8 October 2018

Pros and Cons of Exchange Sacrifice

Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili reporting about round ten of the Olympiad 

The end of FIDE Presidential elections has again turned the focus of attention to the Olympiad itself. The General Assembly continues its work, meetings are now held jointly by Arkady Dvorkovich and Georgios Makropoulos as there is taking place a gradual handover of power from the previous to the current administration. FIDE Vice Presidents are being nominated and elected, commissions panels are being populated, and other vital decisions are being taken. Thus, FIDE Charter has been amended in that its president can no longer be in office for more than two terms - that is, over 8 years. There will be no more proxies as regional federation representatives need to vote in person without assigning the right to vote to somebody else. 

Head of Agon, Ilya Merenzon, made a presentation of the world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, coming up soon in the capital of England, London. In addition to that, Minsk has won the right to host the 2022 Olympiad, and we heartily congratulate our Belorussian colleagues! 

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich with Chairman of the Belorussian Chess Federation Anastasia Sorokina and Belorussian sport officials (Photo credit: V. Barsky)

Meanwhile, tension on chess boards has reached its absolute max in both sections. The men's section has witnessed a change of leaders: China defeated Poland 3:1 to move into first. However, this is not a sole lead, but a shared one with the American team that has defeated Armenia 2.5:1.5. 

Also joining the medal contest is our national team, pitted against England that day. Coming to root for his countrymen was the 1993 Vice World Champion and the 2018 FIDE Vice President Nigel Short; over shared laughter of both teams’ chessplayers he seated himself in David Howell’s chair. Vladimir Kramnik was unlikely to mind this replacement, although his later duel against a main lineup player turned out quite well for him either. 

Not enough chess for Nigel Short yet! (Picture by Boris Dolmatovsky)


Kramnik  Howell

Black on move

Vladimir sacrificed a pawn out of the opening, obtaining a more than decent compensation shortly after as there is no mistaking the difference in bishops. The English grandmaster sacrifices in turn to build as much tension in the position as possible.

27...Bxc3!? 28.bxc3 Qxh3 29.Ng5!?

An effective-looking move, although there were other options to choose from as well:

1) 29.Qxh6+!? Rxh6 (29...Kg8 30.Ng5) 30.gxh3 Rhg6+ 31.Kh2 with an edge in the endgame;

2) 29.g3! A scary move to have to make, because you always need to be on the lookout for potential rook sacrifices on g3; however, White seems to have everything under control in all lines: 29…Rd3 (or 29...Qg4 30.Qxg4 Rxg4 31.Nxh4) 30.Re4! Rxg3+ 31.fxg3 Qxg3+ 32.Kh1 Qxf3+ 33.Qxf3 Rxf3 34.Rxh4 with decent winning chances.

29...Qxc3 30.Nxf7 Rdf6 31.Rad1 c4

White on move

32.Re3 Qb2

Or 32...Qb4 33.Bc2.

33.Re2 Qc3

33...Qxe2 34.Qxe2 cxb3 35.Nd8! Is not gong to save Black.

34.Bc2 Kxf7

34...Nd4 35.Bxg6 Nxe2+ 36.Kh1 gives nothing to Black.


Also good is 35.Bxg6+ Rxg6 36.Qxh4.

35...Qd4 36.Bxg6+ Rxg6 37.Re4 

The complications yielded an exchange to White, which is clearly a decisive edge in a position with many open lines for the rook. 

37...Qf6 38.Qd5+ Kg7 39.Re6 Qg5 40.Rxg6+ Qxg6 41.Qxc4 Qf6 42.Qg4+ Qg5 43.Re4

Black on move

The position is winning for White with or without queens.


Black will not keep his position together after 43...Qxg4 44.Rxg4+ Kf6 45.Rxh4 Kg6 46.Rc4.

44.a4 Kh7 45.Qxh4 Qd5 46.Qg4 Qf7 47.Qd7 Qg6 48.f3 Qg5 49.Qd3 Kh8 50.Qc3+ e5 51.Rg4 Qd8 52.Qb3 h5 53.Re4 Qe7 54.Qe3 Qf6 55.f4!

A decisive opening up of the game.

55exf4 56.Rxf4 Qg6 57.Kh2 Kh7 58.Qc5 Qe8 59.Qf5+ Kg8 60.Qg5+ Kh7 61.Rh4 Qg6 62.Rxh5+ Kg7 63.Qxg6+ Black resigns.

Round 9 heroes, Sergey Karjakin and Nikita Vitiugov, ended their games in draws this time. Ian Nepomniachtchi’s ingenious and energetic play gave him initiative early in the game. However, he failed to bring the edge home.

McShane – Nepomniachtchi

Black on move


Black had a tempting checker-like sequence at his disposal: 33...Qxb1!? 34.Bxb1 Rxd1+ 35.Re1 Rxb1 36.Rxb1 Bxe5 37.Bxe5 Bxe4+ 38.Kh2 (there is no taking the bishop: 38.Qxe4? Nxg3+) 38...Bxb1, but after 39.Qf3! Rd8 40.Qxh5 Rd2+ 41.Kg1 Be4 42.Bb8 the queen breaks free and gives White sufficient counterplay.

34.Qf3 Nxe5 35.fxe5 Bxe5 36.Qxh5 Rxd1+ 37.Rxd1 Bxc3

Ian wins a pawn for the exchange, and, most importantly, command of the dark squares. Besides, he had a significant time superiority on his clock.

38.Kh2 g6 39.Qg5 Bd4 40.h4 Bc6 41.h5 Rb8 42.h6 f6 43.Qh4 Be5 44.Rf2 Rf8 45.Qg4 Kf7 46.Rfd2 Ke7 47.Bd3 Rd8 48.Ra2 Rd4 49.Bc2

Black on move


It was worth taking the pawn with 49...Rxc4 since 50.Bb3 runs into 50…f5! 51.Qh4+ Bf6 52.Qf4 Qxf4 53.gxf4 Rxe4, and Black takes the upper hand.

50.Rxd4 Qxd4 51.Qe2 f5 52.Ra3 f4 53.gxf4 Bxf4+ 54.Kg2 Qe5 55.Rb3 Qg5+ 56.Kf1 Qxh6 57.Rb6

White's active rook saves him now.

57Qh1+ 58.Kf2 Qh4+ 59.Kf1

Black on move


There was no longer winning the position: 59...Bd7 60.Qf3 e5 61.Rb7 Ke8 62.Rb8+ Ke7 63.Rb7 Kd8 64.Qd3.

60.Kf2 Qh2+ 61.Kf1 Qh1+ 62.Kf2 A draw in the game and a 2.5:1.5 victory in the match.  

With 17 out of 20 points are teams USA and China. The Russian team has scored 16 match points.

Pairings in the group of leaders are as follows: USA - China, France - Russia, India - Poland.

Seven matchups between leading teams have been tied in women's section, otherwise known for a more belligerent mood. Peace was signed at all boards in China - USA, Ukraine - Russia and Azerbaijan - Armenia. However, Vietnam - Hungary and Spain - Kazakhstan produced two decisive games each, whereas in Georgia-1 - Czech Republic there were as many as four!

Picture by Boris Dolmatovsky

In round ten the Russian team was opposed by the strongest and most titled opponent so far – the team Ukraine.  

Certain winning chances were, perhaps, with Olga Girya only, who played Natalya Zhukova as White. The Russian had a solid edge out of the improved Tarrasch. In a position with queens, rooks and minor pieces Black found himself tied down and passive; besides, White had a bishop versus Black's knight. However, there was no clear path to victory, and after the trade of rooks the position simplified. The edge was spilled, and the game ended in a draw. 

Anna Muzychuk and Alexandra Kosteniuk opened the game to the Rauzer attack with opposite castling. Black fended off all opponent’s threats and the trades resulted in simplifications, the game resulting in a draw in a pawn ending.  

Aleksandra Goryachkina vs Maria Muzychuk was a smooth even game. Black solved her opening problems and achieved equality. 

As in Girya – Zhukova, Anna Ushenina and Valentina Gunina opened their game to the improved Tarrasch. Neither side managed to tip the scales in their favor and the game ended in a logical draw.

Leading the field is team China with 17 match points. Trailing a point behind are teams Ukraine, USA and Armenia. Women’s team Russia is with 15 match points.

In round eleven the group of leaders features the following pairings: Russia - China, USA - Ukraine and Armenia – Georgia-1.

The final round promises to be unpredictable and keep everyone on the edge of their seats, but this is exactly why we love chess so much!