6 May 2021

Two Capital Cities Rule

Vladimir Barsky’s report about Rounds 2-4 of the Russian Team Championships in Sochi

Going into round five both men's and women's sections of the Russian championships have their sole leaders determined – Mednyi Vsadnik and Moscow Chess Team, respectively. Of course, it comes as no surprise as these teams’ line-ups are very formidable. Suffice it to mention that Kirill Alekseenko, a participant in the recent Candidates Tournament, represents the St. Petersburg team on board 3; and the same board in the Moscow squad is occupied by the ex-world champion, many-year leader of the Russian national team, Alexandra Kosteniuk.

The reigning champions from the Northern capital have had a plain sailing of a start by defeating Kimmeria and their fellow countrymen from SShOR with the same score 5:1. Finally, in round three there took place a first key matchup with the Moscow Chess Team. The team leader Nikita Vitiugov joined the battle with immediate success.


Vitiugov (Mednyi Vsadnik) – Predke (Moscow Chess Team)


Black has a full-fledged game after, for example, 19...Ba6 20.Rf2 Nh5. However, Predke was lured into a nice-looking checkers-like combination.

19...Bxe4!? 20.fxe4 Qxh2+

Black gives up his queen to go on with his attack!

21.Kxh2 Ng4+ 22.Kg1 Nxe3 23.Rc1 Nxf1 24.Kxf1 b5

Black ended up with a rook and two pawns for two bishops. Black is up for choice for as long as the bishops keep staring into their own pawns. However, the situation may change drastically once the center is clear of pawns.

25.Kf2 Ne7 26.Bb1 cxd4 27.cxd4 Rxc1

The trade of rooks favors Black, but the only remaining rook finds it hard to infiltrate into the opponent’s camp.

28.Nxc1 Nc8 29.Nb3 Nb6 30.Bc3 Nc4 31.Bb4 Rc8

31...f6 32.Bd3 Kf7 is more reliable as it brings the king closer to the center, but Black was seemingly willing to provoke his opponent into the text move. 

32.d5 Rd8

Now after 33.dxe6 fxe6 34.Ke2 Kf7 Black’s idea pays off as the files have opened up for rook. However, White comes up a petite combination comes.


This is the point! 33...exd5 now runs into 34.Nc6 with the subsequent 35.exd5, when taking the passed pawn fails to the fork from е7.


In the new situation, the bishop pair will clearly dominate the rook. Black could have still maintained the balance with 33...Ne5 34.Be7 (34.Bc3 Nc4 35.Nc6 Rd7 promises little to White) 34...Rd7 35.d6 f6 36.Nb3 Kf7 37.Nc5 Rxe7 38.dxe7 Kxe7, with decent drawing chances.

34.Bxa5 Rd7 35.Ba2 exd5 36.exd5 Kf8


Now that 37...Rxd6 fails to 38.Bb4, the passed pawn has become a formidable force.

37…Ke8 38.Bc7 a5 39.Kf3 Rxc7 40.dxc7 Kd7 41.Bxf7 Kxc7 42.Kg4 Kd6 43.Kxh4 Black resigned.

The Candidates Tournament’s participant scored a very technical victory.


Alekseenko (Mednyi Vsadnik) – Sjugirov (Moscow Chess Team)


White is down a pawn, but he is clearly the one in control of the situation.

24. Bc5 Rc7 25. Rc3

White is definitely not interested in winning the exchange via 25.Rd2 and 26.Bb6. He is in control of the only open file and wants to open yet another one on the kingside for his second rook. 


25...Bg6 26. Bd6 Ra7 27. f3 is also grim-looking as Black has virtually no moves to make.

26. Rg3 g6 27. Rf3 Ke8 28. h5 gxh5

One of the lines will be opened up anyway.

29. Rg3 Kd7 30. Rg7 Kc8 31. Bd6

31…Rb7 32. Rxb7 Kxb7 33. Rxf7+ Ka8 34. Re7 Bb3 35. Rxe6 Bxa4 36. Rf6 Kb7 37. Rf7+ Ka6 38. f4 Bc2 39. f5 Be4 40. e6 Black resigned.

Mednyi Vsadnik went on to win 4.5:1.5 (one more victory was scored by Andrey Esipenko and three remaining games ended in a draw).

The round four matchup against the KPRF team gave Vladimir Bykov's team a hard time. In the end, the only victory was scored on the board where the opening went completely wrong for the St. Petersburg chess player.


Rublevsky (KPRF) – Fedoseev (Mednyi Vsadnik)

Black misplayed the opening and was down a pawn. To muddy the waters, Fedoseev gave up two minor pieces for the rook to muddy the waters and infiltrated the opponent’s camp with one of the rooks.

White’s only problem is his knight stuck on the rim. The immediate return into the game via 30.Nc3 runs into the unpleasant 30…Rxc3 31.bxc3 b2. However, the engine does not mind walking into this trap: after 32.Ra7 Rb7 33.Rxb7 Qxb7 34.e5 or 32...Qxa7 33.Qxa7 b1Q 34.Qxf7+ Kh8 35.Qxg6 White is winning.

This is all easy and simple for a computer, whereas a human player is apprehensive of miscalculating in such sharp lines. Rublevsky decided to play safer.


Instead, 30.Qf6 was very strong, intending 31.e5! and 32.Bd5, taking aim of the b3 and f7-pawns.

30...Rc2 31.Ra1?

This is a blunder. After 31.e5! dxe5 32.Bd5 Black is still in dire straits.


The а4-knight is pinned and 32…Rc4 is in the air. Should the rook resume its protected position on a3, Black infiltrates decisively via 32…Qe1.


After 32.h4! Rc4 33.Qf4 White seemed to stay in the game. For example: 33…Rb7 34.Qf6 Rxf4 35.Rxa4 Qxa4 36.e5 with a counterplay.



Neither 33.Ra3 Qe1, 33.Qe3 Rc4 nor 33.e5 dxe5 34.Qe3 Rd8 would have helped White out.

33...Rd8 34.Qa3 Rd3

34...Rdd2 35.Rf1 Qa7 is even more precise.

35.Qe7 Rdd2 36.Nc3 Qxa1 37.Qe5+ Kh7 38.Nd5 Rxd5 39.Qxd5 Rxf2 40.Qxb3 Qf1 White resigned.

In the women's championship, Moscow Chess Team has already won three key matchups against SShOR, Southern Ural-1, and Kimmeria. Team leader Kateryna Lagno has scored 3.5 out of 4 points.


Lagno (Moscow Chess Team) – Gunina (Southern Ural - 1)

Valentina Gunina has been unknown for pawn grabbing in the opening, but believe it or not, the c2-pawn lured her! It's hard to believe that this is still a theory: if the computer rates 13...Qh7 as the first line and holds to it stubbornly, then there must be something wrong with Black's position.

After 13…Bd6? Black is simply doomed.

14. d5!

Well, as they taught us in childhood: you need to open up the lines to get to the king stuck in the center.

14…cxd5 15. Rxd5 Qc6 16. Rd4 Qb6 17. Bc4 e5 18. Qh5 g6 19. Qh4 Kf8

20. Bxh6+

This is a strong move of a human player. Here is the line for engine fans: 20. Rf4! exf4 21. Bxh6+ Kg8 22. Ng5, with a checkmate in several moves.

20...Ke8 21. Qf4 f6 22. Bg7 Rh5 23. Qe4 Rf5 24. Qd5 Kd8 25. Rd3 Bc5 26. Red1 Kc7 27. Qf7 Bxf2+ 28. Kh1 Qc6 29. Be6 Rxf3 30. gxf3 Bd4 31. Bxf6 Kb6 32. Bd8+ Kb5 33. a4+ Black resigned.