Krasnaya Polyana Welcomes Guests
Dmitry Kryakvin reports from Rosa Khutor about round one of the Russian Higher League
By and large, Rosa Khutor is a true domestic model of Switzerland. Sochi’s full house of holidaymakers has given way to Krasnaya Polyana’s tranquility and bliss, which simply defies any words! It is all about fresh air and fascinating cleanliness of the streets located on both sides of the mountain rivulet. Indeed, Sasha Rakhmanov was honest in writing about the famous resort being an ideal venue for the Higher League.
The majority of participants and arbiters stay at the three-star "Tulip Inn", which abuts to the "Golden Tulip” with the playhall inside. The hotel service is pleasant with its extremely friendly and courteous staff and a free-of-charge sauna and gym. Although the choice of dishes is not excessive, the good quality makes up for it in full. I am especially happy about lack of crowds of holidaymakers that have nothing to do with the tournament. This is one of magnificent and grandiose Zhemchuzhina’s few downsides. Lack of such pressing issues as queues or lack of vacant tables in a canteen gives you a free hand to turn your mind to your opening lines and tune yourself for an uncompromising struggle ahead.
Nevertheless, it should be added that many participants’ path to the fragrant tidiness of Krasnaya Polyana has not been strewn with roses. With the weather having some insidious surprises in store once again, the flights were being delayed. Late into the evening, not long before the tournament registration deadline expiration, there arrived Vladislav Artemiev with a sad story of his flight’s five-hour delay. Moscow had a number of emergency flights with some crews taking off almost at their own peril and risk. The news bulletin even showed a pilot of Vadim Zvjaginsev’s flight to Adler, who shared his few seconds’ apprehension about the flight being possibly his life’s final. As for the grandmaster, he lived through the emergency calmly and noted the need of fresh sensations in life from time to time, even if the experience is of a rather scary nature.
It is quite remarkable that the building opposite the tournament venue is decorated with chess pawns. It is for the first time your correspondent comes across anything like this. I am not aware whether it comes as a surprise from Alexander Tkachev’s team or just a mere coincidence. I see it as a sign of Rosa Khutor’s willingness to give a welcome hug to chess players!
This said, almost every participant from preliminary lists has toed the starting line but for one representative of the fair sex, which is a sad turn of events since it generates an odd number of players in the women's tournament so that each round will definitely have someone getting a plus. Let us have a look at certain game moments from round one. Let us start with representatives of the fair sex.
Bivol – Potapova
Alina Bivol outsmarted her opponent in a difficult ending and had every reason to look forward to a favorable game outcome had she opted for 59.Rc7. Being up a pawn, having a remote passer and more active pieces probably explain a momentary lulling effect on the grandmaster, during which time the scenery takes a drastic change!
59.Rxe6?! Kxe6 60.a6?
White should have started with 60.Rc6+! Kd5 61.Rc7 Ke6 62.a6, preventing the opponent’s counterplay.
60...Ra1 61.Rc6+ Kd5 62.Rg6?
However, this is a decisive mistake that enables Margarita to weave a mating net. 62.Rc7 Bc5 63.e6 would have kept up the fight.
62...Ke4! 63.Bd2 Bc5
The king’s hunt for counterplay is now shared by the bishop so that White is rendered helpless, however amazing it might seem.
64.e6 Rg1+ 65.Kh2 Kf3!
A spectacular checkmate crowns the game after 66.Bxb4 Bf2 67.Bd6 Rd1 68.e7 Bg1+ 69.Kh1 Bc5+ 70.Kh2 Bxd6+ 71.Rxd6 g3+ 72.Kh3 Rh1#.
66...Bxa7 67.e7 Rg2+ 68.Kh1 Kg3 White resigns in view of the inevitable downfall of his king.
Lingur – Mirzoeva
White has sacrificed a pawn and decides to take it back with 32.Bxf6+? Nxf6 33.Qxf6+ Qxf6 34.Rxf6 Re7 with a draw in the rook ending. Zalina missed an opportunity to go down into the books on chess tactics! White could have decided the game with 32.Qxf6+!! Nxf6 33.Rxf6 Qg7 (the only defense against checkmate) 34.Rf8+ Rxf8 35.Rxg7 Rfd8 36.Bc3! Rd3 37.Rxb7+ Kg8 38.Rg7+ Kf8 39.Rxh7 Re8 40.Rxh6, and the bishop plus pawns make a short work of the rook. Have you ever seen a similar variation of the famous "mill"?
Some unorthodox situations were seen in the men’s duels as well. Sergei Ulyanin, a Higher League's first-timer and the native of Nizhny Novgorod, could have come up with the king march to generate envy from no lesser person than Steinitz himself.
Ulyanin – Potkin
Winning the game takes His Grace’s advance into the center: 38.Kf2!! Rh2+ 39.Kf3 Qh5+ 40.Ke3. However incredible it may seem, Black has neither dangerous checks nor any means of bailing out, e.g.: 40…Qf5 41.Qf4 Qd7 42.Kd4!
38...Rh1+ 39.Kf2 Qh2+ 40.Kf3 Rxe1 41.Qxf7+ Kh6 42.Qf8+ Draw.
Sorokin – Sjugirov
How should Black go about unpinning himself from a deadly pin? Moves like 36...c3!! are hard to see with flags handing, upon which White should go for 37.Rxf7 Qxf7 38.Nxc3. Greed will only make for misery after 37.Qxd7? Rxd7 38.Be6+ Kh7 39.Nxc3 (the point is that after 39.Bxd7? cxb2 40.Rd1 Bd3 41.Nc3 Bc2 42.Rf1 a3 43.Bxc6 Bc5 44.Bd5 Bd4, the bishops coupled with the passers are going to crush White’s forces that are up a whole rook) 39...Rd6 and Black emerges up a pawn.
36...c5? 37.Rf2! c3
The move comes late, but Black is helped neither by 37...Qe7 38.Qd5 nor by 37...Bc6 38.Rxf7.
38.Nxc3 Bc6+ 39.Kg1 c4
Losing is 39...Qxe6 40.Bxe6 Be8 41.Nxa4.
40.Rxf7 Qxf7 41.Qxc6 Qa7+ 42.Kg2 Kh8 43.Bf5 Black resigns.
The opening round promises an exciting tournament struggle ahead! See you in two rounds!