12 August 2019

Starting with Heavenly Moisture

Dmitry Kryakvin’s report about Round 1 of the Russian Championships Superfinals

This year's first and foremost event of the Russian chess calendar is starting in Votkinsk and is hosted from start to finish by Udmurtia. Meanwhile, the main theater of action is to take place in Izhevsk after a two-round warmup in a birthplace of the famous composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. The participants are staying in the guest house built on the bank of the Votkinsk Lake – a beautiful and quiet place offering a spectacular view of the piece of water, which it is so nice a place to watch the motorboats sail by. Honestly, it’s a pity to have to leave it all as soon as Monday!


You may recall from Eteri Kublashvili’s report that the competition is taking place in the Tchaikovsky estate (which is 10-minutes’ walk away from the guest house), as well as about the colorful opening ceremony that the treacherous weather did her best to spoil.

Going into the tournament, I read up on the ancient Udmurt legends to find that, among other things, the ancient residents of these lands were known to worship the rain god Invu. Invu stands for heavenly moisture. There even existed a whole ritual of inviting the presence of Invu with the help of singing a tune. It was thought to provoke the deity into breaking out with the rain during a drought and thus saving the farmers. It seems that this very Invu was only half-awake when showering a wall of water onto a tent in which Tchaikovsky’s music was being played!

The umbrellas came in handy, and the caring organizers gave out warm blankets to the participants and visitors, and the end of the wonderful concert coincided with the sovereign of the Udmurt sky abate his rage. However, the chess qualifiers from the Higher League were no strangers to it as it had been raining in Yaroslavl all the time.

Chief arbiter Elena Polovina quickly arranged a drawing of lots procedure and a technical meeting. 


Chief Arbiter Elena Polovina and a 20-second countdown to the start of the round

Severe anti-cheating rules are in place at the Superfinal - there is no taking your watch or pen with you; on entering the playing hall participants are checked with “scanners”. It was with great relief that organizers learned at a technical meeting that none of the players are smoking addicts, although initially the appropriate place was reserved for such needs. It makes things easier in many ways as there is no need to assign someone to keep an eye on this process.

A Superfinal is a significant event, after all. In front of us is the European team championship, whereas in 2020 Khanty-Mansiysk is hosting the World Olympiad in which the host country is represented not only by its main team, but is entitled to put out yet another one (or maybe even two). It is a great opportunity worthy of fighting for. This is going to be a very interesting event, commented in Russian by Sergey Shipov, and in English by Pavel Tregubov and Daniil Yuffa!

There was no warmup reconnaissance as round one had nearly half the games end decisively, and there could have been even more than that. Arriving immediately after the wedding, Vladimir Fedoseev (and we congratulate him and his favored one on this occasion) opted for the Petroff Defence, but it did not end peacefully as his opponent had serious intentions in mind.


Kirill Alekseenko awaiting the arrival of his opponent

Alekseenko – Fedoseev

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 0–0 8.Qd2 b6

This is a so-called Chinese line of the Petroff Defence. Five years ago, Wang Hao came up with the decision to develop the c8-bishop like that, and it would not go unnoticed among the elite players.

9.0–0–0 Bb7 10.h4 Nd7


This position saw some strong players try various moves, such as 11.Nd4, 11.h5 and 11.Bd3, but Kirill opts for yet another approach. A novelty is not the word to be used here. Most likely, your database is not updated or you are unaware of the latest correspondence revelations, battles of engines or games played by AlphaZero. Alekseenko’s plan proved very potent and doesn’t look like something devised over the board.

11.Rh3!? Nf6 12.Nd4

The thing is, an immediate 11.Nd4 runs into 11…Ne5.

12…Ne4 13.Qe2 d5 14.Nf5 Bf6

Future studies will show the reason of failure, but it was precisely because of White's pawn onslaught on the f6-bishop that Black started eventually ceding his ground. Fedoseev probably needed to come up with a more restrained 14...Re8.

15.g4 Qd7 16.f3 Nd6 17.Nxd6 Qxd6 18.f4 Rae8 19.g5 Be7 20.Qf2 Qc6

It is amusing is that almost on every move the engine (I mean a weak engine on an ordinary laptop, rather than a multiprocessor monster or an online engine) suggests that Black play something like 20 ... f6 21.g6 h6. Needless to say, Vladimir was unwilling to go for it, and White succeeded in invading through the g- and h-files.

21.Bg2 Qc4 22.Kb1

White is active on the kingside, while Black has the d5-pawn to take care of, whereas 22...Bc5 fails to 23.Bxc5 Qxc5 (23...bxc5 24.b3) 24.Qxc5 bxc5 25.c4. Fedoseev shores up his central pawn, but at the cost of having to exile his queen to the rim.

22…c6 23.Bf1 Qa4 24.f5 f6 25.Rd4 Qa5 26.Rg3 Bc8

There is some tactics in the air already: 26...Bd6 27.gxf6! Bxg3 28.Qxg3 Rxf6 29.Rg4 Rf7 (29...g6 30.Bd4) 30.f6 g6 31.Rxg6+, and White is winning. Fedoseev made a desperate attempt to break into the thick of things with his queen.

27.Bd3 c5!? 28.Rxd5 Qa4

A simple 29.Rg1 would have done the job, but Alekseenko wants to do it nicely! Disappearance if the h4-pawn opens new avenues against the black king.

29.b3! Qxh4 30.Bc4 Kh8 31.Qg2 fxg5 32.Rh3 Qe1+ 33.Kb2 Bf6

There is no relief in either 33...Bxf5 34.Rxf5 Rxf5 35.Bd2 Qf2 36.Qh1 or 33...Rxf5 34.Qh2. 

34.Bf2 Qe4

35.Rxh7+! Kxh7 36.Qh2+ Kg8

The queen sac will help neither: 36...Qh4 37.Bxh4 gxh4 38.Qg1.

37.Rd4+ Qe6 38.fxe6 cxd4 39.e7+ Rf7 40.Bxd4, and Black resigns since after something like 40…Bxd4 41.cxd4 Rexe7 42.Qb8 Re8 43.Qc7 Be6 44.Bxe6 Rxe6 45.Qc8+ he is short of material for the strongest piece.

The holder of the 2018 Russian Cup is on a big rise now - Kirill's rating is already around 2670, and he has just shined in the Turkish team league.

In the game of neighbors, White also launched his pawns against the opponent’s king, but it failed to achieve the goal.

Motylev – Inarkiev

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.a3 0–0 8.d3 Nd7 9.h4 Bf6 10.g4 g6 11.Be3 Qe7 12.Ng5 Bg7 13.Qd2 Nc5 14.h5 h6 15.b4 Nd7 16.Nf3 g5 17.Ne2 Rd8

You can probably play a modest 18.Nh2 here, then put a pawn on f3. White needs a lot of time to prepare for the occupation of the f5-square, enough for Ernesto to organize a central onslaught. After the game, Inarkiev gave insight into his game to Pavel Tregubov and the English-speaking audience.

18.Ng3 Nf6 19.Nxg5

It is of interest that after 19.Bxg5 hxg5 20.h6 Bh8 21.Qxg5+ the black king suddenly finds safe heavens with 21…Kf8 22.h7 Ke8. A training match with great defender Sergey Karjakin has schooled Ernesto into not letting the illusory piece sacs the better of you.

19...Bxg4 20.Nf3?

Motylev goes for a cute tactical operation, overlooking Black’s rejoinder on move 23. 20.Bc5 Qe8 21.f3 Bd7 22.Nh3 was the way to go.

20...Bxf3 21.Nf5 Qe6 22.Rg1

White has sacked a piece, but the g7-bishop is doomed.

22…Nxe4 23.Nxg7

Losing is 23.Rxg7+ Kh8 24.Qc1 Qxf5 25.dxe4 Qxe4 26.Rg3 Rd1+.

The black queen's retreat to d7 results in a viral offensive for White after 23.Qc1. However, with the queen moving forward instead, Black takes the initiative over.

23...Qh3! 24.Qc1

24.Nf5+ Kh7 gives nothing.

24...Qh2 25.Kf1 Qh3+ 26.Ke1 Qh2 27.Kf1 Nc3!

A decisive entry of the knight.

28.Nf5+ Kh7 29.Ng3

Losing is 29.Rg7+ Kh8 30.Rg3 Qh1+ 31.Rg1 Bg2+

29...Rg8 30.Qd2 Ne2, and White had nothing better than to part with the queen.

Ernesto Inarkiev is sharing insight into the game with Pavel Tregubov and the English-speaking spectators 

The triumphant of the Russian Championship Higher League was on the verge of unsettling the rating favorite.

Predke – Artemiev 

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 Qa5 9.Qd2 0–0 10.Rc1 Rd8 11.h4!?

Vladislav Artemiev’s page on Facebook reads that this rare move came as a surprise to him, which is also confirmed in his post-game interview.

Vladislav Artemiev taken off guard in the opening


The only high-rated players’ game saw 11...cxd4 12.cxd4 Qxd2+ 13.Bxd2 Na6 14.Bc4 Bd7 15.Rb1 Rac8 16.Be2 Bc6 17.d5 Bd7 18.Ba5 Re8 19.0–0 Nc5, as in Narayanan - Cheparinov, 2019, and Black went on to win this already superior ending. Predke was likely aware as to how to go about this position. He is a very creative chess player, and already this summer your author profited from employing a couple of his opening ideas while the trail was still hot. With the queens on the board, Black falls victim to a potent offensive.

12.d5 e6 13.h5 exd5 14.hxg6 hxg6


15.Bh6! Re8 16.Bxg7 Rxe4+ 17.Be2 Kxg7 18.Ng5

There is no gaining anything from 18.Qh6+ Kf6 19.Ng5 Rxe2+! 20.Kxe2 Qb5+! 21.Ke1 Bf5.

18...Re8 19.Rh7+ Kg8



Vladislav Artemiev’s page on Facebook says that 20.Kf1 would have left Black with some difficult consequences to face, such as after 20…Qd8 21.Nxf7 Qf6 22.Qh6 Be6 23.Ng5 Ne5 24.Bf3, with a raging attack.

20...Bg4! 21.f3 Re5! 22.fxg4 Qd8! 23.Rxb7 Qxg5 24.Qxg5 Rxg5, and Artemiev managed to bail out.

Alexandr Predke has shined yet again as a first player

Even in the Poikovsky tournament, it was noticed that Artemiev often faced the opening problems as Black, getting out of them with escapology equal to that of Copperfield’s. Will there be any dealing with Artemiev at all should he get superb positions out of the opening?

Maxim Matlakov had a difficult time against Dmitry Jakovenko, and Nikita Vitiugov came up with precise defensive moves in the endgame against Alexei Dreev, and these games ended in draws. Alexey Sarana vs Evgeny Tomashevsky ended in a draw, but it was not as simple as it sounds.

Alexey Sarana

Sarana – Tomashevsky


The ending is difficult for White as the bishop is superior to the knight, coupled with an opportunity of creating a remote passer and the weakness of the b5-square.

39...Bg2 40.Ng4 Bxf3?

Tomashevsky had only 30 seconds on his clock and must have blundered in his calculations about trapping the opponent’s knight. After 40...h5 White loses with 41.Ne5 h4 42.Nf7+ Ke7 43.Nxg5 hxg3, but can attempt to build up a fortress instead

via 41.Nh2 Kc6 42.Kb3 h4 43.gxh4 gxh4 44.Kb2 Kb5 45.Kb3. However, after 45…h3 46.Kc3 Ka4 White has to move his pawn to f4 in view of a zugzwang, upon which the black king returns to f5 following 47.f4 Be4. It is unlikely that the defender is capable of covering both e4 and g4 against the pending invasion.

41.Nxh6 Ke6 42.Kd2 Bh5 43.Ke3 Kf6 44.Ng8+ Kf7 45.Nh6+ - and the elusive knight gave White a draw.

Evgeny Tomashevsky

In the women's tournament, Charochkina took her opponent by surprise by employing the Trompowsky attack.

Charochkina – Potapova

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5 3.Bxf6 exf6 4.e3

Potapova would not develop her bishop to d6 for some reason and thus paved the way for her opponent’s offensive.

4…g6 5.c4 dxc4 6.Bxc4 Bg7 7.Nc3 0–0 8.h4 h5?!

Black needed to challenge White's center with an immediate 8...c5.

9.Nge2 Nc6 10.Nf4 Kh7?

10...Ne7 fails to a direct blow.

The player of Moscow had everything calculated precisely to sacrifice a knight.

11.Nxh5! gxh5 12.Qxh5+ Kg8 13.g4! Ne7 14.0–0–0 Qd6 15.Bd3 Rd8

Black’s last hope was in 15...Ng6, and now he is defenseless.

16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.h5 Ng8 18.h6 Nxh6 19.Rxh6 Bxh6 20.Qxh6+ Ke7 21.Ne4

White's compensation for the missing exchange is a pawn and a strong attack.


21...Qc6+ 22.Kb1 Bxg4 23.Rc1 Qb6 24.Qf4 is going to lose. Charochkina ends the game in a spectacular manner.

22.Qg7! Bd7 23.g5 f5 24.Qe5+ Be6 25.Nc5 Rg8 26.Qf6+ Kf8 27.Bc4! Ke8

Or 27...Bxc4 28.Nd7+. Black's position is falling apart.

28.Bxe6 fxe6 29.Rh1 e5 30.Qxe5+ Kd8 31.Qd5+ Black resigns.

Daria Charochkina at Sergey Shipov’s commentary room

Alexandra Kosteniuk outplayed Alexandra Goryachkina, but the endgame saw the world title runnner-up put up a fantastic defense as her knight was all over the board, always keeping pace with her opponent's rook. Kosteniuk’s technique is high, but this time the most titled participant of the Superfinal failed to break down her opponent's resistance.

Alina Kashlinskaya managed to stand her ground against Olga Girya, and Anastasia Bodnaruk got out of the inferior position against Polina Shuvalova, whereas prevailing in the other two games were the rating favorites.

Pogonina – Tomilova

Black needs to keep an eye on her a6 and g7 weaknesses, whereas White has a clear plan of breaking through with her king.

50.Qd6+ Rd7 51.Qb8+ Bc8?

This is a decisive mistake as Black needed to send her king into the wild with 51...Ke7 52.Kh5 Ke6. Adding to Black's other grieves is a checkmating motif that proves decisive.

52.Kh5 Rb7 53.Qd6+ Rd7 54.Qb6+ Ke8 55.Qb8 Kd8 56.Kg6 Rb7 57.Qd6+ Rd7 58.Qb6+ Rc7 59.Kh7! Bf5+ 60.g6 Bc8 61.Kg8

The white king has broken through to both threaten the g7-pawn and help creating a mating net.

61…Bb7 62.Qd6+ Rd7

62...Kc8 63.Qf8+

63.Qb8+ Bc8 64.Kf8 Rc7 



Connecting the last unit into the play seals the deal for White.


65...Rd7 66.Qb6+ Rc7 67.b5 axb5 68.Qxb5 Rd7 69.Qa5+ Rc7 70.Qg5+ Kd7 71.Qd5# looks more spectacular. Now Pogonina can dispense with the trade of pawns.

66.Qe5 Ra7 67.Qa5+ Rc7 68.Qg5+ Kd7 69.Qd5# Black resigns.

The national champion has started out strong


A textbook endgame performance! Valentina Gunina delivered a similar endgame performance as well.

Gunina – Shafigullina


Black is keeping a close eye on the a2-pawn, but Gunina rises to the occasion with her knight play.

56.Nc2 Kb5 57.Rh4!

With the a5-bishop bound hand and foot to defending the b4-pawn, Shafigullina needed to come up with 57...h5 as 58.Rxh5? fails to 58...Bb6. Meanwhile, after

57…Nc5? 58.Nfd4+ Ka4 59.Rxh7 Ne6 60.Nb3 Kb5 61.Rh4 Gunina managed to stop the enemy's pawns dead in tracks and started rolling her own ones instead.

Valentina Gunina’s knights’ lives is all forward, but they are quite capable of taking up defensive functions from time to time if needed


We are in for a rest day after round two!

I wish good luck to all participants!

Photo credit: Eteri Kublashvili