26 December 2015

A Day of Difficult Saves

Round two of the Nutcracker generation match-tournament in the review of Eteri Kublashvili.

The second classical round of the "Nutcracker" once again failed to unveil the strongest in the main group as all games have finished in draws. Despite the participants fighting hard and the game day lasting over six hours this time around, the score has remained equal so far, having reached the point of 8-8. I wonder whether the "Kings" have anticipated such a solid performance from the "Princes", which may be characterized by lack of undue and unwarranted enthusiasm.

After completion of the round the head coach of the junior Russian team grandmaster Mikhail Kobalia, who had commented on the course of the struggle jointly with Sergei Rublevsky, shared his views about all four games.

"The game Oparin – Morozevich turned out to be an exciting one. In my opinion, Alexander was better prepared in the opening. I cannot tell exactly where the theory ended, but he demonstrated an interesting pawn sacrifice and received a decent compensation in the very least. Sergei Rublevsky and I shared an opinion that Black could claim more than just a compensation for the pawn. The game had a definite amount of tactical nuances associated with it; Alexander used a lot of time for thinking, probably found something and came to the conclusion that going for attractive lines would yield nothing. As a result, the position simplified to a draw.

It seems as though Ivan Bukavshin’s opening preparation was better than that of Boris Gelfand. Ivan was able to raise problems in the Najdorf that Boris has been playing his entire life. Almost right from the opening Boris not only needed to come up with precise moves, but had to really fight for a draw at that. On a couple of occasions Black's position would set alarm bells ringing. The game was well set on track by Ivan from the opening and it is clear that the lines had been deeply analysed by him. Ivan was right to decline the opportunity of forcing a draw by repetition of moves in the ending because Black had weak pawns and White was never at any risk, objectively speaking; I think it was an absolutely justified decision. However, in the final run Boris did manage to make a draw. The result was a sound game and I rather enjoyed it.

Evgeny Najer succeeded in defending a precarious position. Mikhail Antipov played very solidly in the opening as Black, while some inaccuracies committed by Evgeny meant that he was reduced to finding a way of bailing out by making accurate moves. Maybe he was even helped by a little bit of luck, but ultimately everything ended well for White when Evgeny skilfully achieved a draw in a rook ending being down a pawn. Apparently, Black did not have much in the way of real winning chances, although White had to come up with the only moves in a dangerous position. Moreover, the situation on the board was changing rapidly since the opponents were in a mutual time trouble while playing with only seconds on their clocks. Indeed, this event features no 30 second time increment prior to move 60.

It is not for the first time (same thing happened last year as well) that Vladislav Artemiev is the one to play the longest games. In round one he failed to win, whereas today he played against Peter Leko with black pieces and stood worse from the opening as opposed to what happened in round one. He had problems at a certain period of the game, but then it turned out that the worst was over and the draw was not that far away. However, Vladislav made a careless move and ended up defending a difficult knight ending. Even though there remained a limited amount of chess material on the board in the form of three pawns only, Black was up against problems. Pawn endings are well known to be the most difficult ones to play, whereas knight endings are placed almost on the same shelf with them because knights can be potentially traded off. The resulting position was a very difficult one in terms of calculation, being full of tactical nuances, but Vladislav managed to escape nonetheless."

While senior players are probing each other, the younger participants go on landing blows left and right. In round two the boys managed to defeat the girls, taking a 9-7 lead.

The only draw happened in the game between Olga Mylnikova and Yaroslav Remizov, all three other games ending in win/loss results.

Dinara Dordzhieva took revenge from Kirill Shubin for having been defeated in round one. 

Dordzhieva – Shubin 

It is hard to imagine that only a few moves ago the black queen was there to capture the pawn on d3, whereas now she is quietly guarding Black’s defensive formations. However, Kirill hurried somewhat with closing the big diagonal by opting for 27...e5?! The intermediate 27...Rxf1+ followed by e5 would have prevented the dramatic consequences, upon which White would have found it difficult going on with his attack.

The game saw 28. Rxf8+ Nxf8 29. Rf1 Qd7 30. Qg2 Kh8 31. Rf6, and White went on to win shortly after. 

Arseniy Nesterov, who lost in round one along with Dinara, was in the process of methodically shuttering the defensive lines of the black army headed by Margarita Potapova, but the fate of the game was sealed through a blunder.

Nesterov – Potapova 

Having remained uncastled in the Sicilian Defence, Margarita carelessly played 26…Kd8?, overlooking the  27. c4 stab. The fate of the game was decided: 27…dxc4 28. Rxa3 c3 29. Ne4 c2 30. Bxc2 Rxc2 31. Nd6, and White went on to wallop his opponent in the subsequent game. 
The encounter between Dmitry Tsoi and Alexandra Dimitrova turned out to be of a long-suffering nature. For the major part of the game the initiative was retained by Dima who played as White, but a number of inconsistent moves allowed Black getting a completely playable position. Still, the namesake of the idol of the millions of Soviet people succeeded in finding a way to win.

Tsoi – Dimitrova 

Despite being up two pawns, defending Black's position is a real challenge since the queen and the rook are tightly tied down to blockading the white pawns on the queenside. In such a problematic situation, it also being the move 40, Alexandra missed White’s winning breakthrough.

40…Bg6 was met by a cold-blooded 41. b5!, rendering Black’s position defenseless after 41…axb5 42. Ra7

I wonder if a video-clip prepared by the Chesscast about the children’s tournament is going to cheer up the underdogs and inspire them to new feats.

Round three will see the following pairings for the “Kings” and the “Princes”: 

Ivan Bukavshin – Evgeny Najer, Mikhail Antipov – Peter Leko, Alexander Morozevich – Vladislav Artemiev, Boris Gelfand – Grigoriy Oparin. 

The following pairs will compete in the children’s tournament:

Dinara Dordzhieva  Arseniy Nesterov, Margarita Potapova  Dmitry Tsoi, Yaroslav Remizov  Aleksandra Dimitrova, Kirill Shubin  Olga Mylnikova.