14 October 2020

In Style of Yuri Razuvaev or in Spirit of Mikhail Tal?

Dmitry Kryakvin’s report about rounds 2-3 of the Russian Higher League

I have read a great story on Facebook about the reverse side of wearing masks. It was about Latvia hosting a rapid chess tournament dedicated to the memory of Vsevolod Dudzinskis, first coach GM Arthur Neiksans. Arthur himself went to the starting line and after the second round he suddenly spotted a familiar face in the hall. It turned out that one of the tables was occupied by a man in a mask whose facial moles resembled those of the disqualified Igors Rausis! However, Rausis was not on the starting list… Disqualified from chess for 6 years, the player was listed in the starting list under the new name of Isa Kassimi! Following emotional investigation, he had to abandon the competition.

Russian chess folklore tells a popular story about how a GM took a student along to a European tournament. It so happened that this GM's trainee did not feel well and could not show up for the most crucial game. Then the coach, a very responsible person, decided to show up instead. When the game began, the opponent was at first stealing suspicious looks at his counterpart, and then brought himself to whispering desperately, "You are not Vladimir... You are Grandmaster D.!!!" Now imagine them playing in masks! Indeed, have chess federations and organizations defined a mechanism for identifying players? You wouldn't usually know everyone in person, much less so that this person’s face is only half open…

Going into round three, they announced to the Higher League participants about introducing prizes named after Yuri Razuvaev, who would have turned 75 on October 10. To the best of my memory, the last time the Higher League awarded creative prizes was in 2012 in Tyumen, and it's great to see this tradition revived. Excerpts from the book Chess Academician – Yuri Razuvaev are published on the СFR website, but I want to share a story that has not made it into the book. After all, the book looks like a kind of gospel whose gilded pages miss all earthly events.

Well, it is the year 1993 with the World Team Championship in Lucerne looming large on the horizon. The Soviet Union has broken up, FIDE is falling apart, and RCF, too, is being torn apart between supporters of Kasparov and Karpov. By that time, the feud for the RCF sees Karpov's supporters seizing the initiative and forcing resignation of Kasparov's protege Arkady Murashov, who is also head of the Moscow Main Internal Affairs Directorate. Therefore, one of Garry Kimovich's coaches, Sergey Makarychev, who had coached the team at the 1992 Olympiad and the 1992 European Championship, could no longer keep up this job for obvious reasons. And they ended up choosing Razuvaev – the most neutral and democratic figure that suited everyone.

Kasparov was absent, and Karpov ignored the competition as well. However, the Russians' lineup with Kramnik, Khalifman, Bareev, Dolmatov, Dreev, and the late genius of the blitz Vyzhmanavin still looked clear favorites.

Since 1952, the Soviet and then the Russian teams had taken absolutely all Olympiads, world and European Team Championships. The only exception was Buenos Aires in 1978, where the Hungarians, led by Portish, pulled off a miracle and managed to get ahead of the invincible red machine. Therefore, fans and new administration of the Federation headed by Evgeny Bebchuk had high expectations from the Lucerne event, but those high expectations fell flat. The team quickly ceded its leading position and ended up third as a result. As opposed to this, the competitor teams of the USA and Ukraine with Gata Kamsky and Vasily Ivanchuk on board one respectively, were on the roll and raced to the finish line at full speed. In the last round, the Russians were stopped by the Latvians – Alexey Shirov defeated Vladimir Kramnik, and the match was saved only by Alexey Dreev, who came back against the above-mentioned Rausis over a lengthy fight that lasted into an abandoned hall.

Razuvaev did his best to shield his trainees to the extent that when Russia lost to Iceland in round three, he even refused to talk with Bebchuk over the phone. Needless to say, he could no longer dodge this bullet on his return home. There took place public "execution" in Moscow during which this failure was rated against all past achievements and which resulted in Yuri Sergeevich's removal from his coaching position. Back then even the second place was considered an outstanding failure, let along the third…

And here is what I hold most dear about Razuvaev. This blow did not embitter Yuri Sergeevich's heart, and he never ceased to be his usual wonderful self. Meanwhile, being already at the peak of his coaching career with Sasha Kosteniuk's victory in the World Cup and having Evgeny Tomashevsky as his trainee who was already a member of the national team, he never allowed himself any remarks about Lucerne and was never willing to settle scores with his adversaries.

Anyway, let's go back to the playing hall of the wonderful Grand Hotel Zhemchuzhina. The women's section is usually known to produce some high-profile sensations every year. An unknown back then Anastasia Protopopova reached the Super Final in 2018, and a season later Zarina Shafigullina followed in her footsteps. This said, the next sensation is about to come into the limelight in the person of Higher League first-timer Yulia Grigorieva from Bashkortostan who has successfully defeated Evgenija Ovod, Daria Voit, and Dina Belenkaya!


Belenkaya – Grigorieva

After all, the engines do believe in a bishop pair! White is clearly for choice after 36.Ra3!? Rb3 (after 36...R:a3 37.B:a3 Nd4 38.Bd3 h5 39.Bc1 because the a-passers pose no threat) 37.R:b3 ab 38.Ke1 a5 39.Kd2 a4 40.Kc3 h5 41.Kb4 h4 42.h3. Black has two passers. He has plugged White's kingside and eyeballs the g2-pawn, but the engine still prefers the bishop pair. This is enough to give White's position a pawn up evaluation.

In time pressure, Dina tried to force simplifications, but committed a mistake.

36.g3?! Rb3! 37.Bd1

37.Be5 fg+ 38.hg Nc5 is correct, although Black's game feels more straightforward anyway.

37...Rd3 38.Be2??

It was necessary to urgently transpose into the opposite-colored bishop ending via 38.Ke1 Ng5 39.Ra3, and now Grigorieva wins material.

38...Rd2 39.Ke1 Rc2 40.c5 a3 41.R:a3 R:b2, and Black had no problems converting her edge.

Valentina Gunina has also scooped 3 out of 3. Keeping a close eye in the yesterday's stream over their national teammate rapidly improving her position and gaining back rating points together with Roman Ovechkin were Natalija Pogonina and Olga Girya.


Yakimova – Gunina

In an interview with Eteri Kublashvili, Valentina admitted that she studied chess during the entire quarantine period. Her performance is a clear testimony of her efforts. There is no trace left of her former over-confidence the success of many sacrifices. We see a clear and consistent performance that we can trace back to Gunina's becoming the national champion for the first time. Suffice it to look at the textbook conversion over Mariya Yakimova.


This is not a glaring inaccuracy. White has weak pawns b4 and d4, and the bishop has no prospects. Therefore, she should have kept the rook active via 43.Ra8=.

Now Black can carry out a plan that features the following steps. She first needs to burden the white king with having to defend the weak pawns and then open the second front. As simple as that. I mean easy for Gunina.

43...Nd6 44.Bf3 Nb7 45.Rc3 Nd8 46.Rc5 Nc6 47.Kc3

The first part of the plan is completed, and the white rook and king are still out of play.

47…Kd6 48.Bh5 g6 49.Be2 Rb7 50.h4 Ra7 51.Bf1 h6 52.Be2 Rg7 53.Bd1 g5 54.hxg5 hxg5 55.fxg5 Rxg5 56.Bf3 Rg7

Because White cannot mark the time  57.Be2 Rh7, Yakimova tries to activate the bishop, only to have it trapped too!

57.Bh5 Rh7 58.Be8 Ne7 59.Kd3 Rh8 60.Bf7 Rh1 61.Be8 Rh8 62.Bf7 Kd7!

The bishop is trapped!

63.Ke3 Rh7 64.Bxe6+ Kxe6 and Black won soon after. A textbook endgame performance!

The contest at the top of the standings is surely not confined to the battle between Grigorieva and Gunina only. Marina Guseva is half a point behind, and the fight on other boards continues as well.


Solozhenkina – Gritsaeva


60.R:g5+! would have finished in style! You can't take the rook, and otherwise this heavy piece will safeguard her king against perpetual check.

60...Qa4+ 61.Kb1 Qe4+ 62.Kc1 Qc4+ 63.Kd2 Qb4+ 64.Ke2 Qc4+?

64...Qe4+!= Black erred in time pressure and gave White yet another opportunity which Solozhenkina failed to exploit.


65.Rd3! e4 66.Nd4+! Kg4 67.h8Q Q:d3+ 68.Ke1, and while Black is busy doing away with a pesky knight with 68…Q:d4 (68...Qb1+ 69.Kf2 Q:b2+ 70.Ke3 Qc1+ 71.K:e4), the white queen rejoins the theater of action via 69.Qh2.

65...Qe4+ 66.Kd1 Qg4+ 67.Ke1 Qe4+ 68.Kd2 Qb4+ 69.Ke3 Qxb3+ 70.Rd3 Qb4 71.h8Q Qe1+ 72.Kf3 Qf1+ 73.Ke3 Qe1+ Ke4+ Draw. The black queen clearly earned her keep in this game.

In the open section with 2.5 points out of 3 are Alexander Rakhmanov, Alexey Goganov, Pavel Ponkratov, Mikhail Antipov, Maxim Chigaev, and Vladimir Fedoseev.

Fedoseev – Rozum

Can White really grind out a victory in this ending? Despite the reduced material, Black's compromised pawn structure is also a factor in this position.

30.b4 Bg1!?

Black could have kept the minor pieces instead via 30...h5 31.Re4 Bb6, hoping to sac the bishop at the right moment, but Ivan Rozum decided to transpose into the rook ending known for its drawish tendency. There is an interesting psychological background to this decision. The thing is, Alexander Valeryevich Khalifman writes a book dedicated rook endings, which connoisseurs say will outperform the works by Averbach, Portisch and all other predecessors put together. When it came to discussing rook endings on Facebook, Volodya always joined the discussion by claiming that "This position is good enough for the book that Boss has in mind!” Besides, he has recently contributed with many of own examples for Khalifman's manual.

31.Kxg1 Rxd3 32.Rg5 Rb3 33.b5 Rb2 34.Rh5 Kg7 35.g4 Kg6 36.h3

This is a classical treatment of the position. Fedoseev has consolidated his position and freed the white king to run to the queenside. However, Rozum destroys White's ideal position in an exemplary manner.

36…h6 37.Kf1 Rh2 38.Ke1 f5 39.Rxf5 Rxh3 40.Kd2 Rg3 41.Rf8 Kg7?

41...Kg5 42.Kc2 Rg2+ 43.Kb3 Rg3+ looks like a draw because the white king cannot cross the 4th rank without dropping the g4-pawn with check. Black's error in withdrawing is that his king will no longer be capable of supporting the h-passed pawn's advance.

42.Rf4! Rb3 43.Rf5 Kg6 44.Rc5 Rb4 45.Kc3 Rxg4 46.b6 Rg1 47.Kc4 Rb1

Alas, there is no relief in 47...Rc1+ 48.Kb5 Rb1+ 49.Kc6 h5 50.b7 R:b7 (50...h4 51.Rb551.K:b7 h4 52.Kc6 h3 53.Rc3, arriving at the well-known textbook position. Mark Dvoretzky, for example, has many examples dedicated to this topic. The same thing happened in the game via move transposition.

48.Rb5 Rc1+ 49.Kd5 Rc8 50.b7 Rb8 51.Kc6 h5 52.Kc7 Rh8 53.b8Q Rxb8 54.Kxb8 Black resigned.

Antipov – Riazantsev

"What on earth is going on?! Alexander Riazantsev's opting for Rauzer is quite unheard of. On one of the Moscow forums, they wondered as to what had kept him away from his usual choice of Caro-Kann or French defenses.  Little doubt that the choice of Rauzer is probably the influence of Daniil Dubov! Antipov took up the challenge in his trademark style and performed as though instead of 2020 it were the 1950s and him being Mikhail Tal who had come to conquer Moscow. The opening has shaped in Black's favor, and White makes an attempt to turn the tables in a forced manner.

18.Nd5!? exd5 19.exd5 Bd7 20.Re3 Bf5! 21.Rde1 Rb7 22.Qf2 Be4 23.R1e2 f5

This is an excellent rejoinder: the bishop doubles on e4 by protecting the king and contributing to the counterattack.

24.g4 Qd4?!

24...ab! 25.gf Rg8 would have been even stronger. 26.R:e4 Rg1+ does not look great, but Antipov would have likely muddied the waters here with 26.Bg6!? 26...hg 27.f6 is not clear, but the impartial engine gives the choice of winning options between 26...b3, 26...Kd8, and even 26...Kf8.

Alexander's decision to anticipate the time control with checks is self-explanatory.

25.gxf5 Qd1+ 26.Ka2 Qxd5+ 27.Kb1 Qd1+ 28.Ka2 Bd5+ 29.Kb2 Qd4+ 30.c3


Black had excellent chances after 30...Qc4! 31.Bf3 (31.f6 Qa2+ 32.Kc1 Qa1+ 33.Kd2 Qb2+ 34.Kd3 Bc4+) 31...Qa2+ 32.Kc1 Qa1+ 33.Kd2 Qb2+ 34.Kd3 Qb1+ 35.Rc2 Bc4+ 36.Kd2 Bb3, and the white king is in bad shape. The queen's retreat turns the tables completely.

31.Bf3! B:f3

There is no evading the trade of the light-squared bishops: 31...Bc4 32.B:b7 B:e2 33.ba! (33.Q:e2 ab 34.ab Kf8 is less clear) 33...Bc4 34.Bc6+ Kf8 35.a6 – and the proud pawn is about to queen.

32.Q:f3 d5

The trade of the light-squared bishops has left the black king exposed and the black rook drops for that reason: 32...Ra7 33.Qc6+ Kf8 34.Q:b5 Rc7 35.Qb6 Rd7 36.R:e7 R:e7 37.Qd8+.

33.Q:d5 Ra7 34.Q:b5+ Kf8 35.Qb8+ 1-0 The spirit of Mikhail Tal, who was known to have a passion for Zhemchuzhina for all its luxuries, was probably keeping a close eye on this duel.

Let's give a high five to beautiful ladies' performance in the men's tournament. Aleksandra Goryachkina negotiates the distance so superbly that neither the mighty filibuster Pavel Ponkratov nor the former Trans-Siberian and now the Kazan steamroller Vladislav Artemiev could do anything to defeat her. Having defeated the senior coach of the youth team in beautiful style, Polina Shuvalova has also joined the +1 group. 


Shuvalova – Kobalia

Black should have taken safety measures via 20...Kh8!, and I have a feeling that Polina would have gone for 21.Nd6! Q:f2+ 22.Kb1 N:c5 23.Bc2 anyway to create a mess that even Tal would have disliked.

20…N:c5? 21.Rag1! Rad8

Black can no longer stop the offensive along the g-file: 21...Kh8 22.Rg4 Qe7 23.Rhg1 g6 24.f5.

22.Rg4 Qe7 23.Rhg1 Kh8 24.Rxg7 Rg8 25.Rxf7 Rxg1 26.Rxe7 Nb3

This last-ditch attempt could be met with a cynical 27.Bf1, but Shuvalova did not miss the opportunity to finish beautifully.

27.Rh7+! K:h7 28.Qf7+ Rg7 29.Nd6+ Kh8 30.Qf6 Black resigned.

Things have so far not gone well for the 2018 Higher League winner and twice super finalist Alexey Sarana. Sarana has won countless quarantine tournaments and matches on the Internet, but the Sochi soil keeps haunting him with unfortunate slips.


Sarana – Iljiushenok

White is slightly worse and should have therefore limited himself to the precise 37.Nb5 or 37.Na2, but the rook has abandoned the crucial file.

37.Rd1? d4! 38.Na2

White drops the exchange to 38.Q:d4 Q:d4 39.R:d4 Nc2, but the disaster arrives anyway.

38...Bxa4 39.Nxb4

Since 39.Rdc1 Nc2 40.Rab1 Bb3, White loses material no matter what.

39...Bxd1 40.Rxd1 axb4 41.Qxb4 Re8 42.Bb5 Re4 43.Qc4+ Kh8 44.Qd5 Qe7 45.Bd3 Re2+ 46.Kh1+ 0–1

Let me add that the last qualification into the Higher League – the Ural Federal District championship – ended only a few days. Ilya Iljiushenok and his teammates finished the tournament, took COVID tests, and jumped on a plane to enter a new battle front. They do love chess in the Urals, after all. Given the marathon distance that Ilya has to cover repeatedly, I ask you to go easy on his next game.


Iljiushenok – Predke

Caro-Kann Defense

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 Ne7 6.0-0 c5 7.c4 Nbc6 8.dxc5 d4

The famous Romanian line employed in the 2013 Russia – Romania match, when the games Grischuk – Lupulescu and Karjakin – Parligras developed along the same path. The line has faded, but David Navara or Andrey Esipenko would resort to it from time to time. Let me remind you the line continuation: 9.Qb3 Qd7 10.Rd1 Ng6 11.Nc3 or 9...Qc7 10.Na3 a6 11.Qa4! Rd8 12.b4 Ng6 13.Bd1! Rd7 14.Nc2 – this is the core idea of the Russian team's preparation.

But Ilya got something wrong and moved his queen elsewhere.

9.Qa4?! Ng6 10.b4?

Now Black's idea pans out completely. In the case of 10.Rd1 d3 11.Be3 Be7 12.B:d3 B:d3 13.Qb3 Ng:e5 Black gets a strong pawn in the center and manages to complete development. On the other hand, the text is even worse for Whites as it undermines his structure on the queenside.

10...a5 11.b5 Nc:e5

Playing against Hamduochi in 1998, Karpov also got a very good position after 11...Kb4 12.b6+ Nc6.

12.c6 bxc6 13.bxc6 d3 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.Bd1

15.c7+ Qd7 achieves nothing.

15...Bd6 16.c5 Bc7


Black is clearly better after 17.Bb2 0–0, but then the game would not have made it into this report! White's emotional reaction allowed Alexandr Predke to create a cute miniature.

17...Nxg4! 18.Bxg4

18.Bf4 Rb8 gives White no safety. White's pieces are way too misplaced to protect the king.

18...Qh4! 19.h3 h5 20.Bd1 Be4! 21.Bg4 Bh2+ 22.Kxh2 hxg4 23.c7+ Kf8 White resigned.

See you again in two days after the weekend!