22 October 2016

Goganov’s Rule, Kosteniuk’s Lucky Sign

Dmitry Kryakvin reviews the initial three rounds of the Russian Superfinal in Novosibirsk.

The capital of Siberia has given start to an annual parade of the Russian front-rank chess forces. Even if the Novosibirsk event is missing Sergey Karjakin, preparing for the New York match, Vladimir Kramnik, still postponing his campaign for the only  world’s trophy not in his collection yet, and Ian Nepomniachtchi, who has fallen victim to the existing qualification system, the men’s tournament promises to be very exciting nonetheless. This is not to mention the women’s section with its all-star lineup.

I would like to add that the competition, which runs to the east of the Urals, features a local player for the first time in its history. Meanwhile, the player is far from being an underdog. Grandmaster Dmitry Bocharov is the 2015 Russian blitz champion, whereas the same year’s World Rapid Championship saw him beating a half dozen elite grandmasters to clinch for the shared second, just one point behind Magnus Carlsen himself.

Prior to that there is known to have happened only one such precedent in history - in the 2005 women’s Superfinal in Samara there played a local participant Julia Yakovich. However, a tradition that has long been practiced in the Russian Cup and the Rapid Grand Prix Series, has not established itself in the Championship. However, following as many as 11 years the formula “the event organizer is entitled to a wild card player” has been put into operation again.

Looking through websites and forums prior to this responsible competition, I came across a popular blogger’s post, who claimed that in and of itself this fact was a very good sign for Alexandra Kosteniuk. Back then, in the 2005 Russian Championship in Samara, the 12th world champion took the Russian classical “gold” for her last time, and it seems as though the action # bocharovavsuperfinal has lifted some karmic curse that used to haunt Alexandra all those years. The first three rounds witnessed the Russian team leader performing above any praise, so that the only person still entitled to exercise doubts in Alexandra’s success is an adamant woman from Langepas bearing the name of Olga Girya. But let’s start our review with the men’s section first.

On correct use of knights

With three rounds behind, the first leaders have advanced to the forefront, although not all of them are those who used to be called first among equals before the start. For example, the runner-up for the world chess crown noted that he did not imagine which forces could possibly stop Alexander Grischuk on his way to the first place, but the Muscovite has so far put only three half points under his belt. Sharing the driver’s seat at the moment are Vladimir Fedoseev, Peter Svidler, Alexander Riazantsev and Alexei Goganov. I have been Peter Veniaminovich’s fan for over 20 years, while uncertainty in Volodya and Sasha’s situation is especially pronounced now that we should be taking into account that in the Higher League they advanced into the qualifying “+3” over the “dead” body of your author. I will write many years later something like this, “Despite my having all the chances in the world, Mikhail Vitalyevich (Krjukov) would pit me against the strongest! Thus, they went on to shine in the Superfinal as well! "

As for Aleksey Goganov, he lived up to the glory of his native city on at least two occasions. The Siege of Leningrad and the incredible heroic deed of the northern capital city’s residents is one of the most epic military pages of our country’s history, while it is in the battles against Grischuk and Dmitry Jakovenko that Goganov likewise showed himself as if an experienced soldier, survivor of the siege.

Goganov (2635) – Grischuk (2752)
Round 1

Although the white knight is a step away from leaving the corner to join his king defenders, Goganov’s situation is alarming nonetheless. However, by this moment Grischuk was already in a zugzwang, not an unusual situation for him.

22…Ne6 23.Nf2 g4 24.fxg4 hxg4 25.hxg4 f4?!

Tipping the scale in favor of Black was an effective 25...Qh4! 26.Nf3 (26.gxf5 fails to 26...Nxf5 27.Nf3 Qg3) 26...Bxf3 27.Bxf3 e4 28.Be2 Bxb2 29.Qxb2 Ng5 30.gxf5 Nf3+! 31.Bxf3 (31.gxf3 Qg3+ 32.Kh1 Re7 results in a checkmate) 31...exf3, and the white king is in for big troubles.

Although Grischuk’s choice has a lot of positional pluses to it, this delay afforded Aleksey enough time to regroup his forces and evacuate his king.

26.e4 Ng5 27.Bf3 Rf6 28.Nh3 Ndf7 29.Nxg5 Nxg5 30.Kf2!

As is often the case in similar KID positions, His Majesty expeditiously vacates the danger zone, allowing access for his guarding rook to sort things out.

30…Rg6 31.Rh1 Nh7 32.a4?

The grandmaster from St. Petersburg builds a lateral line of communication according to Nimzowitsch and swings his queen’s rook into play, but without having his knight posted actively it is impossible to fight back the pesky black pieces! As if taken from the books of the prematurely late Mark Izrailovich, the position calls for White’s carrying out a somersault type of regrouping with 32.Nb1! Nf6 33.Qe2 Qe6 34.Rh4 Qe7 35.g5 Rxg5 36.Nc3, with any result still possible in a struggle in which White’s remote passer would be an impressive trump card.

Now Grischuk wins back the g4-pawn, and sneaks up close to the white monarch.

32...Nf6 33.Ra3 Nxg4+ 34.Bxg4 Rxg4 35.Rah3 Qg5 36.R1h2 Re6?

This is a significant error, allowing the opponent to build up a new defensive wall in lieu of the destroyed one. 36...Rg3 would have prevented the white queen from showing up on d3, leaving White with the entire complex of his unresolved problems.

37.Qd3! Qe7 38.Nf3 d6 39.Nh4 Rf6 40.Nf3 Qe8


A passive strategy is dangerous - owing to the firepower of the b7-bishop there will always be a surplus of attacker’s resources to break through the defensive ramparts. Only such desperate measures as 41.a5!? Qg6 42.Nxe5! dxe5 43.Bxe5 Bxe4 (after 43...Re6
44.Qd8+ Kf7 45.Rd3 it is already Black’s turn to come up with only moves) 44.Qd8+ could have landed White in a comfortable zone of a perpetual check.

41...Rg3 42.Kg1 Qg6 43.Rxg3 Qxg3?!

A sudden amnesty. A great deal stronger is 43...fxg3 44.Rh4 Bh6, as was indicated by our colleagues from ChessPro. I wish to add for myself that 45.Bc3 Bf4 46.Bd2 Qxe4 47.Qxe4 Bxe4 48.a5 gives White definite chances to save the game, but no more than that. Now the game almost forcibly transposes into a roughly equal opposite-colored bishop ending. 

44.Rh3 Qg6 45.Nd2 f3 46.Rxf3 Rxf3 47.Qxf3 Bh6 48.Bc3 Bxd2 49.Bxd2 Bxe4 Draw.

Surprisingly enough, round two saw Goganov with his knight on the edge of the board once again. In their comments on broadcasting chess sites the European chess fans already started convincing Aleksey to make a pilgrimage to the relics of Siegbert Tarrasch, but Dmitry Jakovenko not only graciously helped his opponent escape a penalty, but suddenly stumbled on the last meters of the race.

Jakovenko (2714) – Goganov (2635)
Round 2


It is quite amusing that the engine recommends consolidating White’s advantage by trading this very stray knight 34.Nc4 Nb6 (more stubborn is 34...Be6 35.Ne3 Nc7) 35.Nxb6 axb6 36.f5! Rd7 37.Rxd7 Bxd7 38.Rd1 Bc8 39.b5! Kg7 40.Rd6 cxb5 41.Bh5 Kh6 42.Be2, and only then get down to harvesting the black pawns. However, up to a certain moment Dima was performing decently and no less strongly than the computer.

34...Nb6 35.h4 Na4 36.Rc1 Rg7 37.f5!

It is essential that the c8-bishop be not allowed into freedom. In other circumstances this game could have crystallized itself into a training example in the a la Lasker - Capablanca style...

37…Nb6 38.Rcd1 Rc7 39.h5 h6

White have deployed his pieces in the best possible way, so that after 40.Rg1 Rd7 (40...Rg7 41.Rg6!) 41.Rxd7 Nxd7 42.Nc4 b5 43.Ne3 Ne5 44.Ng4 Black is in a bad shape since the trade of knights decisively highlights the disparity in kings’ activity and breakability of Black’s position with е4-е5. However, the time control move gives start to a series of inaccuracies by the grandmaster from the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug. 

40.Rd8?! Rxd8 41.Rxd8+ Kg7 42.Rd1 c5

A couple of rooks has disappeared from the board, the black king has managed to abandon the home rank and has begun breathing more freely, the liberating c6-c5 has been carried out, but Jakovenko’s position was so much better that all this is just not enough for Black yet.

43.Rc1 Nd7 44.Be2 b6 45.Nb3! Bb7 46.Ke3 Rc8 47.Bb5?

This is playing straight into Black’s hands. Instead, 47.bxc5 bxc5 48.Bc4 followed by bishop’s transfer to e6 would have left White with substantial winning chances.

47...Bc6 48.Bc4 Ba4!

The “bad” bishop is traded off and the worst for the native of St.Petersburg is over.

49.Be6 Bxb3 50.Bxd7

After 50.Bxb3 Ne5 51.Rg1+ Kh7 52.Be6 Rc7 the “rock-solid” е5-knight cements Black’s position without any exterior help.  Even though Dmitry preferred excluding the knight from the game, his edge has fizzled out nonetheless. 

50...Rc7 51.Bb5 Bf7 52.Be2 Kf8 53.Kf4 c4 54.a4

The hasty 54.e5 fxe5+ 55.Kxe5 Re7+ drops the bishop, but who could have imagined that Jakovenko “tusk” was yet in for trouble in this drawn ending.

54...a5 55.bxa5 bxa5 56.Ke3 c3 57.Bd1 Be8


What a tragedy! 58.Bc2 Rb7 (58...Rd7 59.Bd3) 59.Kd4 Rb4+ 60.Kxc3 Bxh5 61.Rh1 Be8 62.Rxh6 Kg7 63.Rh2 Bxa4 with mutual elimination of all pawns would have sailed the game into a peaceful harbor.

58...c2! 59.Be2

59.Bxc2 fails to 59...Bxa4, while a similar pitfall is in store for the white bishop after 59.Rxc2 Rd7+, and it is curtains.

59...Bxa4 60.Bd3 Bb3 White resigns.

This is incredible! Indeed, it was one of Jakovenko’s bread-and-butter positions, which saw him scoring tens, if not hundreds of victories! Let me note, nevertheless, that our much-beloved government does not allow its citizens to be bored: recently the timezone in Novosibirsk has been shifted to an earlier hour so that the time gap with Moscow has increased to as many as four hours now. This much shift means the game starts too early, thus encouraging the leading Siberian grandmasters’ creative masterpieces to be often interspersed with semi-mystical blunders...

In round three Aleksey was once again within striking distance of success, but, alas, in his duel against Dmitry Bocharov his knight was not on the edge of the board, but in a more attractive location, which prompted Goganov into not the best of ideas of mounting it into the center.

Goganov (2635) – Bocharov (2611)
Round 3

Taking on a2 is obviously impossible, but there is a choice between two paths: the knight can either jump to the right or to the left, much like in a well-known Russian fairy tale.


The knight should have jumped to the edge and nothing but the edge! A study-like 21.Nb5! Nb4 (21...Bb3 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 runs into 23.Bc6! Bxd1 24.Bxe8 Nb4 25.Nxa7; 21...Rc5 fails miserably to 22.Rxe6 fxe6 23.Nd6) 22.Nxa7 Rc5 (it is vital that the 22...Ba2+ 23.Ka1 Rxe5 24.Nxc8 g5 idea does not work due to 25.Rd4!) 23.Rxc5 bxc5 24.Nb5 would have left the round two hero up a pawn.

But why should the central direction be condemned as leading to no advantage?

21...Bxd5 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Rxd5 Nb4 24.Rd7 a6

It turns out that the b4-knight does an excellent job of defending and covering all his pawns and the f7-square as well, to a certain degree bearing resemblance to an octopus’s tenacles wrapping around everything that comes its way. Again, this is a good outpost, and in close proximity to the edge of the board... There followed yet:

25.Rd6 Rb8 26.e4 Kf8 27.e5 b5 28.Be4 h6 29.Kc1 Rc8+ 30.Kd2 Rc4 31.Ke3 Nc2+ 32.Bxc2 Rxc2, and the chief arbiter Maxim Ivakhin registered a draw in a short while.

So much for your postulates, dear Siegbert Ksanderovich! In fact, it is not the on the rim that the knight is dim, but visa versa in the center.

One of the most important encounters of the first round from the audience’s perspective was the Riazantsev - Bocharov game. Those who have seen the spectacular opening on vivid pictures by Eteri Kublashvili must have noticed the banners, which the junior trainees of the RCF grandmaster center Siberian put out in support of their coach. In its turn, the rest of the audience rooted for Bocharov, but this time around the luck favored the junior audience.

Riazantsev (2651) – Bocharov (2611)
Round 1

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0–0 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.0–0 Nc6 10.h3 a6 11.b3 d4 12.exd4 Nxd4 13.Bb2 


In a relatively recent game Cvitan - Dudek, 2014, after 13...Bf5 14.Nxd4 Bxd3 15.Qxd3 Qxd4 16.Qf3 Qb4 17.Na4 Be7 18.Rfe1 Rfe8 19.Bc3 Qb5 20.Re5 Qc6 21.Qxc6 bxc6 Black managed to bail out after all, although the initiative was with White. I am confident that Riazantsev would have put Black up against more problems.

14.Ne4 Be7?

With the queens on the board White’s offensive starts looming large on the horizon. Let me, once again, give you a reference to the strongest  recommendation from ChessPro: 14...Nxe4! 15.Bxe4 Qxd1 16.Rfxd1 a5, although Black is nowhere near equality yet.

15.Qc2 Nd5

15...h6 16.Rad1 does not look promising for Black at all.

16.Nc3 Nf6 17.Rad1 Qa5 18.Rfe1 Rd8

The women’s national team coach has gathered all his pieces into a striking force, while Bocharov’s queenside is still in need of awakening. It is only natural that White should get down to tactical means.

19.Re5 b5?

An endgame transition via 19...Qc7 20.Nd5 Qxc2 (20...Rxd5 21.Qxc7 Nxc7 22.Rxe7 Bf5 23.Bxf6 gxf6 24.Rxc7 Bxd3 25.Rxb7 loses a pawn and the game) 21.Nxe7+ Kf8 22.Bxc2 Rxd1+ 23.Bxd1 Kxe7 24.Ba3+ Kd8 25.Re1 would have granted no special prospects to the native of Novosibirsk since a bishop pair should have its decisive say after all. However, the game would have lasted much longer, whereas now it materializes into a miniature.

20.Nd5 Nxd5 21.Bxh7+ Kf8 22.Rexd5 Rxd5 23.Rxd5 Bb7

It is clear that opting for the endgame with 23...Qc7, while being down a pawn, is far from a manly decision.

24.Rf5 Rc8

Now Alexander Riazantsev only needs to calculate a couple of short lines. 

25.Rxf7+! Kxf7 26.Qg6+ Kf8 27.Qxe6 Bf6 28.Bg6, and Black resigns because 28…Qc7 runs into a deadly blow 29.Ba3+

 All in all, round one proved rich in events. It was later that the players decided that the audience had been  enough indulged, and, with the upcoming distance being a lengthy one yet, it was no use wasting energy prematurely. Thus, rounds two and three passed under the constant supervision of Mrs. Solid Game.

Svidler (2745) – Inarkiev (2732)
Round 1

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 d5 6.exd5 Qxd5 7.Bc4 Qd6 8.Qe2 0–0 9.Nbd2 a5 10.Ng5 Qe7

Even though Levon Aronian managed to hold his position together against Veselin Topalov in the Sinquefield Cup earlier this year after 10...Bf5 11.Nde4 Nxe4 12.Nxe4 Bxe4 13.dxe4 Nd8 14.Bd2 c6 15.a4 Ne6 16.Rd1 Qe7 17.g3, toiling arduously just to escape with a draw against a bishop pair is not to everybody’s liking. Therefore, the European Champion decided to leave as many pieces on the board as possible, but fell out of the frying pan into the fire.

11.Nde4 Bd6 12.a4 h6 13.h4!

Similar to the lines of the Sicilian Defence and the exchange variation of the French Defense with dxe4, White’s minor piece is immune to vulnerability due to opening up of the h-file.

13…Nd8 14.Qf3 Ng4 15.Qe2 Kh8 16.f3 Nf6 17.Nxf6 Qxf6 18.g4 

Finding yourself in a dangerous position in which the direct attack against you is not only mature, but has already been launched, does not readily lend itself to coming up with any decent solution. Adam Tukhaev and Maksim Notkin insisted that the European champion should go for 18...Qe7 with idea of building up some sort of a fortress after 19.Ne4 (19.Be3 Ne6) 19...Be6 20.g5 h5. It looks as though Ernesto had overlooked the white queen’s shot.

18…Ne6? 19.Qe4! Nxg5

19...g6 20.Nxe6 Bxe6 21.Bxh6 is just out of the question for Black

20.hxg5 Qe7?

20...Qg6 21.Qe2 Qh7 22.gxh6 g6 would have stopped the immediate disaster, but this h7-queen is nowhere near being as valuable as Goganov’s knight, while Black is down a pawn at that.


This is a return blunder, something quite uncharacteristic of Peter Svidler. Everyone agreed on 21.g6! f5 22.Bxh6 gxh6 23.Qe3 f4 24.Rxh6+ Kg7 25.Rh7+ Kf6 (25...Kxg6 26.Qe4+ Bf5 27.gxf5+ Kxh7 28.f6+) 26.Qf2 as leading to an immediate victory. It enabled Inarkiev’s pulling himself together to start putting up as stubborn defense as possible.

21...Be6 22.0–0–0 c6 23.g6

Despite being a computer’s favorite, 23.Rxh6+!? gxh6 24.Rh1 f5 (24...Kg7 25.Bxe6 Qxe6 26.Rxh6) 25.gxf6 Rxf6 26.g5 Bf5 27.gxf6 Qxf6 28.Qe3 Bf8 29.f4 exf4 30.Qxf4 Bg7 looks completely unclear. Svidler must have seen this line, but turned it down after all. Although 23.gxh6 g6 is possible, it is a lot more exciting to be on the attacker’s side than playing on with an extra pawn which is doomed.

23...fxg6 24.Qxg6 Rf6 25.Qe4 Qf7 26.g5 Rf5

We must pay tribute to the tactical skills of the many-time national champion as he finds a way to open up the position and drag Inarkiev’s king out into the open. 

27.g6! Qxg6 28.Rdg1 Qf6 29.Rxg7 Kxg7 30.Rxh6 Qxh6

Perhaps, Black would have fared better by remaining with bishops of same color: 30...Bxc4!? 31.Qg4+ Kf7 32.Qxc4+ Ke7 33.Rxf6 Kxf6 34.d4 exd4 (34...Rxf3 fails to 35.d5) 35.Qxd4+ Ke6, as it promised more chances to defend the position.

31.Bxh6+ Kxh6 32.Qh4+ Kg7 33.Bxe6 Rf6, and I was somewhat disappointed by Peter’s not finding a spectacular 34.Bc8! to paralyze Black’s rooks. Nevertheless, the bishop’s retreat to c4 proved enough in the end as defending against the queen with opposite-colored bishops was an uphill battle since the queen haunted the black heavy pieces much like a wolf would do to a sheep flock! Thus, Svidler scored the first tournament victory.

Even more prolonged and stubborn was the struggle between two other representatives of the Northern capital in Novosibirsk.

Fedoseev (2665) – Vitiugov (2721)
Round 1


Only a lazy did not write that following the accurate 79...Qg7! 80.Qb1 Nxe5 81.Rxb7 Kg6 it is not not clear how Black’s position should be undermined, whereas Fedoseev’s king would have also been in a situation that can be described as other than ideal. Being exhausted by the preceding struggle, Nikita missed Alekhine’s trebling of heavy pieces.

80.Qb1!, and here he also missed the most tenacious 80...Qg7! 81.Rxb7 Nxe5 amounts to nothing, but 81.Rb6! lands Black in a zugzwang: 81...Rdf7 82.Rxb7 Nxe5 83.Re7 Nd7 84.Rxe6+ Kh7, although this is not completely over yet because after 85.Qc2 Qd4! Black starts relishing the prospects of a potential perpetual check. 

However, in the game it was a lot simpler than that.

80…Qe8 81.Rxb7 Qd8 82.R7b6 Kf7 83.Qe4, and Vitiugov stopped the clock.

  The most interesting games from the period of “solid” rounds were those by Dmitry Kokarev. At first Caissa safeguarded Dima, while the next day she switched sides by saving his opponent.

Bocharov (2611) – Kokarev (2636)
Round 2

Black enjoyed the initiative for a lengthy period of time, trying to get at the h4-pawn, but towards the time control move Bocharov managed to consolidate his position and then, having passed the time control, he succeeded in delivering a crushing blow to his opponent.


“Do not hesitate to give up your pieces for chains of connected pawns!” as we were advised by Bronstein, who was not mistaken about it. Indeed, 41.Nxc5!! dxc5 42.Bxc5 would have been extremely powerful. The a7-pawn is hanging and the threat of rook taking the e5-bishop is in the air. The following lines look nice indeed.


The most stubborn resistance. In the case of 42...Bc7 43.b6 axb6 44.axb6 Bf4 45.Re8 Black’s pieces are stalemated - 45…Nh5 46.d6, while 42...Bf4 43.Bxa7 or 42...Bb8 43.Re7+ Rf7 44.Re8 is no better than that)


Whether or not White can break through after 43.Bxa7 Rxc4+ 44.Kb3 Re4 (44...Rc3+ 45.Kb4) 45.Rxe4 Nxe4 46.a6 bxa6 47.bxa6 Kf7 48.Bb6 Bb8 49.Kc4Ke7 50.Kd3 Nd6 51.a7 Bxa7 52.Bxa7 Nf5 53.Bc5+ Kd7 54.Bf2 Kd6 55.Ke4 is a purely theoretical question as he has stronger continuation at his disposal.

43...Rf3+ 44.Re3 Rxe3+ 45.Bxe3 a6

Extremely spectacular is 45...Bb8 46.d6! Kf7 47.Bf4 Nf5 48.d7! – it is obvious that no fortress ideas will come to Black’s rescue in this position.

46.Bb6 Nf5 47.c5 Kf7 48.c6 Nd6

This is the key position of the entire line! With the White pawns geared towards the queening squares and the black pieces keeping them in check, White prevails in a study-like fashion

49.Bc7!! axb5

Now 49...Nxb5 50.Bxe5 bxc6 51.dxc6 Ke6 52.Ke4 would be losing for Black. However, 50.cxb7 Nxb7 51.a6 Nc5+ would be premature, therefore we resort to a study approach:

50.Ke2!! bxc6 51.a6 Nc8 (or 51...Bd4 52.Bxd6 cxd5 53.Bb8) 52.Bxe5 cxd5 53.Bd4 – and White’s extra piece brings him a victory. Calculating all these lines clearly defies human player’s possibilities, whereas Dima, who has suffered a recent loss at the start, was unwilling to sacrifice a piece just for the sake of beauty. This is why nothing out of the order happened in this game.

41...Rf3 42.Nd3 Nf5 43.Nxe5 Rxe3 44.Rxe3 Nxe3+ 45.Kd3 Nxd5

Kokarev wins a pawn, but his opponent has foreseen the transition into a pawn ending in which neither side has any opportunity to break through.

46.Nd7 Nb4+ 47.Ke4 Kf7 48.Nf6 h6 49.Nd5! hxg5 50.hxg5 Nxd5 51.cxd5 b6 52.a6 Ke7 Draw.

Kokarev (2636) – Oparin (2617)
Round 3

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3

I read somewhere that this move was employed as a surprise to get around the Sicilian preparation by Grisha and his coach Shipov, which they had amassed with the aid of the computer monster that  the main Russian chess commentator and mentor of the gifted Higher League winner carries along with himself. It is true that he carries his computer with him, but nowadays 5.f3 is one of the trendy main lines of the “anti-Najdorf” so that Black would often start with 3...Nf6 to prevent it.

5…e5 6.Nb3 Be7

This is considered to be one of the most principled moves. It used to be Gelfand's choice, which speaks volumes in and of itself. Oparin stays clear of both the popular Vachier-Lagrave line 6...d5 7.Bg5 d4 8.c3, and of 6...Be6 7.c4. I would like to add that less precise is the immediate 6...a5 7.Bb5+ Nc6 8.Nc3 Be7 9.Be3 0–0 10.Na4! Be6 11.Nb6 Rb8 12.0–0 (12.с4!? Na7 13.Ba4 was tested in the game between Ponkratov and Evdokimov) 12…d5 13.exd5 Nxd5 14.Nxd5 Bxd5 15.c4 Be6 16.Qxd8 Rfxd8 17.Bb6 Rdc8 18.Rfd1, as in Kryakvin – Khismatullin, 2016. Although Black should be able to hold this position, it requires a lot of precise play.

7.c4 a5 8.Be3 a4 9.Nc1!

This offbeat continuation has a lot of venom to it. 9.N3d2 0–0 10.Be2 is answered by 10…Qa5 11.0–0 Bd8!, something that has long since been demonstrated to mankind by Boris Abramovich in the Rublevsky – Gelfand game of 2008.

9...Qa5+ 10.Nc3

10.Qd2 Bd8! was seen in a cult match Ivanchuk - Sutovsky of the 2011 World Cup, when a real chess artist Emil won brilliantly as Black, and then did not dare to, did not allow himself to cynically play for a draw as White and eventually went down in the tie-break ...
Dmitry Kokarev plays stronger and follows suit of Dmitry Andreikin’s idea, which is a very unpleasant one for Black.

10...0–0 11.Qd2 


The 2013 game Andreikin – Tazbir saw 11...Be6 12.b4 (12.Rb1 Rc8) 12...axb3 13.Nxb3 Qd8 14.Be2 Na6 15.0–0 Nd7 16.Nb5 Ndc5 17.Rfd1, and the d6-weakness proved a lot more significant factor than the isolated c4- and a2-pawns -- the Ryazan grandmaster went on to score a very easy win. However, when preparing for Khismatullin, I was greatly concerned with Black’s provocative 13...Qb4!?14.Rb1 Ra3!? or 14...Qa3!? Does White have anything substantial at his disposal?

However, Grigoriy sounded the retreat, pinning his hopes on the kingside counterplay.

12.Rb1 Be6 13.b4! axb3 14.Nxb3 Qd8 15.Be2 h6?!

Procrastination in a position in which giving away a tempo is too generous a gift. Much stronger is 15...Nh5!, intending to follow up with 16.0–0 Nf4 17.Rfd1 f5, while 16.Nd5 Nf4 17.Nxf4? exf4 18.Bxf4 is parried by 18…d5.

16.0–0 Ne8 17.Qb2 Bg5 18.Bf2

What is Oparin supposed to do now that White has sidestepped the exchange of bishops?

18…h5 19.Rfd1 Qf6?

c4-с5 should not be allowed after all - 19...b6!? 20.Nd5 Rb8 21.Nc1 h4, upon which 22.Bxb6?! Qc8 starts looking dangerous for White. With Kokarev breaking through in the center, it seemed as though the game was over.

20.c5! Bxb3 21.Qxb3 Nd4 22.Qxb7 Nxe2+ 23.Nxe2 Rxa2 

The knight jump towards the center suggests itself. However, Aleksey Goganov’s game proves that Tarrasch was not always sincere about knight’s situation in that part of the board. If the grandmaster from Penza had any idea about his opponent’s evil intentions, he would have opted for a simple 24.Nc1!, upon which 24…Rхf2 25.Kхf2 Qf4 25.Kg1 would be a mere air concussion; meanwhile, 24…Rc2 25.Qb3 fails to help either. It would have been yet another instance of a knight being ideally posted on the edge of the board.


How can Black counter the Kokarev’s army onslaught? 24...Rc2 25.Nd5 Qg6 26.c6 would be hoping against hope. Nevertheless, Oparin delivers a tactical blow that manages to confuse his seasoned opponent.

24…Rxf2! 25.Nd5

25.Kхf2 runs into 25…Qf4, and White should part with his h2-pawn: 26.Qb2 Qхh2 27.c6. Although the game becomes sharp, the bishop’s checking from h4 is answered by the white king’s escaping to е3. Therefore, Dima could have taken up this gauntlet, but why such complications?


“Who wants to win a queen? The Russian Championship Superfinals are hardcore chess,” was stated responsibly by chess24.com; this tweet this hangs on the RCF website’s ribbon. However, both opponents were undoubtedly aware that the +2.00 evaluation after 26.Nxf6+ Nxf6 27.Kh1? Bxc5 does not negate the fact that the resulting position is a fortress, while it is not at all clear how the white queen is supposed to crush through the joint defenses of the knight and bishop buttressed by a pawn, something which is in full compliance with Botvinnik’s postulates. Nevertheless, it is clear that one can go on trying such ideas as sacrificing the exchange, the more so because of a multitude of rooks on the board. 

I want to voice my support of Notkin and Tukhaev’s point of view that following the precise 27.c6! Rb2 28.Kf1 Rхb7 29.cхb7 Rb8 30.Rхd6 Kf8 31.Rc6 the rook lands on c8, immobilizing Black’s defenses. With the white king joining the action it is hard to believe this position to be tenable for Black.

Kokarev rejected a generous offering and chose to keep the knight.

26.Nxe3? Re2 27.Nf5 dxc5?

With very little time on his clock, Grigoriy Oparin once again exposes himself to his opponent’s mighty blow. He should have evicted the knight by 27...g6 28.Ng3 Rc2. 


However, after Teimour Radjabov’s 28.h4!! Qe6 (28...g6 29.Rb6) 29.Rd5 Nf6 30.Rb6 White was winning immediately, giving the knight a chance to shine other than on the edge of the board for the first time during this review.

28...Ra2 29.Qc4

Honestly speaking, one of the great mysteries to me is why Dmitry Kokarev -- a real gladiator on the chessboard -- did not continue the battle here with: 29.Qxc5 g6 30.Ne7+ Kg7 31.Nc6. It seems that for the next 50 moves Black is set for an unremitting toil for a draw in a four versus three ending.

29...Ra5 30.Qc3 Ra2 31.Qc4 Ra5 32.Qc3 Ra2 Draw. The game is very instructive despite the errors committed by both partners. Besides, Grisha’s escape is simply miraculous, there is no other way to describe it.

Standings after three rounds: 1-4th. Peter Svidler, Vladimir Fedoseev, Alexander Riazantsev, Aleksey Goganov - with 2 points; 5-8th. Alexander Grischuk, Grigoriy Oparin, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Dmitry Kokarev - 1.5; 9-12th. Dmitry Jakovenko, Ernesto Inarkiev, Nikita Vitiugov, and Dmitry Bocharov - 1.

Slaughters, slaughters...

Women are not men (and visa versa, men are not women). Such things as “equalized with precise play”, “handled the opening into a risk-free position”, “took the queens off the board” are unheard of! An average scoreability for the beautiful half of humanity per round amounts to 5 out of 6! This said, the stronger sex has so far scored only 4 times, with three wins chalked up in round one at that. So far, towering above other participants are Alexandra Kosteniuk and Olga Girya, who have put their opponents to the sword as many as three times already. Lagging a point behind is a national team member Natalija Pogonina, but we should not dismiss Valentina Gunina, for whom the arithmetic “losing two games, but then coming back with nine wins!” would be nothing out of the ordinary.

Girya (2446) – Ubiennykh (2346)
Round 2

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0–0 6.Be3

I have had so much blood drawn out of me recently by the opening expert of the women’s national team that your author scents Riazantsev’s analyzes much like Luke Skywalker is aware of Darth Vader’s presence. As soon as Olga put the bishop on e3, all dishes in my kitchen fell off the shelves. Needless to say, 5.Be2 and 6.Be3 is now gaining in popularity, so that this Matthew Sadler’s setup, brought back to life by Alexander, sees him scoring a lot of points there.


Another line is 6...Na6 7.Qd2 (7.h3 c5 8.d5 e6 9.Nf3 exd5 10.cxd5 Re8 11.Nd2 Nc7 12.a4 a6 13.0–0 Rb8 14.a5 Bd7 15.Re1 Bb5, and Black is in good shape, as in Riazantsev - Kryakvin, 2014) 7...e5 8.d5 Bd7 (8...Nc5 9.f3 a5 10.g4 a4 11.0–0–0 Bd7 12.h4 a3 13.b3 c6 14.Kb1 cxd5 15.cxd5 Qa5 16.Rc1 b5 17.Nd1 – a similar idea is sometimes employed in the Sämisch Variation as well, as in Riazantsev - Belous, 2015) 9.f3 Nh5 10.0–0–0 f5?! 11.exf5 gxf5 12.Nh3 with advantage for White, as in Riazantsev - Kryakvin, 2016.

Let me mention the tricky setup advocated by Maxim Chigaev: a leisure c6, Kbd7, e5 is aimed at preventing White from steamrolling with g4-g5.

7.d5 c6

They used to post the knight to a6 here as well: 7...Na6 8.g4 Nc5 9.f3 h5 10.g5 Nh7 11.h4 a5 12.Qd2 f6 13.0–0–0 fxg5 14.hxg5 Bd7 15.Nh3 Qe7 16.Kb1 Rf7 17.Nf2 Raf8 18.Rdg1 Rf4!? In the last year’s “St. Petersburg Summer” Farrukh Amonatov confused Sasha here by offering a draw, but in the classical format this trick would have unlikely worked out since White is better.

Ekaterina herself suffered at the hands of Riazantsev in the Grand Prix Final after 7...a5 8.g4 Na6 9.g5 Nd7 10.h4 f5 (Farrukh made another draw as Black at the 2015 Russian Rapid Championship after 10...Ndc5 11.Qd2 c6 12.f3 a4 13.Nh3 Qa5 14.Nf2 Nb4, although here White could have obtained a sizeable advantage with a sudden 15.Bxc5! Qxc5 16.a3 Na6 17.Nxa4 or 15...dxc5 16.a3 Na6 17.0–0–0) 11.gxf6 Bxf6 12.Nf3 Ndc5 13.h5.

The preparation of the Krasnoyarsk coaching team of Ubiennykh was probably based on anticipation of some other lines, which Girya is known to employ in the KID, but why should the Russian team player, starting the game with 1.d4, not choose to follow in the footsteps of her coach?

8.g4 cxd5 9.cxd5 Qa5 10.f3 

The impulsive 10…b5?! 11.Bxb5 Bd7 12.Bxd7 Nbxd7 13.Nge2 Nc5 14.0–0 Rab8 15.Rb1 Rfc8 16.Qd2 Nfd7 17.Rfc1 Qb4 18.Ng3 a5 19.b3 left Black down a pawn without any visible compensation – this is not the Benko Gambit, after all.

Bodnaruk (2463) – Kosteniuk (2537)
Round 1

Nastya, being down a pawn, was toiling long and hard for a draw, but missed the save when it was already within reach.


59.Ba1! Bc7 (59...Be7 fails to cover the f6-square in view of 60.Rf6+!) 60.Rf6+ Kh5

The alternative would be 60...Kh7 61.Rf8 h3 62.Rh8+ Kg6 63.Rxh3 Rc1 64.Bb2 a1Q 65.Bxa1 Rxa1 66.Rc3! Bd8 67.Rc8 Re1+ 68.Kd5 Be7 69.Rc6+, eliminating the last black pawn.

61.Rf2 h3 62.Rxa2 Ra5 63.Rxa5+ bxa5 64.Be5 Bd8 65.Kf3 Kg5 66.Kg3 Kf5 67.Bc3 a4 68.Kxh3 Ke6 69.Kg4, and the white king is just in time. Bodnaruk pinned her hopes on the passed pawn and tucked her bishop as far away as possible, but it turned out that the black pawn queens with a tempo, which seals a victory.

59...h3! 60.Rxd8 h2 61.Rg8+ Kh7 62.d8 Qh1Q+ 63.Ke3

A victory could now be achieved by more than one way, but Alexandra chooses the most reliable one - she just grabbed the white rook.

63...Qe1+ 64.Kd3 Qd1+ 65.Ke3 Qb3+ 66.Kf4 Qf7+ 67.Ke3 Qe6+ 68.Kf4 Rf5+ 69.Kg3 Qxg8+ White resigns.

Charochkina (2366) – Gunina (2535)
Round 1

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 c5 8.dxc5 Nc6 9.Nf3 Qa5+ 10.Nd2

The line 10.Bd2 Qxc5 11.e3 Nxd2 12.Nxd2 dxc4 is known for its enhanced drawish tendencies, but Dasha employs a rare knight move that used to be in the limelight in the 1990s and 00s.

10...Nd4 11.Qd1

White undertakes a lot more liabilities with 11.Qd3 e5 12.b4 Qa4 13.Ra2 Nxd2 14.Rxd2 (after 14.Qxd2 Bronstein made an agreed draw with his friend Boleslavsky in the 1948 Interzonal, but if you have to play, then 14…Be6 should come into consideration) 14...Bf5 15.Qe3 0–0–0, upon which Evgeny Bareev failed to hold out against Vassily Ivanchuk (1994). 

Black is up to choice now: either 11...Nxc5 12.b4 Qa4 with a well-known draw (as in Kiriakov- Balashov, 1998, Granda Zuniga – Hou Yifan, 2007 and Aghasaryan - Petrosian, 2011) or a more complex 11...Bd7 12.b4 Qa4 13.Nxe4 Nc2+ 14.Kd2 Nxa1 15.Nd6+ Ke7 (as in Aronian - Palac, 2005 and Browne - Landa, 2005).

However, Valentina missed White’s most significant trap in this line. Alas, she is the first to get into this position as Black.

11...dxc4? 12.e3! Nb3

It turns out that 12...Nc6 fails to 13.Qg4!, while 12...c3 13.exd4 cxd2+ 14.Bxd2 leaves Black down a pawn.

13.Bxc4 Nxa1

13...Nexd2 14.Bxd2 Nxd2 fails to 15.b4!, but eliminating the white rook brings no relief either since the black knight ends up being trapped in the corner.

14.b4 Qd8 15.Nxe4 0–0 16.Bb2, and White scored an easy victory.

Standings after three rounds:

1-2nd places: Alexandra Kosteniuk and Olga Girya with 3 points, 3rd. Natalia Pogonina with 2; 4-7th. Aleksandra Goryachkina, Evgenija Ovod, Alisa Galliamova, and Daria Charochkina with 1,5; 8-10th. Valentina Gunina, Anastasia Bodnaruk, and Ekaterina
Ubiennykh with 1; 11-12th. Daria Pustovoitova and Alina Kashlinskaya with 0.5.

We are looking forward to another set of exciting games! We will come back to you with more reviews of upcoming Superfinal games.