21 July 2015

Young Players’ Unrelenting Pressure

The Polugaevsky Memorial in Samara in the Review of Dmitry Kryakvin.

The fifth Memorial devoted to the memory of the renowned Soviet grandmaster, theoretician, coach and chess artist Lev Abramovich Polugaevsky has finished in Samara. Although the calendar of the Russian Chess Federation provided for a minor gap in between the end of the Higher League in Kaliningrad and the start of the battle on the banks of the Volga River, the chance was used only by Dasha Pustovoitova, the fact which, no doubt, had an adverse effect on the event in terms of its lineup of top players.

On the whole the tournament featured the youth generation of players. Two strongest juniors toed the starting line: the two-time World Junior Champion Kirill Alekseenko and the vice-champion of the latest European Championship Daniil Yuffa, the participants the September Children's Olympics in Mongolia Alexey Sarana and Semen Khanin, the winner of the European Championship Timur Fakhrutdinov, the two-time Russian Champion Maxim Litvinov, the Russian Champion Arthur Gaifullin, the pupils of Vladimir Belov Miran Oganyan, Maxim Lugovskoy and Ivan Yeletsky, the hope of Izhevsk Kirill Kozionov, the local player Alexey Mokshanov and Darsen Sanzhaev, Alexander Timerkhanov, Sergei and Andrei Drygalovs as well as a couple of dozens of other talented young players. Playing football with younger participants, the author of this review started to take on the belief that together with Artyom Timofeev they were as old as the prehistoric dinosaurs. But the dinosaurs did put up a resistance, and I take off my hat to my comrade-in-arms Volodya Dobrov, who not only managed to stand the pressure of the youth waves, but even succeeded in taking the second place at the Memorial.

I remember well visiting India in 2010, when I was struck and surprised by the dimension of the great hall of the tournament in Delhi, filled with an army of small kids. Even then it was clear that children's chess in this country was in for a major quantum leap, and it was not long before India started to shine in the overall standings of the world championships. A similar situation is observed in Russia nowadays. Whereas two years ago the majority of the gray-haired old heads and experienced GMs were only sometimes diluted, for example, by the smiling Alexey Saran and Andrey Esipenko, nowadays, in fact, the Memorial bears close resemblance to Kasparov Cups from the 1990s. Only one of my opponents was older than 20 years, and only two were over 17!

The tournament went along very well in the atmosphere of friendliness and there was nothing to remind us of the grand battle against cheaters of 2014. Although an exhausting heat is a customary inconvenience in Samara, the summer of 2015 happened to be rather cold and the visitors were enjoying the night coolness, so I hasten to upset those players who decided against becoming guests of the hospitable Stanislaw Januszewski just because of this factor. A game hall at the Polugaevsky Memorial, and I am not getting tired of repeating it again and again, is simply one of the best among all other venues of the Cup as it features a lot of space, excellent air conditioning, coupled with free-of-charge bottled water supplied by the tournament organizers.
A well-known chess master and coach from Izhevsk Maxim Ozolin proved to be the main trouble stirrer-up of the event (leaving along the tournament winner, of course). Max has recently married Daria Kiriushova, a judge from Samara, and immediately started contesting a sinister saying that was allegedly coined up to scare off the players from getting involved in marriages that runs as follows “Getting married is as good as losing of 100 Elo rating points.” Not only did Ozolin knock off a decent grandmaster from the Neva River Evgeny Levin, but also succeeded in outplaying no less a person than the impenetrable Aleksey Goganov. Kirill Alekseenko, who was literally forced to uphold the honor of the St. Petersburg chess, managed to stop Maxim.

The fate of the top prize was in many respects decided in the battle of young and promising players, just as had been predicted by chess experts. The following encounter turned out to be decisive.

Yuffa – Alekseenko
Round 8

The initial part of the game marked the edge of the Tyumen player, when in the case of a self-suggesting 25.g4! Nf6 26.Bf4 Rxe1 (worse is 26...Kf7 27.Nc4) 27.Rxe1 Re8 28.Kf1! Kirill would have had to summon up all his tactical resourcefulness in order to get some compensation for the missing pawn. For example, one of the possible lines runs as follows: 28...c4!? 29.Nxc4 Rxe1+ 30.Kxe1 Bxa4 31.Nxd6 b5, when the fight would have continued. 

Although Black has remote passed pawns, the advantage is still with White. While Daniil put his stakes on the bishop pair, the fewer pieces remain on the board the higher the potential of the passed pawn on с5.

25.Nxd7?! Rxe1 26.Rxe1 Rxd7 27.g4 Nf6 28.a5 c4 29.Rc1 

White should have moved his king in the central direction by means of 29.Kf1.

29...Rc7 30.Bf4 c3! 

This is an important move: the d6-pawn sacrifice is temporary and Black enjoys a full-fledged game.

31.Bxd6 Rd7 32.Ba3?! 

The bishop should have taken care of the f4-square via 32.Bg3 Nxd5 33.Be4, when any result is possible. Now it is Black who overtakes the initiative. 

32...Nxd5 33.Kf1 Nf4 34.Rd1? 

This mistake is of a fatal nature. In the case of the correct 34.Be4! Bf6 (or 34...Nxh3 35.Bxg6 Nxf2 36.Bf5) 35.Bc2 Rd2 36.Bb3+ Kg7 37.Rd1 a pair of powerful bishops should have been enough to keep him from losing the game.

34...c2 35.Rc1 Bb2!, and White stopped the clock as he could not prevent the black rook from infiltrating to d1 with mate to follow.

This encounter, coupled with the final battle against Bogdan Belyakov, saw the grandmaster from Saint Petersburg demonstrating his performance and will-power capabilities – while Bogdan was for a long time taking his win for granted, the final say was still with Alekseenko! With 8 out of 9 points Alekseenko has displayed a very serious level of performance. Daniil Yuffa has shown good performance and had excellent winning chances against the future tournament winner as well as against both Dobrov and Belyakov, but in the final run he ended up sharing the fourth place.

With the aid of a successful final push and not without an assistance of the powerful Swiss Master, however, Alexey Mokshanov burst into the triumvirate of winners. For him the most important thing was that the encounter of his potential competitors, Utegaliev and Kozionov, would end in a draw. This was a battle until lone kings in the real sense of this word.

Utegaliev – Kozionov
Round 9

The last pair of rooks had just been traded and the opponents were expected to shake hands. However, Utegaliev decided to go on fighting... The Kazakh master is apparently an extremely will-powered chess player who would fight until the last bullet. Thus, I was a witness to his unstoppable playing until mate at the Aeroflot Open against Vitaly Sivuk in a position that featured his lone king fighting the Ukrainian player’s entire army of pieces. So, the game continued. However, Kirill Kozionov went on to prove that 1) he is a skilled player 2) a bishop is superior to a knight. The Izhevsk chess player dispensed with appealing to the arbiter about the 50-moves rule, but rather forced the jumping horse into a corner, where its execution took place. This was a draw in favour of Alexey Mokshanov.

Among young players the utmost impression (on your humble servant, in particular) was produced by Arthur Gaifullin and Ivan Yeletsky, who both scored as many as 6 points. The chess fates of children in the Russian championship went along different routes: while Arthur made a superb comeback at the finish and managed to snatch the champion’s title, Ivan, being very close to winning, tragically lost a good position to Khanin, when the second place fell to the lot of Semen. However, both guys are quite promising. In Samara Gaifullin and Yeletsky used to be major threats to grandmasters, having drawn a lot of favorites’ blood. The equal amount of 6 points was scored by Maxim Litvinov, the student of Denis Khismatullin, who, being already a respected 2400-level soldier, could have counted for more in Samara had he not let go of a couple of sure points in several games.

The fifth Memorial of Polugaevsky has finished and the “Primorsky Debut” in Vladivostok is scheduled to start soon. In China in Ningbo, the Russian team is fighting the Olympic Champions and the Superfinal is looming on the horizon. Please follow the latest news on the website of the Russian Chess Federation!

The final standings of the Polugaevsky Memorial are as follows: 1st place - K. Alekseenko with 8 out of 9, 2nd place - V. Dobrov, 3rd place - A. Mokshanov  with 7 points each, 4-11th places - A. Timofeev, B. Belyakov, K. Kozionov, D. Yuffa, A. Utegaliev, J. Ulko, V. Papin, and D. Sanzhaev with 6,5 points each. 

Photos by Andrej Kadyaev and Anastasia Karetnikova