5 December 2020

Magic of the Autumn Zhemchuzhina

Dmitry Kryakvin sums up the closing rounds of the Russian Team

The COVID-19 protocol has gained a firm footing in our lives. You are now used to the glass partition over the board and promote your pawn with calculated movement of your hand. Taking the COVID-19 test has turned into something habitual. People are tired of being afraid and have switched to treating the formerly fear-inspiring topics with light humor. Needless to say, the Russian team championship has left behind the most pleasant memories. It was a favorite tournament for many even in the best of years, let alone 2020. 

The food at Zhemchuzhina felt like the most delicious, the weather in Sochi (even if it rained at times) amazing, the air heady, and near you are close friends that you missed since the beginning of the year. All the above is worth putting up with certain inconveniences. Thanks to the organizers for going a long way of getting all possible permits and allowing us to sit down at the chess board. 

The Russian Club Championship stirred great enthusiasm among the audience. The broadcasting rights were acquired by the very popular Youtube channel Levitov Chess. The events footage was taken, and covering the course of events was the star commentator, GM Klementy Sychev.

After all, everything negative fades away quickly, and the amazing Sochi days, the breath of the sea, the saltwater pool and the smiles of the Zhemchuzhina staff will keep chess players and referees warm throughout long winter.

The Russian team championship final stretch saw real miracles happen over the boards. In the women's tournament, the capital city teams FShM, "Ugra" and SShOR ShSh from the Northern capital were in the lead, and it seemed that no one would interfere in the contest for medals. However, at this moment St. Petersburg stumbled against Cimmeria who failed at the start, and their lead from the pursuers was reduced to a team point. In the last round St. Petersburg played against the team of Nizhny Novgorod - last year the Nizhny Novgorod ladies almost robbed the Khanty-Mansiysk champions of the gold medals, and this time they performed less successfully. Perhaps this factor lulled SShOR ShSh - the team started the match without their leader Anastasia Bodnaruk.

A surprising incident occurred on board three.


Styazhnina (SShOR ShSh-1) – Zavivaeva (FShNO)


White dominates. Both 22.Nh4 and the Tal-like sacrifice of the knight on h5 are crushing. Instead, after 22.Ng5?! Rf6 23.e5? Qхe5! (Black is already up a pawn) 24.Nхf7?? Kхf7!, found Zavivaeva up much material, while White’s attack is about to fizzle out. 

By that moment Victoria Chernyak defeated Emilia's sister Evelina, and the score became 1:2, but on board two Svetlana Vifleemskaia, perhaps remembering last year's failure against Natalya Pogonina, was as solid as possible in the superior position, securing a draw and overall victory in the match from the position of strength! Cimmeria won their fight easily and received a set of bronze medals. Now we know why the head coach of the women's team Sergei Rublevsky always believes in Valentina Gunina! Even if Gunina is down material...


For the first time in a long time the Moscow team managed to overtake the mighty Ugra. Pavel Lobach invited GM from Belarus Olga Badelko to Ugra's team, who showed a brilliant result - 7 out of 8.


Badelko (Ugra) – Zhurova (Turbonasos)


Black’s counterplay looks formidable. For example, 30.B:f4 N:f4 31.gf R:f4 with strong initiative, and after 30.Bd5 fg! 31.B:f7 Qh3 32.fg Bd4+ 33.Rf2 N:g3 34.Qf3 B:f2+ 35.K:f2 Qh2+ 36.Ke3 Qg1+ 37.Kd3 Qb1+ 38.Ke3 Qg1+ 39.Qf2 Nf5+ Black has perpetual check at her disposal. 

30.Bc3! f3 31.B:g7+ K:g7 32.Bh1! Qh3

The white fortress stands firm to the direct assaults: 32...Nf4 33.Qe4! Re8 34.Qc6; 32...Qg4 33.Kh2.


This is inaccuracy in lieu of 33.Qd5!, taking aim at the f3-pawn and keeping the black rooks tied to defending it. However, White creates the queen exchange threat, and it worked in the end. 



After 33...Re8! the situation remained suspended: 34.Rc6 Kh8 35.Rd1 (35.R:c5? Rd7!, and the white queen can no longer defend the g3-square) 35...Rfe7 36.Qd2 N:g3 37.B:f3 Nf5 38.Bg2 Qg4 39.R:c5 – White is up some pawns, but Black is on the offensive. 

34.Qe6! Q:e6 35.R:e6 

The rest was easy: 35…Rb7 36.Rb1 Rb3 37.R:a6 Nf6 38.Rb6 Rd3 39.a6 Ng4 40.a7 Ra8 41.Rb7 Ne5 42.Re1 Nc6 43.Rc7 Black resigned.

Olga Badelko

However, as you may recall from Vladimir Barsky's review, the head-to-head battle of the gold contenders ended in Moscow’s team victory, and Ugra's desperate efforts to overtake the leaders would not produce the desired result. Only the second team of the Northern capital could help them at the home stretch: in the CFM - SShOR ShSh-2 match, three games ended in a draw, and everything was decided in the fourth game.


Bivol (CFM) – Pogorelskikh (SShOR-2)


White was down a healthy pawn as soon as move 12, but later Alina played very inventively, and in the resulting opposite-colored bishop’s ending Black's potential passed pawn is not yet moving to the square of promotion. Sofia Pogorelskikh was determined and not long before this she declined a threefold repetition, which could have fixed a draw in the match and seriously help Ugra to catch up. In a mutual time trouble is about laughing best who laughs last.

35.Bf1!? c6?? 36.R4:c3!, and Black remained down a piece.

36…bc 37.Q:a6 R:a6 38.B:a6 cd 39.ed 1-0, and Moscow did win this challenging match. 

Alina Bivol



Final Standings:

1. CFM - 16 (25); 2. Ugra - 15 (28); 3. Cimmeria - 12 (22); 4. SShOR-1 - 11 (23.5); 5. Moscow Oblast - 11 (19); 6. Ladya  (Tatarstan) - 9 (17); 7. Achimgaz YNAO - 8 (17.5); 8. SShOR-2 - 8 (17.5); 9. Amazones Yadda - 7 (16); 10. Chess Federation of the Nizhny Novgorod region - 7 (14); 11. Turbonasos - 7 (12.5); 12. Belgorod State University - 4 (11.5); 13. Tolpar - 2 (10.5).


In the open section Mednyi Vsadnik was stoppable so that not only the first place loomed ahead, but simply an absolute record by winning all matches! Sometimes you are amazed by how shockproof Vladimir Bykov’s team is. Suddenly, in the match with the “M. Botvinnik School” Alexander Shimanov loses to Vladimir Zakhartsov, only to come back with three strikes.


Vitiugov (Mednyi Vsadnik) – Demchenko (M. Botvinnik School)



51.Be4 is more precise to stop Black’s counterplay. Now Demchenko exploits his last and very interesting chance. 

51...b4! 52.g6+ Kg8 53.ab a3 


Vitiugov is up to the task! After 54.ba N:f5 55.K:f5 B:c3 56.a4 Black makes a draw with the spectacular puzzle-like: 56…Bg7!! 57.h7+ (57.Ke4 B:h6 58.a5 c3 59.Kd3 Kg7 60.a6 c2 61.K:c2 Be3, stopping the pawn) 57...Kh8 58.Ke4 c3 59.Kd3 Be5 60.a5 Kg7 61.a6 Bd4 62.K:d4 c2 63.a7 c1Q 64.h8Q+ K:h8 65.a8Q+ Kg7, making a draw in the queen ending.

This is a very spectacular position as Black creates his passed pawn as well, but Vitiugov intends to prove that his passers are superior. 

54...ab 55.Ne4! Kf8 56.Kg5 

The engine votes for 56.Ng3 c3 57.Nf5.


Black should have started with 56...Bh8.


In time trouble, Vitiugov missed the immediate winner: 57.g7 Kf7 58.Nd6+! B:d6 59.Bg6+ Kg8 60.Kf6+-.

57...Kf8 58.Kg4 Bh8 

58...Nb5 59.Kf5 Bh8 60.Ke6 Na3 61.g7+ B:g7 62.hg+ K:g7 63.Nc3 N:b1 64.N:b1 Kg6 65.Ke5 Kg5 66.Kd4 does not help. Therefore, Demchenko retreats his bishop as far as possible, but there is no safety there as well. 

59.Nd6! c3 

The white pawns move forward, creating checkmating threats and making it first in all lines: 59...Ne2 60.Nf7 Bf6 (60...Bd4 61.Nd8 is no better than that) 61.Kf5 Bd4 62.Ne5 Nc3 63.g7+ Kg8 64.Kg6. Unfortunately, this nice endgame was a rather prosaic finale as the St.Petersburg GM simply grabbed a minor piece and killing all the intrigue.

60.g7+ B:g7 61.hg+ K:g7 62.Nf5+ N:f5 63.K:f5 Kf7 64.Ke5 Ke7 65.Kd4 Kd6 66.K:c3 c5 67.b5 c4 68.K:c4 Black resigned.


The last fight to the champions in the last round was given by the CPRF team. Overall, the tournament did not go well for the well-knit CPRF team, but in the last round they managed to slam the door and give battle to the main heavyweights of the 2020 race. And, most importantly, they introduced a unique flavor to the championship by wearing shirts, jackets and even masks showing a hammer and a sickle!

In the duel of the final round, Alexander Shimanov quickly managed to besiege Alexei Kornev’s position, but CPRF avoided defeat due to the victory of Sergei Rublevsky over Vladimir Fedoseev.


Rublevsky (CPRF) – Fedoseev (Mednyi Vsadnik)

Sicilian Defense


1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Nge2 Nf6 4.g3 

This is a tricky anti-Sicilian order of moves. Now, 4...d5 5.ed N:d5 6.Bg2 N:c3 7.N:c3 Nc6 (7...h5!?) 8.B:c6+! bc 9.Qf3 gives White a better position.

4…g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0–0 0–0 7.d3 Nc6 8.Bg5!? 

White provokes Black into the weakening h7-h6, which may also prove a tempo loss for Black: 8...h6 9.Be3 Ng4 10.Bd2 Nd4 (10...Bd7 11.h3 Nf6 12.Be3 e5 13.Qd2 Kh7 14.f4 with initiative) 11.N:d4 cd 12.Ne2 Qb6 13.h3 Nf6 14.c3 dc 15.B:c3 (15.bc!) Short – Fedorov, 2006 with unpleasant position without meaningful counterplay for Black. 

The mainline is – 8...Rb8 9.Qd2 b5 10.Bh6 b4 11.Nd1 B:h6 12.Q:h6, but Fedoseev decided to trade his light-squared bishop, along the lines of his recent game against Sitnikov played in the Alexander Panchenko Memorial. In that game the bishop maneuver was a success, and in this game Rublevsky grabbed the center without making any additional moves. 

8…Bg4?! 9.h3 B:e2 10.N:e2 Rc8 11.c3 b5 12.d4 b4 

The black knight will not find safe heavens: 12...cd 13.cd e5 14.d5 Na5 15.b3.

13.c:b4! c:b4 

As soon as the mighty bishops’ scope becomes unobstructed, Black will find himself in a bad shape – 13...N:b4 14.e5! de 15.a3 Nc6 16.dc.

14.Qd2 a5 15.Rac1 e5 16.Rfd1 Qb6 17.d5 Nb8 18.R:c8 R:c8 19.Rc1 R:c1+ 20.Q:c1

White is not put off by simplifications because any ending is to his advantage. 

21…Qb7 21.Qc4 Nbd7 

Black could try 21...Nfd7 22.Nc1 Bf6 23.Be3 Bd8, but it did not guarantee easy life. 

22.Qc6 Qb8 23.Be3 Bf8 24.Nc1 

The knight goes for the a5-pawn.

24…Be7 25.Nb3 Bd8 26.g4!? 

The more tranquil 26.Nd2 Qc7 27.Q:c7 B:c7 28.Nc4 gives White a bid edge, but senior coach of the Russian women’s team opts for a more forced way, which exposes his king’ position to a certain degree.

26...Qc7 27.g5 Nh5 28.N:a5 Q:a5 29.Q:d7 


The last decent counter-chance was in 29...b3! 30.ab Bb6 31.Q:d6 Qe1+ 32.Kh2 B:e3 33.Qb8+ Kg7 34.Q:e5+ Kg8 35.fe Q:e3 – White is up a bunch of pawns, but the queen and knight create unpleasant counterplay. 

30.Bf3! b3 (too late!) 31.ab Bb6 32.B:b6 Q:b6 33.B:h5 gh 34.Qc8+ Kg7 35.Qf5 Kg8 36.Qc8+ Kg7 37.Qc3, and Rublevsky went on to win the queen ending.

Mednyi Vsadnik

The struggle for the remainder of the podium places proved much more intense. For a long time Molodezhka was in the second place, but Tyumen, guided by Evgeny Bareev himself, faced a tough finish. In the match against CFM, Boris Grachev managed to outplay Semyon Lomasov on the last board, but by that moment the Moscow team was already losing.


Sarana (CFM) – Yuffa (Molodezhka)

Nimzo-Indian Defense


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0–0 5.a3 B:c3+ 6.Q:c3 d5 7.Bg5 c5!?


Usually Black captures on c4 and tries to make a draw, but once in Tyumen, Daniil and I analyzed this move. Not for nothing, as it turned out.

8.dc d4 


In 2017 White managed to find the strong idea 9.Qf3!? Nbd7 10.e3 h6 11.B:f6 N:f6 12.0–0–0 e5 13.Ne2 Bg4 (after 13...d3 runs into the potent exchange sacrifice 14.Nc3 Bg4 15.R:d3) 14.Qg3 d3 15.f3 – the engine evaluates the position to his advantage, but the position remains very complex (Riazantsev – Inarkiev, 2017). Sarana was playing fast, but he must have forgotten or blundered something.

9...Nbd7 10.0–0–0?! 

This is a provocation instead of the accurate 10.Bh6 or 10.Nf3 e5 with lengthy theoretical developments that you need to know. The white king is about to fall under the attack. 


10...e5 was played in Turov – Zakharov, 2009, but Daniil made a stronger move, looking to mount pressure along the c-file.

11.Qe5 b6 12.Nf3 

12.e3 Bd7 13.ed Ba4 looks dangerous as well.


The engine votes for such tricks as 12...Bb7 13.N:d4 Qc8 14.B:f6 Nd7!, but Yuffa opts for a straightforward and no less strong line.


13.e3 was the only way to stop the collapse.

13...B:c4 14.e3 Ba2! 


This is the point! The white king finds no safety on b1, suffering in equal measures with and without queens on the board – 15.N:e6? Nb3+ 16.Kc2 Rc8+, and in the endgame after – 15.B:f6 Q:f6 16.Q:f6 gf, when Black is going to keep hunting the white king with her rooks. The last chance was in 15.b4!?, looking to evacuate the king. 

15.Nc6? Nb3+ 16.Kc2 Rc8 17.Bb5 Qe8 18.Rd6 Nd7 

The fragile barrier along the c-file is about to break.


There is no safety for White in any lines. The black queen breaks free after 19.Qc3 f6 20.Bf4 Ndc5 21.N:a7 Qg6+…

19...f6 20.Bh6 Rf7 21.Kd1 

…Alternatively, White drops the minor piece after: 21.Rhd1 Kh8 22.Bf4 g5! Daniil covers the e6-square with his next move, besieging poor opponent’s knight, at last. 

21...Kh8 22.Bc4 Nf8 23.Bb5 a6 White resigned.

3:3, and the intrigue of who was going to finish second was in the air up until the very last moment.


Following a combative draw with the Moscow team, Daniil Yuffa's club challenged the formidable Ladya of Tatarstan. For the last few years, the Kazan team has banked on the change of generations, and this tournament has proved their young players’ competitiveness at the Russian level. Thus, the scorer Ramil Fayzrakhmanov showed the 2668 tournament performance.

So, Fayzrakhmanov defeated the author of the review, but Molodezhka came back with two blows - Mikhail Antipov gave another lesson in Grunfeld defense to Ramil Makhmutov, and David Paravyan scored a mind-boggling victory over Artur Gaifullin. However, Ladya retained the chances for a draw and subsequent joining the prize triumvirate as there was still going on one most crucial game.


Dubov (Molodezhka) – Artemiev (Ladya)


A curious tactical sequence transposed into an endgame with a slight pressure for Black. Daniil later admitted that this was the end of everything interesting in this game, but not so for Artemiev. The leader of the chess city of Kazan exploited his opponent’s inaccuracies in a technical manner, and now White is on the verge of collapse. Neither 55.f4 Rd3+ 56.Ke2 (56.Ke4 Rd4+) 56...gf 57.Rc6+ Kd5 58.Rb6 Re3+, 55.Ke4 Rd4+ 56.Kf5 Rf4+ 57.K:g5 R:f3 58.h4 R:a3 nor  55.Kf2 Rd2+ 56.Kg3 Rd3 manage to come to rescue.

But we know Dubov for his trademark skill of coming up with practical chances. 

55.Rc6+!? Rc5 

55...Kb3 56.Ke4 Rd8 57.Rb6 (57.Rc5 Rb8 58.R:g5 K:a3) 57...Ka4 58.f4 (58.Kf5 Rd5+ 59.Ke4 Rc5) 58...gf 59.K:f4 Rd3 was an easier winner as the connected black pawns should outrace White’s disconnected army no matter what.

56.R:c5+ K:c5 57.f4 gf+ 58.K:f4 

The broadcast showed Dubov cheer up, as if conveying his opponent the following message: “Well, this is a drawn pawn ending that you have transposed to!” Meanwhile, Artemiev’s clock displayed no more than two minutes.

Indeed, after 58...Kd4 59.h4 b4 60.h5 or 58...b4 59.ab+ K:b4 (59...ab 60.Ke3) 60.Ke3 Kb3 61.Kd2 a4 62.Kc1 it is hard to see where the victory is supposed to come from.

58…Kc4 (58...a4! is a transposition) 59.Ke3 Kb3? 60.h4 K:a3 61.h5 b4 62.h6 b3 63.h7 b2 64.h8Q b1Q

The pawns queen simultaneously, and Black can test his opponent in no way.

65.Qc3+ Qb3 66.Kd2 a4 67.Qa1+ Kb4 68.Qd4+ Draw!

At his moment Mikhail Antipov rushed into the room and started showing the following lines: 59...a4!! 60.h4 b4 61.Kd2 Kb3 62.Kc1 (62.h5 ba 63.h6 a2 64.h7 a1Q, and the h8-square is covered) 62...K:a3 63.Kb1 b3 64.h5 b2 65.h6 Kb3 66.h7 a3 67.h8Q a2#. Checkmate!!! To Vladislav’s credit, he reacted very calmly and noted that this far from easy line did not beg to be played. Dubov asked why not the simple 55…Kb3 if any doubts about the pawn ending evaluation existed?

The last round Molodezhka failed to outplay the Botvinnik School as it was a jigsaw and it is hard to say who fared better from the 3:3 draw. This result enabled their Moscow opponents to catch them up in terms of match points and take them over in terms of individual after Sergey Smagin’s trainees whitewashed the robust Achimgaz YNAO with a5:1 score. Besides, the Moscow team finished with more individual points than any other team. 


Inarkiev (CFM) – Tsoi (Moscow Oblast)


“Tsoi is alive” (Emil Sutovsky). It is true that this FIDE General Director’s quote goes back to the time when a young Tsoi managed to make a draw (!) at the European Championship against a cheater who consulted his phone in the toilet, but then was caught red-handed by vigilant referees. On the contrary, the Russian ended up as one of the prize-takers. Tsoi took down a couple of GMs at the 2020 Russian team championship, made a draw with the Flibustier himself and displayed the 2600+performance throughout most part of the event, and only at the end Caissa stopped favoring her favorite. Ernesto was the first to break through the great wall that other players tried to take down in vain during the first seven rounds. 

The situation is not so clear after 22.Nb3 f4 23.ef e3 or 22.Qa6 f4! with great counterplay for Black, but Inarkiev’s strong prophylactic move immediately reminded me of Dvoretsky.

22.f4! ef

Black cuts the branch on which he is sitting. He should have kept his nerve and seek trades instead with 22...Rf7 23.Qa5 Be8, or try to open up the g-file with 22...Kh8 23.Nb3 Rg8.

23.N:f3 Ng4? 

23...Bc8 24.h3 doesn’t look great, but the knight move runs into refutation.

24.h3! Nh6 

24...N:e3 25.R:d7! Nc2 26.Qa7 loses, and now the knights have to retreat, exposing the weak square. 

25.Ne5 Rbd8 26.Qa6 Be8 27.B:b5 Nf7 


The game would have become unclear after 28.N:f7? Q:e3+ 29.Kh1 B:f7 30.B:c6 Q:d4, but Ernesto gives up the exchange to neutralize Black’s counterplay.

28...R:f7 29.B:c6 Qh6 

The white passers should decide the game after 29...Rf6 30.Qb6 Rc8 31.B:e8.

30.B:e8 Q:e3+ 31.Kh1 Rf6 32.Bf7+ R:f7 33.Qe6 Rdf8 34.Q:d5 h6 35.b5 f4 36.Rf1 Black resigned.


Final standings:

1. Mednyi Vsadnik - 17 match points (35 points); 2. CFM - 14 (35.5); 3. Molodezhka - 14 (34); 4. Ladya - 11 (31.5); 5. M. Botvinnik school - 10 (30.5); 6. CPRF - 9 (27.5); 7. SShOR - 6 (23.5); 8. Achimgaz YNAO - 6 (22.5); 9. Cimmeria - 2 (14.5); 10. Moscow Oblast - 1 (15.5).


I usually want to wrap up my report from the Zhemchuzhina hotel lamenting about now long we have to wait, and that in our thoughts we already rush to the 2021 season. While all this remains true, only 5 months separate us from the coveted May. The next edition of the tournament, which I hope to be qualification for the European Cup as well, is not that far away after all. See you! Take care of yourself!