun has already been announced to take place in January (half of it will be held in China and half in Vladivostok of Russia). There is a difficult battle ahead, which needs energy and fresh ideas, but Goryachkina converts his scoring opportunities without fail nonetheless.

Kosteniuk – Goryachkina


White has compensation for the missing pawn, and it is anybody’s game after 25.Bg5; however...

25.Rc3? d4! 26.Rxc5

26.Rb4 fails to 26…Bc6.

26...bxc5 27.Bg5 Rxg5 28.hxg5 Qxg5, and Black went on to convert her two-pawn superiority.  

Despite such fatal blows, the ex-world champion has delivered a number of games that can serve as real examples for calculation training in complex positions.

Kashlinskaya – Kosteniuk

What a position! White is banking on her queenside pawns, active king and an attacking tandem of queen and knight, and after 48...Qe5+ 49.Qxe5+ dxe5+ 50.Kxe5 Rb8 51.Nf7+ Kg8 52.Nd6 there is nothing to fear. Kosteniuk tries to bypass it by proving that king’s active position has its cons as well.

48...Qc4+! 49.Kf3 Qg8 50.Qxa7!?

Kashlinskaya has just sacrificed the exchange, and is now carried away with giving up even more. Rough dynamic equality, rich in complex struggle, is reached by 50.b6 h6 (50...axb6 51.a7) 51.Ne6 Rf7 52.Qxd6 axb6 53.Nf4 or 50.Kf2 h6 51.Qxd6 Qa2+ 52.Kg3 Qb3+ 53.Nf3 Qg8+ (53...Rg8+ 54.Kh3) 54.Kf2.

50...Qxg5 51.Qd4+ Kg8 52.a7

It is hard to set the connected passers in motion with your king unsafe. The following line is nice: 52.Qd5+! Kg7 53.Qd4+ Kf7 54.a7 Qd8 55.Qd5+ Ke7 56.b6 Qc8 57.h3! (57.b7? Qc3+ 58.Kf2 Qb2+ 59.Kg3 Qa3+ is losing) 57...f4 (57...Kd7 58.Kg3) 58.Qe4+ Kd7 59.b7 Qc3+ 60.Ke2 Qb2+ 61.Kd3! Qa3+ 62.Kc4 Qxa7 63.Qxh7+ Kc6 64.Qe4+ Kb6 65.Qd4+ Kxb7 66.Qg7+, and only the king’s march forward helped to deliver a perpet!

52...Qh5+! 53.Kf2

53.Kg3 fails to 53...f4+.

53...Qf7 54.b6 Qa2+ 


This is a decisive mistake. Instead, 55.Kg1 Qb1+ 56.Kf2 should have been preferred as Black is far from capable of dealing with powerful white passers.

55...f4+ 56.Kf3

In the case of 56.Kh3, Kosteniuk would have had to come up with the most spectacular 56…Qe6+ 57.Kh4 h5! 58.Qd1 Qe7+ 59.Kh3 Qd7+ 60.Kh4 Qd8+ 61.Kh3 Kg7! 62.Qd4+ Kh6, and White is unable to save pawns and protect the king at the same time. In the game, the ex-champion had far less difficulties.

56...Re8! 57.Qxd6

Or 57.b7 Qb3+.

57...Qe2+ 58.Kxf4 Re4+ 59.Kg5 Qg4+, and White resigned because of an inevitable checkmate.  

However, Kashlinskaya managed to shine yet another time. 3.5 out of 9 is no reason for discouragement (you can always slam the door in the final round and finish with the fifty percent score), and I am confident that in the following tournaments of the series the European champion will perform way better.

Kashlinskaya – Cramling


Black has a simple 40...Re6, and the engine gives а tricky 40...Ne2+ 41.Kf1 Be5 42.Bxe5 Nc1, intending 43.Qb1? Qxh4 44.Kg1 Rxe5 45.Qxc1 Rh5-+; however, a legendary Swedish abandons the minor en prise…

40...Bxh4? 41.Qxc3 Bf6 42.Qc6 Be5 43.g3 Qg4 44.Qd5 Black resigns.  

With two decisive rounds ahead, our interest is focused, first of all, on the face-to-face combat between the champion and the runner-up! Ekaterina Lagno, in turn, will attack Humpy Koneru as White, and the fate of the tournament will be decided in head-to-head fights of the leaders.