15 September 2016

On the Road to the Golden Match

Round Ten of the Baku Olympiad in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

The Russian men's team was going into round 10 with rather slim chances of taking the gold: the States and the Ukraine were ahead by one point and have played against all main contenders already. This said, the Russia's opponent was a serious one: the team of India was displaying a simply great performance even without Anand and Sasikiran. Board one Pentala Harikrishna is about to break into the top ten, being currently only a smidgen inferior to Vishy Anand in terms of rating. Restraining his onslaught fell to the fate Sergey Karjakin, but the Russian team leader was performing imprecisely towards the end of the opening part of the game. 

Harikrishna – Karjakin 

Although Black's position is somewhat inferior, it is quite tenable after the accurate 19... c6. Instead, Black makes up his mind to go active.


In vain does the pawn break away from her fellows, but it is not the worst part yet.

20. Rc1 d5

This is a blunder already, affording White all prerequisites for a successful kingside offensive. His plan is exceptionally simple: transfer one knight to g4, another one to h5, put the queen on d2 and start threatening with invasion of one of the knights to f6 or with sacrifices on g7 and h6. At last, the f2-pawn could joint the battle as well. Meanwhile, it is not altogether clear how Black is supposed to combat this plan. 

21. e5 Nh7 22. Nh2 Ng5

The 22...f6 break does not work because of 23. Qc2. It made sense to protect the vulnerable c7-pawn by 22...Rbc8, but even in this case White goes on building up his pressure after 23. Ng4.

23. Nh5 a3 24. b4 Ne6 25. Qd2 Ng5 26. Ng4

White is through with the first part of his plan. First of all, the f6-fork threat is in the air. 


This blunder happens in a position that is difficult for Black already. 26...Qd8 could be followed by 27. f4 Ne4 28. Rxe4! dxe4 29. Ngf6+ Kh8 (or 29... gxf6 30. f5) 30. Nxe8 Qxe8 31. f5 with decisive threats. Meanwhile, in the case of 26... Kf8 White has a straightforward play 27. Nxg7!? Kxg7 28. f4 Ne4 29. Rxe4 dxe4 30. f5, although he could act in a more sly fashion: 27. b5!? with the idea of 27…Qxb5 28. f4 Ne4 29. Rxe4 dxe4 30. f5. In both cases Black is not to be envied. 

27. Nhf6+! Kh8 

27...gxf6 fails to 28. Nxh6+.

28. Nxe8 Rxe8 29. Rxc7, and White went on to win the game. 

The match score was levelled by the 14th World Champion.

Kramnik – Adhiban

Kramnik demonstrates how to go about the weakened light squares.

18. Bg4! Kh8 19. Be6 exf4 20. gxf4 g5 

This committal move is designed to take control over the e5-square, but White has nothing of it!  

21.Ng4! gxf4 22. Bxf4 Qe8 23. e5 


In the case of 23... h5 White could sacrifice a piece: 24. Kh1!?, and if 24…hxg4, then 25. Qxg4 Ndxe5 26. Bxe5+ Nxe5 27. Rxf8+ Qxf8 28. Qh5+ Kg7 29. Rg1+ and Black is getting checkmated in a few moves.

24. Bc4 Qg6 25. Kh1 Bg5 26. Bh2 Nb6 27. Bd3 Qe6 28. Qe4 Qd5 29. e6 Rae8 30. Rxf8+ Rxf8 31. Ne5 

31. Rg1 is also very strong.

31... Qxe4+ 32. Bxe4 Nd8 

33. a4!? 

This is a rather unexpected idea: White parts with his passer to launch an offensive against the opponent's king. A standard approach is also good: 33. Nd7 Nxd7 34. exd7 Kg7 35. Rg1 Kh6 36. Bd5 – Black's forces are discoordinated, while the d7-pawn binds him hand and foot.

33... Nxe6 34. a5 Nc8 35. Nd7 Re8

More stubborn is 35... Rd8 36. Bxb7 Ne7 37. Ne5 Rf8.

36. Be5+ Ng7

If 36... Kg8, then 37. Bd5.

37. Rg1 Bh6 38. Bxb7 Ne7 39. Nf6 Rf8 40. Be4 Ng8 41. Nxh7 Re8 

A picturesque position: two bishops are literally tearing the Black's defenses apart! There follows an elegant finale.

42. Ng5! Re7 43. Bd3 Bxg5 44. Rxg5 Nh6 45. Bxg7+! Rxg7 46. Rh5 Black resigns.

On board three Santosh Vidit, playing White against Ian Nepomniachtchi, skillfully reduced the game to a draw. A draw was also signed in the board four game Grischuk - Sethuraman, where the Russian grandmaster failed to put his opponent up against substantial problems. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. The USA and the Ukraine teams, having scored 18 team points, are in the lead with one round to go. Russia is clear third, trailing two points behind the leaders. The fate of the Olympic medals will be decided in the USA - Canada (in fact, this is not a hockey but a chess match, isn't it?), the Ukraine - Slovenia and Russia - Italy matches. 

The tournament endgame for the Russian women's team proved to be extremely challenging: they were to face the Georgian national team in the penultimate round, while on the final day, as is already known at this moment, they are paired against the Chinese. They managed to outplay the world champions with a narrow margin. Alexandra Kosteniuk handled the white side of the Winawer system of the French defense with a clockwork precision.

Kosteniuk – Dzagnidze

18. f5! exf5 19. Bf3 Kh8 20. Qe3 Qg8 21. Qf4 Qf7 22. Rae1 Ng6 23. Qh6 Kg8

More tenacious is 23... Nce7 24. Bh5 Ng8, but even here after 25. Qd2 White goes on enjoying all advantages of her position.

24. Re3 Nxh4 25. Qxh4 Kh8 26. Bh5 Qg8 27. Qxf6 Qd8

28. Rxf5! Bxf5 29. Re8+ Qxe8 30. Bxe8 Rxe8 31. Bf8, and White won the game. 

Another breathtaking victory was scored by Valentina Gunina.

Javakhishvili – Gunina

Black was leading a daring attack against the opponent's king from virtually the very first moves, completely ignoring the fact that her own monarch was not in a stronghold himself. Meanwhile, the white queen and the knight have their guns trained at h7 and this fact could be used to her advantage: 21. Rxe5! Bxe5 22. Re1 gxf2+ 23. Kxf2 Rf7 24. d6! Qxd6 25. Nxf7 Qd5 26. Kg1 and White emerges up a piece. White missed her chance, but another opportunity will come later on. 

21. fxg3 fxg3 22. Qe4 

Now 22.Rxe5 Bxe5 23.Re1 does not work in view of the check from d4. 

22…c4 23. Bf4 Bc5+ 24. Kh1

After the simple 24. Be3 a good advice is beyond price for Black. For example, 24…Bd6 is decisively met by 25. Bd4.

24... Nd3 25. Qxe7 Bxe7 

Black continues playing with fire. Stronger is 25... Nf2+ 26. Kg1 Nxd1+ 27. Qxc5 bxc5 28. Bxg3 Nxc3 29. Bxc4 – even though White stands better, converting this advantage is far from easy. On the other hand, an objectively bad text move gives her opponent a chance to go wrong. 

26. Rxe7

Although this move suggests itself, the initiative is taken over by Black now. Correct is 26. d6! Bxg5 27. Bxc4+ Kg7 28. Bxg5 Nxe1 29.Rxe1 Rae8 30.Be7. Here White has a pawn for the exchange, but the g3-pawn's days are numbered, while the central passed pawn, supported by two bishop, is incredibly powerful. It is altogether unclear whether Black is able to bail out from this plight.

26...Rxf4 27. Rxb7 

If 27. Kg1, then 27…Bxd5.

27...Nf2+ 28. Kg1 Rxh4! 29. Nh3 Nxd1 30. Re7 Nxc3 Black has a decisive material advantage, which she converted before long. 

On board thee Aleksandra Goryachkina sealed a draw from a position of strength, securing our team's victory in the match. As for board four, Olga Girya, exhausted by gruelling defense, failed to hold out in the rook and bishop versus rook ending.  The final score is 2.5-1.5. With two rounds to go China is in the lead with 18 points. Russia has scored 16 points, while Poland, the Ukraine, India, Hungary, Bulgaria and the United States share 15 points. The last day has a golden Russia – China match in store for us. 

Pictures by Boris Dolmatovsky and Vladimir Barsky