Russian Top League: Mission Superfinal
After the first six rounds we had a rest day. The Top League is a rather tense tournament, so playing 11 rounds non-stop would have been way too much. How does one spend the rest day? It depends. Some do sports, others go sightseeing, and some just relax in the hotel. It is essential to make the most of the free time and don’t lose the rhythm of the tournament. For example, dedicate some time to chess: prepare for the next game and/or solve tactics.
The less rounds are left, the higher the drama. Even with such an excellent start as Baira Kovanova had (5.5/6) one isn't guaranteed anything. Those who did poorly in the beginning had to do their best to catch up. For instance, Evgenia Ovod started with just 1.5/4. Then she won 5 games in a row and didn’t lose anymore.
Evgenia Ovod (White) vs. Zoia Severiukhina
Baira Kovanova continued dominating the tournament by beating Ekaterina Timofeeva in round 7:
Ekaterina Timofeeva (ex Kharashuta) was playing in the Top League along with her husband GM Artem Timofeev
I had a bad position vs. Ekaterina Ubiennykh, but she played inaccurately, so I could have even won. I didn’t notice it in time trouble, and the game ended in a draw. Olga Girya defeated Irina Vasilevich and thus moved up to second place in the rankings.
Here is a fantastic chess combination by Ekaterina Ubiennykh – must-see:
Another interesting example from the same round:
In round 8 I had Black against Tatiana Shadrina. Thanks to my home prep, I got an advantage out of the opening and won.
In round 9 Baira Kovanova suffered a defeat – she lost to Evgenia Ovod. I prevailed against Olga Girya, although at some point my position was way too suspicious. Now I and Baira became co-leaders with 7/9.
Two game fragments from round 9:
Anastacia Bodnaruk vs. Ekaterina Kovalevskaya
The final two rounds were very important, as always. By that point the number of players who were in contention for the Superfinal was rather low. Baira regained sole leadership by beating Margarita Schepetkova, while I got tired and drew my game with Evgenia Ovod.
Dina Drozdova vs. Inna Ivakhinova was a short-lived action movie:
Before the final round the standings were the following:
- Baira Kovanova – 8/10
- Natalia Pogonina – 7.5/10
- Evgenia Ovod – 7/10
4-6. Ekaterina Ubiennykh, Anastacia Bodnaruk, Ekaterina Timofeeva – 6.5/10
7-9. Olga Girya, Tatiana Shadrina, Evgenia Sukhareva – 6/10
Baira and I had already secured the qualifying places in the Superfinal, so we could concentrate on fighting for the gold medal. The other participants had to struggle for survival.
Olga Girya won a critical game against last year’s Top League winner Elena Zaiatz.
This result earned her a spot in the Superfinal. Ekaterina Ubiennykh got bronze by beating Evgenia Sukhareva. With a draw against Ekaterina Timofeeva, Evgenia Ovod finished in 4th place and also qualified for the Superfinal. After a rather complicated defense I drew Anastacia Bodnaruk and got silver. Baira Kovanova won yet another game (vs. Tatiana Shadrina) and became the winner with a fantastic result: 9 out of 11!
Here is an interesting tactical shot from the Ludmila Gubernatorova vs. Olga Iljushina game:
So much for the Top League-2012. The Superfinal will take place from August 3rd to 12th.
Baira Kovanova and your Chess.com columnist during the Closing Ceremony
Last but not least, I would like to emphasize how fighting and exciting women’s chess is. In round 5 all the 16 games (!) were decisive. The most peaceful rounds were 3, 6 and 10 – still only 5 draws.
P.S. I was positively surprised by comments to the previous article when people wanted me to offer the full games instead of just the most interesting fragments. Here is a link - enjoy:
The photos are courtesy of GM Dmitry Kryakvin, russiachess.org