Russian Superfinals 3: Karjakin & Shuvalova lead

Sergey Karjakin and Polina Shuvalova are the sole leaders after Round 3 of the Russian Championship Superfinals. Polina managed to defeat Alexandra Kosteniuk in a tense struggle and is currently on a perfect 3/3. In the open event Karjakin leads on 2.5/3 after outplaying Nikita Vitiugov on the black side of the Berlin Endgame, while the remaining five games were drawn.

In Moscow, where the third rounds of the 73rd Russian Championship and the 70th Women’s Russian Championship took place, it’s suddenly very cold, but at the board we got heated battles. That applies particularly to the women’s section of the tournament. While five of the six games ended peacefully among the men and Sergey Karjakin was able to lead the table with a win, half of the games were decisive in the women’s event. And even those games that ended in a draw were full of extremely interesting events.  

Let’s take a look at some of the key moments from the 3rd round:

Open tournament

Sergey Karjakin had the black pieces against Nikita Vitiugov. When the infamous position from the Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez appeared on the board, some spectators had already decided it would be a quick draw, but Nikita choose to play a new idea in a position that had seemingly been studied inside out. 

11.a4!? was that move, which features in only two games from the database. Leinier Dominguez played that way against Hikaru Nakamura in the US Championship that this year took place online, while Sanan Sjugirov had also played it even earlier. 11…Ng6 12.а5. After the game Sergey Karjakin commented in a Russian post-mortem with Sergey Shipov:

I knew that the computers advise playing a4 in these positions, but I didn’t play a5 myself, since I was afraid of my opponent’s home preparation.

Karjakin replied 12…а6 and after 13.h3 Be7 14.Be3 h5 15.Re1 h4 16.Bg5 Rh5 17.Bxe7 Kxe7 18. Rа4 an extremely interesting position appeared on the board:

It’s rare to see chess players develop their rooks like this. If one of the greats of the past saw such a position he’d probably assume that two amateurs were playing, but in the computer era even the world’s best grandmasters can play like this.

Sergey went for 18…b5?!, which is an inaccuracy. Stronger is 18…Be6, and, as he admitted himself, he was worried about his position at this point. But in the struggle that followed Vitiugov wasn’t entirely accurate, while Karjakin kept finding the best moves. The denouement came on move 28.

After 28.Nb6+ Ke7 (if 28…Ke6, Sergey didn’t like the move 29.Na8!) 29.Nc8+ Ke6 the only way for White to continue the struggle was the move 30.Na7!, but voluntarily putting the knight on the edge of the board, where it may get lost, is tough for a human. Nikita went for 30.Nd6? and after 30…Nxf4 31.Ne4 cxb4 32.Nc5 Kd5 33.Nxa6 c5 34. Rd1+ Kc4 35.Nc7 Ne6 36.Nd5 Nd4 it turned out that White’s position was absolutely hopeless, because Black can easily stop White’s passed pawn, while the c2-pawn is too weak and will be lost. After its loss there won’t be any way to stop the mass of black pawns. 6 moves later Nikita resigned.

Another fine creative achievement for Sergey Karjakin, whose second win with Black of the event makes him the sole leader on 2.5/3.

The remaining five games ended in draws. Russia’s no. 1 by rating Ian Nepomniachtchi had White against Vladislav Artemiev. Ian got quite an interesting endgame where his two knights were up against Black’s two bishops, with the power of the bishops compensating for the weaknesses in Black’s pawn structure. No real struggle arose, however, and a draw was reached on move 32 by a repetition of moves.

Vladimir Fedoseev and Peter Svidler played out a long theoretical variation of the Grünfeld Defence. Both knew what they were doing and a draw followed in 41 moves.

Andrey Esipenko got a promising position out of the opening in his game against Maksim Chigaev.

But Maksim played very accurately: 18…Ne5 19.Bf4 c6 20.Qe4 Nc4! 21.Qxf3 g5! and after 22.Bc1 (stronger was Be3) the players soon exchanged queens and went for an absolutely equal ending.

In Dubov-Matlakov and Goganov-Antipov the balance was also never seriously disturbed. The standings looked as follows after 3 rounds:

The women’s section

The key game in the women’s section saw 19-year-old Polina Shuvalova, who had already scored 2/2, take on 12th Women’s World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, who had struggled at the start with only 0.5/2.

The game was enthralling.

Alexandra played the opening very poorly and White had a big advantage by move 20, but it turned out the struggle was only beginning. After 20.с4 f6 21.Nd3 Nc6 22.Qa2 Bxa4 23.c5?! the position suddenly sharpened up: 23…Nf7 24.Rd2 bxc5 25.Qe6 cxd4, and the all-seeing computer gives an evaluation of 0.00, i.e. complete equality. In human terms, however, it’s neverless a little preferable to play for White, and soon Alexandra couldn’t withstand the tension of this confusing position.

30…Nxh3+?! It was perhaps better not to take this pawn and instead play 30…с6. 31.Kg2 g6? This is already the decisive mistake, since the only way to continue the struggle was the move 31…Bb5! Play continued 32.Bh6! Qd7 33.Bxf8 Qxd5+ 34.Kxh3 Bxf8 35.Nf4 Qf7 36.Rxd4 and, despite Black having a pawn for the exchange, her pieces are extremely unfortunately placed. A win for White was only a question of time, with Alexandra resigning on move 44. After the game Polina summed up: 

The way the opening went was very comfortable for me and I got an advantage. However, at some point I decided to sacrifice a pawn, but I’m not sure if I should have done it. I missed that I can’t capture on e6 after 23…Nf7, and I had to sacrifice another pawn to maintain the initiative, and then also give up on h3. But, of course, it was much harder for Black, particularly in the time trouble that Alexandra had. I can’t say when the critical mistake was made, but it simply wasn’t easy for her to defend. It seems Alexandra overlooked the move 32.Bh6, after which I was already winning.

A fine 3/3 start for Polina, which puts her a full point ahead of a 5-player chasing pack.

Alina Kashlinskaya, who like Kosteniuk started with 0.5/2, was able to bounce back and beat Tatiana Getman with the black pieces. The most interesting moment in the game arose on move 37.

In this position Tatiana spent 21 seconds on making the absolutely natural move 37.Na5, but the best practical chance was 37.Nc5!! It seems that the pawn endgame after 37…Nxc5 38. Kxc5 is easily won for Black, but that’s not the case. Unfortunately the format of this report doesn’t make it possible to take a look at all the variations, but to win Black would have to overcome numerous stumbling blocks (for example, 38…f5 only leads to a draw). But after 38…Kb6 39.Nb3 Nb8 the conversion of the knight ending posed no real challenge for a player of Alina Kashlinskaya’s strength.

Alina discussed her game afterwards in English with Daniil Yuffa

Valentina Gunina suffered a 2nd loss when in her game against Marina Guseva she stayed true to her style and went for a risky piece sacrifice on move 18.

18.e4?! Marina responded precisely: 18…Nf4 19.Qe3 Bxb5 20.e5 N6h5 21.exd6 Ne2+ 22.Kh2 Qxe3 23.fxe3 gxf5 and went on to win. After the game, in an interview with Sergey Shipov, Marina admitted she was ready for such sacrifices:

I was ready for Valentina to play very aggressive chess and keeping things calm against her is impossible. 

The remaining three games ended in draws, but they were all full of interesting events. Leya Garifullina missed a few chances to beat top seed Aleksandra Goryachkina, Yulia Grigorieva let a huge advantage slip against Alisa Galliamova, and it was only in the game Pogonina-Girya that the struggle was equal from start to finish. 

You can follow all the Russian Championship Superfinal games with English and Russian commentary on chess24 from 13:00 CET each day! Open | Women 

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