SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Between the 20th and the 30th of this month the 62nd Russian Championship ‘superfinals’ is taking place at the prestigious Moscow Central Chess Club. This consists of two parallel tournaments, one for the men and the other for the women. Both events are 10-player round robbins. The prize funds are, respectively, 66k euros and 27k euros. The winner of the men’s tournament will be considered the absolute Russian champion, while the winner of the female event will be considered the female champion of Russian.
The time control is 1hr 40 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, and then 10 minutes for KO. (Plus 30 seconds per move from move 1)
One of the problems for the organizers of this year’s championship was finding a time slot that was both convenient for the top players and did not collide with the top tournaments such as the World Cup. This meant holding the tournament at the very end of the year, at a time when probably most of the players are tired and wished they were elsewhere!
Perhaps this can explain why the usual high quality of play that one would normally associate with a Russian Championship Final is not seen in more than one or two games each round. For the spectators , however, this might be a blessing since the number of draws has been reduced! (Especially in the women’s section, where only about 20% of the games have been drawn.) And a fair number of interesting , if somewhat imperfect, battles have been played so far…
The standings after 4 rounds can be seen from the crosstables below. Svidler is in the lead by half a point, ahead of Grischuk, Jakovenko and Khismatullin. Riazantsev, who plays on my team in Portugal, is in the cellar but has been quite unlucky so far. All of his games are hard fought, and he always plays to win. Today’s game saw him standing better for most of the time, only to force the issue out of stubbornness and eventually lose. 16 year old Sjugirov has impressed me so far: despite his inexperience at this level of tournament, he is in every game and fighting on more or less equal terms. No doubt that we will hear more of this youngster in coming years. He is very gifted.
In the women section Galliamova, Ivanchuk’s ex, is quite comfortably placed in the lead with a perfect score! However, N.Kosintseva is hot on her heels with just a half point less.
4th ROUND SNAPSHOTS FROM THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Svidler and Grischuk played a very interesting game today, featuring a novelty on move 17 (as far as my database tells me!) and an imaginative exchange sacrifice on move 21 that seems to almost force a draw.
Svidler, P – Grischuk, A
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5!?
The Marshall Gambit is a frequent visitor in top level tournaments today. Despite its complicated nature, theory has advanced to the point where even cautious players can simply memorize the corrrect move orders and not risk losing in the process. In this opening it is the White side that needs serious reinforcements and, much as in the Petroff, the draw seems to be almost unavoidable. Thank God that 1.e4 is not the only move available to White!
9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Qe2
This is a relatively recent try, not really superior to the usual move (15.Be3) , but has the advantage that it has not been worked out to move 35 yet! White intends to play Qf1 on the next move and tickle the Black Queen.
15…Bd7 16. Qf1 Qf5 [ It is known that if 16… Qh5 17. Nd2 Rae8 18. f3 the move 18…Nf4!? is probably a forced draw. Grischuk prefers to avoid any home preparation from his opponent.]
17. Nd2 Svidler plays a novelty. The usual move is17. Be3. 17… Rae8 18. f3
An ugly move at first sight–as it weakens the King-side– but actually a very clever idea. White will base his play on Ne4 at some point, trying to block the attack.
18… Nf6 preventing Ne4. 19. a4 c5[19… Rxe1 20. Qxe1 Re8 21. Qf2 Qd3 22. Ne4! is good for White.] 20. Rxe8 Rxe8 21. Ne4 !
If now 21… Nxe4 22. fxe4 Qxf1 23. Kxf1 White will have the better chances in the ending, even if Black regains his pawn. 23… cxd4 24. axb5 axb5 25. Ra7 Bh3 26. Kf2 Be6 27. Bxe6 fxe6 28. cxd4 with chances. As is well known, it is often the best course to return the pawn in these gambit openings and try for some small but durable positional edge in the ending. Normally gambit players detest endings!
A very imaginative solution to Black’s problems! Grischuk decides that it is best to avoid the Queen exchange and instead create chances by lining up his Queen and Bishop on the a8-h1 diagonal. Subsequent post mortem analysis proves him right!
22. Bc2!? This move seems to give White the edge, but Grischuk has seen deeply into the position
If instead 22. fxe4 Qxe4 23. Bf4 Bc6 24. d5 (diagram, right) Black has the very sharp but strong 24… c4!, giving him excellent chances in a very complex game, For example: 25. Bxd6 Qxd5 26. Bd1 Qh1 27. Kf2 Qxh2 28. Ke1 Qxb2 and it is not clear how White should proceed, despite being up in material. Undoubtedly Svidler was correct to avoid this variation!
22… cxd4! Wrong would be the transpositon to the ending with 22… Re1 23. Bxf5 Rxf1 24. Kxf1 Bxf5 25. axb5 Bd3 26. Kg2 Bxb5 27. dxc5 Bxc5 28. b3 and the threat of c4 gives White all of the chances.
23. fxe4 [ If now 23. cxd4 Re1! is better for Black than in the previous line] 23… Qc5
Black is down the exchange, but has many threats. White is still undeveloped. Svidler has to defend well to avoid being crushed under the Black attack.
24. Qf2!? Ng4 [24… Be5!? is worth further study] 25. cxd4 (Clearly not 25. Qxd4?? Qh5 26. h4 Bc5!)
White has to defend his Bishop on c2 and to keep an eye on a Bishop sacrifice by Black on g3. But if now 26. Qg2 (reinforcing his g3 pawn) then Black has 26… Qb6! Hitting d4 27. Qd2! Be5! 28. Ra3 Bxd4 29. Kg2 Nf2! with atleast a draw for Black. So Svidler makes the pragmatic decision to allow Grischuk to sacrifice on g3: it turns out that Black only has a draw by perpetual!
26… Bxg3! 27. hxg3 Qxg3
The game now ends in a perpetual check. Black has no choice, since White will play Ra3 and then Black won’t even have a draw!
28. Qg2! Qe1 29. Qf1 Qg3 30. Qg2 [½:½]
A good fight!
A CLEVER TRAP
Khismatullin vs Sjugirov
GM Khismatullin: a very clever player!
Position after White’s 35th move (Rb1)
White has an obvious advantage. Two Bishops, passed a-pawn, strong Knight on c4, and active pieces. White’s last move sets a clever trap that his young opponent falls into.
35… Nc3?! It looks as though White had overlooked this! From a practical point of view Black had to play N8-a7 and pray. 36. Rxb8!! Nxa4
White is down a Queen for a Rook, but Black is tied down and White’s passed pawn is very dangerous!
37. Nb6!! Naxb6 38. axb6
While White’s entire conception is well known, one must admire the effectiveness with which White is able to exploit his advantage. If now Black tries to give up his Queen with 38…Qxb6, White simply ignores her majesty and proceeds with 39. Rxc8! and 40. Bh6 with a quick mate.
38… c4 39. b7 Qb6 40. Kg2
Black resigns as the passed pawn has the final say. [1:0]
A PRETTY COMBINATION
Romanko, M – Gunina, V
Val Gunina is just 20 years old and has an elo of 2445
Position after White’s 32nd move (Rd1)
Black has an obvious advantage: control of the c-file, control of the centre and more active pieces. The only question is how Black is to make progress. Gunina finds a very effective solution.
32… Rxb2! 33. Rxb2 Nc3 34. Ka1 Nxd1 35. Qxd1 Qxg3
The game is over and White should just resign, but momentum keeps White playing until it is clear even to the janitor that further resistance is useless.
36. Ka2 Kh7 37. Qb3 Rc3 38. Qb4 Qd3 39. a4 Qd5 40. Ka1 Rc1 41. Rb1 Rc4
White finally resigns.[0:1]
Pogonina, N – Kosintseva, N
Natalia Pogonina; missed chances
Position after first time control
The White pieces have a number of advantages (passed pawn and active pieces on the King-side) but because there are no minor pieces on the game nor open lines for the White Rooks, it is virtually impossible for White to exploit her edge.
The game should be a simple enough draw for Black, given that White’s only chances are connected with some Rook sacrifice that Black should be able to avoid easily enough. The following moves are easy to understand:
41. Qg4 Raa7 42. Qf4 Qd8 43. Kh2 Rab7 44. Qg4 Qf8 45. Qh5 Ra7 46. R6g4 Qb8 47. Qg6 Kh8 48. Rh4 Qf8 49. Rh5 Ra1 50. Qg4 Qb8 51. Qh4
The Black Queen on b8 paralyzes the White Rook on g3. White is now threatening Rxh6ch, but if Black now plays 51… Kh7! White’s threats come to a screaching halt. If then 52. Qg4 simply … Kh8 and I don’t see why the game should not be agreed drawn then.
Instead, Black makes the plausible 51… Qf8?? (defending against Rxh6) but now should lose!
A missed opportunity!
Now White can win by sacrificing his other Rook! 52. Rxg7!! Qxg7 ( worse is 52… Rxg7 53. Rxh6 Kg8 54. Rh8#; and 52… Kxg7 53. Rxh6 Qb8 54. g3 Ra2 55. Kg1 Ra1 56. Kg2 Ra2 57. Kf3 is soon mate) 53. Rxh6 Kg8 54. Rg6 Qxg6 55. fxg6 Rf1 (diagram, right) and now simply 56. Qg3 followed by Qd6 or b8 wins. The White Queen is so much stronger than the two uncoordinated Black Rooks.
Instead, White continued 52. Qf4 and now Black should just keep the position. However, Black now made another blunder with 52… Rb7??
A 2nd missed opportunity!
Now White can win again by sacrificing: 53. Rxg7! Qxg7 54. Rxh6 Kg8 55. Rg6 and wins because the White Queen will pick up all of the Black pawns.
INSTEAD Pogonina continued with the sedate 53. Rh4 and the game quickly was drawn:
53… Kh7 54. Qg4 Qe8 55. Qf4 Qf8 56. Qg4 [½:½]
A draw was a fair result , given that the White position was not worth more. However, Black’s two blunders allowed White two free opportunities to win an extra half point.
MISCELANEOUS PHOTOS FROM THE CHAMPIONSHIP
The analysis room. Svidler standing in the back. Grischuk and Jakovenko sitting. Deep concentration.
Spectators. The girl seems amused with the photographer. Or is his zipper exposed?
Svidler explaining to Khismatullin: ”The pawn can only move forward two squares on the first move…”
Svidler and Riazantsev postmortem: Riazantsev should not have exchanged Queens. In that case he might have even been better, certainly not worse.
The Kalmykia Grandmaster Sjugirov(left) has a promising future. He is the first superstar coming from Kirsan’s homeland.
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS