Superfinals: Matlakov joins the fight for the title

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/20/2021 – Going into Wednesday’s final round in the Russian Superfinals, both the open tournament and the women’s championship have a sole leader with a half-point edge over two players sharing second place. In the open, Nikita Vitiugov leads, with Maxim Matlakov and Vladimir Fedoseev standing close behind; among the women, Valentina Gunina is the frontrunner, with her closest chasers being Evgenija Ovod and Polina Shuvalova. | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

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Matlakov beats Goryachkina

Maxim Matlakov is one of three players who have gone ten rounds undefeated at the open section of the Russian Superfinals in Ufa. The other two participants that have not lost up to this point are sole leader Nikita Vitiugov and Andrey Esipenko — the latter has drawn all his games so far, including his encounter with black against Vitiugov on Tuesday.

In round 10, Matlakov scored his second win of the event by beating Aleksandra Goryachkina with the white pieces. Out of a Ruy Lopez with 4.d3, the players entered a line last seen at the Deutschland Grand Prix earlier this year.

 

Unlike Dmitrij Kollars, who played the natural-looking 14.f3 to block the check here, Matlakov went for 14.Kc2, allowing his opponent to play the forcing 14...h6 15.Nf3 Bxf3 16.gxf3 Bxf2, simplifying the position and gaining a pawn.

Afterwards, the eventual winner of the game explained:

Black had an extra pawn in the endgame, but I had two bishops. There were no direct threats from White, but I could gradually strengthen my position.

Goryachkina defended stubbornly, but she lost the thread during time trouble. White had gained a considerable space advantage, coordinating his bishop pair and his rooks for maximum effect. 

 

A long manoeuvring stage finally led to White recovering his pawn — Black is strategically lost after 24...Be7 25.Bxe8 Rxe8 26.Rxg7. Goryachkina kept fighting until move 56, but there was no way to save her position. 

Besides Matlakov, Vladimir Fedoseev and Dmitry Andreikin also have chances to end the tournament in first place. Matlakov and Fedoseev are a half point behind Vitiugov, while Andreikin only has an outside chance of catching up, as he has collected one point less than the leader.

Vladimir Fedoseev

In shared second place — Vladimir Fedoseev | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Standings after round 10

 

All games

 

Shuvalova sets up showdown with Gunina

A similar scenario is seen in the women’s event: Valentina Gunina is the sole leader, a half point ahead of a two-player chasing pack. The crucial difference, however, is that one of the two chasers faces the leader in the final round. Polina Shuvalova beat Anastasia Bodnaruk with white in round 10, before facing sole leader Gunina on Wednesday — a win for Shuvalova would mean only Evgenija Ovod (the other chaser) could end the tournament with as many points as her.

Shuvalova got the better of Bodnaruk from a tactical ending with four rooks still on the board.

 

White is a pawn up, but more importantly, she has a quicker attack — there followed 49.h5 Kh8 50.hxg6 d3 51.Rb8+ Bf8, and Shuvalova found the lethal 52.Bf6+

 

Black cannot play 52...Rxf6 due to 53.g7+ Kg8 54.gxf8Q+, with a double check (the rook on g2 also checks the king). Bodnaruk resigned after 52...Kg8 53.g7.

Polina Shuvalova

20-year-old IM Polina Shuvalova will have the black pieces against Gunina in the final round | Photo: Eteri Kublashvili

Standings after round 10

 

All games

 

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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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