30 August 2018

For Lack of Clear Leaders

Dmitry Kryakvin continues reporting from the Russian Championship Superfinals in Satka

Super tournament spectators often wonder about the way the highest-level events are organized. People pose question about participants’ living conditions. Given the Superfinals’ hosting by a small city for the first time, even the broadcast has Sergey Shipov, a grandmaster and commentator, answering many questions about the quality of food.

It is clear that Satka has no hotels of the Sheraton level, but the participants stay at two mini-hotels Victoria and Vasilyevna, which deserve the stars they bear. Their design is very unusual - an entire entrance of an apartment building is given over to the hotel. Not only the employees are extremely friendly, but also the degree of care for high-ranking guests is monitored day and night by Amir Gilyazov and Yana Sidorchuk.

The Victoria's dining room is equipped with a large screen. In time preceding the round, it would usually be set to a wildlife channel. Interestingly, those dining about to head for round two could get in the know of how a pride of lions was doing its job to feast on fortuneless bull-calves, and a day later the Atlantic shark-killers were shown taking a keen interest in the health of tourists relaxing on the coast. Is it a way of addressing the issue of draws by boosting aggressive behavior?

The footage is heartbreaking, but I was nonetheless fascinated by the attitude of the most terrible predators of land and water. If lions attack the bleating victims with abandon, trying to immediately bring their carnivorous intent to a logical end, sharks would usually make a couple of bites and swim around in circles for a hapless tourist to put down any sort of resistance. Certain movie heroes profited from this monsters’ hesitation, making it to the shore through own rush of adrenaline or outside assistance.

It came to me that in chess grandmasters (and every heavyweight player is a real predator) have to choose between lions and sharks. Whether to plunge headlong into swashbuckling or do it after sufficient torturing the bleeding victim. In round two, the choices balanced each other out: one victory was achieved via a "tigerish" offensive, while another saw the white king falling in battle to black killer rook-sharks.

Khismatullin – Inarkiev

The opening followed suite of Mamedov – Inarkiev from the latest summer Turkish championship. Inarkiev improved on his move order, making a draw the most likely outcome. However, one can understand Khismatullin, willing to make up for the failure in round one. Khismatullin's reckless move was all it took to find himself on the backfoot.   

Black’s taking a pawn results in an easy draw. 42...Rxb3+ 43.Kf2 Rb2+ 44.Kg1. However, Ernesto’s keen eye recognizes a critical moment to go for a checkmate.  

42...Rd6!? 43.Ke3 Rbd2 44.Rg3  

Nothing is achieved by 44...R6d3+ 45.Kf4 Rd4+ 46.Kf3, but Black has other options to choose from.  

44h5! 45.Ra4?? 

Now the jaws of the mating vice close. White should have trained his guns on f5, followed roughly by 45.Ra5 R6d3+ (45...h4 46.Rf3 R6d3+ 47.Kf4 Rd4+ 48.Ke3) 46.Kf4 Rd4+ 47.Kf3 Re4. Although White needs to come with some precise moves yet, the immediate danger is over.  

45...h4! 46.Rxh4 

There is saving the game no longer: 46.Rg8 R6d3+ 47.Kf4 Rf2# or 46.Rf3 Kg5.  

46...Ke5 White resigns.

Bodnaruk – Gritsayeva


Gritsayeva surprised with one of the trendy lines of 2000s - a now rarely employed Yanish Gambit of Ruy Lopez. The opponents were principled in their actions - Bodnaruk zeroed in on the queenside pawns, while Gritsayeva went all out against the opponent’s king.  

26 g5! 27.Re4 

An interesting opportunity was in 27.f5!? Rxf5 28.Rxf5 Bxf5 29.Nc6 - to give back a pawn to return the knight into play as soon as possible.  

27...Qg6 (27...Bh3!?) 28.Qe3  

Not prone to hesitation, the engine recommends 28.Rfe1! gxf4 29.Nc6, which is hard for a human player to decide in favor of. Meanwhile, the Higher League's winner could effectively uncork 28...d5!  

28...Bh3 29.Nc6 Kh8 30.Ne7 Qg7 31.Nd5 R6f7  


Anastasia Bodnaruk has brought the knight into action; however, her clock displaying only a few minutes, the grandmaster from St. Petersburg commits an error. After 32.Rf2 Black could choose between forcing a draw via 32…gxf4 33.Nxf4 Rxf4 34.Rfxf4 Rxf4 35.Qxf4 Qa1+ 36.Kf2 Qf1+ 37.Ke3 Qc1+ 38.Ke2 Qc2+ or keeping up pressure via 32...c6 33.Nc3 Kh7.  

32.Re1? c6 33.Ne7 gxf4, and the white king’s fortress went down: 34.Qd3 fxg3 35.hxg3 Rf3 36.Qxd6 Rxg3+ 37.Kh2 Rf2+ 38.Kh1 Bg2+ 39.Kg1 Bxe4+ 40.Kxf2 Rf3+ 41.Ke2 Qg2+ White resigns.  

In the men's section the tables were turning in Vitiugov-Sarana, creating problems for Vladimir Fedoseev was Dmitry Jakovenko, but the most realistic chances were with strongest sides in Dubov – Oparin and Andreikin – Kobalia.

Dubov – Oparin

Dubov's opening was again very creative, handled in his trademark style. Then he came up with a sequence of strong decisions, putting Oparin on the brink of defeat. Nevertheless, White never converted as Oparin’s defense was above any praise.  

34… h5!  

A Fischer-introduced type of entry of inactive rook into the game, which Paul Petrovich Keres.suffered from back in his time. Dubov comes back with winning a pawn while retaining all threats.  

35.Bb5 c6 36.Bxc6 Qxc6 37.Rxd8 Qc1+!  

This is a major asset in Black’s defense, because 38.Kh2? fails to 38...Qc7+ 39.Rd6 f5; therefore forcing the white rook to step down from its active outpost to interpose the check.  

38.Rd1 Qc7 39.Qb4+! 

There is no visible follow-up to the attack after 39.Nd6 Rh6 40.Nxe8 Kxe8 41.Qa4+ Ke7 – the king is in the center, but there is no checkmate.  

39...Kg8 40.Ng5 Rh6  

Time control is over. The black rook is ready to enter the game, but Oparin’s king is experiencing problems escaping via h7.  

41.Re1 Bc6 




42.Qc4 looks like a very potent move, followed by 42...Qb7 (42...Qd7 43.Rb1 Bb7 runs into 44.Nxf7!, and 42...Rg6? fails to 43.Re8+) 43.Rd1 Be8, and White can at least win a pawn: 44.Rd8 Qe7 45.Nxf7 Kh7 46.Ng5+ Qxg5 47.Rxe8, retaining all chances for success. One can, of course, argue that Black also retains his chances for a draw, and will be right as well.  

Dubov went for the a7-pawn, but Black traded queens and made his pieces active in the meanwhile.  

42...Qd6 43.Qxd6 Rxd6 44.Rc7 Be8! 45.Rxa7 f6 46.Ne4 Rd1+ 47.Kh2 h4!  

An important move, fixing the pawn on g2.  

48.a4 Bc6 49.Nc5 Rd2 50.Kg1 Rd1+ 51.Kf2 Rd2+ 52.Kf1 Bd5  

Grigoriy Oparin has cleverly thwarted all White's attempts at combining the advance of his passer and creating threats to the kingside, and coming to mind now is the Karpov-Kasparov game, in which Anatoly Evgenievich missed the opportunity to take their first world championship match.  


Or 53.Rd7 Bc4+ 54.Ke1 Ra2 55.Rd4 Bf7.  

53...Rc2 54.Rc7 Ra2 55.a6 Bc4+ 56.Kg1 Bxa6 57.Ne6 g5, and Black’s heroic defense was crowned with success.  

Dmitry Andreikin has subtly handled the rare but gaining popularity line of the Caro-Kann Defense 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Ne5 e6 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.Nxd7 Qxd7 8.c3 and was methodical in demonstrating the power of his bishop pair.


Andreikin - Kobalia


This deadly blow seems to unhorse Black once and for all. Such niceties as 28...fxg6 29.Rxe6 Qf7 (29...Rxe6 30.Rxe6 Ra7 31.Rc6!) 30.Rxg6+ Kf8 31.Rf1 Nd2 32.Rh6 Nxf1 (32...Ne4 33.Qh4) 33.Qg5 are easily calculated. White eliminates the opponent’s queen and dominates the uncoordinated black army with his queen and pawns.  

However, Kobalia came back with 28Qg7!, and after 29.Bh5 Qxg4 30.Bxg4 Rec8 it became clear that with the powerful black knight promoting the queenside counterplay there is no easy converting the extra pawn. The engine pries open with 31.f4 Nd6 32.f5!? exf5 33.Bf3 Ne4 34.g4, which is not at all clear for a human player. Dmitry postponed the hostilities with  31.Rc2 a5 32.Be2 b4 33.Rec1 Nd6 34.c4 dxc4 35.Bxc4 Nf5 36.Rd1 a4 37.b3 Nd6 38.Rdc1 Nf5 39.Rd1 Nd6, but the national team senior coach's army stood its ground firmly, and the game ended in a draw.

At last, the main catalyst of tension and drama of day two was the battle between the favorites of women’s section. Kosteniuk was thirsty to make up for her round one failure, but Gunina sacrificed a piece and placed another en prize!  

Kosteniuk – Gunina

16 Bh3!?  

Let me immediately add that savoring the participants’ errors when assisted by the engine is one thing, but it will never beat facing Gunina in a position with the entire board on fire! It looks like Black’s attacking ideas could be tamed by 17.Qh4!  

17.Nd5?! Qxb2 18.Rd2 

18.bxc5 Rfe8 19.Ne7+ Kf8 looks deadly for White, which convinced Alexandra to offer a draw by repetition.  

18...Qa1+ 19.Rd1 Qb2 20.Rd2 Qa1+ 21.Rd1  

A draw would have been completely logical here, but it is not in Gunina to let an opponent an easy getaway from an exciting position like that!  

21Qg7!? 22.Qf4 g5 23.Qc4 Rfe8+ 24.Ne3 Bxe3 25.fxe3 Rxe3+ 26.Kf2 Qb2+  

The black bishop has been en prize for as long as ten moves! The white king is longing for a cozy home, and the time was ripe for it with 27.Kg1.  


A powerful 27...Rae8 28.Rhe1 b5! escaped both players’ attention.  

27...Rc8? 28.Qxc8+! Bxc8 29.Kxe3 Kg7 30.Rd8 Be6 31.Nd4 Ba2 32.Rf1 Qxb4 

A mind-boggling middle game has transposed into a no less mind-boggling endgame, with Kosteniuk’s army challenged by Gunina’s queen and pawns. The ex-world champion offered a repetition there once again, but Gunina would have nothing of it until...  

 33.Nf5+ Kh7 34.Bd3 Qb6+ 35.Nd4+ Kg7 36.Rd6 Qc5 37.Ke4 Qb4 38.Ke3 Qa5 39.Nf5+ Kf8 40.Rxh6 Qe5+ 41.Kd2 Qb2+ 42.Ke3 Qe5+ 43.Kd2 Be6 44.Ne3 b5 45.h4 gxh4 46.Rxh4 a5 47.Nf5 b4 48.Nd4 Qg5+ 49.Rhf4 Bd5 50.Be4 Ba2 51.Bb1 Bd5 52.Be4 Ke8 53.Bxd5 Qxd5 54.Kd3 Qxg2 55.Rxf7 Qg6+ 56.R7f5 Qa6+ 57.Ke4 Qb7+ 58.Ke5 Qg7+ 59.Kd5 b3  

White has gradually consolidated his position, and had Kosteniuk played 60.Nc6, her mating threats would have prevailed over the b-pawn. This said, there is not perpet there for Black as well: 60…b2 (60...Qg2+ 61.Kd6 Qg6+ 62.Kc5; 60...Qd7+ 61.Kc5) 61.Re5+ Kd7 62.Re7+ Qxe7 63.Nxe7.  

60.Nxb3? Qb7+  

60.Kc4 is answered by 60…Qb4+, and the game is a draw for that reason.  

61.Kc5 Qe7+ 62.Kc6 Qe6+ 63.Kc7 Qd7+ 64.Kb6 Qe6+ 65.Kxa5 Qxb3 66.Rf7 Qxf7 ½

Sergey Shipov’s spectators did not leave until Valentina delivered a perpetual check

It is hard to imagine what Gunina’s coaching second goes through when watching her games online! One can visualize a coach retired from SWAT forces with a nervous system totally immune to any breakdowns, so that even if a bomb goes off somewhere near, you will hear back his tranquil response: “We will look into improving the order of moves in the Queen’s Gambit before the next game!”  

Vladimir Fedoseev has enlightened Satka with bright and juicy play.

Nepomniachtchi – Fedoseev

At a press conference, Fedoseev noticed with remarkable accuracy that the position was roughly equal, and the opponents’ performance was decent at that, but the moment for breakthrough from Ian was mistimed. The f2-pawn could have lent support to her e4-fellow.

26.f4? gxf4 27.Bxf4 Nc5  

White’s center is about to collapse, which gives Black an easy ride to victory.  

28.e5 dxe5 29.Rxe5 (29.Nxe5 Rad8) 29...Nd3 30.Rxe8 Rxe8 31.Bg3 Nxd5! 32.Kh2  

Black is up a pawn (32.Bxd5 Qc5+) and an ongoing offensive.  

32...c6 33.NfNe3 34.Nxe3 Rxe3 35.Qf1 Bd6 36.Bxd6 Qxd6+ White resigns.  

There happened a remarkable moment in Inarkiev – Dubov.

Inarkiev – Dubov

Inarkiev was being pressed for time and failed to thwart the opponent’s offensive. 

21.Rab1 Rb3 22.Qa2 Nc5 23.f3 c3! 24.fxe4? (24.bxc3!) 24...cxd2 25.Bc4 Qg5!  

Having sacrificed both rooks, Black delivers a spectacular checkmate.  

26.Bxb3 Qxe3+ 27.Kh1 Nxe4 28.Rf1 Be5 White resigns, recognizing his inability to defend his king.  

While the games are in progress, we are at the press center with Eteri Kublashvili and chief secretary Alexander Shukan. Eteri asks, “Dmitry, why did not Ernesto take the pawn? 22.Qxd6!” Getting away with something like we fail to see what Dubov sees was not going to work. It turned out that 22…Be5 23.Qe6+ Kg7 runs into a crusher 24.Bxc4! Rxc4 (bad is 24...Bh2+ 25.Kxh2 Rxe6 26.dxe6, with too much material for the queen) 25.d6 Rbb4 (25...Qc8 26.Rbc1) 26.Bxb4 Rxb4 27.Rbc1, and Black is nearly loosing! Black should better step down his king to f8, but White takes on c4 anyway: 24.Bxc4 Rxc4 25.d6 Rbb4 26.Bxb4 Rxb4 27.Rbc1 Qe8 28.Qd5, and the initiative is with White. However, there is no easy stopping Eteri, who went on to ask same question of the game winner.  

At the press conference Daniil Dubov and Sergey Shipov were looking into 21.Qxd6 Be5 22.Qe6+ Kg7, but here Daniil suggested 23.Rac1, intending 23…Nc5 24.Qxe5+ Rxe5 25.Bc3 with an unclear situation. So much for RCF’s correspondent-girls. Once they ask questions, there is no getting away with general excuses... This said, Eteri's homeland was such that around 80 years ago a USSR championship could have a spectator stand up and exclaim for the entire playhall to hear: “Ernesto, grab a pawn!”  

Triumphants of round three Daniil Dubov and Vladimir Fedoseev

Grigoriy Oparin’s victory over Nikita Vitiugov was a spectacular one.

Oparin – Vitiugov

White has gathered his shock troops on the kingside, and it's hard to imagine that nearly the only solution for Black is a preventive40... g6! Vitiugov’s seemingly logical move gave White a tornado-like attack.  

40...Kg8 41.f6! Qxh3 42.f7+ Kh8 43.g6 Rc6  

The black rook joins the other defenders, but this is not sufficient.  

44.Rg2 Qh5 

Pawn grabbing helps no longer: 44...Qxd3 45.Qh4 Rxg6 46.Rxg6 Qxe4 47.Rg4. If Black were to get rid of the g6-nail, he would have come out victorious. However, Oparin will have nothing of it with his spectacular blow.

45.Rf6!! Rxf6  

Or 45…Rc2 46.Bd2.  

46.Nxf6 Qf3 47.Ne4 Bxe4 

47...Qxd3 48.Qh4.  

48.dxe4 Qh5 49.Qe2!  

A tough rejoinder.Poor king’s placement dooms Black in the endgame: 49...Qxe2 50.Rxe2 Bd6 51.Rh2 h6 52.Bg5! Bxb4 53.Rxh6+ gxh6 54.Bf6#. However, keeping queens helps neither.  

49Qh4 50.Bg5 d3 51.Qxd3 Qh5 52.Be7 Black resigns.  

Despite hard and intensive struggle, the women’s section has seen only a single decisive game once again. In fact, scoring opportunities were a lot more numerous than that, but this is the way it happened.

Gunina – Girya


Returning the extra bishop into the game via 44.Bf7 was a good idea, but Gunina overlooked her opponent’s tactical sequence.  

44.h5? Re4+! 45.Kf2 Rxf4+! 46.gxf4 Nb2 47.Ke2 d1Q+ 48.Rxd1 Nxd1 49.Kxd1 Kxf4  

Now being up a bishop bears significance no longer.  

50.Kd2 Kg5 51.Ke3 f4+ 52.Kf3 b5 53.Bf7 Draw.

Tomilova – Protopopova


The duel of first-timers saw Black’s ingenuous efforts at converting an extra pawn, and White putting up a stubborn defense. However, an endless time pressure depleted the forces of both opponents, and it turned into a succession of Tomilova’s failing to seize on a chance to escape first, then Protopopova’s not winning more than once, then Tomilova's missing a draw again, so that the hosts were almost ready to see Anastasiya at a press conference...  

75... b3?? 

Winning was 75...Kb1! 76.Bxc3 bxc3 77.Ba4 Kb2 78.Kg6 Bb3 79.Bxb3 Kxb3 80.Kxf6 c2 81.Kg7 c1Q 82.f6 Qg5+, and White lacks a tempo to make it to safety.  

76.Kg6 Ne4 77.Be6 Bc6 78.Bxb3+ Kxb3 79.Bxf6  and the game ended in a draw.

Galliamova – Bodnaruk

The battle between Galliamova and Bodnaruk is no second to Kosteniuk-Gunina in what comes to visual and special effects. It was anyplayer’s game, but in the diagram position the grandmaster from St. Petersburg is clearly for choice.  

47... Qd6? 

Winning was 47...Qe5, intending 48.a7 (or 48.Nf1 Rg4+ 49.Kh1 Rg2) 48...Qg3+ 49.Ng2 fxg2, whereas now Galliamova delivers a mighty counterblow.  

48.Nxf3!! Qg3+ 49.Ng2 exf3 50.Qc2+, upon which it turned out that there is no escaping the perpet for the black king. The rook hanging, there is no interposing with the queen, and after 50Kf6 51.Qc6+ Ke7 52.Qb7+, the game ended in a draw.  

Scoring her first victory was the reigning Russian champion.

Pogonina - Goryachkina

Black has an edge, but an excellent defender as she is, Natalia Pogonina has had worse to get out of. Now the player from Saratov is after reducing the existing material.  

46.Bc1 Nxd4 47.Bxg5 Rd7 48.Nxd4 Rxd4+ 49.Kc5 Rd3 50.Rb1 Rxf3  

Suggesting itself was 51.Kb6 Rxg3 52.Bf4, aiming at the rook vs rook + bishop ending, but White procrastinated.  

51.Bf4 Rd3 52.Kb6 Rd7 53.Ka7? Bd4+ 54.Kb8 Ke6, and with the white king out of play, Aleksandra’s impeccable technique did the job of bringing the edge home. 

Going into round four, no section of any tournaments has its clear leader yet. There is no player with a +2 score. There are no clear leaders or tail-enders. In store for us, however, is the period of “middle-aged rounds” with its separation into poor and rich.