Alexandra Kosteniuk has dominated this year’s Russian Women’s
Championship, and with 7 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss now leads by 1.5 points with
a single round to go. You can replay all the games using the selector below (and
hover over a player’s name to see all her results):
The final two rounds were a triumph of determination over nerves, though they could both have ended very differently:
If Ekaterina Ubiennykh had played 36.fxe6! she could have won in beautiful style. The e2-rook can be given up since after 36…Nf4+ 37.Kh1! Nxe2 38.Rf7+ the white rook and bishops will pick off the black pieces at will. Instead after 36.Rg4? Nf4+ 37.Rxf4 Qxf4 38.fxe6 the black king was able to find a refuge on e7, with the e2-rook powerless to influence the game.
Round 10 was even more dramatic. Alexandra lay siege to Evgenija Ovod’s position and organised no less than four pieces to attack the weak black pawn on f7. Somehow it survived, and Evgenija ultimately had real winning chances as her passed a-pawn began to run. It ran too fast, though, and Kosteniuk seized her chance!
61.Rxc4! dxc4 62.Nxc4 Qb3 63.Nxa3 The position was equal, but Kosteniuk managed to use the weakness of the black king to win material and eventually emerge victorious in a tricky queen vs. rook and pawns ending.
Natalija Pogonina (wins over Gunina and Kashlinskaya) and Anastasia Bodnaruk (a draw with Girya and win over Goryachkina) pushed Alexandra all the way, but she had made it over the finish line first. She’ll take home the roughly 7,250 euros first prize as well as a Renault Captur car worth more than that. Kosteniuk, who no longer lives in Russia, revealed she’d been learning the Russian rules of the road, but still had to pass a medical with a neurologist – given the nerves of the final two rounds she said she’d better delay that a little!
Meanwhile in the men’s section we could hardly be further from knowing the winner… eight players go into Thursday’s final round within a point of the leaders Vladimir Fedoseev and Alexander Riazantsev, after the drawing sequence went on:
Although a single win in Rounds 9 and 10 wasn’t a full reflection of the amount of action we witnessed, it’s probably not much of an exaggeration to say that Peter Svidler’s post-mortems – revealing what really goes through the head of a supergrandmaster during a game – have been the best part of the men’s event. He didn’t disappoint with his 9th and 10th post-mortems, taking up a frankly ridiculous 102 minutes between them:
The fan verdict has been pretty unanimous:
Both games were hugely dramatic, with Peter describing the first one as, “Perhaps the most lost position I haven’t lost in my life – it would be at least fair to nominate it for that shortlist”. Needing a win with so few rounds remaining Svidler played an offbeat opening, and had more or less survived it when he got to play 16…Bd5:
Over to Svidler:
That was the first time in the game where I felt that my opening choice probably wasn’t such a stupid idea. I did get almost exactly what I wanted to get out of the game today, namely a very unclear, playable position which is not that easy to evaluate, but it seems double-edged, and I think this feeling that the worst is over played a trick on me here, because for a while I think I was wildly over-optimistic in the evaluation of the resulting structure.
Ten moves later Peter burned his bridges with 26…f5?! only to realise that he was in deep trouble shortly afterwards. Another ten moves later and Bocharov’s 36.Ne1! was the moment when it dawned on our man that the b4-pawn probably wasn’t long for this world:
What followed was an ending that should have been a relatively easy win for White, but with Dmitry soon playing on increments it eventually developed into a crazy war of nerves, with Svidler summing up that, “the remainder of the game honestly does feel like we were just clicking buttons”.
One or two gilt-edged chances passed Peter by until the final twist came on move 70:
70.Ke3! Bxg3 71.g7 Rg1 72.c8=Q+! Kxc8 73.g8=Q+ is still a win for Bocharov, but after 70.Kxf3? Rh3! the draw was unavoidable.
Elsewhere it was a curious day, with Alexander Grischuk surprising Evgeny Tomashevsky with 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.b3 and then getting his opponent to think for 10 minutes on move 4 with an even more unusual choice. Grischuk came close to a win.
That was nothing compared to Aleksey Goganov, who thought for ten minutes himself after 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nd7 before playing 3.c4, a move that has the computer declaring that Black is better. Since Black was sole tournament leader Alexander Riazantsev that was potentially bad news for the chasing pack, and for a long time it looked as though Alexander would indeed win. Instead all six games ended drawn.
Round 10 featured one decisive game, Dmitry Bocharov’s fifth loss with the black pieces in Novosibirsk. It was a lot of fun, but Dmitry’s kingside attack in a Caro-Kann was no match for the extra queen Vladimir Fedoseev managed to organise on the queenside!
The game lasted a few more moves on inertia alone after the time control had passed, but there were simply more of White.
The game we had the best ringside seats for, of course, was Svidler’s encounter with 19-year-old Grigoriy Oparin. It featured some bold moves that had the computer, and some human observers, raising a quizzical eye:
Peter responded in quintessential style:
I understand why I did what I did and I’m reasonably happy with the reasoning. That wasn’t a particularly well-constructed sentence. I apologise for that.
His opprobrium was instead reserved for his opening preparation, which had involved a lot of thinking about playing the Najdorf, a eureka moment related to a position he could get in another opening, then not getting that position. Instead...
My opponent played a line he’d already played before, and I somehow forgot to check it properly, or improperly. Preparation did not go according to any kind of a manual.
The moment of truth came after 14…Rc8, when Peter decided he had to to do something to knock his conscientious young opponent out of his home preparation:
15.d5!? was what he came up with, going for activity before Black can untangle his queenside. It was opening up a Pandora’s box of tactics, but the 7-time Russian Champion welcomed that:
At the very least I’m creating a very concrete tactical skirmish that I should be able to properly calculate my way out of.
The move also achieved its other goal, since Grigoriy thought for 23 minutes. The bad news for Peter was that he played the best move after that, 15…Qf5!, but it was game on, with Svidler going on to show some truly beautiful tactics. He did it without having subjected the game to computer analysis:
After the preparation debacle, I didn’t really need more sad news in the shape of the computer completely refuting my beautiful sacrifices!
Well, there’s mixed news on that score. The computer isn’t a fan of the sacrifice Peter was talking about here – 18…dxc4 19.Nxe6!? fxe6 20.Rxe6:
The cynic suggests the mocking 20…Kh8!! and gives Black a 2-pawn advantage. There’s another move that Peter said, “would be the crowning glory of my previous play” – 18…a6 19.Rbd1 dxc4 20.Nxe6 b5 21.Nd8!!
The move is sound, not quite as strong as Peter had hoped, but certainly beautiful… it’s not easy to play like Tal in the computer age!
So going into the final round things couldn’t be closer, especially since both leaders face tough opponents with the black pieces.
Tune in for live commentary (Men's | Women's) in English by Evgenij Miroshnichenko and Pavel Tregubov, two hours earlier than usual at 8am CEST (to rewatch earlier commentary check out ChessCast's Livestream page).