Six championships bring six different and thrilling plots. There are no primary and secondary events in Khanty-Mansiysk, however the most attention is naturally paid to the elder categories.
A match between the main favorites of the Open 18 championship was scheduled for today – the moment of truth, I would say. In the Girls 18 championship, three strongest players were running parallel courses… And the outcome? A standstill in both events!
The fight between Maksim Vavulin and Manuel Petrosyan was highly anticipated. These two players are showing the most well-rounded and determined game, and they also have a lot of history with each other. By now all our readers are probably aware of Petrosyan’s victory at the European Championship, as well as of Vavulin’s urge to avenge that loss.
The Russian puts a great fight in Khanty-Mansiysk, plays uncompromising chess until the very last move, which sometimes brings him unexpected wins as a bonus. Petrosyan’s victories are less spectacular, but the outcome of his games is rarely in doubt. Interestingly, in today’s game it was Petrosyan who was desperate to win, as Vavulin’s tie-break is way better at the moment.
Manuel arrived wearing the warpaint – his left eye was heavily painted in iodine. Grandmaster Artashes Minanian, Armenian head coach, said the boy stumbled and fell. The injury did not reflect on Petrosyan’s fighting spirit. After the clocks were started, the Armenian closed his eyes, took his head in hands, and then confidently moved the queen’s pawn forward – 1.d4. Maksim responded with the Bogo-Indian Defense, and soon the players arrived at one of the critical positions of this subtle opening.
Here Petrosyan took a lengthy pause and then made the natural, but rather committal 18.g4! White is completely mobilized on the kingside and must look for attacking options. The immediate bishops sacrifice yields nothing: 18.Bxh6 gxh6 19.Qxh6 Qd8 20.g4 Bxg4 21.Ng5 Bf5 22.e4 Bxg5!, and Black parries the attack.
18…Bxg4 19.Nh2 Bh5 20.Bxh6!? (after 20.Qg3 Kh8 21.Bf3 Bxf3 22.Nxf3 Rd8 23.Ne5! Rf8! White cannot hope for more than a draw) 20…Bxh4!? That’s the spirit! Vavulin is not satisfied with 20…gxh6 21.Qxh6 Bg6 – the opponent has too many pieces near the black king.
21.Qh3 Qe7 22.Bf4 Qf6?! This escalates a crisis that completely cleans up the board. Black could opt for 22…e5 23.Bg3 Bxg3 24.fxg3 Qg5, and White has definite compensation for the sacrificed pawn, but both sides still have plenty of resources.
23.Bxd6 Rxb6 24.Rxb6 Bxe2 25.Nf3! (25.R1d2 Qxf2+ 26.Kh1 Bg5 and Be3) 25…Bxd1 26.Qxh4 (26.Rxd1 Bg5 27.Nxg5 Qxg5 28.Qg3 is just a transposition) 26…Qxh4 27.Nxh4 Bc2.
Vavulin ends up with an extra pawn, but his pieces are lacking coordination (the knight on b8 is particularly miserable), so the most likely outcome is a draw.
28.Nf3 Rc8 29.Ne5! f6?! A blunder, after which Black cannot play for a win anymore. He had to settle the bishop first (29…Bf5!?), and only then pay attention to the white pieces. Petrosyan’s next move clarifies the situation.
30.Bh3! Kf8 31.Bxe6. Draw agreed. There players run out of ammunition after 31…Ke7 32.Rb6 Rd8 33.Ng4.
A decent grandmaster game, full of hidden pressure! Compare it with the game on the second table, with the evaluation jumping from “totally won” to “totally lost” a couple of times, and you will agree that there are only two suitable candidates for the gold in the Open 18 section. Vavulin or Petrosyan? Petrosyan or Vavulin? The Russian is slightly ahead, but there are still five games left to play, and the players are unlikely to win them all.
In the Girls 18 section, there were three main contenders – Stavroula Tsolakidou from Greece, Nino Khomeriki from Georgia, and Alexandra Obolentseva from Russia. The chances of Tsolakidou seemed slightly inferior, as she hasn’t played with the rivals yet, while Khomeriki and Obolentseva already passed their individual duel (drawn). The Greek obviously realized that, and it looks like she simply burnt out…
In a technically winning endgame against Siranush Ghukasyan she kept deteriorating her position until it was no longer won, and then some. The shock was strong; before finally resigning the game, Tsolakidou played a dozen moves being down a rook…
On other boards, both Khomeriki and Obolentseva won their games effortlessly. One could learn from the Georgian how to materialize a moral advantage – the opponents simply fear Nino! Take a look:
Surprisingly, the position is objectively equal because the black king is weak. After, for instance, 34.Rd1 Qg6 35.Rd7 Rad8 36.R1xd3! cxd3 the game ends in a draw: 37.Qb3+ Kh8 38.Qc3+, etc. The Chinese Hu Yu A wants more, so she plays34.Nh5?!
34…Re7 (covering the g7-square) 35.Rc1?? Why would you place the knight on h5 if you don’t use the Q+N battery? After 35.Rxd3! cxd3 36.Nf6+ Kf8 37.Nh5! Black is forced to repeat the moves: 37…Kg8 38.Nf6+, etc.
35…Rf8! (it turns out difficult for White to defend on f2, plus the knight went loose) 36.Ng3 Qf6 37.f3? Protecting the f2-square (perhaps 37.Nh1! is better?), but Black has other targets.
37…b4! Unexpected and elegant. White loses a rook, so she resigned.
Obolentseva played White against Mariola Wozniak, successfully combining attack with defense, even won an exchange, but pushed too hard in an attempt to trap a queen.
Black attacks b2 and h3. The Russian can retain all advantages of her position by 32.Bf6! Bxf6 33.Qxf6 Qxg3 34.Rd8+ Rxd8 35.Qxd8+ Kg7 36.Re4!, etc. Instead she plays for a trap – 32.Rd2, luring the queen on h3 with a one way ticket. The opponent takes the bait.
32…Qxh3! 33.f3? Black looks helpless against Rh2, trapping the queen, but it is just an illusion: 33…h6!!, and only White can have problems here.
34.Be7 (34.Bf6? Bxf6 35.Qxf6 Qg3+) 34…Rc4! 35.Rh2 (the only move) 35…Rxf4 36.Rxh3 Rd4!, and Black, despite being an exchange down, has excellent counterplay against White’s numerous pawn weaknesses.
Alas, the player from Poland replied by 33…Bf8?, and stopped the clock after 34.Rh2 Bc5+ 35.Kh1.
So now four players are in the lead with 5 points out of 6: Khomeriki, Obolentseva, Ghukasyan, and Michal Lahav from Israel. Tomorrow the favorites will be testing the ambitious newcomers.
My congratulations to those who have read this far! We are not done yet. First of all, let us celebrate the success from Haik Martirosyan (Armenia) and Semyon Lomasov (Russia) – they are the only participants of this tournament who won all six games! Martirosyan, who leads the Open 16 section, defeated the Italian Luca Minori with the extravagant 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 e5?!! Two moves with one pawn in the opening – what a challenging idea! White got a more pleasant endgame, but then played a bit too sharp, got a worse game and eventually lost a thread.
Lomasov, the leader of the Open 14, outplayed another Italian, Matteo Pitzanti, simply wearing him down in a lengthy struggle. Pitzanti defended accurately until the first control, but then started to make mistakes. Now Lomasov is a full point ahead of the nearest rival.
The favorites in the other two tournaments also continued their winning streak. Tomorrow the Russian Polina Shuvalova plays at “her own by right” first table of the Girls 16 section against the Indian Hagawane Aakanksha, who is currently half a point ahead. In the Girls 14 tournament, Aleksandra Maltsevskaya defeated her compatriot and main rival Elizaveta Solozhenkina, and tomorrow will challenge the lead of the Chinese Zhu Jiner, who is half a point ahead, too. The situation in these tournaments is still completely unclear.
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The 6th round started with the minute of silence to mourn the passing of Mark Dvoretsky. All chess players, arbiters, coaches, and parents honored memory of this brilliant teacher. What were they reflecting about? Some of them probably recalled their meetings and conversations with this ironic, sometimes prickly man, who possessed subtle understanding of not only chess, but also the bigger world around us. Others thought about his books and lectures, which became classical over the course of the years. And some of them probably never heard about Dvoretsky until now, but will undoubtedly come across his works on the way to chess perfection. Without this foundation, one simply cannot become a decent player, even in our era of computers.
The coaches from former USSR were totally stunned by his death. For them it was like losing a parent, someone who holds the door to eternity for us all. He surely was a godfather for some of them, an inspiration to become a coach. Mark Izrailevich was always very open for his colleagues, always ready to share his experience, give an advice. He could do so much more… What is 68 years for someone totally dedicated to his profession?
It seems reasonable to commemorate the great pedagogue who did so much for chess with founding a Mark Dvoretsky Award, either for the best juniors (Mark Izrailevich was amazing in turning promising juniors into World Champions) or, even better, for successful junior coaches…