3 October 2018

Was There a Fortress After All?

Vladimir Barsky reporting about round seven of the Batumi Olympiad

The first day of October brought us grievous news of Charles Aznavour’s passing away. As if only yesterday, but in fact as long as four and a half years ago now – in February 2014 – a great chansonnier visited a supertournament in Zurich at the invitation of Levon Aronian and Oleg Skvortsov. Although in his eighties, Aznavour was a fit-looking man, full of energy. How can one forget that enthusiasm and adoration bestowed upon him by women! Overwhelmed with emotions, Levon was literally radiant with happiness when giving a toast in Charles Aznavour’s honor. With no end of those willing to take a picture with him, he suddenly fished a small camera out of his pocket and started taking pictures of chess players himself. Not big fan of chess, he was keen on everything going on around him noneheless. This is what love of life is, perhaps. 

Here is this bright man leaving our world. Rest in peace! 

Charles Aznavour and Levon Aronian in Zurich, 2014 (photo credit: V. Barsky)

We start our round seven review from the women’s section, in which a sole lead has been grabbed by the Armenian players. Just look at the white knight's gracious pirouettes in the following battle:

Danielian (Armenia) – Zatonskih (USA)

White on move

31.Nf5! Bf8 32.Bd6 Kh7

32...g6 33.Bxf8 Qxf8 gives White a pleasant choice between 34.Nd6 and 34.Qe5!?

33.Bxf8 Qxf8 34.Qe5 Bc6 35.Nd6 Rc7 36.Rc1!

An extremely annoying pin that requires Black to be on the constant lookout for the а5-а6 stab.

36f6 37.Qf4 g5 38.Qf5+ Kh8 39.Qc5 Qe7

The rook retreating along the penultimate rank was not a safeguard against the text below.

White on move


A very cute blow! Instead, a soulless computer suggests getting down to appropriating material values on a large-scale: 40.a6 bxa6 41.Nf5 Qxc5 42.Rxc5. After 42…a5 43.Nd4 a4 44.Rxc6 Ra7 45.Nb5 Ra8 46.Na3 Black is down a minor piece, his passer having been stopped as well.

40...Qxc5 41.Nxc5 Bd5 42.Rc3 f5

The is a blunder, but 42...Ra7 was unlikely a bailout either.

43.Nxe4! Ra7 44.Rc8+ Kg7 45.Nd6 Be6

White on move


The knight gracefully lands on c7 to chaperone the pawn to as far as the queening square. Black resigns.

A matchup Russia - Greece started with a failure for the Russian girls. 


Avramidou – Gunina

Queen’s Gambit

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 a6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bg5 Be6 7.e3 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.Qb3 Ra7

It goes without saying that you do not feel like exposing yourself with b7-b6, but the rook’s placement on a7 is not without a drawback of its own.

10.Be2 Bd6

White on move


After 11.Nxd5 Qd8 Black's compensation for the missing pawn is superb; there are very few players brave enough to go for a position like this against Gunina.

11...dxe4 12.Nxe4 Qd8?

Black needed to be on the alert: after 12...Qf4! 13.Qe3 Nc6 Black is in good shape.


Now Black drops a piece, in the very least. Anatoly Alexandrovich Matsukevich would have definitely placed this game into his collection.

13Bxd5 14.Nxd6+

Not falling for 14.Qxd5? Bb4+, of course.

14...Qxd6 15.Qe3+

This is a fork!

15Kd7 16.Qxa7 Nc6 17.Qe3 Re8 18.Qd2 Bxf3 19.gxf3 Nd4

White on move

20.Qxd4 Black resigns.

Fortunately, Gunina’s failure was made up for by her teammates by winning all other games. Delivering a sweeping performance was the Russian team leader Alexandra Kosteniuk. 


Botsari – Kosteniuk

Black on move

25...Qxh2! 26.Rh1 Ne4+ 27.Qxe4 Bxe4 28.Rxh2 Bxb1 29.f4 Ra7 30.Bxf8 Kxf8 31.Rh1 Bd3 32.Ke3 Bxc4 33.Kd4?! Ra4! 34.Ke3 Rxa3 35.Be4 h6

White on move

Black went on to convert her edge. 

Leading after round seven is team Armenia with 13 points out of 14. Trailing a point behind are China, the Ukraine, Georgia-1 and Romania. Women’s team Russia is with 10 match points.

Our men’s team was paired against team Serbia. There was nothing to herald the worst, as they say, and one of our main scorers, Ian Nepomniachtchi, was given a rest day for that reason. The Serbian players were not overly ambitious on their white boards, fixing two draws around move 20. Meanwhile, Vladimir Kramnik and Dmitry Jakovenko emerged with very promising positions out of the opening. Then Kramnik spilled most of his edge; however, when a draw was within reach, his opponent blundered badly.

Kramnik– Roganovic

Black on move


Kramnik showed his opponent in post-mortem that holding the position together was 43...Qb6!, e.g.: 44.Qc8 44...Qf6 or 44.Re8 Qb1+ 45.Kh2 Rxg2+! 46.Kxg2 Qg6+.

44.Qc7+ Rg7 45.Qc2+ Rg6 Black resigns.

Board four game was a real thriller, but the one with no happy ending for us, though.

Jakovenko – Nenezic

White on move

We have mentioned above that Dmitry got an excellent position out of the opening, but then something went wrong and the diagram shows something not very appealing for White already. Sand is known to be a poor substitute for oats, and a queen is a poor blockader likewise; this is why Jakovenko decided to try his luck in a counterattack. This is a very interesting idea that nearly worked for him.

42.Qe3!? Rd8 43.Rc5 Ba6 44.Rd5 Red6 45.Rxe5 d2 46.Rd1 Bc4 47.Re7 Bb3 48.e5 Rd3 49.Qa7 Bxd1 50.e6

It is this break that White was pinning his hopes on. The game tension has reached its peak; besides; players were struggling in time trouble already.

Black on move


The engine demonstrates his habitually superb tactical vision: 50...Rxg3! 51.Rxf7 Rxh3+! 52.Kxh3 (or 52.Kg1 Qd6) 52...Bg4+ 53.Kg3 Qd6+, с wining.

51.Rxf7 Qh6 52.Rxh7 Qxh7 53.f7+

Black on move


Marko Nenezic is up to the mark! In the case of 53...Kg7 54.f8Q+ Kxf8 55.Qxh7 White gets decent chances for a draw, whereas 53...Kf8? 54.e7+ Kg7 55.e8Q turns the tables completely as Black even goes down.

54.Qe7 Qh6 55.Qf6+ Kh7 56.e7

Black on move


Another masterpiece of calculation is: 56...d1Q 57.e8Q Qxh3+!! 58.Kxh3 (58.gxh3 Rd2+) 58...Qh1+ 59.Kg4 R8d4+, с winning.

57.exd8Q Rxd8 58.Qxd8 Qf4 59.Qd7 Kg7

This inaccuracy gives White real chances to bail out. Correct is 59...Kh6, and White is not in time to disentangle as 60.Kg1 runs into 60…Bb3.

60.Kg1 Qxg3 61.Qd4+ Kh7 62.Qxd2

Black on move

This is when I got an SMS-message from a superb study composer Oleg Pervakov, “I think Jakovenko’s position is a fortress.” Oleg believed that White should keep his queen along the second rank and drive the black king away with checks once it attempts to break through. However, Jakovenko tries to do the same from behind the opponent’s king.

62...Qc7 63.Qd4 Qc4 64.Qf6 Kg8 65.Kh2 Qe4 66.Qd8+ Be8 67.Qb8 Kf7 68.Qc7+ Ke6 69.Qc8+ Kd5 70.b3??

Good Lord! White seems to have forgotten about opponent's intermediate checks...

Black on move


Sidestepping 70...axb3 71.Qb7+.

71.Kh1 Qe1+!

Avoiding 71...axb3 72.Qb7+ Kc4 73.Qb4+.

72.Kh2 axb3 73.Qb7+ Kc4

Now the pawn is not recaptured and after 74.Qa6+ Bb5 White recognized his defeat.

The final score 2:2 almost leaves the Russian team out of contention for any medals. With 13 out of 14 points are teams Azerbaijan, Poland and USA.  The Russian team has scored 10 match points.

It is worth saying that with as many as four rounds yet ahead, it makes no sense to indulge into self-chastising.