29 June 2021

Saving Alexandr Triapishko

Dmitry Kryakvin’s report about round one of the Russian Championship Higher League  

The Russian Chess Championships Higher League has kicked off in Cheboksary. Your correspondent is now in the southern regions looking forward to the Black Sea series and the FIDE World Cup, but it was impossible to neglect an event like this. However, after round one GM Klementy Sychev will replace me as a commentator, and I will rejoin you later to sum up the competition outcome.

The tournament line-ups are usually tough. While men’s section is known for all sorts of respectable people who would not participate in the Higher League over their tight business schedule (for example, coaches of the national team, etc.), women’s section has none missing, as usual. Women are not spoilt for the choice of tournaments and substantial prize pools.

Going into the tournament, I flipped through the latest Higher Leagues reports on our website and compared them with the first pictures from this event. Do you know what has caught my eye? These are some incredibly tense facial expressions! Everyone is usually smiling when being pictured, even with masks on. And here, with +30 degrees in Cheboksary, one can imagine what the participants have to go through. They say the first two hours of round one was a nightmare while they tried to fix the air conditioning. Please do not take it to heart if I show someone’s lost game while he/she was not a happy camper at all. There pop up in mind the pictures of Tyumen-2012 and Kolomna-2016, which took down Ian Nepomniachtchi and such a physically trained matador as Daniil Dubov, respectively. All in all, Higher League is designed for supermen and superwomen who pass unscathed through fire and flood.

Thus, as many as 52 male and 52 female participants (Polina Shuvalova and Aleksandra Goryachkina are fighting with men) have toed the starting line with no facial expressions whatsoever. Of course, our report is not about chess alone — we definitely need a dramatic but instructive episode to accompany the main topic of chess. And what stories chess tournaments would usually be connected with? Let us look into the events of the past. Well, the Kramnik — Topalov match is a Toilet Gate. Children's world championships were not without toilet gates, too. Well, what about Morgunov, Rausis and Nigalidze? It all comes down to toilets, too. All roads seem to lead to Rome no matter how hard you play.

In round one of the Russian Championship Higher League, the toilet gate would not pass by the primary season's qualifier. One of the country’s strongest international masters and leader of the Crimean chess players, Sasha Triapishko, decided to visit the toilet before time trouble. The toilet of the Cheboksary-Arena ice palace was kind enough to let him in, but not out. Being a physically fit person, Sasha fought like a lion, calling for help and even thinking to force the door from its hinges, but he thought again for the damage caused would immediately get him a decent fine. With time control approaching, everyone was tethered to their positions and unwilling to visit the toilet (situated at a decent distance from the playing hall). Triapishko calculated in his mind that there was about 12 minutes’ time still left on his clock, and should the opponent make a move immediately, the linesmen would soon fix overstepping the time limit...

Triapishko – Smirnov

This is an old story, and I have read up on the Internet that similar accidents with toilet traps happened elsewhere, one of them at the Moscow Open, and yet another one at the children's rapid and blitz championships in Minsk. They ended up breaking the toilet handle at the Higher League in Yaroslavl for want of better means. Luckily, it was not a boy who fell victim here, but a young man of a more advanced age.

And then a miracle happened as Ilia Iljiushenok entered the toilet, heard Alexander’s voice and ran to the linesmen for help. They stopped the game clock, and a couple of repairmen were summoned, who said the lock worked tightly indeed but still managed to unlock it even if not immediately. Over the moon with his luck, Triapishko rushed back to the playing hall to achieve a winning position only a few moves later! Is it not an inspiring miracle of salvation?

Most of the favorites have won their games in the men's tournament, but it was not without misfires. Thus, Triapishko’s fellow countryman was one of those lucky exceptions.


Truskavetsky – Demchenko

A well-known specialist in King's Indian Defense, Demchenko has again delivered a master class in his favorite opening, but shot wide of the mark at the decisive moment.


31...Bh3! was an immediate decider as the white army perishes after 32.Rc3 (32.Rh1 R:f2!) 32...B:f1 33.R:g3 fg.

32.Kc1 Bh3 33.Rh1! Qa3+

There is no longer taking the white queen with the check: 33...R:f2 34.R:h3 Qg1 35.Rh1 Q:h1 36.Q:f2 Q:e4 37.R:d6 Rc8+ — and it is a complex fight and anybody’s game.



The only move for Black to muddy the waters was 34...Qe3!, and after the trade of queens the passed pawn gains all the losses back for Black. Otherwise, 35.Rc2 R:h1 36.N:h1 Q:d2 37.R:d2 Rb8 results in a complicated game. 

35.N:h1 Rb8 36.Nc2 Qf3 37.Nf2

Alexander Truskavetsky has emerged up a piece and brought the game to victory despite his opponent’s attempts to aggravate the struggle.

37…Bd7 38.R:d6 Be8 39.R:a6 g5 40.d6 Bf7 41.d7 Rd8 42.Rc6 Kg7 43.Rc8 R:d7 44.Q:d7 Q:f2 45.Rc7 Black resigned. 

Some games have seen titled chess players seriously challenged by young chess masters.

Motylev – Makarian

Sicilian Defense 

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cd 4.N:d4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bf4!?

6.Ndb5 could have been met by the Chelyabinsk-like 6…d6, as well as by the modern approach 6...Bb4 7.a3 B:c3+ 8.N:c3 d5 introduced by Vlad Artemiev. White has alternative continuations at his disposal. Thus, 6.Nхс6 bc 7.e5 launches mind-boggling complications. The Russian team coach decided to test Makarian's knowledge of rare line, but his counterpart was up to the occasion.

6...Bb4 7.Ndb5

White plans to grab the rook, but Black comes back by occupying the center and getting powerful compensation.

7…N:e4 8.Qfd5 9.Nc7+ Kf8


10.0–0–0 runs into 10…B:c3 11.b:c3 e5 12.N:d5 f5 13.Bg3 h5, followed up by some dozen moves of mainline theory and decent counterplay for Black.

10...e5 11.Bd2 Nd4 12.Qd1 Qh4 13.g3 Qf6 14.N:e4 Nf3+ 15.Q:f3

Finding himself in this position, the Indian talent decided that enough was enough and forced a draw with 15.Ke2 Nd4+ 16.Ke1 Nf3+, Gukesh — Dreev, 2019. Motylev is still in the realms of the mainline theory, and soon after there arose an interesting position in which Makarian's queen was opposed by a bunch of white pieces.

15...Q:f3 16.B:b4+ Kg8 17.Nd6 Q:h1 18.0–0–0 Be6 19.Nc7 Q:h2 20.N:d5 B:d5 21.R:d5 Q:f2


It was only recently that a chess player flying the FIDE flag has suffered in this position after: 22.Bc4 Qe3+ 23.Rd2?? Qe1+ 24.Rd1 Q:b4, and Black won in Firouzja — Rapport, Paris 2021. Alexander opts for a different continuation, and Makarian gives the queen back, and the resulting position gives us the battle of the resurrected h8-rook and pawns against a pair of minor pieces. 

22...Q:f1+ 23.Re1 Q:e1+ 24.B:e1 h5 25.N:b7

It has not been without a predecessor correspondence game, or course: 25.Bc3 b6 26.Kd2 f6 27.Ke3 Kf8 28.Kf3 Ke7 29.Nb5 Kd7 with a draw, as in Brunori - Ploscaru, ICCF email 2018. It feels a bit more pleasant to be White in an over-the-board game, but Makarian may claim knowing 20 moves ahead to make a sure draw. The national team coach misplayed the knight to a direction different from where the Black's passed pawns were, which could have spelled problems for him.

25...g5! 26.Nc5 h4 27.gh gh 28.Nd3 h3 29.Nf2 f5

The black passed pawns have appeared as if out of thin air!

30.Kd1 Kf7 31.Ke2 h2 32.Nh1 Rg8

Stronger was 32...Rc8! 33.c3 (33.Kd3 f4) 33...Re8+ 34.Kf1 f4, and White would have found it hard with the time control looming ahead. Now Motylev was happy to part with the minor piece to get rid of the potential queen.

33.Bg3 f4 34.B:f4 Rg1 35.B:h2 R:h1 36.Bb8 Rb1 37.b3 Rb2 38.a4 R:c2+ 39.Kd3 Rb2 40.Kc3 R:b3+ 41.K:b3 Ke6 42.B:a7 Kd7 43.a5 Kc6 44.a6 Kb5 45.Bd4 K:a6 Draw. Fighting to the last bullet!

Faizrakhmanov – Rakhmanov

In this very interesting game Black was pressing, but to win the game he needed to discover the idea of catching the opponent's bishop along the central diagonal!


54...Rh8!, and now 55.Kd2 Rd8 56.Ke1 (56.Kc1 Ne2+) 56...Re8 or 55.Bb7 Re8+ 56.Kd2 Rd8 57.Ke1 Rd7 58.Ba8 Ra7 59.Be4 (59.Bd5 Re7+ 60.Kd2 Rd7; 59.Bh1 Ra1) 59...Re7 finds White in a situation when he lacks good squares to post his bishop.

55.K:d1 R:f2 56.Rd5 Nf3?

56...Nb3 57.Rf5+ Ke6 (57...Ke7 58.Ke1) 58.Rb5 is no longer sufficient to win the game. Feeling upset, Rakhmanov gives up a piece and only managed to bail out because he was in time to do away with White’s last pawn. 

57.Rf5+ Ke6 58.R:f4 Ke5 59.R:f3 R:b2 60.Bc2 Kd4 61.Kc1 Ra2 62.Kb1 Ra3

This is the classical rook and bishop vs rook position. 

Alexander Predke has won an excellent game thanks to his brilliant preparation.

Predke – Kezin 

Catalan Opening 

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 0–0 6.0–0 dc 7.Qc2 b5 8.a4 b4

Unlike proven ordinary lines, Black immediately causes a crisis in the center, but the stakes are very high, and the home analysis must extend deep enough. I suspect that Predke devoted many hours to this position over long Yekaterinburg evenings spent at the training camp at the famous Mining University. This black side of this setup has seen Dubov, Nakamura and other famous GMs on many occasions.

9.Nfd2 Nd5 10.N:c4 c5 11.dc Ba6

Black pins hopes on his active pieces to win back a pawn and solve all his opening problems.


The principled and challenging continuation appeared in 2019. The trade of knights on d5 makes it harder for Black to deal with the c-pawn.

Nd7 13.N:d5 e:d5 14.c6 Rc8 15.Bf4 Nc5 16.Rd1!

Playing Carlsen, Ding Liren moved the pawn to c7 immediately and lost the game, but Boris Gelfand improved White's play in the same year of 2019.


16...d4 17.h4 is the mainline theory, in which a well-versed opening specialist’s knowledge should extend some 10 moves ahead. Chess has advanced this far, isn’t it amazing? Each time I write a report I repeat that move 20 is only the beginning of the theory. Roman Kezin opted for an obvious move, but fell victim to the cavalry’s raid.

17.Nd2! B:e2 18.Nb3 B:d1 19.R:d1 N:b3?

Black cannot capture the c6-pawn because of the bishop capture on d5, and although the exchange down, White has a powerful passed pawn, supported by no less powerful bishops. Black should have returned the exchange in an attempt to bail out after 19...Qe8 20.B:d5 N:b3 21.Q:b3 R:c6 22.B:c6 Q:c6 23.Rc1. The text puts him in a difficult situation immediately.

20.c7! Qd7

Or 20...R:c7 21.B:c7 Qc8 22.B:d5.




Ditching the queen does not help Black: 21...Nc5 22.B:f7+ R:f7 23.R:d7 N:d7 24.Qe2 Bf6 25.Qa6.

22.Be4! b3?

Black is also in a bad shape after 22...N:c2 23.R:d7 g5 24.R:e7 g:f4 25.B:c2, while the pawn advance loses immediately as it gives White time to gang up on the Black king.

23.Qb1 Q:a4

23...Qe6 24.B:h7+ Kh8 25.Bf5 with an easy conversion.

24.B:h7+ Kh8 25.Qf5 g5

25...g6 26.B:g6 f:g6 27.Be5+ Kh7 28.Qh3+ Kg8 29.Qe6+, winning. 

26.Be5+ f6 27.Qh3 Kg7 28.Bf5 Rh8 29.B:c8! 

Because taking on h3 fails to save the game, Black stopped the clock.

In the women's section, the favorite players were given a hard time right from the start.

Kovalevskaya – Zherebtsova


Exchange sacrifice is Kovalveskaya’s beloved tool, and 35.f3 Nd6 36.Bc6 Qc7 37.B:d5 Q:c1+ 38.N:c1 Re8 39.e4 would have given White a superb position. Instead, White rushed in to challenge the d5-pawn.

35.Bc6? Ndc5! 36.Bb5

As 36.dc R:c6 is out of the question, White needs to retreat the bishop.


Stronger is 36...N:b3 37.Qc2 Nbd2 38.Nge1 g4, but it does not feel safe to dispatch your knight this far.

37.B:d3 Qc7 38.Qd1 Qc3 39.Bb5?

39.B:e4 R:e4 40.h4 is tougher and leaves the game outcome unclear yet: 40…h6? 41.Bf8.

39...Bd6 40.Bc1

After 40.B:d6 R:d6 Black will gradually convert her material edge.

40...Bb4 41.h4 Re7 42.Kh2 Rc7 43.hg Q:c1, and Black went on to win the game.

Voit – Nasyrova

Ekaterina Nasyrova is always after checkmating her opponent's king, and here White has given the Tatarstan chess player exactly such opportunity.


32.f4! would have resulted in mind-boggling complications after ef4 (or 32...Rh:f4 33.R:f4 e:f4 34.Bf3) 33.Rfe1, and 33…f3? fails to 34.Re8 R:e8 35.R:e8+ Bg8 36.Qf2!


This is knockout blow in the style of Fischer and Tal.

33.Rh1 R:d3 34.Qe1 Rd:h3+ 35.Kg1 R:h1+ 36.B:h1 Qh3 37.Bg2 Qh2+ 38.Kf1 Bd3 39.Qd2 B:e2+ 40.Q:e2 Qf4 41.Qc4 Qd2 White resigned. 

We wrap up by reminding the rewards of studying the books by Dvoretsky, Shereshevsky and of endgames in general.


Shafigullina – Kostornichenko


61...Kb5 62.Kf6 Kb4 63.g6 Bf8 64.g7 B:g7+ 65.K:g7 a5 leads to a draw. There was no need to ditch a pawn.

62.B:c4 Ba3??

62...Kc5 63.g6 Bf8 64.Bf7 Kb4 was the only way to stay in the game.

63.Bf7! a5

63...Kc5 64.Be8 Kd6 (64...Kb4 65.Ba4) 65.Kf6 Bb2+ 66.Kf7 no longer comes to the rescue, and the а8-square is the color of the bishop.

64.Be8 Kc7 65.Ke6 Kd8 66.Ba4 Bb2 67.g6 Kc7 68.Kf7 Kd6 69.g7 B:g7 70.K:g7 Black resigned. 

I wish good luck to all participants and good atmosphere in the playing hall. As for me, I am off for another tour of the Black Sea Grand Prix that is about to begin soon. I leave you for the next six rounds with GM Klementy Sychev. See you next time!