Russian Superfinals: Tomashevsky and Girya on top

by Antonio Pereira
8/18/2019 – Seven rounds of the open and women's Russian Superfinals have been completed before the second rest day in Izhevsk. Both tournaments have now sole leaders — Evgeny Tomashevsky is on an undefeated 4½ out of 7 score in the Open, while Olga Girya has taken more of a commanding lead amongst the women with 6 points after seven rounds. Four rounds are still left to go in the Republic of Udmurtia. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

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Tournaments of different nature

The 2019 Open and Women's Russian Superfinals have taken distinctly contrasting paths after seven rounds. A tense struggle has been transpiring in the main event, as Evgeny Tomashevsky was the one to get a half point ahead of a five-player chasing pack in Saturday's round...but only with a 'plus two' score. In the women's tournament, on the other hand, Olga Girya has collected a remarkable 6 out of 7 so far, but cannot win the competition 'on autopilot' as Natalija Pogonina is breathing down her neck on 5½.

Furthermore, seven players are only a point behind the Tomashevsky, which means any of them can end up taking home first place after a good last four rounds. Contrarily, it is hard to foresee someone other than Girya or Pogonina winning the women's championship.

Izhevsk, Udmurtia

Summer in Izhevsk | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Open: Artemiev's fall from grace

In 2019, 21-year-old Vladislav Artemiev won the strong Gibraltar Open, took gold with Russia at the World Teams Championship, became European champion and finished first at the Karpov Poikovsky Tournament, a strong ten-player round-robin. His astounding rise left him in thirteenth place at the August FIDE ratings list, ahead of compatriots Sergey Karjakin, Dmitry Andreikin and Peter Svidler, just to name a few.

The player from Omsk, therefore, arrived as first seed in the highly competitive Superfinal. After drawing in rounds one and two, he actually became sole leader by taking down Kirill Alekseenko with Black after the early rest day from Monday. 

But things turned sour for him in rounds 5-7, as he lost three games in a row, which means he is currently in penultimate place on 2½ points. We expect such a strong fighter to find a way to recover soon, however. The second rest day will probably be a good point to regroup.

Vladislav Artemiev

Vladislav Artemiev still has time to recover some rating points | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

The nightmare began in his game against Aleksey Dreev, when he blundered away the game in one move:

 

You can try your own variations on the diagram above

37...xg2 gives up the exchange after 38.h4 g4 39.xf6. Perhaps still flabbergasted by what had just happened — while in time trouble — Artemiev played 39...h3, but nonetheless resigned after 40.xf7+.

Aleksey Dreev

Aleksey Dreev | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

In round six, he had the white pieces against Nikita Vitiugov, and was slowly outplayed from the very beginning of the middlegame. Vitiugov patiently converted his positional trumps into a more tangible advantage, until getting a well-deserved 66-move win. 

As it is frequently mentioned by chess commentators and players alike, when competitive sportsmen smell blood, they will not shy away from getting the most of their chances against a wounded opponent. And that is exactly what Evgeny Tomashevsky did in round seven against Artemiev. The game got really sharp around move 20, when, out of a Fianchetto Grünfeld Defence, Tomashevsky gave up a pawn for the initiative. The tactical skirmish turned completely in White's favour on move 27:

 

The previous 27...xb3 was a grave mistake, as Black lost his queen in the sequence 28.xe4 f6 29.d5+ xd5 30.xf6 xd1+ 31.xd1, and White went on to get the win. In the diagrammed position, 28.♖d7 was actually stronger, but Tomashevsky found a line that worked and got the job done nevertheless.

Evgeny Tomashevsky

The sole leader in Udmurtia — Evgeny Tomashevsky | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

That was Tomashevsky's second win of the event. Back in round five, he had defeated Vladimir Fedoseev with White, also by showing good calculation in a tactical combat. Things came to a head for Black when the time control was approaching:

 

Against 38...b6, both 39.♘e7+ and 39.c8 are good for White. Tomashevsky chose the latter and was clearly on top after 39...xa3 40.xa3 e8 41.a8. Fedoseev resigned three moves later.

So, with four rounds to go, five players are half a point behind the leader: Vitiugov, Matlakov, Inarkiev, Alekseenko and Predke. Tomashevsky has two games with White and two with Black in the final days of action. Will he be able to keep the lead and become Russian champion for a second time? We will find out by Thursday.

Maxim Matlakov

Maxim Matlakov is in the chasing pack | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Standings after Round 7

 

All games

 

Women's: Girya and Pogonina neck and neck

Many more decisive results have been seen in the women's event, but there are two players that are clearly on the spotlight. After drawing their round five direct encounter, Olga Girya and defending champion Natalija Pogonina went on to win their next two games, thus maintaining the half-point difference in the standings that was established when Girya won and Pogonina drew in round four.

Aleksandra Goryachkina and Alina Kashlinskaya are a full point behind Pogonina and still have chances to fight for the title in the final four rounds. The direct match-ups of round nine between those in contention will be crucial — Goryachkina will face Girya with White, while Kashlinskaya will have the black pieces against Pogonina.

Much like Dreev vs Artemiev from the Open, Girya vs Gunina from round six was decided by a single blunder — and it was also a capture near the white king:

 

29...xf2 is the kind of blunder that one might easily find in a blitz game. Gunina simply 'forgot' that 30.xe4+ is check, as otherwise she would have simply gobbled up a pawn after 30...♜xf1+ (check...an illegal one in this case) 31.♔xf1 ♜xe4. Resignation came immediately.

Olga Girya, Valentina Gunina

Olga Girya versus Valentina Gunina | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

In the same round, Pogonina obtained a win after her opponent made a serious mistake as well. But curiously the error came right after the time control. Daria Charochkina chose the wrong piece to block a check and her position quickly crumbled afterwards:

 

White needed to block the check with 41.♖h4 — after 41...♛f5 or 41...♛g6, she has 42.♖f4+, and Black is forced to go for a draw to avoid problems along the f-file. Instead, Charochkina faltered with 41.h4, as 41...g6 is a killer blow. White spent almost twenty minutes before her mistake on move 41 and quickly played 42.f7+ after the knight manoeuvre — she had probably missed that after 42...h7 42.xb4 Black has 43...d4:

 

White cannot capture with 44.♖xd4 due to 44...♛xe5+ gaining the rook. She opted for 44.g3, but Black went on to show a nice winning line to get the full point: 44...d1 45.b7 g1+ 46.h3 xf2 47.e4 e1 48.g2 f5+ 49.g4 d3+ and White finally gave up.

Pogonina defeated Polina Shuvalova with White on Saturday, but Girya did not allow her colleague to catch up with her by taking down Zarina Shafigullina with the black pieces. 

Natalija Pogonina

Defending Russian champion Natalija Pogonina | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Standings after Round 7

 

All games

 

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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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