22 July 2017

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Higher League’s decisive battle in Dmitry Kryakvin’s review from Rosa Khutor 

Final round of the Higher League is an awful sight to have to see.  With the Superfinal tickets at stake, the leaders’ faces display slight agitation before the decisive game, which is going to define their standings in the national chess hierarchy for the following year.  Therefore, huge amount of adrenaline was being spilled on the board not only in the men’s games, but in the women’s as well.

The tournament situation in the men’s section reminded that of Krasnoyarsk-2007, when the lead was shared by a long queue of players (in Rosa Khutor they were as many as seven), while pursuers with good tie-breakers were right at their heels.  The crucial games on the agenda were Matlakov – Volkov, Dubov – Belozerov, Najer – Romanov, while Sanan Sjugirov was to play Alexey Dreev, who had a half point less under his belt. 

The tournament had me amazed by Andrey Belozerov.  The grandmaster from Tomsk arrived in the company of his wife and a small kid.  While his colleagues were night and day busy preparing for the upcoming battles, Andrey was taking diligent care of walking and seeing to kid’s other needs.  Nevertheless, he was part of the Supefinal pack of candidates with one round to go yet.  However, he was up against a really formidable opponent.

Dubov – Belozerov

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 

When preparing my wife Elena Tomilova for her game against Alisa Galliamova, the popularity of this Catalan-specific opening pawn advance in the Slav Defence became a revelation for me. If you are bored with the Meran or Czech Variation, develop your bishop to g2 to open new horizons for your creative play. Belozerov attempted to sidestep, but it worked out quite miserably for him.

4...Bg4 5.Ne5 Bh5 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Nc3 Nc6?  

Having planted his knight on e5 with a tempo, White is justified in hoping for the bright side of the future, and Black’s move loses almost by force. Should Black opt for 7…е6, perhaps? However, there is nothing easier than advising while sitting comfortably in your home armchair, and another is facing with such a strong and gifted chess player as Danya. 

8.Qa4 Qb6 9.e4! 

Bad news for Black: it turns out that after 9…Qхd4 Black loses material to a cold-blooded 10.Qb5. There is no sitting it out with accurate defensive move since the Siberian player is way behind in development.

9…e6 10.Bb5 Rc8 11.exd5 Nxd5

The pawn recapture is bad in view of 12.Bg5.

12.Nxd5 exd5 13.0-0

Here is the last critical moment of the game. A tenacious 13...a6! 14.Nxc6 Qxb5 15.Re1+ Kd7 would have challenged Dubov to come up with his best champion’s qualities: 16.Qc2! Bb4 17.Bd2 bxc6 (or 17...Rxc6 18.Qf5+ Kc7 19.a4 Qc4 20.Bxb4 Qxb4 21.Qxh5 Qxd4 22.Qxf7+ Kb8 23.Rad1 with initiative for White) 18.Qf5+ (18.a4 Qb6) 18...Kc7 19.Bxb4 Qxb4 20.Qxh5 g6 21.Qf3, – the white army is on the roll, but the opponent is not without some practical chances at that.

As opposed to that, Andrei Belozerov decided to part with the exchange, and the game was over at once.  

13…Bd6 14.Re1 0-0 15.Nd7 with an easy victory.  

Having been recently at his best (the European and World Team Championships are a proof of that) and playing brilliantly, Maxim Matlakov did once again come to demonstrate a powerful opening preparation during the last round, but could not break down a young in heart Sergey Volkov nonetheless. This summer the grandmaster from Mordovia has been displaying nothing short of over the board miracles, and in this connection it is worth thinking back to Botvinnik and Korchnoi, who had shown that being 43 is a very good age for a chess player! 

Another person giving the best of himself during this competition was Evgeny Romanov, who fended off Evgeny Najer's offensive, although the latter was in a desperate must-win situation.  The Sjugirov - Dreev game was still in progress in which Sanan’s situation seemed on the verge of something unpleasant. Not only was he down a pawn, but even a draw would have failed to land him into the Superfinal in view of his poor tie-breakers. And a miracle did happen, which shook me to the depths of my soul.

Sjugirov– Dreev

Aleksey Dreev outplayed his opponent in a beautiful positional style so that Black’s victory seems to be within grasp already. Thus, after 48...Rc7 49.Re1 (49.Bb1 Rc6) 49...Nc6 50.Kb2 Nd8, the black е6-pawn has been well taken care of, and what about her black counterparts for that matter?  

However, a real turnaround of tables took place this moment as the Moscow grandmaster sacrificed an exchange on e4, overestimating the strength of his passed pawns versus a pair of white rooks’ potential, and ended up going down altogether. Are we talking about Dreev indeed? And in a better endgame at that? So much for the ultimate round... Your correspondent was raised on books by Mark Dvoretsky, every page of which had the great coach narrating about Arthur Jussupow, Sergey Dolmatov and Aleksey Dreev possessing tremendous technique, backing it up with numerous examples. Therefore, it was a mental anguish for me to witness this game’s finale even despite enjoying a many-year friendship with Sanan. However, youth takes its own - Sjugirov eventually clinched into sharing 1-2 places and ended up second owing to his Buchholz tie-breaker. I am very happy for him in terms of an overall result.  

In the women’s section Marina Nechaeva ended up taking first, sealing peace on board one from a position of strength against Tatjana Vasilevich after her pursuer Alina Kashlinskaya committed a "terrible" against Evgeniya Ovod. The native of Moscow got a large advantage out of the opening, but then nervous play took its toll in the form of multiple errors, the final one made by Alina. We fell to talk during the closing ceremony, and Alina, being an intelligent and well-balanced person as she is, delivered an emotional accusation against herself. “This is exactly how you should put it down in your article!” added grandmaster in a heavy tone. However, since the Moscow player qualified into the Superfinal from place five, let us postpone this statement until the Superfinal. It might well be that Kashlinskaya will show her worth there to make up for the present failure.  

Falling an involuntary victim of these dramatic developments was the tournament revelation Sara Assaubayeva. A prodigy girl showed an incredibly mature man's performance and perfect preparation, covering the distance without defeats, but the additional tiebreakers landed her sixth anyway. By the way, I can not help adding that women, unlike men, had all strongest players in, save for Ekaterina Valentinovna Kovalevskaya. It is a pity that nowadays the regulations of the 2000s do no longer apply when the Super Final reserve players would be selected exactly from the Higher League.

Places two and three were occupied by Olga Girya and Polina Shuvalova (the youth is on the roll!), who demonstrated their will-to-win spirit during the final round. It happened at different stages of their games, though.

Belenkaya –  Girya

Although Black is up two pawns, the bishop is so strong that there is no winning this position. However, this being a must-win situation, Olga persisted.

55... Nc3+ 56.Kxf4 Kd3 57.Kg4?

Dina runs her king in the wrong direction, overlooking the a1-bishop trap idea. A path to peace lies through 57.Ke5 Kc2 58.Ba1 Na4 59.Kd5 Nb2 60.Kd4 Kb1 61.Kc3 or via some other alternative king’s approach to the pawn.

57...Kc2 58.Ba1 Nd1 59.Kh5 Nb2 60.Kg4 Kb1 White resigns.  

A chief arbiter Alexey Moskvin was rooting for Olga to the extent of calling her Giri at the closing ceremony. He immediately corrected himself by hinting at both players’ strength (i.e. Anish’s and Olga’s).  

In the final round the Polina Shuvalova and Sergei Zagrebelny tandem inflicted a crushing opening blow to Dinara Dordzhieva, thanks to which the ruling Russian U20 champion of Russia qualified into the Superfinal.

Shuvalova – Dordzhieva


Neither Black is saved by 21...Nb7 22.Qd3 Qe8 23.Rxd6 Nxd6 24.Qxd6 Rd8 25.Qxd8 Qxd8 26.Rxd8 Rxd8 27.Kf1 Rc8 (27...Rd1+ 28.Ke2 Rb1 29.Bc3) 28.Nd4. However, it prolongs the struggle, even though a tandem of minor pieces in the hands of technical Polina is far more superior to the power of the rook. As opposed to this, the game is over a lot quicker.  

22.Qe3 f5 23.Rxd6! Nxd6 24.Qe6+ Kh8 25.Rxd6 Re8 26.Qf7 Qg5!? 

White did not blunder a checkmate and after   

 27.h3 Dinara surrendered her weapons.


Here are the tournaments’ final standings:  

Men’s section:

1. Daniil Dubov, 2. Sanan Sjugirov - with 6.5 out of 9; 3. Sergey Volkov; 4. Evgeny Romanov; 5. Maxim Matlakov; 6-7. Evgeny Najer, Alexandr Shimanov; 8. Vladislav Artemiev - with 6 points.  

Women’s section

1. Marina Nechaeva - with 7 out of 9; 2. Olga Girya; 3. Polina Shuvalova; 4. Evgeniya Ovod - with 6.5; 5. Alina Kashlinskaya, 6. Bibisara Assaubayeva, 7. Tatjana Vasilevich - with 6.  

The top five in each section have qualified into the Superfinal, which is going to take place in St. Petersburg, our country’s northern capital city.  

The Rosa Khutor experience has been so superb that I do not feel like leaving at all. At the closing ceremony the tournament director Alexander Tkachev thanked the participants for their vivid, uncompromising and nice performance and promised that the RCF would do its best to run regular Russian chess calendar events to as high a level as this one.

When your correspondent was interviewing the managing staff of the Tyulip chain of hotels, Alexander Vasilevich was even more categorical in stressing that in no case should players be made to contest in some stuffy rooms on semi-basement floors. This said, the Higher League in Krasnaya Polyana is a broad step towards ensuring that chess players project their intellectual creativity on the chess board in the most comfortable conditions. 

I do hope it is exactly how things will be from now on!