Kings clinch gender match with a day to spare

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage


Kings steamroll Queens to widen gap

What a difference a day makes! Only one day after their strong showing, the Queens had a ‘very bad day at the office.’ A near perfect 4.5 – 0.5 result in the chess960 round, combined with a 3.5 -1.5 score in the rapids added 6 full points to Kings’ lead, for a total of a mountainous 10-point advantage. Indeed, it would take a heroic performance by the women to reverse such a margin. Once again the final day’s tally does injustice to the Queens, when we consider the positions on the boards in several of the games.

IM Anna Zatonskih takes on IM Jacek Stopa in round 3. Behind them sits the roulette chess wheel that was used to determine the chess960 position for round 3.

[More info on this event can be found here]

Round 3 report by Aviv Friedman

Today’s novelty idea for the drawing for the chess960 position was a ‘wheel of fortune’ roulette wheel, spun by Eric van Reem, who among other projects revised the chess960 rules for the FIDE handbook. Each spin helped determine the placement of each chess piece.

One can find few flaws in GM Hikaru Nakamura’s chess960 victory over GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. He gained an early advantage when he forced his opponent to relinquish her dark-squared bishop. Soon thereafter, the Kings’ top board’s control of the only open file brought dividends in the shape of a healthy pawn. The best the Russian could do was to liquidate to an opposite-color-bishop endgame, but alas it was one that Nakamura managed to convert in record speed.

Their rapid battle was not at all one sided. Ambitious as always, Nakamura played the King’s gambit – an opening that was a lot more inspiration than preparation! No sooner than move 14 did he have to gamble with a sacrifice of a knight for two pawns and a strong center. There was enough compensation for the material, but after some inaccuracies black’s position was tenuous. The pendulum swung on move 21:

with black to move, one can see the coming idea of 22.Qa7, and also that ‘stopping it’ with 21…Kb8? gets hit with 22.Bxc7+ Kxc7 23.Nb5+. Hence 21…Bxc3! was called for, and after the forced queen trade (22.bxc3?? Qb1 is mate!), black is clearly the happier camper. Inexplicably 21…Nd6?? was played, and after the aforementioned 22.Qa7, it was curtains for black.

In the GM Kateryna Lahno – GM Ben Finegold, game one saw black somewhat better for most of the game, but it is unclear if his initiative was enough for a full point. After some further inaccuracies by white, a rook ending ensued, where victory seemed just a matter of technique by black. This is where the old cliché that ‘all rook endings are drawn’ once again proved wise. As Lahno’s husband, GM Robert Fontaine, showed after the game, white missed a golden opportunity:

44.f7!  Of course the obvious idea is Kg5-f6, but what about 44…Kg7 by black? Well, 45. f8=Q+! is the resource! 45…Kxf8 46.Kg5, and despite black’s three (!) pawn advantage, there is no win. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian GM, she played 44.Kg5? Rg2+! 45.Kh6 b4, black pushed his b-pawn all the way down the board till it had to be taken, and then played Kf7 with an easy win.

Game two was a pacified Gruenfeld, where black more than equalized, and slowly outplayed white to get to the following position:

The continuation of 33…Qf1+? 34.Kh2 Bc4 35.Qxb6! won black a piece, but gave white a perpetual check and the desired draw. The better alternative was 33…Qc4!, leaving white tied up and hurting for good moves. 34.Kh2 b5 and black would have been on the verge of victory.

IM Jacek Stopa had a strong showing versus the out-of-form U.S. Women’s Champion  IM Anna Zatonskih. Their chess960 game was an example of how fast one can get into trouble when they can’t find a proper set-up:

Already it is easy to see that the black pieces are all tangled up, and indeed the only way to fight on was to pitch the h4 pawn with 14…Nf6 15.Nxg6+ Rxh6 16.Qxh4. The game saw 14…Bh7?? 15.Ng4 and 1-0 on move 19.

Zatonskih sought redemption in the rapid game by playing very aggressively and offering a pawn, which was declined. She then pushed the black queen to h7. The rest of the black pieces however, remained active, and black offered a pawn of his own – which was accepted. The major piece ending was heading to a draw, when white blundered with

34.Kg3? Qxe4! 35.Rxa3 Qxe5+ 36.Kh3 f5! With a decisive advantage, which Stopa brought home in speedy fashion.  

It is not often that a player gets a position with three minor pieces for a queen in a game. IM Marc Arnold managed to get that twice in two days! His opponent, IM Irina Krush temperamentally pseudo-sacrificed an exchange, only to fork white’s rook and bishop and win a piece, but white’s counter play was sufficient. The real excitement started when the black queen found itself overloaded, and black was forced into the following sequence:

22...Qxd4+ 23.Rxd4 Bb6 24. Qe4 Nf5, and here 25.Kh1! was in white’s favor after either 25…Bxd4 26.g4 or 25…Nxd4 26 Qb7. After all of that excitement, the game was soon drawn by move repetition.

With the white pieces for the rapid game, Arnold said he decided to choose a less common opening, and play more quickly. It proved to be the right decision as he refuted Krush’s hyperactive plan of 11…Qa5?! and gained a steady plus. He could have remained up a queen for a rook and a bishop, but he preferred to give it back for a better endgame. Black had the draw within reach, but a careless series of moves brought on a winning bishop ending, and Arnold brought the point home.

Today marked the first victory for Kevin Cao in his split match with IM Martha Fierro. It was achieved in their chess960 encounter, where Cao built a very strong and mobile center, which he mercilessly pushed forward. His space advantage on the king’s side bore fruit on move 30:

30.Rxg6+! fxg6 31.Nh4, and the black position collapsed like a house of cards.

In the second game black was overconfident with his 14…f5?, allowing white to later take full advantage of its superior development:

19.Rxd7+! Nxd7 20.Rd1 Kc8 21.Bxd7+ Kb8 22.exf5 gxf5 23.Bxf5 with a winning advantage that Fierro had no trouble cashing in on.

Tuesday is a free day, and the players will have a chance to rest or enjoy a trip to the Gateway arch. Play resumes on Wednesday, and the Queens have their work cut out for them. Lest one forget, however, that in addition to the team prizes, there are also individual place prizes (and of course pride!), so there is plenty to play for!

Commentary classical rapid round 3:


Commentary chess960 rapid round 3:

ROUND 4: Kings clinch gender match with a day to spare

With two rounds still to go, on a combative and draw-less day in St. Louis, the guys have scored 3-2 both in the chess960 and the rapid, to secure match victory. With only ten possible points left in the kitty, today’s wins brought the margin between the two groups to a decisive twelve points.

[More info on this event can be found here]

Round 4 report by Aviv Friedman

With two rounds still to go, on a combative and draw-less day in St. Louis, the guys have scored 3-2 both in the chess960 and the rapid, to secure match victory. With only ten possible points left in the kitty, today’s wins brought the margin between the two groups to a decisive twelve points.

Just like in previous rounds, one could say that once again that the final tally doesn’t fully reflect the positions the gals have had in some of the games – as the readers can soon see. But first of all the drawing for the chess960 position: today there were eight previously played games by eight of the event’s players. Printed and hung facing a bulletin board, each game had its last move played by a different chess piece than the others, and the two players whose games were not used, IM Fierro and NM Cao picked the games. Starting on d1 and seesawing left and right, each piece was revealed, placed on its respective square, and voila! Once more an original position has arisen: 

GM Nakamura continued his tour de force with two wins over GM Lahno. The chess960 game was hard fought, and the tournament leader opined that he was worse, and had to come up with the exchange sac a-la-Pestrosian.

17.Re5!? completely changed the balance of the game, and maybe in hindsight black would have been all the wiser not to accept it, and instead concentrate on activating her pieces. The analysis engines liked the maneuver 17…Ra6! heading to c6, followed by …Bg6 and pressure on c2, giving the nod to black. Even after taking the offered exchange, black was fine and even a lot more than fine, when white did not choose the best moves. Eventually the decisive factor was black’s severe time trouble, when in a slightly better position Lahno hung a rook and had to resign.

Game two showed an asymmetrical Pirc defense, where starting at the middle game, Nakamura impressively outplayed Lahno. He sacrificed a pawn, and traded queens after which his active pieces and safer king guaranteed his advantage. After a few second rate moves white was facing a significant loss of material, gave up a piece instead and acknowledged defeat.

The first game between GM Finegold and IM Krush saw early wholesale exchanges of pieces, and with a passed ‘g’ pawn, and white double queenside pawns black had nothing to complain about. At the critical moment of the game

everyone expected the drawing line 28…Qxf5 29.Qxf5 Rxf5 30. Bxe5 dxe5 31.Rxg4 with a smile and a handshake. After spending much of her remaining several minutes, Krush went for the seemingly similar but very wrong 28…Rxf5?? 29.Qh8+ Qc8, but now instead of the expected simplification came the stinging 30.Ba7+, winning. Krush blurted ‘oh my god’, played two moves out of inertia, but had to stop the clock. A tough loss indeed!

Krush got her revenge in the rapid game. She enjoyed a slight plus from the get go, and pushed for most of the game thanks to her pair of bishops and black’s weak ‘a’ pawn. At one moment after white’s overcautious 25.g3 black had an opportunity to trade off one of white’s bishops and exchange his weak pawn on a7 for white’s b pawn. That was his best chance to hold the position, and when the chance was gone, his position was beyond salvage. Krush didn’t look back and gave no second chances.  

GM Kosteniuk bounced back from a lukewarm performance with a 2-0 win against IM Stopa. Their chess960 game was a wild street fight, with both opponents trading punches. Black sacrificed a pawn to open lines in front of his opponent’s king, and Kosteniuk dynamically counter-sacrificed her king’s sheltering pawns to push the menacing black pieces back. In the heat of the battle, Stopa should have gone for a strong queen sac:

20…Qxd5! 21.exd5 Bxe5 where the white pawns are blocked, and black has a lot of compensation. The actual game saw the opening of the position in white’s favor, and she finished in aesthetic style:

25.Rd8+! Kxd8 26,Qb8+ Kd7 27.Rd1 mate.

The second game was no joy either for the Polish IM. He once again tried his Sicilian Smith-Morra gambit, but didn’t get much for his pawn. He tried regaining his pawn for the cost of an exchange, and some initiative, but black was in command of the game. In the diagrammed position time trouble reared his ugly head, and both sides missed a good chance:

27…Nge5! simultaneously defending f7 and attacking f3 would have been hard to meet. Instead 27…Qxb2? was played,  and had white played 28.Ra2! the battle would have started anew. White actually played 28.Rd1? and after 28…Nce5 white’s initiative had been squashed, and he had to resign only a handful of moves later.

Another 2-0 winner was IM Arnold against IM Fierro. Black’s over-provocative play in the chess960 game allowed white to build a very strong center, and a considerable space advantage. A petit combination earned him a pawn, while maintaining a large edge:

17.Nxd6+! cxd6 18.Qxd5 and white won easily.

The rapid encounter between the same two opponents saw Arnold playing his best game of the event. In a great version of a reverse Benoni, white answered white’s premature aggression 17.f4 with a shot his own 17…g5!. We arrive at our diagrammed position after white, in an already worse position blundered with 19.Qe2?

and black pounced with 19…Nxh2!. Perhaps white counted on the game’s 20.Bxc6 but after 20…Bxg3! white had to declare bankruptcy in a few more moves.

Finally the Kings’ last minute addition NM Cao split the points with IM Zatonskih. The first game was all Zatonskih, as when black castled too early, white gave a knight for some pawns, and a ‘traveling black king’:

10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11.Qxa7!. White continuous attack bore further fruit in the shape of a minor piece, and black threw in the towel.

Cao evened the score in the rapid game. The opening did not hint at the final result of the game, as black was the one who came out of it smelling like roses. As a matter of fact

15…R8c8! should have been played, and the pressure against c4 and c2 was nearly winning. Our actual game saw several trades that lead to a rook plus minor piece endgame, where white had the better side of a draw. Zatonskih could have picked up a pawn, which would have forced white to give a perpetual check, but wanted more against her young opponent. Eventually we have reached the following position:

Spectators, and Zatonskih alike must have assessed this as good for white, and so she opted for the losing 38…Nf5? 39.Bxf5 gxf5 40.Ke3 Kf6 41.Kd4 Ke6 42. Kc5 Kd7 43.Kd5 f6 44.a4 zugzwang, and white wins. Had she played 38…Nd5 she might have realized that black has little to fear.

Thursday is the event’s last day, and while the match result is known, and the first individual place prize is all but clinched, there is still a battle for the rest of the place prizes.

Video: analysis by Alexandra Kosteniuk (produced by Macauley Peterson)

More from ChessVibes
A lengthy interview with David Navara (part 2 of 2)

A lengthy interview with David Navara (part 2 of 2)

Robots in a Moscow park... playing chess (VIDEO)

Robots in a Moscow park... playing chess (VIDEO)