9 March 2019

Festive Miracles

Eteri Kublashvili keeps reporting from the World Team Championships in Astana

Round four of the World Team Championships fell on March 8, International Women's Day. With feminism not reigning yet, the men were honoring the tradition of congratulating the fair sex in every way possible -- giving tulips to girls after the games were over being one of them.

Russian men's team has drawn England, and this is the first such result for our team at this event.

Board one saw Ian Nepomniachtchi and Michael Adams battling it out in the closed Ruy Lopez. White advanced his pawns far on the kingside, only to have it undermined by the opponent. With Black’s position improved after some maneuvering, the Englishman got an opportunity to disturb the opponent on both flanks. However, either due to opposite-colored bishops or something else bothering Michael Adams, a draw was agreed on move 31, although Black could go on testing his opponent's setup for soundness.   

Being a second player, Alexander Grischuk managed to pose problems in front of Luke McShane in the Anti-Berlin. The Russian player equalized out of the opening and was quick to advance his queenside pawns to grab space on that flank. Black achieved a visible progress towards the time control, but McShane did not fail to come up with only moves. However, White's margin of safety was still substantial, and the Russian player decided against persisting further. A draw was agreed after Black's move 41.   

Dmitry Andreikin and David Howell opted for Caro-Kann. With queens exchanged off early, the fighting potential fizzled out significantly by move 18. Displaying solid and risk-free performance, the opponents launched a second series of massive trades to transpose into the rook and knight ending, in which a draw was agreed on move 32.   

On move 13, Gawain Jones and Vladislav Artemiev sealed a draw in the g3 Grünfeld by repetition.

Worthy of mentioning is the fact that this day of both American teams facing host teams the tournament was honored by the visit of high officials from the US embassy in Kazakhstan. The men's matchup ended peacefully after two boards drew their games and Zviad Izoria’s defeat was made up for by Aleksandr Lenderman. 

A rather unorthodox pawn structure was seen in the endgame of team leaders:

Swiercz – Jumabayev

A draw was agreed in this position.

Teams India and China have drawn their match as well. Suffering for a second time in a row is Yu Yangyi.

Yu Yangyi – Ganguly

White captured on g4 with the pawn only to get 23…Rxe3! The game lasted long and ended in Indian GM’s favor.

Outplaying Aravindh Chithambaram and stopping the team from going down for a third time in a row was Bu Xiangzhi. Other games ended in a draw. 

Going up in flames is team Azerbaijan after losing the match to the Swedes with a 1:3 score. The Scandinavians have said farewell to the last place, leaving it to the Egyptians, who this time went down to the Iranians 1:3.

Tournament standings after round 4:

1. Russia - 7; 2-4. India, USA, England - 6; 5. Iran - 5; 6. Kazakhstan - 4; 7. China - 3; 8. Sweden - 2; 9. Azerbaijan - 1; 10. Egypt - 0.

Pairings of round five:

Egypt - Sweden, China - Iran, England - India, Kazakhstan - Russia, Azerbaijan - USA.

Teams Russia and China maintain their lead in the women's championship. 

The matchup with India went smoothly and ended in a landslide 3.5:0.5 victory for the Russians. However, there was nothing doing for our team without miracles and a bit of luck, but it could have been otherwise.

Lagno – Karavade saw a real thriller play out. White got a very promising position in the Sicilian 3. Bb5 after claiming space and zeroing in on the weak d6-pawn and the black queen finding itself misplaced on the rim of the board. Still, there was a moment when Lagno went astray and allowed Black to create mating threats. The Russian gave up an exchange and saving her position required nothing short of a miracle. The miracle did happen before the time control as the Indian player blundered a tactical blow in a sharp position.

Lagno – Karavade

38…Rc2? 39. Rxh6+!, and Black resigned in view of an inevitable checkmate: 39…gxh6 40. Qf6+ Kh7 41. Qxf7+ Kh8 42. Ng6#. 

Aleksandra Goryachkina was facing Tania Sachdev, who has just arrived in Astana. As the Russian caught her opponent on a home prep in the Nimzo-Indian Defence 4.f3, Black’s position became hopeless from that moment on. As Aleksandra admitted herself, she did not go on to perform in the best manner. “Black’s position looked so hopeless out of the opening that even my underwhelming performance was enough to succeed,” highlighted Goryachkina after the game. 

The Russian gave up a pawn for active piece play in time trouble, and Black seemed as if out of the woods already. Nevertheless, it was an uphill battle for Black after Tania’s blundering her extra pawn on move 39. 

Bhakti – Girya was the one game raising least concerns with the Russian fans. Even here the winning path was other than strewn with rose petals. 

Olga Girya, “Our opening prediction was correct and I got a very comfortable setup. My opponent seems to have lost her bearings and started producing strange moves. She gave up a pawn for no reason at all, and I went on to commit a couple of inaccuracies allowing the trade of rooks. There emerged an opposite-colored bishop ending with knights and an extra pawn for me. I think she was not without drawing chances as she could have sealed the kingside with h4. I was evaluating the endgame as having decent winning chances, but was not confident whether or not it was winning for me after all. 

White failed to capitalize on her drawing opportunities by allowing the black king approach to white pawns. The Indian player gave up a knight, but a piece-down ending was hopeless for her.  

Swaminathan Soumya and Alexandra Kosteniuk were battling it out in Giuoco Piano. The middlegame gave Black an opportunity to come up with an extravaganza involving a piece sacrifice, but the Russian opted for a more solid approach since no clear winning path was to be found there. This said, the superiority changed hands a few moves later and it was already Black's turn to hunker into defensive mode. A difficult ending with knights and opposite-colored bishops was in store for Kosteniuk after the trade of major pieces, and White was enjoying more space at that. Black gave up two pawns in an attempt to untangle, which was not enough to bail out, though. There came a moment when White needed to master her courage in favor of a decisive pawn break at the kingside. Instead, the Indian player made up her mind to trade the knights, and the arising opposite-colored bishop ending turned out to be a draw despite a pair of extra pawns for White. There was no breaking down the fortress. 

Round five has Russians pitted against one of her major opponents, team China. The Celestial Empire's players scored a narrow victory over Armenia as board four Siranush Ghukasyan failed to hold her ground to Ding Yixin in a roughly equal many-piece ending.  

Georgia – Ukraine has brought forth no winner. Meri Arabidze’s outplaying Anna Muzychuk has turned into one of the round’s major upsets. The Ukrainian player blundered a pawn in a tactical blow, which her opponent went on to convert. On the other hand, Inna Gaponenko shined with a display of her endgame skills featuring knight vs bishop against Nino Batsiashvili. Anna Ushenina committed a blunder in a winning endgame against Lela Javakhishvili and the game ended in a draw. Board one game Bela Khotenashvili vs Mariya Muzychuk ended in a draw. 

Team Kazakhstan has scored her first victory by outplaying US with a narrow score.  Worth mentioning is that Bibisara Assaubayeva, playing White on board three, was following in her own footsteps in the KID line that saw her go down to Lei Tintsze only the previous day, but succeeding this time around. Zhansaya Abdumalik has brought her first point to her team by defeating Tatev Abrahamyan. Dinara Saduakassova lost her game, and Foisor – Dauletova was a draw.

Egypt – Hungary ended 1.5:2.5. Interestingly, the first two boards was a contest of the Gara against Wafa sisters.  

Tournament standings after round 4:

1-2. Russia, China - 8; 3. Ukraine - 6; 4-5. India, Georgia - 4; 6-7. USA, Kazakhstan - 3; 8-9. Armenia, Hungary - 2; 10. Egypt - 0.

Besides a key matchup China - Russia, round four has the following pairings:

India - Egypt, USA - Armenia, Ukraine - Kazakhstan, Hungary - Georgia.