18 July 2018

Edged out by Tie-Breakers

Dmitry Kryakvin reports from the Higher League about the ultimate round tragedies 

If my previous report was being prepared following a grandiose football victory of Russia over Spain, now a sense of pride for the team is mixed with all sorts of thoughts like: "Well, how can one lose a penalty series having such a goalkeeper?” We could, of course, keep cursing a player who missed the penalty shot, but we should better forget the past and look to the future instead.      

Round nine of the Higher League is not something to look forward to. This is when the players’ fates are being sealed. It makes a lot of difference whether or not you qualify into the Superfinal. Let us take the women’s Higher League for that matter... Oksana Gritsayeva, who already achieved her sportive goal, contended herself with quiet draws in the last two rounds to take first. A reliable finish was demonstrated by this event’s revelation Anastasiya Protopopova - a young player from Saratov. A heroic comeback was pulled off by Anastasia Bodnaruk, a tournament’s rating favorite. This said, she went through an absolutely hopeless position against Daria Charochkina in round eight. Anastasia’s coach Andrey Lukin said without a trace of emotion that it takes a rare man to go on in this position, but in the women's chess the battle continued, and the strong-willed Bodnaruk ended up taking the upper hand. 

However, the major stress fell on yet another Higher League’s revelation Dinara Dordzhieva, a legendary Alisa Galliamova, and Elena Tomilova, who had been in the lead through half a tournament. All above-mentioned ended up with 6 points, at which moment stepping into the picture were additional tie-breakers, such as Buchholz, truncated Buchholz and a number of wins. Still vivid in memory was another tie-break of 2016 between Daria Charochkina and Marina Nechaeva... 

When the ultimate round pairings became known and it turned out that Lena (if someone does not know, let me reveal a secret that Elena Tomilova is my wife) was to play Bodnaruk, one of my friends, a great specialist in calculating additional tiebreakers, emailed me the following: “It is going to be hard, the drawing of lots is against you! However, mind the game Vinokur – Goltseva in the 3.5 group. Should Vinokur overtake, your wife qualifies even if losing her own game!” - was the expert’s authoritative statement. 

That day I left the tournament hall and turned on the live stream. By the way, an incredible discovery during the tournament was made by grandmaster Evgeny Solozhenkin, who shared it on Facebook. All websites (RCF, chessbomb and chessdom) were streaming the Higher League with a delay of 15 minutes, but not so the followchess, where the stream was in real time. What a mystery! It came in handy, though.” 

All positions of my wife’s former opponents immediately looked suspicious to me. One of them was a birthday girl Aleksandra Maltsevskaya, who failed to rise to the occasion. Aleksandra, do not take it too hard!  Future has a lot of games in store for you yet, but birthday is only once a yearand is more important for that reason... The first player’s position was a painful sight to see when I opened Vinokur – Goltseva. 

Vinokur – Goltseva 

Not only did the engine evaluate it to -0.40, but the combination of white knights, the e3-queen and d2-pawn was not impressive at all. Besides, the second player was one of our country’s strongest among the young generation. 

“Why are you so gloomy? Do you remember where Vinokur is from? The Chelyabinsk School of chess! Our friend Ponkratov would believe this position to be winning for White because the f7-king is weak. Vinokur will do just fine!” - reassured me my friend. 

My colleague proved right: it did not take long for Vinokur to organize an offensive against the black king. Nevertheless, in time trouble the tables turned again. 

In this position Vinokur came up with 38.Qg4, one square short of 38.Qh5, and Goltseva came back with a sequence of rejoinders.  

38...h5! 39.Qe4 Qd6! 40.g3 Qxg3 41.Rc2  

Black was out of time trouble with a very decent position. I was confident in Goltseva’s not missing on 41 ... Qg4, - the native of Nizhny Novgorod is part of Mikhail Shereshevsky's chess group in Sirius after all. While it is clear that there is no outplaying Shereshevsky's trainees in the endgame in principle, the position is such that the queen trades is followed by one of the black rooks landing on h8 and another on d5 to displace the white knight.   

However, finding your way across the maze of complications was not as easy as that, and Goltseva decided to keep the queens on the board after a lengthy thought, underestimating the white bishop’s maneuver.  

41…Qd642.Qg2 Qe5 43.Bc1 Kf8?? (43…Qg3! to Shereshevsky's method) 44.Bf4!  

A mighty blow!"The Chelyabinsk School of chess...", – resounded in my inflamed mind. As 44…gхf4 fails to 45.Rg1, Black gives up a queen. A final part of the game was carried out by Yuliya with great forte.  

44…Qxf4 45.Rxf4 Bxf4 46.Qf3! Re7 47.Qxh5 Kg8 48.Qg6+ Rg7 

There is no retreating for the white queen, but...  

49.e7 Rf8 50.exf8Q+ Kxf8 51.Qxf6+ Black resigns.  

Now Tomilova was overtaking one of her rivals by a number of wins, but the indirect duel between Dordzhieva and Galliamova was still going on. It was being sealed between Dina Belenkaya and Polina Shuvalova. The former had played Dordzhieva, and the latter - Shuvalova.   

Belenkaya – Shuvalova

Nowadays almost every girl has got a grandmaster coach. There is no doing otherwise in the modern chess world. Thus, Belenkaya is assisted by a very famous specialist, known in the chess world as Supercoach. Together with Belenkaya they put up serious challenges in front of Shuvalova and her coach Sergei Zagrebelny.   

Despite this, it did not demoralize Polina, who ditched an exchange and built up a fortress. The grandmaster from St. Petersburg was probably not prepared to put up with it and began marking time with her king, and it ended how it ended...   

55.Ke1 Rb8 56.Kf1 Ke6 57.Ke1?? c4! 58.dxc4 d3 59.Kd2  

The black passer paralyzes both black rooks, but here Belenkaya could have sacrificed back with 59.с5!, intending to give back the exchange to try hold together in the rook ending.  

59…Rd8 60.Kd1 Bb4 61.Rb1 c5! 62.Ra1 Rb8  

Having maneuvered somewhat, Shuvalova carried out a textbook breakthrough at the opposite flank. White, on the other hand, is bound hand and foot and is a pity to loot at.  

63.Rc1 Kf5 64.Ra1 Bc3 65.Rb1 Rb7 66.Kc1 Rh7 67.Kd1 Rb7 68.Kc1 Rh7 69.Kd1 

69...g4! 70.hxg4+ Kf6 71.Rc1 Bb4 72.g5+ Kf5 73.g6 Rg7 74.Ra1 Rxg6 75.Ra2 h3 76.Rf2 hxg2 White resigns.What a tragedy! Belenkaya has never been on Dordzhieva’s way to the Superfinal before. 

The final tournament standings is as follows: 1. Gritsayeva - 7; 2. Protopopova; 3. Bodnaruk - with 6.5; qualifying out of the 6-point group are 4. Galliamova, 5. Tomilova, whereas Dordzhieva has not. Some people claim that a penalty series is unfair in football. This time, however, you are the one to miss.   

Going into the last round, the situation was even more complicated in the men's section. By the way, contesting for qualification into the men's Superfinal for the first time in history was a female player Alexandra Goryachkina. Alexandra could have scored even higher, but her final result is the highest among female national team members throughout the entire history of Russian chess. Fairness requires me to say that Ekaterina Lagno has yet to try her hand at this event, whereas back in 2000 Alisa Galliamova took clear 7 in the Russian Championship carried out to the old +3 formula.  

Solid play was a trend of the ultimate round as well. The only top table winner was Sanan Sjugirov, who trapped Pavel Ponkratov’s queen. 


Sjugirov – Ponkratov


Ponkratov must have considered the consequences of 40...Rf4, thinking it unsafe, for some reason…  

40... Ng8?? 41.Ra1 Black resigns.   

Further down the row the scores were opened only in games played between students with coaches; thus, Igor Lysyj ground down Timur Fakhrutdinov, but Andrey Esipenko stood up for the youth by defeating Alexey Dreev.   

Dreev – Esipenko


The white knight is en prise, but retreating it is not a must: 18…Bh3!! The idea is not new, suffice it to recall the Azmaiparashvili - Ivanchuk game from the Kremlin Stars tournament, when the overcrowded hall broke into applause when seeing Ivanchuk’s blow. Aleksey Dreev was not part of that event. A bolder newspaperman would ask Dreev if he happened to recall that game, but I lacked courage to do so.   

Despite White’s resistance, Andrey won a pawn, then an exchange, and brought the edge home.   

Meanwhile, the top table Alexey Sarana forced massive trades against Mikhail Kobalia. Grigoriy Oparin got an edge in a key encounter against Kirill Alekseenko, but preferred a “bird in hand.” Ernesto Inarkiev was building up pressure against Motylev, but the latter managed to stand his ground. While Sarana, Oparin, Inarkiev and Khismatullin already paved their way into the Superfinal without any reservations, the fate of the last ticket was being decided for Kobalia or Zvjaginsev.   


Volkov – Girya



It takes a certain amount of accurate play from Black, who never gave any chances to his tough opponent.   

47... Ra3! 48.Rxc4 Rg3 49.Ra4 Rxg4 50.Kd3 Rh4 51.Ra6+ Ke7 52.Ra7+ Kd6 53.d5 Rxh5 54.Rf7 Rh1 55.Rxf6+ Ke5!  

The king is ready to support his passers and is out of woods now.  

56.Rf5+ Kd6 57.Rf8 g4 58.Rg8 h5 59.Ke2 Rh3 60.Rg5 Kc5 61.Rg6 Kd4 62.d6 Rh2+ 63.Kf1 Kxe4 64.Ke1 Rh3 65.Rh6 Rd3 66.Rxh5 Rxd6 Draw.   

This half a point proved golden for Kobalia in terms of qualifying into the Superfinal.

Just look at the following display by Kobalia! 


Kobalia – Paravyan 

Round 6 


19.Bxh5!! gxh5 20.Qe2 b4   

20...Kg7 runs into 21.Nd5! David goes for counterplay against the white king, but Kobalia retrieves another set of blows for his opponent.   

21.Nf5!! exf5   

Neither Black is helped out by 21...bxc3 22.Nxe7+ Kg7 23.Rxc3.   

22.Nd5 Qd8 23.Qxh5 Nde5   

23...bxa3 24.g6 results in a checkmate, but giving the material back only postponed the inevitable.   

24.fxe5 Nxe5 25.Bd4 bxa3 26.Bxe5 dxe5 27.g6 Black resigns.   

What a display of chess prowess! I wish the ultimate round saw games like this. There is nothing doing without a player like this in the Superfinal!   

At the closing ceremony, Alexander Tkachev thanked Alexey Moskvin for providing excellent conditions for the tournament, and the main arbiter came back by saying that Yaroslavl would be happy to host more events. The team of arbiters worked so smoothly that the Appeals Committee was never given any disputes to settle. 

While the participants are preparing for the Superfinal in Satka, one can relax and watch the final football World Cup matches.

Something to look forward to!