17 June 2016


Round Three of the Russia – China Match in the Review of Sergey Shipov.

Our ideas of this or that person are always approximate and probabilistic.

We keep track of famous players, painstakingly constructing their images using bits of available information, trying to get to know their strengths and weaknesses, features of their characters, their habits and reflexes.  It needs no saying that we study their performance styles either.  Having done that, there comes a certain moment when it seems to us that we are able to accurately predict their response to any situation.  But then, one of those fine days, these thoroughly studied characters suddenly appear in a new light to amaze the audience in large measures.

In the late 1990’s, Kasparov was incredibly strong, and people believed him to be virtually invincible. However, I myself saw him going down to Piket in the rook ending “three versus four” on one flank.

In the beginning of the new century Kramnik seemed to be a chess player with a huge margin of safety.  But then he went down to Topalov in 20 moves with white pieces and blundered mate in one in the match against a computer program.

For the duration of two decades Gelfand used to perform decently, having won not a single super tournament along the way.  This said, everyone was inclined to believe that his human ceiling was already reached. However, entering his fifth decade Boris suddenly soared, qualifying into the world championship match and almost winning it!

As for round three games, a lot of our players also took us by surprise.  However, not every surprise was of a positive nature.

For example, I could never imagine Valya Gunina agreeing to a draw by repetition in the very beginning of the game.  But it did happen. 

This and the next four pictures were kindly provided to us a sports photographer Anatoly Ivanov, a first-timer to the chess event

As for Danya Dubov, he employed a paradoxical novelty... only to find himself in a strategically precarious situation after a few seemingly logical moves. 


On the other hand, Andreikin was very close from making up for the yesterday’s defeat.  For the duration of entire game versus Wen Yang Dima was putting up a fight, seeking a way to the goal, but failed.  Nevertheless, it was nice to see his relentlessness and persistence.

Nepomniachtchi, on the other hand, was able to punish the Andreikin’s offender Lu Shanglei.  The Chinese guy pleasantly surprised us all by opting for the disastrous path of Grischuk, who went down to Nepomniachtchi at the recent Russian team championship.  And, judging from the time-consuming deliberations of the Chinese as well as from his unsuccessful novelty, he was simply unaware of the original source game!

Well, let it serve as an example to others.

Although Jakovenko was close to success in his game versus Yu Yangyi, it looks as though he was still disbelieving in the chance that turned his way. 

Yangyi – Jakovenko

31...Bh3! wins here, threatening Qd1-f1. 32.Qf4 could have been followed by the following nice-looking line 32...Ng4+! 33.Kxh3 Qh1+ 34.Kxg4 h5#.

However, even after 31...Qf3 32.Qf4 Qxf4 33.gxf4, which happened in the game, Black got a promising ending, but failed to bring his advantage home in the end. 

Anastasia Bodnaruk has finally succeeded in not losing her game. It seems as thought such a task was never intended to be her final goal after all.  She meant victory only and was very close to her goal: 

Bodnaruk – Shen Yang

The efficient 29.Re6!, intending 29...fxe6 30.Bxd6+ Kf7 (or 30...Ke8 31.dxe6 with irresistible threats by White) 31.dxe6+ Qxe6 32.Ng5+! hxg5 33.Qh5+ Kg7 34.Qh7+ Kf6 35.Qg5# would have been decisive here.

Neither 29...Qg7 30.Qf4! Rd8 would have failed to help in view of 31.Qxd6+! Rxd6 32.Bxd6+ Kg8 33.Rd8+.

Nevertheless, even after the game moves 29.Re3 Re8 30.Rxe8+ Kxe8 White still enjoyed a substantial share of advantage. Now she should have opted for 31.h5! with the idea of blocking the escape path of the black king via Bg3-h4. In this case, White would also be winning. 

Towards the end of the round the victory to the Russian team was fetched by Natalija Pogonina, who defeated Lei Tintsze. Natasha, of course, wanted to win faster, but mutual miscalculations resulted in delaying the end of the game.  Nevertheless, the chess “truth” landed on our side. 

Russia ended up restoring the two point advantage. This much advantage is, of course, not enough to quietly finish the match.  Each subsequent round is able to drastically change the situation.

We need to stand firm... 

Pictures by Eteri Kublashvili