19 June 2016


Final round of the Russia–China match in the review of Sergey Shipov.

They say all is well that ends well. All troubles tend to seem insignificant if there is one main thing - a winning score on the scoreboard.

On the other hand, however, it is the last phrase that is best remembered out of every conversation, as was rightly noted by the old Stirlitz. This is exactly what we failed to achieve. It is a pity to finish the match while being oppressed by such negative emotions.

For all that, let’s take a look at it from the bird’s-eye view and also from the point of view of putting up a show. In this regard our players did everything to keep the audience from being bored in the ultimate round!

Indeed, it would be somewhat too trivial to confidently secure victory in the match by just winning a couple of games, having capitalized on the advantage accumulated by the middle of round five. Instead, the Russians would tickle the audience’s nerves, releasing whatever advantage they had and creating a real intrigue towards the end of the round.

It goes without saying that I can not keep silent as to the mediocre type of play demonstrated by the Russian national football team in the match against Slovakia. Our dull “legoballers”, spoiled by big money, created a painful and oppressive atmosphere, which certainly caused a detrimental effect on our players. As you know, it is always a pleasure shifting the blame from the fragile shoulders of our brilliant chess players onto someone else’s. :)

We would have been able to finish the match on a positive note should Danya Dubov have brought yet another masterpieces of his own to its logical end.

Dubov – Yu Yangyi

The f6-pawn wedge creates excellent prospects for White’s pending offensive. The young Russian player comes up with a spectacular way of adding oil into the flame of his attack.

27.d5!! Nxd5 28.Bxd5 exd5

Also bad is 28...Rxd5 29.Nxd5 cxd5 30.Qa1 Qxa1 31.Rxa1 h6 32.Ra5 Bc6 33.Rc5 Ba4 34.Rc8+ Kh7 35.Rc7 Kg8 36.Kg2! winning.

29.e6 Re8 30.e7

At this moment all spectators shared a firm and, in principle, a reasonable impression that White should be winning when having with such a strong and defended pawn as is the one on e7. Yu Yangyi, however, did not intend to go down without fighting.

30...h6 31.Qd2 Kh7 32.Rf4

Although  32.Nxb5! cxb5 33.Qxd5 is winning also, the winning path would have been a rather lengthy one: 33...Qa8 (33...Kg8 34.Qc6 Qa8 35.Qxa8 Rxa8 36.Rd1+–) 34.Qxa8 Rxa8 35.Kg2! c3 36.Rd1 c2 37.Rc1 g5 38.Rxc2 Kg6 39.Rc6 b4 40.Rd6 b3 41.Rd8 b2 42.Rxa8 b1Q 43.Rg8+ Kxf6 44.e8Q Qc2+ 45.Kf3 Qf5+ 46.Ke2 Qc2+ 47.Kf1 Qf5+ 48.Ke1 Qb1+ 49.Kd2 Qb2+ 50.Ke3 Qc1+ (50...Qc3+ 51.Kf2) 51.Kf2 Qd2+ 52.Qe2+–.

32...g5! 33.Rf5 Rg8 34.Re5

As it turned out later, winning also was the subtle 34.Kg2!?, for example, 34...Qd6 (or 34...Qa8 35.Qc2 Kh8 36.Qe2 Qe8 37.Qh5 Kh7 38.Nxb5 cxb5 39.Rxd5 c3 40.Rd8 Qc6+ 41.Qf3+–) 35.Qc2 Kh8 36.Qe2 Qd7 37.Rxg5!+–.

34...Qa8 35.Qc2+ Kh8 36.Qd1 Kh7 37.Qb1+

The most accurate continuation in this position was 37.h4! gxh4 38.Qb1+ Kh8 39.Rh5 Rg6 40.Qxg6! fxg6 41.f7+–.

37...Kh8 38.Qd1 Kh7 39.Qh5 Qe8

To find out the right solution at the time control move is an extremely difficult task of a classical nature.

The engine insists on the false path for a substantial length of time. This is because it fails to understand that looming on the horizon are the classical fortresses peculiar to the “queen versus rook and pawns” ending: 40.Nxb5 cxb5 41.Rxd5 c3 42.Kg1! b4! (42...c2 43.Rc5) 43.Qe2 b3 44.Rd8 Qxd8 45.exd8Q Rxd8 46.Qc4 Rd1+ 47.Kg2 Rd2+ 48.Kf3 Kg6 49.Qe4+ Kxf6 50.Qc6+ Ke7 51.Qc5+ Ke6 52.Qc4+ Ke7 53.Qxb3 Rxh2 54.Qxc3 Kf8=.

Daniil, however, came up with yet a stronger play:

40.h4! gxh4 41.Qf5+ (much easier is the immediate 41.Qxh4!) 41...Kh8 42.gxh4?

The queen taking on h4 idea was worth falling back onto. After 42.Qf4! Kh7 43.Qxh4 c5 the easiest way to the goal was 44.Nxb5! Qxb5 45.Qh5! Qb1+ 46.Kg2 Qc2+ 47.Kh3 Qg6 48.Qxg6+ (or 48.Qf3!? Re8 49.Rxd5+–) 48...Kxg6 49.Rxd5 Kxf6 50.Rd8 c3 51.e8Q Rxe8 52.Rxe8 c2 53.Re1 Kf5 54.Rc1 Ke4 55.Rxc2 Kd4 56.Kg4 c4 57.Kh5 c3 58.Kxh6 Kd3 59.Rc1! Kd2 60.Rh1 c2 61.g4 c1Q 62.Rxc1 Kxc1 63.Kg7+–.


Now that the black bishop joins the theater of actions the question of White’s victory becomes iffy...

43.Ne2 Bc8 44.Qh5 Kh7 45.Rg5 Rg6

And now, having played 46.Rxg6, Daniil offered a draw.

This is all for nothing, however! In the upcoming complex type of struggle it was worth subjecting the opponent to further testing. For example,46...fxg6 47.Qe5 Bd7! (47...Kg8 48.Nd4 Bd7? 49.Nxc6!+–) 48.Qd6 Kg8 49.Nd4 c3 50.Kh2! g5 51.Nf3! c2 52.f7+! Qxf7 53.Qxd7 c1Q 54.e8Q+ Qxe8 55.Qxe8+ Kg7 56.Qe7+ Kg8 57.Qe6+ Kg7 58.h5! – and fighting for victory is not out of the question yet.

As it turned out later, an important “save” was pulled off by still another fighting member of our national men team.

Wen Yang – Matlakov

Max drew the fire upon himself, having sacrificed a pawn and delivering a treacherous stab to his opponent in the diagram position.


It turns out that 20.Bxc7 runs into a deadly 20...Rxe4! 21.Rxe4 Nh4 with a double attack on g2 and e4. However, the fight is just about to begin. After

20.Rxc7 Nh4 21.Ng3! fxe5

White misses on his opportunity. He should not have hesitated about the quiet 22.fxe5!, pinning his hopes on a positional domination with three pawns for a minor piece.

However, after the text moves

22.Rxd7 exf4 23.Re6 Rxe6

Black was able to bail out:

24.dxe6 Re8! 25.Rd8 fxg3 26.Rxe8+ (or 26.hxg3 Nf5 27.Qd7 Kf8) 26...Qxe8 27.Qd7 gxf2+ 28.Kf1! Kf8! 29.Qd6+ Kg8! 30.Qd7 Kf8 31.Qd6+ Kg8 32.Qd7 – and opponents agreed to a draw.

Meanwhile, yet another case of poor performance was demonstrated by Anastasia Bodnaruk. I would somehow feel uncomfortable commenting on her defeat.

In round five out team was supposed to balance the score in the following game.

Gunina – Shen Yang

The game shaped itself relatively trouble-free for Valentina. Everything was indicative of her upcoming success being nearby. Nevertheless, this seeming proximity proved deceptive.


It was close impossible to see a pawn and refrain from taking it. Nevertheless, the analysis proves that it was better starting with the preventive 48.Kg1!


This is a keen counterstrike.


49.Qxd8 Qxf2+ 50.Kh3 Qf1+ was leading to the perpetual.

49...Ke8 50.Qa2 Kf8!

Shen Yang is maintaining tension in a very skilled manner.


This is the first step towards the abyss. It was worth opting for 51.Rh7 Rd1 (51... Kg8? 52.Qa7) 52.Qa8+ Qxa8 53.Rh8+ so as to be able to fight for victory in the rook ending.

The virtuoso continuation 51...Rd1 52.Rc8+ Kf7 53.Qa7+ Kf6 54.Rf8+ Ke5 55.Qc7+ Ke4 56.Qc6+ Rd5 57.Qxe6+ Kd3 58.Qe1 Kc2! 59.Qe3 Qxe3 60.fxe3 Kxc3, etc, would have allowed bailing out. The text move, however, seems to offer even more than that.



This is a surprisingly careless move. While having about 16 minutes on the clock (plus a 30-second increment per each move), Valentina made it almost with a lightning speed! It looks like a mere nervous breakdown.

A simple 52.Rh7 would have preserved the status of the stronger side. On the other hand, Black’s path to a draw was uncomplicated either. 52...Rd1 (52...Kg8? 53.Re7) 53.Qa8+ Qxa8 54.Rh8+ Kf7 55.Rxa8 Rd2 56.Kg2 fxg3 57.Kxg3 Rd3+ 58.f3 Rxc3 59.Rb8 e5=.


As for now, however, the white king is defenseless. 

53.Qa7 (53.Rh7 f3) 53...Qxh4+ 54.Kg2 f3+! 55.Kxf3 Rd3+

In order to not get mated, White needed to part ways with her queen and had to resign for that reason.

We have thus ended up winning the match, although not without a lot of difficulties along the way!

This pleasant fact, however, should not obscure the team’ s problems. It is clear that some of our players proved incapable of withstanding the amount of pressure linked with the responsibility for the team’s final standings. Identifying weak spots is the most important finding.

I believe the final lineup of the women’s team for the Olympics is now absolutely unambiguous. They are Lagno, Kosteniuk, Gunina, Goryachkina and Pogonina.

As for the men’s lineup, there are still some issues to be defined.

I would put my stakes on the following team lineup: Kramnik, Karjakin, Grischuk, Svidler and ... Nepomniachtchi.

So, at the Olympic Games in Baku not only do we need to overtake China, but all other competitors as well. Let it be so!

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky