2 July 2021

Three Triangles in a Row

Klementy Sychev's review of rounds 4-5 of the Russian Championships Higher League

The Russian Championship Higher League crosses the midline The lead in men's section of the Championship is now shared by three players as David Paravyan and Mikhail Antipov have joined the recent sole leader Pavel Ponkratov.

Paravyan has delivered an instructive victory over Ivan Rozum.

Rozum – Paravyan

Reti Opening

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c5 4.0–0 e6 5.d4 cxd4 6.b3

A rare move. 6.Nxd4 is, of course, the strongest continuation, and 6...e5 is followed by lengthy theoretical mainlines.

6...Bc5 7.Bb2 Qe7!?

The simpler 7...0–0 8.Bxd4 Bxd4 9.Qxd4 Nc6 gives Black an excellent position, but Paravyan has a different idea in mind!


This is too creative, in my opinion. 8.Bxd4 is a better move that gives equal play.

8...Nc6 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Bxd4 Bxd4 11.Qxd4 e5 12.Qb2?

An original-looking but obviously an underwhelming decision because the fianchettoed queen does little to promote White’s cause. The position is still equal after the logical 12.Qa4.


True to his style, Paravyan launches an attack as if out of thin air.

13.c4 h4 14.cxd5 cxd5 15.Rd1 Bb7 16.Qa3 h3

In the spirit of AlphaZero!


This is a blunder as the white bishop is at risk of staying out of the game for good.

White is clearly worse after 17.Bf1, but there is still no immediate follow-up of Black's offensive in sight.

17...Qxa3 18.Nxa3 0–0–0

18...Ke7 looks interesting.

19.e3 e4

A consistent and very committal decision. Black confines the bishop to h1 at a very high price of exposing the d4-square.


This is forced as otherwise White is virtually down a piece if no measures are taken against ...g5-g4.

20...Kb8 21.Rac1 Nh7 22.g4

There was no need to lash out like this. To mound the knight on d4 via 22.Nb5 looks natural.


22...exf3 23.Bxf3 Ng5 is not bad either.


A blunder. Only 23.fxe4 dxe4 24.Nc4 was the way to stay in the game despite the obvious precariousness of White’s position.

23...exf3 24.Bxf3 Rh6!

The rook lift along the 6th rank destroys White’s defensive lines completely.

25.Be2 Re8 26.Rd4 Rf6+ 27.Rf4 Ne4+ 28.Kg1 Rxf4 29.exf4 d4 30.Bb5 Rh8 31.Nb1 Rh4 32.Be2 d3 33.Bd1 f5 34.Rc4 fxg4 35.Nc3 Nd2 36.Rd4 g3 37.Rxd3 gxh2+ 38.Kxh2 Nf1+ White resigned. The black rook pawn has done an excellent job destroying White’s position!

Mikhail Antipov has outplayed the many-seasoned coach of the Russian team Alexander Motylev in his beloved Giuoco Piano.

Antipov – Motylev

Giuoco Piano

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.0–0 d6 6.c3 a6 7.Re1 Ba7 8.a4 Ng4 9.Re2 0–0 10.h3 Nf6 11.Re1

A tricky order of moves from both partners has given rise to one of the key setups of the modern Giouoco Piano.

11...Be6 12.Bxe6 fxe6 13.Be3 Nh5 14.Bxa7 Rxa7 15.Re3 Nf4 16.Nbd2 Qf6 17.Qf1 Qh6 18.Kh2 Kh8 19.g3

The knight retreat gives White all the time in the world to consolidate his kingside position and promote his queenside agenda as well. On realizing this, Motylev decides to give up material.

19...g5!! 20.gxf4 exf4 21.Ree1 g4 22.d4!

To cling to the piece via 22.Ng1 is too dangerous because after  22...f3 leaves White with virtually no moves to make.


Realizing the potential of his position, Motylev is not in a hurry to take back the pice and brings all his reserves to the theater of actions.


This is passive. The central breakthrough 23.d5 deserved attention.


Black acts consistently, but even stronger is 23...Rg6 to double up the rooks along the g-file.


Antipov gives back the piece only to revive his pieces.


A very effective approach.

25.Re3 Raf8 26.Qe2 gxf3 27.Rxf3

Black is fully compensated for the piece sacrificed, but the national coach loses the threat of the game.


The tough 27...e5! Is a much better move when 28.d5 suddenly runs into the very potent 28...Na5! – the black knight takes a detour to help his kingside fellows.


Now the 2020 Moscow champion consolidates his position in a confident manner.

28...Qh5 29.Rg3 Ng6 30.Ne2

The position has converted from a playable into a technically lost one for Black in a span of virtually two moves. Antipov was precise in pressing his advantage home in the struggle that followed

30...Nh4 31.Nf4 Qh6 32.Rxg8+ Rxg8 33.Rg1 Rxg1 34.Kxg1 e5 35.dxe5 Qg5+ 36.Qg3 dxe5 37.Qxg5 Nf3+ 38.Kg2 Nxg5 39.Nd3 Nxe4 40.Nxe5 a5 41.Nd3 Kg7 42.Kf3 Ng5+ 43.Kg4 Kf6 44.h4 Ne4 45.Kf4 Nd6 46.Nc5 Ke7 47.Ne4 Nf7 48.Ng5 Nd6 49.b3 b5 50.Ne4 bxa4 51.Nxd6 Black resigned.

Chigaev vs. Ponkratov has caused a great stir and has not failed our expectations.

Chigaev – Ponkratov

French Defense

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qa5

The nemesis of the Russian rapid tournaments has previously resorted to 6...Qc7 7.Qg4 f6 with quite decent statistics.

7.Bd2 Qa4 8.Qg4 Kf8 9.Bd3

A rare but very poisonous continuation. 9.Qd1 b6 is the mainline and 9.h4 looks interesting.

9...Nc6 10.Nf3 c4 11.Be2 Qxc2 12.0–0 Nge7 13.Bd1 Qg6 14.Qh4 Bd7 15.Rc1! Nf5 16.Qf4 h5

16...Na5 17.Bc2 Nb3 18.Rb1 b6 19.Rfe1 is not going to change much.

17.h3 Na5 18.Bc2 Nb3 19.Rb1 b6 20.Rfe1 h4

This is not a game changing novelty. The only predecessor game has seen 20...Nxd2 21.Qxd2 Qh6 22.Ng5 Kg8 23.Qf4 h4, and the complex fight resulted in equal chances for both sides, as in Kryvoruchko — Mehmeti, Baku 2016.

21.Be3 Ba4 22.Rb2

Chigaev improves his position with meticulous play.


White has obviously outplayed his opponent and achieved a substantial edge, but here he got carried away with the tactical sequence.


23.Ng5 would have maintained an overwhelming edge with an intent to capture on f5 with the bishop and carry out е6. The pawn move g4 also deserves attention in certain lines.

23...Rxh4 24.Bxf5 Rxf4 25.Bxg6 Rxd4!!

It is this move that White must have overlooked in his calculations. The position is no longer clear.


Black is also in a good shape after 26.Bxf7 Kxf7 27.Bxd4 Nxd4 28.cxd4 c3 29.Rb4 b5 due to his potent passed pawns.


It would be interesting to test the aftermath of 26...Nxd4 27.cxd4 fxg6 because to get rid of the white d4-bishop to create the potent c-passer looks too tempting.


White seems to be in the driver's seat and having a free hand to improve his position, but...


The first step of His Majesty's spectacular march to the queenside. Even if this idea might not be entirely correct from the absolute chess truth point of view, but it is a very promising one in an over-the-board game.

28.Re2 Rf8 29.f3 Kd7 30.Kf2 Kc6 31.Ke3 Kb5

Ponkratov is consistent in implementing his plan.

31...a5 is worth mentioning – Black simply intends to play ...b5, to follow up with ...b4 and push his c-pawn forward.

32.h4 Ka5

This is a necessary delay because the bishop should be retreated from а4 first.

33.Rh1 Be8 34.Rf2 Ka4 35.f4!

35.Ra2 is way too passive. The 2020 Higher League winner launches his kingside counterplay without allowing material losses stop him.


The mission is complete!


It turns out that despite Black king’s impressive progress it is still not easy to promote the pawns, whereas the opposite side of the board is about to see White start breaking through himself. On realizing what is going on, Ponkratov takes drastic to rectify the situation.

36...a5!! 37.Bxb6 Ka4

It only remains to start pushing the a-pawn after ...Крb5.

38.Bd4 Kb5 39.h5 gxh5

Black needed not react in any way and opt for 39...a4 instead.


Played somewhat ambitiously, and there was nothing wrong with the simple 40.gxh5.


This is an inaccuracy. On the other hand, it is hard to keep up tension in this position. Black should have probably opted for the straightforward 40...hxg4, and after 41.fxe6 Rxf2 42.Kxf2 Nxd4 43.cxd4 c3 the situation is absolutely unclear.


This one is a blunder already. 41.f6 g6 42.gxh5 gxh5 43.Rg1 was the right path because the passed f-pawn is way more dangerous than its counterpart on the other side of the board.

41...hxg4 42.fxe6 Rxf2 43.Rxf2 a3

The position has suddenly escalated, and it turns out that Ponkratov has achieved a great progress. The black pawn has made it as far as а3, and it looks like the game is over after Black captures on d4 and brings his king to b3.


This is a mistake if we consider the above-mentioned. White needed to maintain rough equality with 44.Ba7, although I would rather be Black in this position.

44...Nxd4 45.Kxd4 g3!

An important intermezzo as it is vital to displace the rook from the f-file even at the cost of a pawn.

46.Rg2 Ka4 47.Rxg3 a2 48.Rg1 Kb3 49.e6!

This is White’s last hope.

49...Kb2 50.Rg2+ Ka3?!

Black gets down to implementing the wrong plan. Correct is 50...Kb3 51.Rg1 Ba4, carrying out the same plan as in the game. The bishop retreats in anticipation of the white king arriving to d8 without attacking it.

51.Rg1 Kb3?

It suddenly turns out to be a mistake that lets go of the victory. Black needed to reverse to the correct plan via 51...Kb2 52.Rg2+ Kb3 53.Rg1 Ba4.


It is not easy to take drastic measures with very limited time on your clock, but still the resolute 52.Kxd5 Kxc3 53.Kd6 Kb2 54.Kc7 c3 55.Kd8 Ba4 56.e8Q Bxe8 57.Kxe8 c2 58.e7 a1Q 59.Rxa1 Kxa1 60.Kf7 c1Q 61.e8Q g5 62.Qa4+ would have secured a draw. Well, who of us would have handled this task successfully when pressed for time?


Giving White yet another chance. The subtle 52...Ba4! was worth considering again.



53...Kxc3 54.Ra1 Kb2 55.Rxa2+ Kxa2 56.Kxc4 makes a draw because the white king is in time to do away with the g-pawn.

In some unfathomable way 53...g4 54.Kd6 Kxc3 55.Kc7 Kb2 56.Kd8 Bb5 57.e8Q Bxe8 58.Kxe8 g3 59.e7 g2 was not winning because White is saved by the incredible 60.Rf2+ Kb3 61.Rxg2 a1Q 62.Rg6!! – the only saving continuation. Being up a queen, Black is unable to win anyway.


As we already know, passive stance is a sure way to fail, and to save the game the black should have taken resolute steps towards d8: 54.Kd6 Kxc3 55.Kc7 Kb2 56.Kd8 c3 57.e8Q Bxe8 58.Kxe8 a1Q 59.Rxa1 Kxa1 60.e7 c2 61.Kf7 c1Q 62.e8Q with equality.

54...g4 55.Rg1 g3 56.Re1 Be8 57.Rg1 Bg6 58.Re1 Bh5 59.Rh1 Be8 60.Re1 g2

By bringing his pawn to g2 Black improves his position as much as possible. However, winning is still as difficult as solving a puzzle. Winning the game necessitates forcing the white rook to g1 via several zugzwangs (the white king is chained to the c3-pawn), and then play ... Bh5, profiting from the fact that Re1 is met by... Kb2, and the black bishop keeps an eye on the e2-square. This plan is brought to life using the so-called triangle, and in this position this technique must be repeated three times in a row!



The first triangle. 61...Bh5 is premature in view of 62.Rg1, and the position is that of a mutual zugzwang in which the black king is forced to retreat. Therefore, Black aims to get the same position, but with White's turn to move.

62.Rd2+ Ka3 63.Rd1 Kb3

White is forced to remove the rook from d1.


If 64.Rg1, then 64…Bh5.


A puzzle-like victory is achieved via the subtle 64...Kb2 65.Re2+ Ka3 66.Re1 Kb3 67.Rd1 and now again (67.Rg1 Bh5) 67...Kb2!! 68.Rd2+ Ka3 69.Rd1 Bh5!, attacking the rook! 70.Rg1 (70.Re1 Kb2–+) 70...Kb3 71.Re1 (71.e8Q Bxe8 72.e7 Bh5 changes nothing) 71...Kb2, and Black has achieved the position which he was aiming for.

65.Rg1 Be8 66.Rd1?!

66.Re1 would have put Black up against the challenging task of having to find the double triangle idea.


Ponkratov must have put up with the inevitable draw. However, 66...Kb2 67.Rd2+ Ka3 68.Rd1 Bh5 was still a decider.

67.Re1 Bh5 Draw. What a turbulent game!

In round six, the duel between Paravyan and Ponkratov is something to look forward to, while Antipov will hold his ground with the black pieces against Aleksandr Rakhmanov, who has scored a number of victories after an undermining debut.

Marina Guseva maintains the sole lead in the men’s section. In round four she managed to defeat Anastasia Bodnaruk, one of the main competitors for the Superfinal qualification.

Guseva - Bodnaruk

Grunfeld Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 c6 5.Bg2 d5 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Nc3 0–0 8.Ne5 b6 9.0–0 Bb7 10.Bf4 Nc6 11.Rc1 Rc8 12.Qd2 Na5 13.b3 Ne8 14.Rfd1 e6

The symmetrical fianchetto does not seem to promise much in the way of sharp hostilities, but...


Guseva tries to break through in the center.


This seemingly logical reply allows several promising follow-ups for White. 15...dxe4 was the way to safeguard Black against all hardships.


White lets her opportunity go. Either the counterintuitive 16.Bh3 or the powerful piece sacrifice 16.exd5 fxe5 17.dxe5 would have challenged Black significantly and led to positions in which White dominate over central superiority.


Black is in good shape again.

17.Nxe4 Rxc1 18.Nxc1?!

Overlooking Black's unpleasant rejoinder. A pawn should have been sacrificed via 18.Rxc1 Qxd4 19.Be3, retaining an impressive compensation for the material missing.


Bodnaruk misses her chance to take the initiative over. 18...g5! 19.Be3 Qa8 was the way to go so that neither defense of the e4-knight manages to solve the problem: 20.Qc2 Nc6, while 20.f3 runs into the unpleasant 20...g4.

19.Nc3 Bxg2 20.Kxg2 Rd7 21.Qe2 Qe7 22.Kg1 Nd6 23.b4 Nac4 24.Nb3 Qf7 25.Re1 e5 26.dxe5 fxe5 27.Bc1 Nf5 28.Ne4 h6 29.Kg2 Nd4 30.Qd3 Qd5 31.f3 Rf7 32.Rf1 Qc6 33.Rf2 Kh7 34.h4 Rd7 35.h5 Nf5 36.hxg6+ Kh8 37.Qe2 Rc7 38.Rf1 Qxg6 39.Qd3 Ncd6 40.g4

The protracted battle gave advantage to neither side, but Bodnaruk commits a blunder when making her time control move.


The notoriously disastrous move forty!

41.Nxd4 exd4 42.Bxh6!!

Guseva delivers a crushing blow!


A blunder. Only 42...Nxe4 gave some chances to bail out; however, it is virtually impossible to hold this position after 43.Bf4.


Now White’s task is very simple, and Guseva converted her edge confidently.

43...Qe6 44.Re1 Qf6 45.Rh1 Kg8 46.Bd2 Rg7 47.Qb3+ Qf7 48.Qxf7+ Rxf7 49.Nd3 Bg7 50.Rc1 b5 51.Rc5 Nc4 52.Bg5 a6 53.f4 Rf8 54.f5 Re8 55.Kf3 Nd6 56.Bf4 Ne4 57.Rc6 Bf6 58.Rxa6 Kf7 59.Re6 Nc3 60.Rxe8 Kxe8 61.g5 Bd8 62.f6 Nxa2 63.Be5 Nc3 64.Bxd4 Nd5 65.Ke4 Nc7 66.Kf5 Nd5 67.g6 Black resigned.

In round five Guseva drew Alina Bivol to retain her lead further. As many as four players are trailing half a point behind: Daria Voit (with whom Guseva is paired in round six with the white pieces), Daria Charochkina, Alina Bivol and Ekaterina Goltseva.

The finish line tension makes itself felt more and more distinctly, let's see whom fortune is going to side with