Superfinals: Karjakin and Shuvalova take the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/8/2020 – The Russian Superfinals, for men and women, are 12-player single round-robin events currently taking place at the Central Chess Club in Moscow. After three rounds, the one player in both tournaments to have kept a perfect score is Polina Shuvalova (pictured), who remarkably defeated Alina Kashlinskaya and Alexandra Kosteniuk in consecutive rounds. Meanwhile, in the open tournament, Sergey Karjakin is the sole leader on 2½/3. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

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On wooden boards

With most of the chess action happening online during the last eight months or so, it is refreshing to see a tournament with a 2690 rating average being played ‘over the board’. The one exception to the rule had been the Norway Chess event in Stavanger, which was won by none other than Magnus Carlsen with a round to spare.

At the Central Chess Club in Moscow, two parallel Superfinals are taking place, with the main event including elite grandmasters Ian Nepomniachtchi, Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler joined by eight extremely strong 2600+ rated players and 29-year-old Aleksey Goganov — the one participant below the 2600 mark (2594).

After three rounds, former world championship challenger Karjakin has taken the sole lead, after winning twice with the black pieces and drawing Andrey Esipenko with white.

Meanwhile, the women’s section includes 8 from the 10 highest-rated women players in Russia (Kateryna Lagno and Anastasia Bodnaruk are absent). Sixth seed Polina Shuvalova is the leader of the standings table after getting off to a flying start, with three wins in as many games. Shuvalova, aged 19, is the current world girls junior champion (U-20) as well as the winner of the 2018 and 2019 Girls U-18 World Championships!

Russian Chess Superfinal 2020

The elegant playing hall | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Open tournament

Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi and Dubov kicked off the tournament by beating lower-rated opponents on Saturday.

Maksim Chigaev, who won the Higher League a bit over a month ago, defeated Dubov in round 2. Out of a sharp Sicilian in which Black (Dubov) had sacrificed a pawn, Chigaev correctly gave up an exchange in the middlegame:

 

After 19...Be4 the knight on e5 was under attack — White could have defended his piece with 20.Bb2, but Chigaev’s 20.Nc4 is a strong alternative, allowing 20...Bxa1 21.Qxa1 Qg5 22.g3 when White has a lot of play along the dark-squared long diagonal and a powerful centralized knight.  

Chigaev continued to up the pressure, while his opponent struggled to find counterchances. On move 29, Dubov decided not to enter an ending with bishops of opposite colours:

 

Probably Dubov thought that the opposite-coloured bishop endgame arising after 29...Rxe5 30.Qxe5 (not 30.fxe5 Qf3 when White is forced to give a perpetual) Qxe5 31.fxe5 was impossible to defend with White having three extra pawns. Nonetheless, his 29...Be8 led to a straightforward defeat — 30.Kh2 Re7 31.c6 and Black needs to give up a piece with 31...Bxc6 32.Qc4+ Kh7 33.Qxc6 Qxc6 34.Nxc6:

 

Black resigned after 34...Re2 35.Bd4 Rxa2 36.Nxa7 Rd2 37.Bc5 and the b-pawn decides.

The other decisive result of round 2 saw Maxim Matlakov losing for a second time in a row, this time against Vladimir Fedoseev.

Monday’s third round saw five games ending in a draw. The only winner of the day was Karjakin, who defeated Nikita Vitiugov from the black side of a Berlin Defence. Vitiugov overestimated the power of his queenside play and lost the game in 42 moves.

Sergey Karjakin

Sole leader Sergey Karjakin | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Karjakin tweeted after his first-round victory : 

Played a classical game after one year of preparation!

His last over-the-board tournament was the Jerusalem Grand Prix in December 2019.


Standings after Round 3

 

All games

 

Women’s tournament

While the open event saw 6 decisive results over the first three rounds, the women’s category had 11 decisive results between Saturday and Monday. Shuvalova won all three of her games, two with white and one with the black pieces, and now has a full-point lead over a five-player chasing pack.

In round 3, the young leader sacrificed two pawns in a sharp battle against former women’s world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. A mistaken pawn push crippled Black’s position decisively:

 

Although the engines evaluate this position as balanced, it is clearly more difficult to play with the black pieces, especially with the clock ticking down nearing the time control. Here, 31...c5 or 31...Nxf4 were both correct, while Kosteniuk’s 31...g6 was the losing mistake. Shuvalova found the refutation — 32.Bh6:

 

The game continued 32...Qd7 33.Bxf8 Qxd5+ 34.Kxh3 Bxf8 35.Nf4 Qf7 36.Rxd4 and White had consolidated his advantage. The 19-year-old needed eight more moves to force her opponent to resign.

Shuvalova will have the white pieces against Tatyana Getman in Tuesday’s fourth round. 

Alina Kashlinskaya

Alina Kashlinskaya also won in round 3 | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili


Standings after Round 3

 

All games

 

Links


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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