20 December 2017

Delivering A Series of Crushing Black Serves

Grandmaster Dmitry Kryakvin reports about the final match of the Russian Men’s Cup

It is a long time since the Russian Cup finals have seen such a surprisingly logical and naturally defined final matchup, even from the usual statistics’ point of view. One of the finalists was a rating favorite, Mallorca’s hero and home player Dmitry Jakovenko. Dmitry is again storming the world top twenty, although more important is that he has won three Russian Cups in a row! It was only back in 2012 that he was stopped by the Polish grandmaster Bartosz Socko. However, we know it well that following the Russian chess authorities’ intervention the foreigners are no longer admitted into the finals. 

As for the king of Argmageddons, this is Dmitry Kokarev’s third Cup final in a row. In 2015, the only occasion of Jakovenko’s missing from the December Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Kokarev’s opponent was Ivan Bukavshin. I remember well taking an interview from the gold trophy winner, his face radiating happiness. Could anyone imagine then that Bukavshin’s days were numbered?… Even though quite a while has passed since that tragic day, your eyes still well up with tears when remembering a gifted native of Togliatti!

A year ago the cup final pitted Kokarev against Jakovenko for the first time, in which the latter sealed the match through a powerful serve as White. However, in 2017 the Penza grandmaster confidently tackled the black color problem in game one by resorting to the Glek line in the King’s Indian Defense. However, the trouble resurfaced elsewhere. Beginning with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (and later Alexandr Triapishko, David Paravyan and Evgeny Shaposhnikov as well), the current Cup holder delivered a unique series of "black serves", winning four games in a row as Black! A duel with Kokarev was an exception neither, even if the opening was not promising anything of the like.


Kokarev Jakovenko

Game 2


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 

This is yet another Berlin, but Kokarev shies away from the notorious ending, opting for a line with multiple trades that so much "thrilled" the fans with its fighting spirit in the Carlsen - Anand and Carlsen - Karjakin matches.

5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 7.Bf1 Nxe5 8.Rxe5 0–0 9.d4 Ne8 10.Re1 d5 11.Bd3 Bd6 12.Nd2 Nf6 13.Nf3 Bg4 14.Bg5

At his moment the members of the arbiters’ team took emergency turns to take a bite at the academy’s cafe on the first floor, anticipating a premature tie-break. However, we should give credit to both Dmitrys for not having stopped the battle. This is what the life-sustaining Sofia regulations stand for!

14…c6 15.c3 Bc7 16.Bh4 Qd6 17.Bg3 Qd7 18.Be5 Rae8 19.Bxf6 gxf6 20.Rxe8 Rxe8 21.Bc2 Qe6 22.Qd3 f5

While Kokarev has compromised Black’s pawn structure, Jakovenko has got his beloved bishop pair and a command of the e-file in return. Even so, the game has not drifted beyond the boundaries of equality. A cool-minded engine has no bad feelings recommending 23.Rf1!? Qe2 24.Nh4, while another approach, chosen by White, gave Black something to hook up to to continue the fight.

23.g3 Qh6! 24.Nh4 f4 25.Ng2 Re6 26.Bd1 Bh3 27.Bf3 Qg6 

The Penza grandmaster has carried out a sensible regrouping of his army and, the winner later shared that he was prepared by put up with a draw by repetition after 28.Qd2 Qh6 29.Qd3 Qg6. Meanwhile, Jakovenko took an immediate inspiration from the endgame arising after queen trades, and it was clear that he would seek even the slightest opportunity to squeeze the utmost.  

28.Qxg6+ fxg6



Even though the Yugra’s leading player assessed 29.Nxf4 Bxf4 30.gxf4 Kg7, with the king's subsequent march up the board, to the Black’s advantage, the engine disagrees with his point of view - 31.Bg2 Bxg2 32.Kxg2 Kf6 (or 32...Re2 33.Rb1 Kf6 34.Kf3) 33.Kf3 Kf5 34.Rd1 Re4 35.Rd3 Rxf4+ 36.Kg2 with a likely draw. It is time we recalled Tartakower’s legacy. 

29...Kf7 30.Re2 g5 31.Rxe6 Kxe6 32.Bd1 Bf5 33.g4 Bb1 34.a3 b6 

With the rooks off the board, Black carries out pawn leverages to open up the scope for his bishops.

35.f3 c5 36.Ne1 cxd4?!  

More precise is 36...h6 37.Bc2 Ba2 38.Kf2 (there is no trapping the bishop after 38.b3 Bd6 39.a4 c4) 38...Bc4 with an edge for Black and only two results possible. 




Now that White can wall up the a2-bishop after 37...h6 38.Bc2 Ba2 39.b3 Bd6 40.a4, Jakovenko does not mind giving up a pawn to make his bishops active.

38.Bc2 Ba2 39.Bxh7?!  

Immediately after the game Dmitry shared his strong worries about the consequences of 39.Nd3, when White persists in trapping the bishop! Black had 39… a5 40.Nc1 Bc4 41.b3 Bb6 42.bxc4 Bxd4+ 43.Kf1 dxc4 in store for this occasion, upon which White has yet to find a way to stop the formidable passers. Despite this, Jakovenko was well aware that after 40.Nc5+! Kokarev had nothing to fear. 

39...Bb6 40.Nc2 a5 

Black’s idea stands out clearly now  – the knight will be edged out of с2, upon which the d4- and b2-pawns are doomed. However, the senior Dmitry correctly assesses that looming ahead is a drawn opposite-colored bishop ending.  

41.Kf1 Bc4+ 42.Ke1 b4 43.axb4 axb4 44.Kd2  

There is no taking the pawn: 44.Nxb4? Ba5. 

44...b3 45.Ne1 Bxd4 46.Nd3 

Perhaps, Black could have improved his king’s position otherwise, but Dmitry Jakovenko is a master of endgames. If he does something, it is not without a certain purpose behind it.

46…Bxd3 47.Kxd3 Bxb2 48.Bg8+ Kd6 49.Bf7 Kc5 50.Bg8 Bf6 51.Bf7 b2 52.Kc2



Believe it or not, but 52...Bc3 53.Bg8 d4 54.Ba2! (losing is 54.Bf7? d3+ or 54.Bh7? Kb4 55.Bf5 Ka3 56.Kb1 Bb4 57.Bg6 Kb3) 54...Kb4 55.Bb1 Ka3 56.Kd3 Kb3 57.Ke4 is only a draw since Black has nowhere to break through! “This is a dead draw!” – confirmed Jakovenko when the game was over. “I saw it, but believed there was even an easier way at my disposal…” - replied a distressed Kokarev. 

Anyway, the king's sortie is a good practical chance, and it did work.


53.Bg8 would have compelled Black to go back the above-mentioned line. 

53...Ke3+ 54.Kc2 d4!  

Here the face of a habitually unemotional Dmitry Kokarev mirrored the position’s evaluation. White only counted on 54...Kxf3 55.Bxd5+ Ke2 56.Bc4+ Ke1 57.Bd5, with a draw. "I have played in Khanty-Mansiysk on uncounted occasions! I have spent my life’s year in local tournaments. However, nothing like today has ever happened to me! "- lamented the underdog after the game.


After 55.Bd5 Ke2 56.Be4 Bg7 57.h3 Bf6 White is in zugzwang.

55...Kxf3 56.Kd2 Kg2 White resigns.

Thus, Dmitry Jakovenko has won his fourth Russian Cup final. This said, the Cup finals saw him winning 16 matchups in a row! This is simply mind-boggling! Incidentally, I also happened to be one of his "victims".


"I do want to promise you a comeback in 2018, but I have to qualify first, and only then fight it all the way up to the final!" – said Kokarev while turning to Jakovenko at the final’s banquet. By the way, the banquet, like everything else in the Khanty-Mansiysk event, was simply amazing. "Fish dishes!" - Mikhail Vitalievich declared in a solemn voice. And a group of waiters, like a detail of trained soldiers, rushed in to fulfill the chief arbiter’s request. Next, the table was served with veal cuttings, exotic salads, mulled wine and vitamin teas.

Many thanks to the friendly team of the Yugra Chess Academy and its director Galina Kovalyova! However, we will not miss Khanty-Mansiysk for long. In 2018, apart from the Cup finals and the Yugra Rapid Grand Prix, the women's knockout world championship will be held here as well. All of us are going to be looking forward to new battles in the "heart of Parma"!