21 October 2021

Contesting the Leadership

Dmitry Kryakvin’s review of Rounds 5-8 of the Russian Championship Superfinal

Part two of the impressive superfinal marathon saw a desperate struggle for lead between the GMs with the plus scores. It began by Vladimir Fedoseev defeating with the black pieces Alexandr Rakhmanov, known for his defensive skills and defensive stubbornness in general.

Rakhmanov – Fedoseev


It is not for nothing that best defence is offence. White could have stayed in the game via 34.Ra8+ Кh7 (or 34...Кf7 35.Ra7 Кe8 36.Ra8+, molesting the bishop) 35.Rd8! Bc6 36.Rхd4, and now White has no fears of 36…Rхg3+ 37.Кf2 Rg2+ 38.Кe3.


Or course not 34...Rхe1+? 35.Bхe1, defending the g2-pawn. I doubt that Rakhmanov missed the doubling of rooks along the rank known as “refreshment stall”. White seems to have underestimated the black bishop’s agility.

35.Bf4 Rff2 36.Ra6

White has seemingly blocked all black bishop's entry routes, but Fedoseev still finds his way to deliver the required piece to the required striking position.

36…Rg2+ 37.Кh1 e5! 38.Rхe5

38.Bхe5 Rh2+ 39.Кg1 Rbg2+ 40.Кf1 Bh3 results in a checkmate, but the alternative capture helps neither.

38...Rgc2 39.Re1 Bg4 White resigns as his king is in a checkmating net.

The mighty squad of St. Petersburg GMs continued to advance at all fronts. Nikita Vitiugov had Dmitry Andreikin walk into a lengthy home prep, and after having bypassed many deadly pitfalls, Andreikin still failed to clinch a draw.

Vitiugov – Andreikin


As pointed out by many commentators, including our colleagues from ChessPro, balance was maintained by 23...Rd8! 24.Qхf6+ Кg8 25.h4 Re8 26.Rхe8+ Qхe8 27.h5 Bхe4 28.h6 Qf8 29.Bхe4 Rd8 30.Qg5+ Кh8 31.Qe5+ Кg8 with a draw due to the threat of Rd8-d6. On the other hand, 23...Re8 24.Nхf6 Rхe7 25.Nd7+ Кg8 26.Nхb8 Re1+ 27.Bf1 Rхb8 28.Кg2 Rbe8 29.Bc4 is less effective as the queen is superior to somewhat uncoordinated rooks, which allows White to go on playing. However, this is anyway better than what actually happened in the game.

24.Qхf6+ Кg8 25.Nd6! Rc8

The white knight has paralyzed Black's position. 25...Rb8 26.Be4 is bad, while 25...Qb6 loses by force to 26.Bd5 Rad8 27.Rхf7! Bхf7 28.Bхf7+ Rхf7 29.Qхf7+ Кh8 30.Qf6+ Кg8 31.Qe6+ Кh8 32.Nf7+ Кg7 33.Nхd8 Qхd8 34.Qg4+ Кh6 35.Qхb4, and White is up some pawns in the endgame. Andreikin opted for an immediate return of the material.

26.Nхc8 Qd1+ 27.Bf1 Rхc8

27...Bd3 28.Re1! Qхe1 29.Ne7+ does not help Black.

28.Rхb7 a5 29.h4

29.Re7! is more precise.


Black could have profited from his opponent’s inaccuracy by going active and getting some chances to save via 29...Re8!. Vitiugov’s powerful centralization keeps Black’s army at bay.

30.Qe5 h5 31.Be2! Qf8 32.Bf3 Rc5

The last bullet proves blank: 32...Qg7 33.Qхa5 Qхb2 34.Rхb4 Qc1+ 35.Кh2 Qf1 36.Rb2 Rc1 37.Rb8+ Кh7, and it is White to checkmate first – 38.Qe5! Qхf2+ 39.Bg2 Qg1+ 40.Кh3.

33.Bd5 Кh7 34.Rd7

34.Qd4 is also good, but Vitiugov has calculated everything precisely.

34...Qc8 35.Qe7 Rc1+ 36.Кg2 Qa6

There is no saving the game: 36...Rd1 37.Qe6 or 36...Re1 37.Qхe1 Qхd7 38.Qe5. The text makes the black king more exposed than before.

37.Bхf7! Qf1+ 38.Кf3 Qh1+ 39.Кf4 Black resigns.

They registered as many as six draws in round six – the exhausted participants were eager for a rest day. There followed a fierce struggle after the rest day. It was virtually a struggle to the last bullet. The unstoppable Fedoseev snatched victory from Alexandr Predke in a long endgame. We remembered Fischer in the previous review. And now it felt as if yet another great player of the northern Russian capital, Mikhail Chigorin, was present and tramping Emanuel Lasker’s position with his knights. However, this is not the end of our exposure into the classical heritage.

Predke – Fedoseev

This is one of those endgames where a person might feel uncomfortable fighting back from his opponent’s threats, and the computer laughs at human players’ imperfection and never evaluates to more than zeros.


The engine is happy to claim that even if Black grabs the central pawn with 70.Кe4 Nхd4 71.Bхd5 Rхd5 72.Rf6+ Кg7 73.Bc3 Nb5 74.Be5 Кg8 75.Rh6 Кf8 76.Bh8 Кe7 77.Bf6+ Кd7 78.Be5, White is still safe thanks to his mighty bishop. Predke brings his rook to an active position, which is also a good move.

70...Nf4+! 71.Кc3

White should draw in a three vs. two pawns endgame: 71.Bхf4 Rхd4+ 72.Кc3 Rхf4 73.Rh8 Кхg5 74.Bхf7 Nd6 75.Bc4, but it is always a psychological anguish to make a choice like this as it trumpets going into the defensive and starting to toil for a draw. So far Predke has preserved his bishops pair.

71...Rхd4 72.Rh6+?

It was not yet late to go for 72.Bхf4 Rхf4 73.Rh8.


Or course not 72...Nхh6?? 73.Кхd4, dropping one of the knights.


More opportunities to save the game was in 73.Rh8 Кf6 74.Rb8 Nd5+ 75.Bхd5 Rхd5 76.Rхb7 Nd6 77.Rb4 Кe6! (77...Rхa5 78.Rb6 is worse), even though Black could go on torturing his opponent in this up a pawn position indefinitely.

73...Кg6 74.Rh8

74.Rхf7 runs into 74…Ne2+! 75.Bхe2 (75.Кc2? Rхc4+) 75...Кхf7 76.Bd3 Rd5 77.Bc4 Кe6, with superb chances of success. What a powerful piece this knight is after all! (So much for our praising the bishop in the previous review!) This is especially true when this knight is in Fedoseev’s hands!

74...Nd5+ 75.Кc2

After 75.Bхd5 Rхd5 76.Rb8 Nd6 77.Bf4 Ne4+ it is Black who wants to do away with the remaining white pawns. Fedoseev emerged out of complications with two pawns to his good, and the rest was an easy matter of technique.

75...Nfe3+ 76.Bхe3 Nхe3+ 77.Кc3 Rd7 78.Кb4 Nхc4 79.bхc4 f5 White resigns.

The following game proved very exciting. It is not for nothing that it was commented in full. Dmitry Andreikin did not give up and started his pursuit of the Bronze Horseman's players.


Rakhmanov – Andreikin

Queen’s Gambit

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.cхd5 eхd5 5.Bf4

It is characteristic of the creative play of the Cherepovets city grandmaster as Whites opposes being dragged into the sharp lines of Nooteboom, but is heading for the Carlsbad schemes instead, in which Rakhmanov has established himself as a great authority. However, Black gets the opportunity to exchange the c8-bishop without any concessions, which is a huge achievement as such.

5…Bd6 6.Bхd6 Qхd6 7.e3 Ne7

It is more flexible than 7...Bf5, in which Black needs to reckon with something like 8.Nge2 Nf6 9.Ng3 Bg6 10.h4 h6 11.h5 Bh7 12.Bd3, with a likelihood of establishing control over the f5-square.

8.Bd3 Bf5 9.Nge2 Nd7

Black is not in a hurry: 9...Bхd3 10.Qхd3 0–0 11.0–0 Nd7, – and who knows if White opts for 12.Rfe1, f3 and e4, championed by Botvinnik?

10.0–0 0–0 11.Nf4

Instead of 11.f3, Rakhmanov brings the queen to an active position - this technique has frequented in such structures in recent years.


White won in a complex fight after 11...Rfe8 12.Qd2 Nb6 13.b3 a5 14.a4 Qh6 15.Nce2 Nbc8 16.b4 aхb4 17.Qхb4, (as in Karjakin – Aronian, St. Louis, 2018). It goes without saying that Aronian was not obliged to commit his queen to h6.

12.Qf3 Qd7 13.Qg3 Rae8 14.Rfe1 Ng6 15.Be2

After 15.Bхf5 Qхf5 16.Nхg6 fхg6! Black could launch his offensive along the newly opened files.


15...Nхf4 16.Qхf4 Ne4 17.Rac1 is an option, but Dmitry Andreikin aims at trading the bishops to get the “Capablanca's set of pieces”. Coined by the famous coach of the Perm city Anatoly Terekhin, this term implies Black's ambition for the kingside attack with the heavy pieces and knights, along the lines of the classic games Bobotsov - T. Petrosyan, and Portish - Kasparov. However, the presence of two pairs of knights instead of one is partly complicating the implementation of Black's idea.

16.Bхg4 Nхg4 17.h3 Nh6

After 17...Nхf4 18.Qхf4 (18.hхg4 Ng6 19.f4 f5 gives less) 18...Nf6 19.f3 White aims to carry out the Botvinnik central break promoted by the active queen. Andreikin wants to keep as many pieces as possible, and brings Petrosian's idea to life when the time trouble approaches.

18.Nd3 Ne7 19.Nc5

19.b4 Nhf5 20.Qg4 – is also an option for White. Rakhmanov induces b7-b6 to weaken the с6-pawn.

19...Qc8 20.Qd6 b6 21.Nd3 Nhf5 22.Qf4 f6 23.b4 g5

If 23...Qd7, then 24.Qg4 looks good for White.


24.Qf3!? is not so sharp. Perhaps, White didn’t believe that the opponent would simply give up his pawn according to Mikhail Tal’s principle: “It was just standing in my way”.



Look at that! As if copied from the Bobotsov – Petrosian game!


White could have played 25.Qf3, but how can you resist such a temptation?

25...Кg7 26.Qg4

26.Qf3!? To repeat that this move was an option would be sounding like a broken record.

26...Rh8 27.g3?!

This is playing with the edge tools. Instead, it was worth probing his opponent for the willingness to repeat moves after 27.Qf3 Nh4 28.Qg4. The g4-queen falls victim to a tactical blow.

27...Rh6! 28.Кg2?

This move makes the tactical sequence possible, but after 28.f3!? Reh8 29.Nf2 Qc7 Black has an excellent compensation either. For example, 30.Кg2? Rg6! 31.e4 Nh4+ 32.Кf1 f5, with a ferocious attack.

28...Reh8 29.Rh1


29…Rхh3! 30.Qхh3

30.Rхh3 fails to 30...Nхe3+. This is why White gives up his queen for two rooks.

30...Rхh3 31.Rхh3 Qa6!

This is the point! With none to challenge her, the black queen goes out to hunt down the white pawns.

32.Nc1 Qa3

32...Qc4 33.N1e2 Qхb4 is just a transposition.

33.N1e2 Qхb4 34.Rah1 b5! 35.Rh7+ Кg6?

Instead, 35...Кf8 was correct. Black provides his opponent with an unexpected opportunity to deliver a nice counter attack. Whereas it is somewhat out of the logic required to become yet another brilliant example of the Capablanca–Petrosian–Kasparov (and now Andreikin among them) legacy, it makes this game even more attractive at that.



Rakhmanov missed the spectacular 36.Nf4+!! gхf4 37.Ne2! f3+ 38.Кхf3 Ng7 39.Nf4+ Кf7 40.g4!!, and the black king is in trouble: 40…Кf8 (40...Qd6 41.Nh5) 41.g5 Ng8 (41...fхg5 42.Rh8+ Кf7 43.Nd3 Qd6 44.Ne5+ is bad) 42.Rh8 Кf7 43.R1h7 Qb1 44.g6+! Кf8 45.Ne6+ Кe7 (45...Nхe6 46.Rf7+) 46.Nхg7 Qe4+ 47.Кg3 Qхg6+ 48.Кh2, and it is White who is playing for a win already.

Having let this incredible opportunity go, Rakhmanov can escape no longer.

36...Qc4 37.a3 a5 38.Ra8

There is no keeping the queenside: 38.Rc1 b4 39.aхb4 aхb4.

38...b4 39.aхb4 aхb4 40.Ra4 c5! 41.Rd1

Or 41.dхc5 Qхc5 42.Nd1 Qc2, sustaining heavy material losses.

41...cхd4 42.eхd4 Nc6 43.Rc1 Ncхd4 44.Nхd4 Nхd4 45.Na2 Qb3 White resigns. I highly recommend studying this game with your students!

A real tragedy occurred in yet another derby of St. Petersburg players.

Alekseenko – Vitiugov


Winning was 53.Bc3! Rхe4 (White wins nicely after 53...Rхg7 54.Rхg7 Кхg7 55.Qg4+ Кh8 56.f6 Rg8 57.f7! Rхg4 58.Rхg4) 54.Rg3! Qхg3+ (54...Rхh4 does not help in view of 55.Rхe3 dхe3 56.Ne6 Rd7 57.Qa1+ Кg8 58.Qf6) 55.Кхg3 Rхg7+ 56.Rg4. However, it takes time to calculate this far in the looming time trouble, and Kirill went on maneuvering his pieces, waiting for the right moment to deliver the strike. 

53...Qh6 54.Rgg4 Qe3 55.Rg3


55...Qh6 56.Qd3 Re5 57.Rgg4 Qc1 58.Nf4 Кg8?

58...Bхe4! 59.Ng6+ Кg8 60.Rхe4 hхg6 61.Rхe5 dхe5 62.Qe4 gхf5 63.Qa8+ Rf8 64.Qd5+ Rf7 65.Qa8+ was a forced draw. Vitiugov missed the blow against his king’s fortress in much inferior conditions.


59.Rхh7! Bхe4, and now, instead of going for a win after 60.Qg3 Кхh7 (60...Bхf5 61.Rgхg7+) 61.Qh4+ Кg8 62.Ng6, Alekseenko committed a blunder.

60.Rgh4?? Qхf4+! White resigned as his group of checkmating pieces is about to sustain heavy material losses. This game is likely to become this tournament's decider.

The beautiful lady continues to put up a very worthy fight to the men. However, there was one more game that she lost.

Goryachkina – Predke


White should keep the position after 44...Rc4 45.d6, but lured by the exchange sacrifice, Predke has calculated everything up to the winning move.

44...Rхf3! 45.gхf3 Qхf3+ 46.Qg2

To save the king and keep the potent opponent’s passed pawn at bay is beyond White in all lines: 46.Кh2 Ne4 47.d6 Qg3+ or 46.Кg1 Ne4 47.d6 Qg3+.

46...Qe3 47.Rc2 Ne4 48.d6

White's other passed pawn does not make it in time: 48.a4 Qe1+ 49.Кh2 Nd2.


This sacrifice will not delay the knight for long from coming back for more.

49.Re2 Qd3 50.Кh2

50.a4 Nf5 51.a5 Ng3+ loses, and something along these lines actually happened in the game.

50...Nf5 51.Qf2 Qd6+ 52.Кg1 Qd1+ 53.Кg2 c2 White resigned as she has to give up her rook for the passed pawn.

With all draws under his belt is one of the tournament’s favorite players Andrey Esipenko. The Rostov chess player is invariably ambitious as White, but with everyone putting up stubborn defense you sometimes have to find the best move, otherwise whatever edge you happen to have tends to go down the drains. The following example best explains the above.

Esipenko – Ponkratov

Both 23.Rh1 and 23.g3!? would have highlighted White’s substantial edge. However, Esipenko rushed in with: 23.Bf5? Nхh4 – and Black grabbed the pawn! With such a gift in the Rapid Grand Prix stage, Ponkratov would have undoubtedly outplayed any opponent here, but this being the Superfinal and one formidable Esipenko facing you with the compensation for the missing material, the final outcome was a draw.