8 July 2021

Threefold Repetition in the Hand or Sacrifice in the Air

Dmitry Kryakvin’s report about decisive games of the Russian Championships Higher League

Going into the final round, only Marina Guseva could enjoy a full night’s sleep after having secured a tournament victory with one round to go. Marina would not slow down and outplayed Tatyana Getman, who was floated in the parings with only 5.5 points because the leader had played everyone with more points. Moreover, she tortured the unlucky Tatyana for as long as 114 moves — Marina seemed drawing so much pleasure from the game that she would have made 200 with equal satisfaction.


Guseva — Getman

Catalan Opening


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 dc 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.0–0 Rb8 7.e3 b5 8.b3 cb 9.ab a6 10.Qe2 Bb7 11.Bd2 Be7 12.Rc1 0–0 13.Ne1 Nd5 14.Nd3 Rc8 15.Nc3 Nb8 16.Ne4 Nd7 17.Nec5 Nxc5 18.dc Bf6 19.Ra2 c6 20.e4 Nc7 21.Bf4 Bg5 22.Bxg5 Qxg5 23.Rd1 e5 24.f4 ef 25.gf Qe7 26.Kh1 Rcd8 27.Rad2 



The opening outcome is quite satisfactory for Black. She could have tried 27...a5 or 27...Rfe8. This seemingly active move results in Getman handing over control over the d-file to her opponent.

27…Rd4?! 28.Ne5 Rxd2 29.Qxd2 Ne6 30.Nd7! 

White is suddenly on the offensive and on the better side of it as well. 

30…Re8 31.f5 Nxc5? 

31...Nf8 32.e5 Bc8 33.Nxf8 Qxf8 with the idea 34.Bxc6 Qxc5! was still OK for Black  – and White cannot capture the rook as it exposes her king. Now the white pawn can be stopped only at the cost of a whole piece.

32.Nxc5 Qxc5 33.Qd7 Rb8 34.e5 


34...Qxe5 is refuted by 35.Qxb7!

35.e6 fe 36.fe Bc8 37.e7 Bxd7 38.efQ+ Rxf8 39.Rxd7, and despite Getman's putting up stubborn resistance Guseva went on to queen her  h-pawn.

The winner ended up scoring the phenomenal 8.5 out of 9. I cannot recall anything of the kind ever happen before. Even with so few draws that the women's tournaments are known for it was usually enough to score 7.5 to take the first place. 

Anastasia Bodnaruk and Daria Voit demonstrated a sound practical approach in the last round by going for a threefold repetition when transiting from opening to middlegame and thus securing the so much coveted Superfinal tickets. As for Evgenija Ovod and Daria Charochkina, Marina Guseva's victims of rounds 7th and 9th, the girls battled for one of the last qualification places into the top five.


Ovod – Charochkina


A sound technical decision.  33...Qxb3 34.ab Kg7 35.Ra1 looks way too grim, although the text failed to save Black either.

33…Ke8 34.c6! bc 35.bc Qxb3 36.ab Kd8 

To stop the passer, Black needs to give up the exchange. 

37.Nxf7+ Kc7 38.Nxh8 Rxh8 39.Rb5 and White won.


The Chernyak — Bivol duel has taken me very much by surprise. Victoria Chernyak is a talented and strong player who is definitely capable of adding much to her current rating of 2315. When the Spassky club organized a grand blitz last fall with almost all GMs of St. Petersburg present, Victoria needed to defeat the author of this review in the last round to overtake Dina Belenkaya. Well, one might claim that comparing a photographer and Alina Bivol is an exaggeration. I am not going to argue with it, but back then Chernyak took me in so tight a positional grip and would never let me a moment’s respite until I could stand it no more and decided to resign. However, being half a point behind her opponent, the native of Petersburg refused from continuing the battle and settled for the threefold repetition when the position was still full of fighting potential.


Chernyak – Bivol

The Modern Benoni


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 g6 4.f3 Bg7 5.e4 d6 6.Nc3 0–0 7.Nge2 e6 8.Be3 ed 9.cd Re8 10.Qd2 Nbd7 11.Ng3 a6 12.a4 Qa5 13.Ra3 h5 14.Be2 Ne5 15.0–0 h4 16.Nh1 Nh7 17.Nf2 f5 18.Raa1 Nf7 


I seem to recall something along these lines in Alexei Dreev’s old gamesx 19.Kh1 Bd7 20.ef gf (20...Bxf5 21.Bd3) 21.Nh3, and Dreev was nearly always successful in exploiting his opponent’s kingside weaknesses in similar positions. So perhaps Chernyak did not see the way to improve her position or even believed that Black had an easier game.

19.Bd3 Ne5 20.Be2 Nf7 21.Bd3 Ne5 22.Be2 Nf7 This draw has advanced Bivol into the Superfinal, first in her career. Our congratulations to her on this achievement! We also extend our congratulations to all players who achieved it in this challenging year of 2021!


Final standings. 1. Marina Guseva – 8.5; 2. Anastasia Bodnaruk, 3. Daria Voit and 4. Evgenija Ovod – with 6,5; 5. Alina Bivol — 6 points. The competition turned out to be so tough that female players with 5.5 points ended up taking places from 6th to 17th. This group includes both experienced/merited athletes and young stars, but I would like to highlight the success of Ekaterina Murashova, whom we once knew as Katya Akatova. Akatova nearly made it to the Superfinal more than 10 years ago when she was a master living in the Leningrad Oblast. Welcome back, Ekaterina! Well, this quarantine has led to something useful at least.


Murashova – Galliamova

Is it a draw with the opposite-colored bishops no matter what you do? Not quite — Murashova starts a subtle play with the aim of capturing or blunting the opponent's bishop.

29.Re2 Rdf6 

29...Bc5 30.d4 loses for Black.

30.Rbb2 Bc5 31.d4 Ba3 

31...Bd6 32.Bc4+ Kh8 33.Rxb6 drops the root pawn immediately.

32.Rb3 Bc1 33.Bc4+ Kh8 34.Be6! h5 

White promotes non-stop after 34...Rb8 35.d5, but Galliamova should have tried to bring the rook into the game via 34...Rf3!? The best way to stop promoting it to take the c3-pawn!

35.Rxb6 h4 36.Rb1 Bh6 37.c4 hg 38.c5 Rf4 39.c6 Rh4 

Bad is 39...Rxd4 40.c7.

40.Rh1 Rxh1 41.Kxh1 Rf1+ 42.Kg2 Rc1 


A precise calculation! Now White is winning by force. 

43…g6 (43...Rxc6 44.Re8#) 44.Bc2! Bf4 45.c7! Bxc7 46.Re8+ Kg7 47.Re7+ Black resigned.


This Higher League taking place in the capital of Chuvashia has distinguished itself by many remarkable events. The pictures show the moments of congratulating the birthday people (this is not always the case, unfortunately), and it felt in general that the organizers did their best to highlight how vital this event for them was. The rest days saw simuls given to local children. The girls could not but recall the warm, gentle and touching letters sent to everyone by the chief arbiter Vladimir Makhnev. The arbiter made sure that none catch a cold from the powerful HVAC system working to its full capacity, and everyone watched their figures and ate less chocolate. 


Pavel Ponkratov was ahead by a point going into the final round in the men's tournament, but the legendary filibuster was not to relax ahead of time as he was pursued by as many as 7 players and his tie-breakers being not the most brilliant ones at that. The leader had a serious test to go through in the face of a potent white-color player Alexander Motylev. 


Motylev – Ponkratov

22.c5! dc 

22...Nf6 23.c6 will edge out the bishop to a8 immediately.

23.Ng5 Qe8 24.Qe3 

White was winning by setting up one of the most beautiful ambushes: 24.Qa2!! Qe7 (24...Kg7 25.Be5+ f6 26.Ne6+)25.Nxf7 Qxf7 26.Bb3. 

However, the engine claims that the text allows Black equalizing after 24...h6, intending 25.Qxe8 Rxe8 26.Bxd7 Rd8. 

24...Bh6 25.h4 Qxe3 26.fe Bxg5 27.hg Nf8 28.dc Ne6 29.c6 Ba8 30.Rc1 Kf8 


As a result, White has powerful bishops and domination. However, let not the first engine lines baffle you as the position is difficult and irrational. This is especially so against the invincible Flibustier. White does have pawn weaknesses of his own. 


31.Bb3 Ke7 32.Bc4 looks more precise, but Motylev leaves his bishop in a position that leaves much to be desired. Ponkratov immediately seized the chance to activate all his pieces. 

31...Ke7 32.Rc4 Rd8 33.Kh2 Rd5 34.Be1 

34.Rxb4 Nc5 is no longer clear, and the text would, in different circumstances, prompt Black to think of more than just making a draw. 

34...Kd8! 35.Bxb4 Rxg5 36.Kg1 Kc8 37.Re4 Rd5 

The black rook works wonders, and White starts repeating moves himself.

38.Kh2 Rd1 39.Rc4 Rd5 40.Re4 Rd1 41.Rc4 Rd5 42.Re4 Draw. 


An unfortunate misfire, but do you know many people to win a winning position against Pavel Ponkratov? As a result, Motylev was lucky to take the coveted fifth place. And Ponkratov won deservedly and finally made his way into the Superfinal. Way to go, high time for him to play in the Superfinals and World Cups.       


Female players shined in the tournament. While Polina Shuvalova was stopped in the penultimate round by Mikhail Antipov, Aleksandra Goryachkina did qualify into the men's Superfinal, has negotiated the ELO threshold of 2600 and has added to her strength as of lately! When Goryachkina negotiates the 2700 level, we will definitely need to see the second part added to the book "Small Steps into Big Chess." It’s a pity that back then Goryachkina’s story came out in limited edition, and now dozens of mothers and fathers of young chess players ask me where to buy, and the books had already sold out when Aleksandra qualified for the world match. This is not the way to go! 

In the last round, Goryachkina even crushed such a die-hard-to-break player as Alexey Sarana, who usually performs very well in the Higher Leagues. 


Goryachkina – Sarana

Nimzo-Indian Defence


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0–0 5.e4 d5 6.e5 Ne4 7.Bd3 c5 8.Nf3 cd 9.Nxd4 Nd7 10.Bf4 

We see the problematic tabia of the 4.Qc2 Nimzowitsch Defense in which  10...Qh4 is considered to be alternative to the text. However, the knight move lacks nothing in comparison.

10…Ndc5 11.0–0 Bxc3 12.bc Nxd3 

12...Bd7 13.Be2 Na4 14.cd ed has also been tested at the highest level, but White seems to have some fresh ideas here. Black annihilates White’s bishop pair advantage immediately.

13.Qxd3 b6 14.cd Qxd5 15.Rfd1 Bb7 16.f3 

They played in a correspondence game 16.c4 Qa5 17.Nb3 (and 17.Nb5 Bc6 18.a4 over the board) 17...Qb4 18.Be3 Rfc8 19.Rac1 h6, and Black managed to retain the balance in each of the games played. Goryachkina’s move is a novelty according to my database. 

16...Nc5 17.Qe3 Qc4 18.Rab1 

The engine votes for Black, but proposes something strange from the human player point of view. Thus, 18...Rfd8 19.h4 Na6!? (it turns out that the knight vacates the square for the queen) 20.h5 h6 21.Bxh6 gh 22.Qxh6 Qc5, with some hopes of  holding the position. 18...Qxa2 19.h4 is dangerous for Black as the h-pawn advance will demonstrate.

18…Rad8 19.h4 Rd7 20.h5 h6 

Now Goryachkina deflects the black queen and sacrifices a piece!

21.Rb4 Qxa2 22.Rd2 Qa3 23.Bxh6 gh 24.Qxh6 


A fatal blunder! The engine evaluates the position as equal after 24...Qxc3! 25.Nc6 (25.Nc2 f5) 25...f5, and Sarana must have underestimated White’s move 26.

25.Kh2 f5 26.Nxe6! Nxe6

26...Qxd2 27.Qxf8+ Kh7 28.Qxf5+ Kh8 29.Qf6+ Kh7 (29...Kg8 30.Rg4+) 30.Nf8+ does not help White. Therefore, Black is forced to allow the rook infiltration into the seventh rank, followed by Goryachkina winning back the piece and ending up with extra material and superb position.

27.Qxe6+ Rdf7 28.Rd7 Qg5

28...Bc8 29.Qg6+ Kh8 30.Rxf7 is too bad for Black.

29.Rxb7 Qxh5+ 30.Kg1 Kg7 31.Qf6+ Kg8 32.Rxf7 Qxf7 

The black king is too exposed, not to mention the material losses after 32...Rxf7 33.Qd8+ Kg7 34.Rh4.

33.Qd6 Re8 


34.f4! is more accurate.


It was worth testing 34...Qe6!? —  the position is terrible for Black, but the rook ending gives some hopes to bail out. The text gives Goryachkina an easy win.

35.Qh6! Rxe5 36.Rxf4 Re1+ 37.Kf2 Black resigned.

As a result, Goryachkina finished third, while the fourth place was taken by Alexandr Rakhmanov, who wrought a difficult draw from Evgeny Alekseev. The fate of the second place was being sealed between Demchenko and Chigaev, in which both opponents were willing to take the upper hand. A strange thing is this broadcast with a 30-minute delay. However, this measure is forced in the fight against cheaters who, according to rumors, have raised their heads in Russia.  


Demchenko – Chigaev


24...Bg5 retains excellent compensation for Black in this most challenging position, but Chigaev puts his bishop en prise in the Tal-Stein style!

24...Bf4!? 25.gf Qxf4 26.Qe3 Qh2+ 27.Kf1 Ne5 28.Qg3

The engine has no difficulty to find 28.f4! Qh1+ (28...Neg4 29.Rxh2 Nxe3+ 30.Kg1) 29.Qg1 Qh3+ 30.Qg2, claiming that White is up a rook. 

28...Qh5 29.Nde2? 

White should have tried to escape with his king by 29.Ke1!?


The engine is so complex that the engine takes time to stifle White’s position with a series of calm moves 29...Nf3 30.Qg2 Ng4 31.Ng3 Qe5 32.Ncxe4 Ngh2+ 33.Ke2 Rh4.

30.Kg2 g5?! 

Black keeps up the heat of the action! Chigaev refuses from a draw resulting after 30...Qg5 31.Rh1 Rxh1 32.Kxh1 Qh5+ 33.Kg2 Nf3 34.Rc1 Nh4+ 35.Kg1 Nf3+.


It turns out that following the tough 31.Rcc1! Qh2+ 32.Qxh2 Rxh2+ 33.Kg3 Rxf2 (33...f5 34.Rf1) 34.Rf1 White is prepared to give back some of his extra material to get a winning position. 

31...f5! 32.Nxe4 

The black pawns rush forward and there is no stopping themx 32.Kf1 f4 33.Qh3 Nh2+ 34.Kg2 (34.Ke1 Nef3+) 34...f3+ 35.Kh1 Qg6, winning soon after.

32...fxe4 33.Rcd2 e3! 34.fe Qh1+ 35.Kf1 Rf8+ 36.Ke2 

The unhurried 36.Ke1 Kg6! highlights the tragic situation of White’s position. Black wins the queen and continues his offensive.

36...Rf2+ 37.Qxf2 Nxf2 38.Kxf2 Ng4+ 39.Kg3 Nxe3 40.Rh2 

40.Rd7+ Kg6 does not help as the white rook is hanging and the checkmate as well.

40...Nf5+ White resigned.


Final standings. 1. Pavel Ponkratov – 7 out of 9; 2. Maksim Chigaev, 3. Aleksandra Goryachkina – with 6,5; 4. Aleksandr Rakhmanov, 5. Alexander Motylev – with 6 points. Mikhail Antipov, Evgeny Alekseev and David Paravyan also scored 6 points apiece, but His Majesty Buchholz let them down. As little Andrey Esipenko used to say: "Buchholz is a dirty thing that always seems to favor your opponents." 


This one of the most exciting Higher Leagues has finished. We are looking forward to the Superfinal and World Cup. The Black Sea Grand Prix is also something to keep an eye on. See you! And take care of yourself, because these few nights I cannot sleep well over the news of Yury Dokhoian's death... I hope that we stay healthy.