Russian Superfinals 4: Nepo catches Karjakin
Ian Nepomniachtchi beat Mikhail Antipov with Black in Round 4 of the Russian Championship Superfinals to catch Sergey Karjakin, who drew against Maksim Chigaev, with both players on 3/4. In the women’s section Polina Shuvalova continues to demonstrate great play, this time beating Tatiana Getman in fine positional style. Polina now has a perfect 4/4, with her closest pursuers, Aleksandra Goryachkina and Natalia Pogonina, a full point behind.
The Russian Championship Superfinals were visited by FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, who gave an interview on the official Russian broadcast:
It’s great that the Russian Chess Federation managed to hold this tournament during the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic and that our leading grandmasters can fight for the national title at a real board and not in front of a computer monitor.
The games are really interesting and have been uncompromising battles.
Dvorkovich also talked about when the interrupted Candidates Tournament should resume:
We’re planning on the tournament taking place in Yekaterinburg in the second half of April, but if the Russian Chess Federation decides to hold the tournament in Moscow we won’t have any problems with that. For now, however, the main option remains Yekaterinburg.
Arkady was right about the interesting and uncompromising games. More than half of the games across the two sections ended decisively in Round 4.
Nepomniachtchi catches Karjakin
Potentially the most important game of the round was the clash between leader Sergey Karjakin and Maksim Chigaev, who was just half a point behind, but there was no real struggle. Maksim, playing Black, turned out to be well-prepared in the opening and quickly equalised. Sergey didn’t waste time testing his opponent in an equal endgame and things ended in a draw by 3-fold repetition on move 28.
In an interview on ruchess.ru, Sergey commented:
Today Maksim was excellently prepared and I couldn’t pose him any problems in the opening; everything was exchanged and it turned out to be a draw. But in Round 3 there was a tense game against Nikita Vitiugov. It’s pretty rare that you manage to win with Black against such a strong grandmaster, and every such win is something to celebrate.
After that draw there were two leaders, as Ian Nepomnaichtchi caught Karjakin by beating Mikhail Antipov with the black pieces. In Ian’s beloved Najdorf, Mikhail Antipov, who is a very creative chess player, played the rare 6.а3!?, but he didn’t manage to get an opening advantage. It seems that the position was roughly equal, or White even had a small initiative, but on move 22 Mikhail made what turned out to be the decisive mistake.
Antipov played 22.Qc6?, which proved a very unfortunate square for the queen. Better was 22.Qa7!, with the difference being that the queen can quickly return to defend her king. Ian exploited that mistake and built up a mating attack: 22…Rd2 23.Rfe1 Qg5. White had to give up the exchange due to the threat of Rxd5 and Bf3 – 24.Rxe2 Rxe2 25.Qxd6, but that just slowed down Black’s attack. The finale came very quickly.
30. Rb4? Rg6 and White resigned due to the unstoppable threat of Qxg3.
Afterwards Ian was in an excellent mood and joked a lot in the (Russian) post-game interview:
I’m not used to playing live. My hand is so used to the computer mouse that it gets tired making moves.
The remaining games were all interesting struggles. Vladimir Fedoseev put pressure on Vladislav Artemiev with Black, but Vladislav defended accurately and held a rook ending with three pawns against four.
Daniil Dubov talked in English to Daniil Yuffa after the game
Svidler-Dubov was very tense, with Daniil sacrificing a pawn and trying to organise an attack on the kingside. Peter successfully parried all Black’s threats, however, and in the endgame was even able to fight for an advantage before the game ended peacefully.
Nikita Vitiugov managed to bounce back after the previous day’s loss to Sergey Karjakin to launch a fine attack against Aleksey Goganov.
The opening had gone badly for Black, who failed to develop his queenside. In this position it was essential to play 17…Bd7 or 17…Nd7, trying to bring pieces to the aid of the king, but Goganov went for 17…а4?, which led to a crushing defeat. 18.Nh5! g6 19.Qd2! This piece sacrifice destroys the pawn cover around the black king, while the white pieces break into Black’s camp. The black pieces on the queenside are just bystanders as the king gets mated. After 19…gxh5
20.Qxh6 Nd7 21.Bd3 f5 22.Qg6+ Kf8 23.Bc4! White’s attack was unstoppable. 7 moves later Aleksey had to stop the clocks.
After the game Nikita summed up:
As far as I recall, instead of 13…Qa5 Black had to play 13…Qb6, but in the game I carried out a standard plan: a3, b4, Ng3. I got very easy play and a big advantage out of the opening, and after that I only needed to find the elegant move 19.Qd2, a standard move in these positions. We both knew about it, and after that Black could have resigned.
In the game of Maxim Matlakov against Andrey Esipenko there was little to write home about, with a quiet draw agreed on move 31.
The standings after four rounds looked as follows:
Shuvalova maintains perfect start
The women continue to delight us with fierce battles in every game. Five of the six games of the round finished decisively, with Polina Shuvalova keeping on winning. In Round 4 she gave Tatiana Getman no chance, beating her in positional style.
After the game Polina told Sergey Shipov:
The game was very comfortable for me. I managed to guess right in the opening and get long-term pressure. It was difficult for Black to defend as she had no counterplay, and at some point her position collapsed.
Top seed Aleksandra Goryachkina also won, after her opponent Alisa Galliamova didn’t manage to make it out of the opening alive.
18.h5! and Black’s position is almost hopeless. 18…Bg5 was met by 19.Ne6 and after 19…Bxe3 20.Nxf8 Bh6 21.Ne6 Aleksandra confidently converted her material advantage.
Goryachkina is now a point behind Shuvalova, on 3/4. Also on 3 points is Natalia Pogonina, whose game against Marina Guseva was very dramatic.
Guseva, playing White, has a huge advantage in this position, but not for long! 58.Rd1? (58.Nf2!) Bc3 59.Bh5 Nd6 60.Nf2 Rh8 61.Bg6 Bd4 62.Ng4+ Kg5 63.Nf2 Bxf2 64.Kxf2 Nxe4 an,d after the loss of the key e4-pawn, White’s position had turned from won to lost. White resigned on move 72.
Aleksandra Kosteniuk managed to score her first win, needing only 24 moves to break down the resistance of her young opponent Yulia Grigorieva.
White’s attack was very fast. 18.Kh1 Kh8 19.Rg1 Qh4 20.Rg3 f5 21.exf5 exd4 22.Qf5 dxe3 23.Qxd7 Rg8 24.Bc2 and, with mate inevitable, Black resigned.
Valentina Gunina continues to alternate wins and losses. She lost in Round 1, won in Round 2 and lost in Round 3. In Round 4 the pattern continued as Alina Kashlinskaya was unable to withstand Valentina’s kingside attack. It’s curious that so far all the wins in Gunina’s games have been for Black.
The only draw occurred in Girya-Garifullina, but that was also an interesting game where both players had winning chances. In the end Leya scored 2.5 points and is in clear 4th place.