4 October 2018

Pre-Election Games

Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili reporting from the Olympiad in Batumi about round eight and two canaidates’ parties

Round eight has given the men’s section a sole leader - the team USA. The Americans defeated Azerbaijan 2.5:1.5 in what was a key matchup. Wesley So has failed to stand his ground in a three-vs-four endgame vs Teimour Radjabov; on the other hand, Fabiano Caruana was superior to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a sharp struggle, and Samuel Shankland outperformed Rauf Mamedov in an up for him pawn endgame. Nakamura vs Naiditsch ended in a draw.  

A clear second is with team Poland, which drew Armenia. All games were drawn.

The Russian men’s team has confidently outplayed their opponents and friends from Belarus with a 3:1 score. Our team’s senior coach Andrey Filatov, a graduate of the Minsk Institute of Physical Education, warmly welcomed his former compatriots before the match and even took a seat opposite Aleksandrov, whom he had known since his student days. However, then Filatov got up to let Kramnik take his seat, and the ex-world champion went on to create a small masterpiece.

Kramnik – Aleksandrov

White on move

The doubled f-pawns and the g6-bishop give you an idea about the opening. By agreeing to this passive stance Black pins his hopes on his robust defensive lines; however, Kramnik managed to pick a lock of Black’s position. Or, rather, he demolishes it with a powerful charge of explosives!

24.Nxd5! cxd5 25.Rb6+ Kd7 26.Bf1!

This is perhaps the most demanding and nice move in the game. When you sacrifice pieces, you wan to push forward - to deliver checks and take pawns; instead, the bishop retreats to the starting position so as to deliver a crushing blow from the flank.

A straight-forward 26.Bxd5 f4 27.Rxb7+ Kd6 gives Black enough counterplay.

26...Kd8 27.Bb5 Re4

There is no removing the e8-rook from en prise: 27...Rf8 28.Rd6+. Both 27...Re6 28.Rxb7 R8e7 29.Rb8# and 28...Rf8 29.Rd7+ Ke8 30.Rc8# bring Black no relief.

28.Rxb7 Nf6 29.b4!

Well done! The pawn joins the offensive.


Aleksandrov brings his bishop into the game, at last; however, he is late with his counterplay. This said, there was no bailout anyway: 29...axb4 30.a5 R4e6 31.a6.

30.bxa5 fxe3+ 31.fxe3


Or 31...Rxe3 32.Bxe8 Rxe8 (32...Rd3+ 33.Ke2 Nxe8 34.h5 Be4 35.a6 Rxd4 36.Rb8+ Kd7 37.a7) 33.Rc6! Ne4+ 34.Kc1 Re7 35.a6, and White is winning.

32.Bxe8 Rxh2+

32...Ne4+ 33.Ke1 Rxh2 34.Rb8+ Ke7 35.Bb5 fails to help either.

33.Kc3 Ne4+ 34.Kb3 Nd2+ 35.Kb4 Nc4 36.Bb5

Also possible is 36.a6; now White has more than one option at his disposal.

36...Rb2+ 37.Kc5 Nxa5 38.Rd7+ Kc8 39.Kxd5+ Kb8 40.Rd8+ Kb7 41.Kd6 Kb6 42.Ra8 Black resigns.

This game’s finale was closely watched by a well-known bayan-player Nikolai Sivchuk, who, along with his friend and classical guitarist Dmitry Illarionov, has come to Batumi to support Arkady Dvorkovich. Nikolai is a first-timer at a chess event of this magnitude, only to find himself in the thick of the action. He just wanted to pop into the playhall for a couple of minutes out of sheer curiosity, but found himself glued to Kramnik’s game for more than an hour up until Aleksandrov stopped the clock. Sivchuk was fascinated by the ex-world champion’s vivid performance. It seems like one more member for our fan club!

All in all, a matchup against the strong team Belarus went off surprisingly smoothly for the Russians. Confidently outplaying Sergei Zhigalko as Black was Ian Nepomniachtchi, a fresh returner from the bench. Both Sergey Karjakin and Nikita Vitiugov were advantageous out of the opening, but Vladislav Kovalev and Kirill Stupak managed to hold ground. Let me add that Stupak – Vitiugov lasted 150 moves, but White managed to hold his position together in a down a pawn endgame.

It is for the first time at this Olympiad that the Russian women's team scores a 4:0 victory. The Dutch players failed to put up any resistance to“the outraged four.”

The first to strike was Olga Girya, who has the following to say about the game:

–It was a quick victory because my opponent confused between two similar-looking systems –7. Nf3 and 7. Bg5 (in the Nimzo-Indian Defence with 4. Qc2 – Ed.). Considered normal in one system, 11…c6 had disastrous consequences in the game.

Girya launched a kingside offensive without castling herself, coupled with taking command of the d-file. Black’s position went up in flames by move 26.

Even fewer moves but lasting longer was Goryachkina – Lanchava. The Pirc Defense did not work well for Black this time, and by move nine she was completely lost. It was a complete disaster for Black on move 23 when the queen was trapped. 

Black was successfully out of the opening in Haast – Kosteniuk, taking the game to her opponent in the middlegame. The game ended with Alexandra's delivering a nice deflective blow.

Haast – Kosteniuk

Black on move

24Qg4! 25. Qe1 Qxg3 26. Qe2 Qg4 White resigns.   

The Paulet – Pogonina saw Black winning a pawn tactically out of the opening. The Russian fended off all White’s threats on the kingside in a clam manner and ended up winning on move 32. 

Defeating Armenia 3:1 in the group of leaders was Ukraine.  A victory to the Ukrainian team was brought by Anna Muzychuk and Anna Ushenina. Team China defeated Romania 3.5:0.5, whereas Georgia-1 went down 1:3. to Kazakhstan. Zhansaya Abdumalik defeated Lela Javakhishvili, and Gulmira Dauletova was superior to Meri Arabidze. 

Leading the field with 14 match points after round eight are the Ukraine and China. The Russians are two points behind. 

“The knight b4,” – was tweeted by the FIDE presidential candidate Nigel Short. The meaning of this famous, but well-timed joke is that in English the phrase “the knight b4” sounds exactly the same as “the night before”. The night before elections made the Olympiad guests happy with as many as two parties. The Georgian Chess Federation arranged a reception in a bar at the top floor of the Hilton Hotel, giving a beautiful view of Batumi. Two Georges, Giorgadze and Makropoulos, spoke out with welcome speeches, followed by Arkady Dvorkovich presenting awards to the FIDE journalistic commission’s winners  - them being the Chess Base and the Turkish Chess Federation websites.

Soon the majority of guests gradually moved to a nearby coffeehouse Zhasmin, which has turned into Arkady Dvorkovich’s Chess Lounge for the duration of Olympiad. It was rich with live music performed by the St. Petersburg band Easy Tone, and splashing in the pool were mermaids from the water ballet Queen of Water (Moscow).

October 3, 9:00 a.m., gives start to the FIDE General Assembly, during which a new FIDE president will be elected. Good night everyone, especially delegates. You need a good sleep to make the right choice.