Russian Superfinals: Girya sole leader in the Women's

by Antonio Pereira
8/15/2019 – The participants of the 2019 Russian Championships travelled west, as the venue of the Superfinals moved from Votkinsk to Izhevsk, the capital of the Republic of Udmurtia. After four rounds, three players share the lead in the open section — Vladislav Artemiev, Maxim Matlakov and Alexandr Predke — while, amongst the women, Olga Girya is alone on top, as she has so far scored three wins and a draw. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

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Chess along the Izh River

There is no lack of alluring locations in Russia, the largest country in the world. And Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia, is not a name that sounds familiar to chess followers — as Sochi or Khanty-Mansiysk, for example. Located in the Western Ural Mountains, the city is a major hub of industry, commerce, politics, culture and education in the Volga Region, which makes for a good place to receive the highly reputable national chess championships.

After playing two rounds at the picturesque Peter Tchaikovsky Museum, the participants are ready to fight during nine more rounds at the International Friendship Center in the city located along the Izh River.    


Ishevsk | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

After round two, all leaders — in both sections — were on 'plus one'. Round three saw rating favourite Vladislav Artemiev get the lead in the Open, while two co-leaders were atop the standings in the Women's. The following day, Maxim Matlakov and Alexandr Predke joined Artemiev on 3/4 in the Open, while Olga Girya got her third win in a row to take the sole lead in the Women's. Let us recap the highlights of both rounds.

Women's: A dream start for Girya

The closest Olga Girya has got to winning the national women's championship was her shared first place last year, when she lost on tie-breaks against Natalija Pogonina. In this edition, however, the player from Langepas kicked off with three wins and a draw. 

Her round three victory was particularly noteworthy, as she created a devastating attack with the black pieces out of a Caro-Kann Defence. Things started going downhill for her opponent, Polina Shuvalova, when she captured what turned out to be a poisoned pawn on b7. While trying to repel Girya's attack, Shuvalova only worsened her king's situation on move 17:


17.g3 ran into 17...xh3+ 18.g2 h4 and White can neither capture on f4 — due to the ♘xf4+ fork — nor on h4 with the knight, due to ♖xh4. Girya continued to mercilessly create threats against the king, and when the other rook came into play it was game over for White:


After 25.xe4 xh3 26.xh3 h8+ there is mate-in-five on the board. White resigned after 27.g2 h2+ 28.g1 f4. Even a Caro-Kann finish with a killer attack.

Russian Women's Chess Championship 2019

A sumptuous playing hall | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

The other co-leaders after round two had opposite results on Tuesday, as defending champion Pogonina obtained a key victory against Anastasia Bodnaruk, while Alexandra Kosteniuk was upset by the youngster Margarita Potapova — Kosteniuk had a winning advantage, but blundered on move 21 and went on to give up the whole point in a double-edged struggle.

Alina Kashlinskaya and Zarina Shafigullina also won in round three, while the important clash between Alexandra Goryachkina and Valentina Gunina was the only draw of the day.

Valentina Gunina, Alexandra Goryachkina

Two former Russian champions — Valentina Gunina and Alexandra Goryachkina | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Games from Round 3


After Shuvalova had faltered against Girya by capturing a pawn on b7, Kosteniuk actually stumbled by not taking a pawn on g2. Curiously, the former women's world champion spent less than one minute before choosing to break in the centre instead of going for the capture:


White obtained a favourable position after 16...f6 17.c2 f5 18.h3 h6 19.f4, when she has consolidated her position while Black is stuck with the doubled pawns on the c-file and an awkward knight on e8. 

Girya went on to push her central pawns and made good use of the initiative to get a crucial 39-move victory. 

Alexandra Kosteniuk

Alexandra Kosteniuk | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili 

Pogonina drew with Black against Potapova, and she would have got sole second place (as Kosteniuk lost) had Kashlinskaya not defeated Elena Tomilova with the white pieces — it was Kashlinskaya's second straight victory in Izhevsk. Meanwhile, Daria Charochkina bounced back to 50% with a win over Shuvalova and rating favourite Alexandra Goryachkina obtained her first victory of the tournament, against Shafigullina.

Alina Kashlinskaya

Alina Kashlinskaya is sharing second place with Natalija Pogonina | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Games from Round 4


Standings after Round 4


Open: Predke beats two big guns

Alexandr Predke is the lowest-rated player in the open championship, and he started the tournament with a draw and a loss (against Motylev) in Votkinsk. However, the 25-year-old has climbed to shared first place after defeating Ernesto Inarkiev and Dmitry Jakovenko in consecutive rounds, both times with the white pieces. 

In his round three game against Inarkiev, Predke faced a theoretical line of the Queen's Gambit Accepted. A sharp strategical battle ensued, with White getting a passer on the a-file and Black having two strong knights cemented well within his opponent's position. Inarkiev made a critical mistake on move 29:


Black opted for 29...e4 and White's passer started to run with 30.a6 (in fact, the pawn promoted into a queen only four moves later). However, in the diagrammed position, Black had 29...♞e4, with a couple of nice ideas in mind:


a) after 30.a6, Black can play 30...♛xf2, as 31.♗xf2 ♞xf2 is mate — White is actually busted after the queen capture!

b) after 30.f3, there follows 30...♞4xg3+ 31.hxg3 ♛h5+ and mate next move

White would need to follow up with 30.♘d3 and the razor sharp struggle would have continued...but none of this transpired.

In the game, White got a second queen on move 34 and, curiously, Inarkiev did not resign immediately but continued to play down a queen six more moves. Predke did not fall for any of his rival's tricks though, and got the victory shortly afterwards.

Alexandr Predke

Tournament sensation Alexandr Predke | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

The other co-leader after round two was Kirill Alekseenko, but he also lost in round three, against rating favourite Vladislav Artemiev. Artemiev outplayed his opponent in a rook endgame and actually became the sole leader after having begun the tournament with two draws.

The rest of the games finished drawn.

Vladislav Artemiev

Vladislav Artemiev — the 'Vlad' that will replace 'Big Vlad'? | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Games from Round 3


Predke played confidently against Jakovenko in round four, keeping things under control and reaching a slightly favourable endgame with bishop versus knight and rooks still on the board. Jakovenko did not handle the position well while the minor pieces were still alive, but reached a rook ending with four versus three nonetheless — some hopes remained. Predke showed good technique until finally getting a 75-move win.

Meanwhile, Maxime Matlakov joined the leading pack with a white victory over Aleksey Dreev. The veteran actually was a pawn up — but his king was still in the centre — when he missed a tactical shot:


White can capture the central pawn with 30.xd5+, as Black cannot recapture with 30...♞xd5 due to 31.♕xd5+, when there is no good defence for Black against ♕a8+ next. 

Black gave up two pawns while preventing his rival from creating a decisive attack against his king, but things were far from over — Matlakov had to work hard until move 60 in order to force the resignation of his ever-resourceful opponent.

Aleksey Dreev

A hard day at the office for veteran Aleksey Dreev | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Draws were seen in the rest of the games, including Artemiev versus Sarana, which means three players are now sharing the lead on plus one (Predke, Matlakov and Artemiev). Three participants are sharing last place on 1½ out of 4, only one point behind the leaders — everything is still up for grabs in the open section of this year's Superfinal!

Alexander Motylev

Alexander Motylev is on 2 out of 4 | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Games from Round 4


Standings after Round 4


Commentary webcast

Commentary by GM Pavel Tregubov


Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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