The Final Boss
Superfinals, round 11. Misha Savinov reports from St. Petersburg
The tension is in the air, and many more journalists than usual arrived to see the players making their first moves. All games started on time.
No surprises in Volkov-Vitiugov: the Nimzo-Indian with Volkov's trademark 4.f3. It is going to be a sharp and unbalanced.
Romanov opened his game against Fedoseev with 1.c4. Fedoseev opted for the Dutch – a combative choice! No less could be expected from Fedoseev. The Leningrad Variation occurred, which is quite symbolic.
Svidler started with 1.e4, which surprised me, as Malakhov is well known for his Berlin-oriented taste. They went into the Ruy Lopez, but as soon as Malakhov developed his kingside knight, Svidler switched to the Four Knights Opening. But in Pioneers Palaces they taught us it is a draw! On the other hand, the Chebanenko Slav seems to be in danger these days, and perhaps Peter could take some crash course for this all-important encounter. However, let's see what the 7-time Russian champion has in mind.
In women's event, Pogonina ran into the Exchange Ruy Lopez of Gritsayeva, who ruthlessly simplified the game into an ending with opposite-colored bishops. A draw seems imminent already.
Goryachkina played the French against Shuvalova. White retains a slight edge, but the pawn structure is not symmetrical and there is still a lot of play.
Sergey Volkov is not on form. He could not even hold for 15 moves!
In this position Volkov played 14.0-0-0, and Nikita fired 14...Rxe3! The rook is taboo due to ...Bf4. Volkov replied by 15.Bxg4, but the intermediate check 15...Rxc3+! followed. Black netted two minor pieces for a rook even before he developed his last piece.
Sergey Volkov's sad performance in the concluding rounds in one more reason to prefer the knock-out format. We should not be cruel and force unmotivated people to continue playing!
Svidler-Malakhov develops unhurriedly. If White has any advantage, it is microscopic at best.
However, Alexander Morozevich commented that Svidler should probably be satisfied by the opening results. According to Alexander, he achieved a fresh and playable position and has a variety of plans.
...stands slightly worse objectively, but his position is full of life. White has many ways to err. Morozevich expects Fedoseev to win.
Natalija Pogonina is going to draw with p=0.(9) – she already entered a symmetrical endgame with even material and opposite-colored bishops. Playing for a win with either color is impossible. Yesterday Natalija also followed Petrosian's Curacao strategy and made a quick draw, putting pressure on other contenders. I don't think such way of playing is optimal, but it has an obvious upside – if Goryachkina plays a difficult game with Shuvalova and fails to win, Pogonina will come into the tie-break with a lot more energy.
Goryachkina's position is currently equal, but there may be subtleties. Still, Shuvalova seems to play without any fear; she is even ahead on the clock.
Olga Girya had a chance to catch up with the leaders, if they both draw and she wins. However, she already plays an inferior ending against Ovod and will be happy to earn half a point.
Vitiugov won officially and is giving an interview in the Russian broadcast studio.
Svidler seems to have a long-lasting advantage in a position between late middlegame and early endgame. It looks good enough to play for a win...
Fedoseev and Romanov fixed a pawn structure on the queenside and in the center, and it looks like White is still holding his own. Romanov's problem is lack of time – he has about 20 minutes for 20 moves, and if the game gets sharp, it can get difficult to find the right moves.
Pogonina vs. Gritsayeva ended in a draw.
“No, it didn't go as planned”, said Natalija. “I did not expect her to play such a drawish line. I was preparing for all the sharp stuff.”
Shuvalova keeps a slight edge against Goryachkina and does not look concerned at all. She's gained some confidence over the course of the tournament, that's for sure. I don't think she will lose this game, which means Pogonina and Goryachkina are going to the tie-break.
Svidler does not receive praise for his positional skill often enough. His game against Malakhov gives us another chance to correct this mistake. White's subtle maneuvers yielded him a large advantage. Peter basically stalemated his opponent's queenside, improved his own position to the maximum, and then went on to pick weak pawns. A complete domination!
Malakhov resigned on the 41st move in view of a mate in five.
According to Svidler, Black's decisive mistake was not playing 22...Ra8 in this position.
“It is extremely important to drive the white queen away as soon as possible.”
Not obvious to me! Well, they have 2700 for a reason.
Vladimir played 22...Bb5 first, and after 23.a4 is was already too late: 23...Ra8 was met by 24.Qb6, and 25.Rc1 on the next move led to endless suffering for Black.
Fedoseev and Romanov agreed to a draw in a rook ending. Vladimir will not be a champion, but there is always next year.
Shuvalova and Goryachkina finally agreed to a draw. Ovod and Girya ended their game peacefully, too.
So, the tie-breaks have been defined: Svidler vs. Vitiugov, and Goryachkina vs. Pogonina.
All games are finished. The tie-breaks are starting soon.
Full results of the round and the final standings:
Volkov-Vitiugov 0-1, Svidler-Malakhov 1-0, Romanov-Fedoseev ½-½, Dubov-Inarkiev 1-0, Riazantsev-Matlakov ½-½ , Tomashevsky-Sjugirov ½-½.
Svidler and Vitiugov – 7
Dubov and Fedoseev – 6.5
Tomashevsky, Riazantsev, and Malakhov – 6
Inarkiev and Sjugirov – 5
Matlakov – 4.5
Romanov – 3.5
Volkov – 3
Gritsayeva-Pogonina ½-½, Shuvalova-Goryachkina ½-½, Kashlinskaya-Galliamova 1-0, Nechaeva-Gunina ½-½ , Kovalevskaya-Bodnaruk ½-½, Ovod-Girya ½-½
Pogonina and Goryachkina – 7
Kashlinskaya and Girya – 6.5
Gunina and Bodnaruk – 6
Shuvalova, Nechaeva, and Gritsayeva – 5
Ovod – 4.5
Kovalevskaya – 4
Galliamova – 3.5
* * *
Nikita surprised his friend by playing the Trompovsky. Peter thought for a while, then responded in a slightly less principled but perfectly sound way – 2...e6. The resulting position resembled the Anti-Meran with colors reversed. Svidler was choosing the pawn structure and decided to play with an isolani. He had the initiative for a while, but did not manage to gain anything concrete, and White slowly began to come out.
However, the weakness of White's b2-pawn in the long run proved more important than loneliness of Black's d5-pawn. The pressure eventually became unbearable. Trying to solve his problems, Vitiugov sacrificed a piece for the perpetual, but it was an unfortunate hallucination – there was no draw. Upon realizing it, Nikita resigned.
In the true Anti-Meran Black equalized rather easily and quickly seized the initiative. Pogonina did not manage to develop her queen's bishop, which became a root of her problems. Goryachkina sacrificed a pawn at the proper moment to increase pressure. White was completely paralyzed, and Pogonina decided to abandon her extra pawn, but it did not save her. Goryachkina ruthlessly converted her advantage in a bishop endgame. A positional masterpiece by Aleksandra!
Both games were decided by weakness of the backward b-pawns. Next time consider starting your games with 1.b3!
The Dutch Defense arose after Svidler's 1.c4 – a modern replacement of the King's Indian for the games Black needs to win on demand. Alas, Vitiugov didn't even manage to get a playable position – Svidler's pressure right off the bat was too severe. White got a winning position around the move 10 already. Vitiugov played this match well below his usual strength. Was he overwhelmed by unbearable strength of the final boss?
Congratulations, Peter! Seven wins already felt like infinite, but eight... this is legendary. Have you perhaps listened to Diggy Diggy Hole before the tie-breaks?
Natalija's attempt to play for a win took the shape of the Philidor Defense. A large-scale battle ensued. The position looked objectively more favorable for White, but Black was quite satisfied as she had counterchances.
Soon both sides castled queenside, but Black had a better pawn structure, and her king was also more secure. At the press-center we all recalled how Pogonina had come back three times during the World Championship in Sochi, so there was no reason to doubt her fighting spirit and experience of playing all-important games.
Goryachkina needed to play very accurately to maintain balance. A critical moment occurred on the 22nd move, when Pogonina had a chance to play 22...Qf7, picking up the a2-pawn. In this case the game could take a very different course.
However, Natalija preferred 22...Bf3.
After that White held rather comfortably. Trying to squeeze something out of nothing, Natalija naturally took excessive risks. Aleksandra did not miss the first chance she was offered, and got a winning position.
Yet, the game was not over! Pogonina continued to create problems, and Goryachkina, being under the heavy time pressure, started to err. At one point she could trap the opponent's queen, but missed it, and suddenly it was everybody's game!
The final stage of this game was truly nerve-wrecking. So much was at the stake – the title, a very decent prize, a new car, after all... The girls made their moves with shaking hands, fighting solely on instincts. The white king was walking in the middle of the board under constant checks, but Black had no extra manpower to turn these checks into anything lethal. Searching for the right way, Natalija made a losing blunder and lost on time at the same second.
Aleksandra Goryachkina is a new champion of Russia! She is the second youngest participant of the Superfinal, and got a second title already. Congratulations, and well done!
Thank you for being with us, reading our reports, listening to our broadcasts, and hope you enjoyed it from time to time. Till next time!
Photos by Boris Dolmatovsky (if not stated otherwise)