11 September 2018

The National Team Strikes Back

Dmitry Kryakvin reports about rounds 8-9 of the Russian Championship Superfinals

Fierce battle keeps raging around the titles of Russian champions in Satka. No sooner were the Russian national team fans, who project everything onto the upcoming Olympiad now, about to resign themselves to fits of the blues -- with Karjakin performing not too successfully across the seas and national team members with minus scores here at the Superfinals -- there happened a sudden turn of the tables. Scoring a row of victories is Dmitry Jakovenko, Ian Nepomniachtchi walking in his footsteps. Knowing the will power of Vitiugov, he will definitely make his voice heard at the home stretch.  

Meanwhile, your correspondent has come to know that the closing ceremony is not going to be about awarding medals only. A top-secret group has been formed under the leadership of Maxim Notkin to determine the best in creative nominations: best attack, combination, endgame, the brightest opening idea, etc. By the way, the Soviet championships never lacked players of the Kupreichik or Lutikov caliber, whose creative prizes exceeded those for main tournament achievements by far. It is so good to see this tradition undergoing revival.

The tournament has gained from arrival of a commentator, grandmaster Evgeny Miroshnichenko, who will take over the English broadcast. It frees Alexander Morozevich to relocate to Sergey Shipov’s office.     

I again thank Eteri Kublashvili for the pictures provided


Going into round nine, the lead was with two Dmitrys - Andreikin and Jakovenko. From A to J, as was humorously noted by our broadcasting colleagues. Both leaders have delivered a high technical performance.


Jakovenko – Oparin

The game was an interesting duel in Ruy Lopez, in which Oparin was holding White at bay for a long time. However, immediately after time control Jakovenko inflicted a powerful tactical blow that enabled him to transpose into a promising endgame.  

41.Nd7! Bxf8 

This is forced because Black goes down after 41...Bxb2 42.Ndxb6 Nxb6 (42...Rxb6 43.Nxb6 Nxb6 44.Rd6) 43.Rd8 h5 44.Nxb2.  

42.Nxf8+ Kg8 43.Nxe6 Bxe6 44.Na5  

Black’s problems are not limited to just an exposed big diagonal, but his a6-pawn turns out to be virtually untenable.  

44Rd7 45.Nc6 Rc7 

The commentators were supportive of the idea of at least trying to trade off the raging bishop: 45...Na4 46.Ba1 Rc7 47.Nb8 Nac3 48.Bxc3 Rxc3 49.Nxa6 - it is clear that managed by such an endgame expert as Dmitry an extra pawn is something bordering on victory.  

A white knight has been seen taking a solo dance only to end up burning in flames. Now his cause is taken up by his fellow.  

46.Nb8 Nc4 47.Ba1 


47...Nxb4 fails to 48.Rd8+ Kh7 49.Rh8#, but Oparin at least manages to trade off one of White’s bishops. However, the downside is that White’s passer, backed up by all pieces, becomes very potent  

48.Bxc4 Rxc4 49.bxa5 Rc8 50.Be5 f6 51.Bd6 Nc3 52.Re1 Kf7 53.a6 Nb5 54.Bg3 Bd5 55.Nd7 Rc2 

After 55...Be6 56.Nb8 Bd5 White would not repeat moves but would rather play 57.Ra1.  

56.Nb6 Bc6 57.Ra1 f5 58.a7 and White won shortly after.  


Andreikin – Dubov

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 e6 8.Qe2 Be7 9.00 00 10.Rd1  

Mainline continuations in this tricky line of the Sveshnikov Sicilian are 10...Na5 or 10...Bd7, intended to challenge the opponent’s light-squared bishop. However, Dubov opts for a rare  

10Nb6 11.Bb3 Bd7 12.Nc3 d5 13.Bc2 Rc8, closing off the center. Black is ready to launch countermeasures on the queenside; therefore, Dmitry does not hesitate with his kingside activities - 14.h4!? Daniil accepted the offering, coming up with the exchange sacrifice later himself. Complex middlegame transposed into a complex ending.  


White intends to open up the position for his rook, and Black should oppose this plan. Helping keep the g5-pawn afloat was the trick 41...Rh6! 42.Bf5 (42.Bb1 Kf7 43.Rd1 Kf6) 42...Nxd4 43.Bc8 Be2! 44.Rc3 b5, and Black stays in the game. The text gives Black seemingly realistic chances for a draw, but after  

41Nxd4 42.Rxg5 Ke7 43.Rd1 Kf6 44.Rg4 Rh2+ (44…Кe5 fails to 45.Re1+), the trade of rooks is forced - 45.Rg2 Rxg2+ 46.Kxg2 Ke5 47.Re1+, upon which the harmony between Black’s pieces comes to naught, and the white king breaks free of all restraints.  

47Kd6 48.Kf2 Bb5 49.Be8!  

An importance nuance, preventing the black bishop from joining forces with his pawns. Trading is not an option either due to the infiltration of White’s rook. Nevertheless, there is no stopping the strongest piece any longer.  

49...Ba6 50.Rh1 Nc2 51.Bg6 Nb4 52.a3 Nc6 53.Rh7 Kc5 54.Be8 Nd4 55.b4+ Kc4 56.Rf7 Kc3 57.Rxf4, and Dmitry Andreikin scored a victory, so important for him.

Winning another nice endgame was Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Nepomniachtchi – Sarana


Ian shared at the press conference his fears of an explosive 32...Ra3+ 33.bxa3 bxa3+, thinking that Black could dominate even down a rook after: 34.Ka4 Ra8+ 35.Kb5 Rb8+ 36.Ka5 Ra8+ 37.Kb6 Rb8+ 38.Ka7 Rb2. However, the engine fears nothing: 34.Kc2 Rb2+ 35.Kd3 Rb3+ (35...Be5 36.c5) 36.Kd4.  

Black should try 32...Rd8 33.Rd3 Bc5 before White carries out f2-f3.  

33.Rd2 Rb6 

Visiting Sergey Shipov after the game, Nepomniachtchi was explaining Black’s need to start a play of his own with 33...f5, because otherwise he was given a free hand in the position and went on to create a passer on the kingside.  

34.Rfd1 Ra7 35.Rd3 Ra8 36.f3 gxf3 37.Bxf3 Rg8 38.Bxh5 

The grandmaster believed that a serious alternative was in 38.e5!? Bxe5 39.c5 Rbb8 40.Rd7+ Kf6 41.Bxh5 Rxg3+ 42.Kc4 Kg7 (bad is 42...Bxb2 43.Rxf7+ Ke5 44.Re1+ Re3 45.Rxe3#) 43.Bxf7 Bxb2 44.Bxe6+ Kg6 – the engine likes it, but the winner was apprehensive of a quick reduction of material on the board.  

38...Rxg3 39.Rxg3 Bxg3 40.c5 



The Moscow player was anticipating 40...Rb8, intending 41.c6 Rd8 42.Rxd8 Kxd8 43.Bxf7 Bxh4, in which White was to convert his edge in a classical opposite-colored bishops ending. However, the final result was not absolutely clear in that line. This said, 41.Rf1 was an option as in the game, leaving decent practical chances.  

41.Rf1 Kf8 42.Bg4 Ke7 43.h5 Rc7 44.Rc1 Be5 45.Be2 Rc8 46.Rc2 Rb8 47.h6 Rh8 48.Kxb4 Rxh6  

Sarana manages to eliminate a remote passer, but the cost is too high as there is no stopping Nepomniachtchi’s connected passers.   

49.Ka5 Rh4 50.b4 Rxe4 51.b5 Re3 52.b6 Ra3+ 53.Kb4 Ra1 54.Bc4 Rb1+ 

A passive stance with 54...Ra8 55.Kb5 Rb8 56.Ra2 Kf6 57.Ra7 was not going to help either.  

55.Ka5 Ra1+ 56.Ba2 Kd8 57.c6 Bc7 58.Rd2+ Kc8 59.bxc7 Black resigns.

Fedoseev – Vitiugov


In yet another decisive game of the round the rook was guarding her king for a long time, marking time between g7 and g8. However, once it left its duty, the king suffered mightily.  

51... Rb8? (51...Rg7!) 52.Bxh5+! Kxh5 53.Rf7 Kg4  

53...Qxf7 54.Qg5#.  

54.Rxe7 Rb2+ 55.Kg1  

Fedoseev noted that after 55.Kh1? Nf3 56.Rg7+ Kh3! 57.Qg1 Nхg1 58.Kхg1 the conversion would not be as easy, whereas the text made Vitiugov resign at once in view of 55…Ne2+ 56.Kg2 (not so clear is 56.Kf2 Nxg3+ 57.Ke1 Rb1+ 58.Kd2 Nf1+) 56...Nxg3+ 57.Qf2 Rxf2+ 58.Kxf2 Nxe4+ 59.Ke3 with up an exchange and winning position for White.

It will not be inappropriate to add that Fedoseev opened the game with b2-b3. I remember listening to Garry Kasparov’s recent lecture, during which the thirteenth world champion was asked about rare opening lines. "Nonsense, nonsense..." - Garry Kimovich was heard saying now and then. However, when asked about b2-b3, a normal modern opening was his statement about this opening.

Next day, prevailing largely was the defensive. No great shakes were seen in three games which ended in draws, whereas other two games had weaker sides going through difficult time before achieving same result.

Inarkiev – Jakovenko


58.Qf4! was most likely a winner as it was cutting off the opponent’s king: 58…Qa8+ (58…Qd4 works no longer since the white pawn starts marching towards the queening square) 59.Ke7 Qb7+ 60.Kd8 Qa8+ 61.Kc7 Qa7+ 62.Kc6 Qa6+ 63.Kxc5 Qa3+ 64.Kc6 Qa4+ 65.Kd6 (65.Kd5 Qa8+ is not to be allowed) 65...Qxc4, and with the e-pawn and black king’s poor position White should be winning, the Nalimov tables agreeing with this evaluation. 66.Qd2+ or 66.Qf5 was the simplest.  

58...Qg7+ 59.Ke6 Qd4!  

One of White’s pawns perishes and Black escapes.  

60.Qe5 Qxc4+ 61.Qd5 Qa6+ 62.Kf7 Qf1+ 63.Ke7 c4 64.e5+ Kf2 and a draw was agreed soon.  

Sarana – Khismatullin

White seems in dire straights after 51.Bd1 Rc4 52.Re3 (52.Ke3 b4) 52...Rxd4+. However, Sarana engineers a nice fortress.  

51.Rc1!! Rxc1 52.Kxc1 axb3 53.Kd2 b4 

If the white king is not stopped now, there will be no more forcing it back. 53...Kf7 54.Kc3 Ke7  

Or 54...Bc2 55.Kb4 Ke6 56.Kxb5 Kd7 57.Kb6 Bd3, and there is a simple fortress here after 58.Kc5 Be4 59.Kb6 Kc8 60.Kc6 Kb8 61.Kc5, marking time with the king shifting between с5-с6. Another plan would be to grab a second pawn via 58.a4 Kc8 59.Kc5 Be4 (59...Bc4 60.Kd6 Kb7 61.Ke5) 60.Kb4 Kb7 61.Kxb3 Kb6 62.Kb4 Bf3 63.b3 Be2 64.a5+ Kc6 65.Ka4, followed by Кa4-b4.  

55.Kb4 Kd7 (55...Bd3 56.Kc5 Bc4 57.Kc6) 56.Kxb5 Kc7 57.Kc5 Kb7 58.Kb5 Bf3 59.Kc5 Ka6 60.Kc6, with a draw.  

Khismatullin's last test was not failed by Sarana, who made the only move.  


With the black king outside the square of the pawn, Khismatullin goes for a move repetition.  

54...Bg2 55.Ke2 Bf3+ 56.Ke3 Bg2 57.Kf2 Be4 58.Ke3 Draw.

Oparin – Nepomniachtchi

Ian Nepomniachtchi’s was the only decisive game of the round, but it was associated with some great adventures. Ian got a substantial edge, but then blundered an exchange. Fortunately for him, he was not without resources, while the opponent got into time pressure. Material balance was restored soon, but Ian’s knight was in a desperate situation.  

32... b3 33.Bf1 

Ian showed the strongest 33.Kxe2! e4  

33...Qc8 34.Ke1 (it is important not to walk into the trap via 34.Qc1? Qxc2+ 35.Qxc2 bxc2) 34...Qxc2 (34...bxc2 35.Nc1) 35.Qa8+ Kg7 36.Qb7+)  

34.Kd2 exd3 35.cxd3, and Black is on the backfoot, struggling for a draw. However, the engine meets 35…Qe8 with 36.Qc1 Qe5 37.Qc8+ Kf7 38.Qe6+ Qxe6 39.dxe6+ Kxe6 40.Kc3, claiming it far from any draw.  


33...Bxd3 34.cxd3 Nc3 35.bxc3 b2 36.Qb1 Qb3 37.Ke2 Qxc3 38.Kd1 results in a draw, but Nepomniachtchi finds a way to look for more upon giving it a long think.  

34.Kxg3 bxc2 35.Kf2 Qd8 36.Ke1 e4 37.Nf2 Qc7 

37...Qa5+?!? was planned by Ian in his advanced calculations, but later he found that 38.Qxa5 c1Q+ 39.Nd1 Bxf1 40.Qd8+ gives a draw. Still, Black may choose to take the white bishop later.  

38.Kd2 c1Q+ 39.Qxc1 Qxc1+ 40.Kxc1 Bxf1 41.Kd2 g5! Nepomniachtchi went on to convert his edge confidently.  

Two Dmitrys are pursued by as many as four players: Evgeny Tomashevsky, Ernesto Inarkiev, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Vladimir Fedoseev.  Of vital importance in round ten are the key matchups Andreikin – Tomashevsky and Nepomniachtchi – Inarkiev.

Materializing at last in the women's section was the prediction by the Chief Secretary Alexander Shukan, who was ready to bet before the start that one day representatives of the fair sex would produce as many as six decisive games.  

Aleksandra Goryachkina gradually outplayed Anastasia Bodnaruk, but other games were much hotter than that.

Gunina – Kashlinskaya

A heat of creativity urged Valentina to give up a pawn  

15.g4?! hxg4 16.fxg4 Bxg4 17.Rg1, to which Kashlinskaya’s tough rejoinder was 17Be6  

After 8.Bxe6 fxe6 19.Rdg2 (19.Rd7 Rf7 20.Rxc7? fails to 20...Bg5) 19...Rf7 20.Rg6 the winner, being unhappy about 20…Bf6 21.Bg5, was going to consolidate with 20…Raf8; however, White would not have been without chances to keep his position together.  

Instead, there followed 18.Bd5? Bxd5 19.Rxd5 f6 20.Rd7 Rf7 21.Rxc7 f5, and the black pawns started their slow but steady march towards the first rank.

22.Kd1 f4 23.Bf2 Rd8+ 24.Ke2 e4 25.Bd4 (more stubborn is 25.Rxe7 Rxe7 26.Bh4 Rde8 27.Bxe7 Rxe7) 25...f3+ 26.Ke3 f2 White resigns.


Galliamova – Tomilova

Galliamova has outplayed her opponent, and 37.Qe3 puts Black on the brink of defeat. However, there followed  

37.a7?? Qxf1+!  

The queen is not to be touched because of the checkmate in two.  

38.Kh2 Ne2 39.Rf8+ Kg7 40.Qxe2 Qxe2 41.Rxc8 Qxe5+? 

Black returns the favor. A draw is forced by 41...Qxf2 42.a8Q Qg3+ 43.Kg1 Qe1+, but Tomilova is already looking for more.  



On closer inspection it was found that in response to 42...Nxg3 White is not obliged to allow for 43.a8Q Nf5+ 44.Kg2 Kxh6, but plays 43.Ng4!, which refutes 43…Qd6 44.a8Q Nf5+ 45.f4! (45.Kg1 Qd1+ 46.Kg2 Nh4+ 47.Kg3 Nf5+ 48.Kh2 Qd6+ with a perpet) 45...Qxf4+ 46.Kg1 Qg3+ (46...Qd4+ 47.Nf2) 47.Qg2 Qe1+ 48.Kh2, and White emerges up a rook.  

On evaluating that 42...Qd4 43.a8Q Qxf2+ 44.Qg2 Qxg2+ 45.Kxg2 Kxh6 46.Rb8 g5 47.Rxb4 gives Black a tough ending in view of knight’s poor placement - 47…Kg6 48.Kf3 Nf6 (48...Ng7 49.g4) 49.Rb6 e5 50.Rb5, Elena makes up her mind to leave queens on the board. Nevertheless, after the time control move Galliamova was back in the driver’s seat, neutralizing Black’s counterplay in a confident manner.  

43.a8Q b3 44.Rc1 Qf5 45.Rf1 b2 

45...Qf6 46.Qb8 b2 47.Qb6 is of no help as the passer is doomed.  

46.Qb8! Qc2 47.Qf8+ Kg5 48.h4+ Kg4 49.Kg2 Qe2  

Pinning hopes on either 50.Rb1 Nxg3! or 50…Qхf1.  

50.Re1! This is a final blow as Black either loses the queen or is checkmated.  

After her good start, Oksana Gritsayeva finds herself on a run of bad luck. The native of Crimea committed a blunder in an equal position against Natalija Pogonina.  

Gritsayeva – Pogonina


36.Qd4? (In lieu of 36.Nхe4) 36...Nxg3! 37.fxg3 Qxd4+ 38.Rxd4 Rxc5 39.Ra4 a5, and Black converted her up a pawn superiority. 

Girya – Protopopova

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.e3 b5 5.a4 b4 6.Ne4  

This is an interesting line, in which White stays away from the gambit type of complications in favor of a small plus in a simple position.  

6Qd5 7.Nd2 c3 8.bxc3 bxc3 9.Nb1 e5? 

Tournament praxis has witnessed 9...Qa5 10.Qc2 Na6 11.Qxc3 Nb4 12.Bd2 e6 or 11.Ba3 e5, whereas the text leaves Protopopova with a weak c-pawn and behind in development.  

10.Nxc3 Bb4 11.Bd2 Qa5 12.Ne4 Bxd2+ 13.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 14.Kxd2 Nd7 

14...exd4 15.Nd6+ Ke7 16.Nxc8+ Kd7 17.exd4 Kxc8 18.Nf3 is not something to look forward to.  

15.Nf3 Ngf6 16.Nxf6+ gxf6 17.Bd3 c5 18.dxe5 fxe5 19.Rab1 a6 20.Rhc1 Ke7 21.a5 

White has fixed a weak pawn on a6 and dominates all over the board. Bailing out from a position like this against Olga Girya is simply impossible.  

Reversing the unfavorable momentum was Polina Shuvalova. A nervous battle saw the native of Moscow snatching victory from the ex-world champion.

Shuvalova – Kosteniuk

37... Rg8? 

Time trouble taking its toll. 37...a5! - 38.Rd4 b4 or 38.Rxb5 Ba6 was shown by Shuvalova at the press conference. Black would have won the exchange or created a protected passer.  

The rook move was answered by a cool-headed 38.Qg4! The endgame arising after 38...Qxg4 39.hxg4 is hard for Black, but38Qe5 39.Qh4 Rg5 40.Nxf4 was of no help to Kosteniuk either.  

Round nine almost lived up to Shukan’s expectations save for one game, in which Olga Girya managed to fend off Alexandra Kosteniuk’s fierce offensive.

Kashlinskaya – Shuvalova


Alina seemingly hated her position - it is difficult to find any other reasonable explanation to a solution so uncharacteristic for this very literate and disciplined chess player.  

15.d4?! cxd4 16.Nfxd4? 

A nearly decisive mistake. 16.Nexd4 would have kept pressure on the e5-pawn, not allowing the black queen to move from d6.  

16...Qg6! 17.Qb3+ Kh8 18.Nf3 Be6 19.c4 f4 20.Kh1 b5, and Black managed to break through White’s defensive formations.  

This is how Olga Girya was caught up with by Natalija Pogonina and Aleksandra Goryachkina. Pogonina’s performance was consistent against Alisa Galliamova, while Goryachkina handled an endgame against Oksana Gritsayeva in a textbook fashion.

Goryachkina – Gritsayeva

White is up a pawn, but can she untangle? Thus, 31...h5 32.Nc3 Rc5. However, no sooner did Gritsayeva make a minor inaccuracy than Goryachkina regrouped her forces.  

31... Kd7?! 32.Nc3 Rc5? 

Keeping in mind a famous aphorism by Tartakower, it was probably worth transposing into a rook ending via 32...Bxc3.  

33.Na4! Rc6 

The pawn is not to be touched in view of Black king’s poor position. After 33...Rxa5 34.Nb6+ the white knight takes up an optimal outpost on d3.   

34.Nc5+ Kd6 35.Nd3 Rbc4 36.Rxc4 Rxc4+ 37.Kd2 Bf6  

Much to Black’s grief her pawn structure is compromised, which manifested itself immediately after Goryachkina’s rook activation.  

38.Ra3 Bd8 39.b3 Rc8 40.Ra4 Bf6 41.f3 Bc3+ 42.Kd1 Kd5 

43.h4 h6 

43...gxh4 44.Rxh4 Bxa5 45.Rh5+ is not an option for Black, who is forced to agree to further concessions in the form of a new weakness.  

44.hxg5 hxg5 45.Rg4 Bf6 46.Rb4 Rc3 47.Kd2 Rc7 48.e4+ Kd6 49.Rb6+ Kd7 50.e5 Bd8  

Black’s pieces are forced to their home rank, and the black pawns are weak. The rest is simple.  

51.b4 Be7 52.Ke3 g4 53.fxg4 Rc4 54.Rxb7+ Ke8 55.b5 axb5 56.a6 Bg5+ 57.Ke2 Rc2+ 58.Kf1 Be3 59.a7 Black resigns. A textbook conversion!  

Tomilova - Gunina

Valentina again sow the whirlwind, enabling her opponent to create a real masterpiece. White's offensive involving an exchange sacrifice is maintained by 26.Rxb4! hxg3 27.h4! (27.h3). Tomilova saw 27…Qf3? 28.Rb8+! Kхb8 29.Nb5+ Ka8 30.Nc7+ with a checkmate, but did not see a game-ender after 27...Ba6, which was in 28.Nxa6 Qxa6 29.Qd5+ Qc6 30.Nb5!! Rc8 31.Nc7+! Rxc7 32.Qxg8+ Rc8 33.Qc4 with a winning rook ending.  

Anyway, taking on b4 was necessary. The text was just too underwhelming a continuation.  

26.Kf2? hxg3+ 27.hxg3 Rxg3!  

If now White captures the rook, it is her king that gets checkmated.  

28.Qd5 Rc3 29.Nd3 Rxc2+ 30.Ke3 Rh8 31.Qxc6+ dxc6, and Gunina again joins the group of leaders.  

Scoring her first victory is Anastasiya Protopopova.

Protopopova – Bodnaruk

The diagram bears similarity to one of the first positions from the book "Together with Grandmasters" by Jansa and Hort. White commits both knights en prise, and you may either choose to resign immediately or give up your major pieces.  

18.Ne4! Rxe4 (too bad is 18...Bf5 19.Nxd6) 19.Ng5+ Qxg5!? 

The last opportunity to try bail out with a queen sacrifice, but after  

20.Bxg5 Rd4 21.Qc2 Bf5 22.Qb3 Nxf2 23.Rh4! Protopopova traded off Black's active rook and converted her material superiority.  

Women’s section has as many as three leaders: Olga Girya, Aleksandra Goryachkina and Natalija Pogonina. They are pursued by Alina Kashlinskaya and Valentina Gunina. This is why the word tie-break is heard so often between members of the arbiters’ panel.