19-year-old Grigoriy Oparin caught the leaders on 2.5/4 after surviving another dire middlegame situation before his bishop pair won the day against Aleksey Goganov. Ernesto Inarkiev suffered the indignity of being beaten on the white side of the Berlin Endgame by Dmitry Jakovenko. The other games were drawn, while in the women’s event Alexandra Kosteniuk opened up a 1-point lead by winning a 4th game in a row, as Olga Girya fell to Valentina Gunina.
After one decisive game in two rounds blood was finally spilt again in Round 4 of the men’s Superfinal, though it wasn’t exactly flowing:
Bocharov-Grischuk was a sharp encounter that ended in a draw by repetition on move 23. When the longest Alexander Grischuk spends on a move is just over 7 minutes we can probably conclude there was little to see there.
Svidler-Riazantsev lasted just one more move, but Peter Svidler has once more filmed a half hour account of what was going through his mind before, during and after the game:
Peter brilliantly combines high-level chess concepts with the practical side of the game, explaining that after jetlag issues he was partly undone by finally getting a good night’s sleep, waking up at noon, and having little time to prepare for his opponent’s Caro-Kann. It didn’t help that his opponent, Alexander Riazantsev, has not only coached the Russian team but was Vladimir Kramnik’s second in the recent Tal Memorial.
Once again the greatest drama occurred in the opening, with both players taking an 18-minute think on moves 8-9:
What Svidler was contemplating was the remarkable concept of 9.a5!?, offering up a full pawn - 9…Bxb1 10.Rxb1 Qxa5 – for the positional compensation of eliminating Black's powerful bishop. Ultimately he decided against such an “all-in decision on move 9”. He regretted it afterwards, and it probably won’t help matters when he sees it was the first line of our broadcast chess engine.
That wasn’t the final cause for regret in the game, since in the position where the players repeated moves (22.Bd4 Bf6 23.Bc5 Be7 24.Bd4) Peter said he simply missed his other option:
If it actually occurred to me that 22.Bb6 was a move I can make I probably would have made it. When Alexander mentioned it after the game I was slightly disappointed, because I do occasionally have this problem of squares just completely disappearing off the board for me… I should have at least realised the move exists.
The day’s decisive games emphasised some familiar chess concepts. Dmitry Jakovenko had blundered horribly when trying to involve his king in the action in Round 2, but in Round 4 he proved how effective a king can be in the endgame. Ernesto Inarkiev has already misplayed the white side of the Berlin Endgame, but may have had chances to cling on:
29.Rg4 and 30.Rxg7 wasn’t the way to do that, though, and the black passed pawn and king were an unstoppable team, with White forced to give up his rook for the pawn on d2 and later concede the game.
For a second day in a row Grigoriy Oparin showed a pyromaniac’s delight in playing with fire, and this time he not only bamboozled his opponent enough to draw but to win. His position wasn’t one he felt entirely comfortable showing with his coach Sergey Shipov sitting alongside him, since he ended up with scattered, doubled pawns, of which he had one fewer… despite playing with the white pieces:
Aleksey Goganov’s 28…Nd8?! was an inaccuracy, though, since it allowed the undermining 29.a5!, and the fightback had begun. In the end, when the centre of the board was cleared of pawns completely, it was the bishop pair that showed its power. In the final position Black can’t avoid heavy material losses:
So Jakovenko got back to 50%, Oparin joined Riazantsev, Svidler and Fedoseev in the lead on 2.5/4, and 3rd seed Inarkiev is surprisingly in bottom place:
The women one again provided more than their fair share of mayhem:
Kosteniuk and Girya entered the day on 3/3, but it was only Alexandra who could keep the winning streak going. Her 19.d5! proved to be a great decision:
Alina Kashlinskaya answered in kind with 19.f5?, but after 20.Qb3! our silicon friends confirm what also seems the case to the naked eye – Black is toast.
While that was one-sided, Girya-Gunina was a great battle, but ultimately it was Valentina’s counterattack that came out on top. 25…Re5! none too gently pointed out the weakness of the back rank:
26.Bxf7+ was the drastic reaction, but in the end a weakness on f2 was to prove more important, and Gunina was left with the bishop pair against White’s rook. It proved to be no contest, so Valentina is still on course to repeat her 2014 feat i.e. two losses followed by seven wins (although this time there are 11 rounds)!
To take just one final game, defending Champion Aleksandra Goryachkina came very close to beating Daria Charochkina, but when she finally went for a pawn break on move 85 it was met by a nice study-like resource:
86…Nh6! And if White captures the h8-square is the wrong colour for the white bishop to force promotion of the h-pawn. Daria liked that move so much she played it another 8 times! (true, once from the f5-square)
There were also wins for Ovod and Bodnaruk, with the table looking as follows:
In Round 5 Oparin’s lead will be put to the test when he faces top seed Alexander Grischuk with Black, while our man Svidler has Black against Dmitry Kokarev, a man he’s never played before. Tune in for live commentary (Men's | Women's) in English by Evgenij Miroshnichenko and Pavel Tregubov each day from 10am CEST.
You can rewatch their Round 4 commentary below: