Alexander Morozevich’s return to chess, and form, has been the highlight of the Higher League of the Russian Chess Championship. After Round 9 he provided commentary on his win over Sanan Sjugirov. Meanwhile, Artyom Timofeev kept up the pressure despite his opponent’s female fan club!
The oddly-named Higher League, taking place in Taganrog in Southern Russian, is actually the qualifier for the main Russian Championship later this year. Alexander Morozevich remains firmly on track to take one of the three places available, after the following win kept him half a point ahead of the field (for full details in English, see The Week in Chess).
Morozevich’s commentary on the game was transcribed by Anna Burtasova in her excellent Round 9 report on the Russian Chess Federation website (from where I’ve also taken the photographs):
ALEXANDER MOROZEVICH – SANAN SJUGIROV
Commentary by Morozevich
After the opening we got what seemed to me to be an approximately equal position. I’m not convinced Nd2 was wise, or in any case Nd6 gave me difficulty. I drifted with the queen to a4, but I’m not sure that was the correct idea. Perhaps I should somehow have played for squares.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Nf3 c5 6. dxc5 Na6 7. c6 bxc6 8. g3 d5 9. a3 Bxc3 10. Qxc3 Nc5 11. cxd5 Nfe4 12. Qc2 cxd5 13. Be3 Nd7 14. Bg2 Ba6 15. O-O Rc8 16. Qd1 Qc7 17. Re1 Qb8 18. Nd2 Nd6 19. Qa4 Bb5 20. Qb4 Nf5 21. Bf4 e5 22. Bh3
The critical position.
Here I thought that maybe it would have been better for him to play 22…g6. He was worried about 23. Bxf5 gxf5 24. Bh6 Rfe8. Then let’s say, 25. Qh4 Re6. But even if I take the pawn on f5, the play on the light squares will be quite strong. I didn’t know in whose favour to evaluate that, as I couldn’t see a mate and I’ve got no presence in the centre.
23. Qxa5 Ne7 24. a4
It seems to me that my opponent underestimated this idea for White and I got a position with an edge, but then played it badly.
24…Bc6 25. b4 exf4 26. b5 fxg3 27. hxg3 Nd6 28. bxc6 Nxc6 29. Qc3 f5 30. Nf3 Nce5 31. Qa3 Qh6 32. Kg2 Rcd8 33. Qa2 Qd6 34. Red1 Nc5 35. Qa3 Nc4 36. Qb4 f4 37. Rac1 Qe7
The exchange sac was probably forced. I didn’t see anything else. We ended up with a complex position where there were a lot of tricky tactics. I thought my position was slightly better, but it was still close to equality.
38…dxc4 39. Rxd8 Rxd8 40. gxf4
This might be a little too clever. Perhaps I should simply have played 40. Qxc4 Kh8 41. gxf4, but I didn’t want Black to switch his knight to d6 – that seemed an ideal post. That’s why there were clever tricks like 40. gxf4.
40…Qd6 41. Ne5 g5
It seems my opponent didn’t really like his position.
A clumsy move, in my view. I thought he could have played 42…Ne6 43. Qxc4 Re8 and then my processor wasn’t powerful enough to find anything. Perhaps White’s better and does have some chances, but I didn’t see anything direct.
This, in my view, is already quite dangerous.
43…Kh8 44. Ne3 Qd4 45. Nf5 Qd2 46. Qxc5 Qxe2 47. Kg3 gxf4 48. Kh4
Here it should already be won. The king’s journey to f7 was emotional.
48…Qe1 49. Kh5 Qe2 50. Bg4 Qh2 51. Nh4 Qe2
At first I thought I could win with the move 52. Bd7. 52…Qb2 seemed to be the only move. The queen holds the long diagonal, although without any direct threats. It seems as though I could even take on c4. I couldn’t see any punishment. But nevertheless, I started to worry that with Bd7, Nh4 – I was scattering my pieces too much.
52… Qh2 53. Kg5 Rg8 54. Kf6 Qb2
Black had set a little trap – I can’t play 55. Qd4 because of 55…Qxd4 56. Nxd4 Rxg4 57. fxg4 c3 58. a5 f3 59. Nxf3 c2.
If 55…Rg6 I’d simply play 56. Kd5.
56. Kf7 Qe5 57. Qxc4 Ra8 58. Qd4 Qxd4 59. Nxd4 Rxa4
After the exchange of queens White is winning.
60. Ne6 Rb4 61. Kf6 Kg8 62. Bf5 Rb6 63. Kg5 Kf7 64. Nxf4 h6 65. Kg4 Rb4 66. Be4 Rb5 67. Nd5 Ra5 68. f4 Kg7 69. f5 Kf7 70. Kf4 Ra8 71. Bf3 Ra1 72. Bh5 Kg7 73. f6 Kf8 74. Nc7 Rf1 75. Ke5 Re1 76. Kd6 Rf1 77. Ne6 Kg8 78. Ke7
As Anna Burtasova records in her report, however, the greatest attention before the games wasn’t directed at this game, but at the board two encounter between Artyom Timofeev and Ernesto Inarkiev. Why? The following photo of three chess fans might provide a clue:
As Anna notes:
Does it need to be said that such a spectacle created a furore in the men’s playing hall.
It turns out that the girl in the centre is Ernesto’s classmate, Katya, who’s been friends with and supported the player since childhood. Her friends Liza and Nastya had also, like her, spent a whole day sewing labels onto their tops in order to support Inarkiev in his crucial game. Katya has promised to set up a fan club. Join up!
Many players might have given up without a fight, but Artyom Timofeev is made of sterner stuff, and managed to win the game to stay only half a point behind Morozevich. He explained his secret:
It’s nice when people support you. In any case, it’s a plus, but I can’t complain about an absence of support. I’ve got enough of my own supporters: my family, girlfriend, friends. My fans against his fans, and me against him. It’s normal!
Here’s his commentary on the game, where he managed to win a remarkable ending:
ARTYOM TIMOFEEV – ERNESTO INARKIEV
Commentary by Timofeev
After the opening I didn’t have anything special, though I’d gained something like a half-an-hour advantage on the clock. At some point I went for a solid position – an endgame with a knight against three pawns. I don’t think Black was worse, but on the other hand, if my king could get there, then I shouldn’t lose either. After yesterday’s defeat [against Morozevich] I decided to play more solidly.
In actual fact, when this ending arose I thought that it was more Black who was playing for a win.
28…Rg3 29. Rxg3
I’ve managed to break up the pawns.
29…fxg3 30. Ng4 g2 31. Rg1 h5 32. Ne3 Rf2 33. Kd3 h4 34. Nxg2 Kh7 35. Ne1 Kh6 36. Ke3
Another key moment. I don’t think Black has to capture on b2. Perhaps it was worth playing 36…Rf5 37. Nf3 Kh5 – I think that’s a draw, as Black holds onto the pawn, and I’ve also got no way of strengthening.
After Rxb2 it should also be a draw, but I managed to take advantage of certain chances.
37. Nf3 h3 38. Rg3 Rxa2 39. Rxh3 Kg6 40. Rh8 Ra3 41. Ke4 Ra4 42. Nd2 b5
I didn’t really like this move, as Black breaks up his own pawns. I managed to win using certain nuances. At some point, no doubt, I got lucky. After all, I only had one pawn and c6 was looming, but somehow I always managed to prevent that advance.
43. Rg8 Kf6 44. Kd4 bxc4 45. Ne4 Kf5 46. Rxg5 Kf4 47. Nc3 Ra6 48. Rg6 Kf5 49. Re6 Rb6 50. Ne4 Rb4 51. Rf6 Kg4 52. Nd2 Rb5 53. Nxc4 Rc5 54. Ne5 Kg5 55. Rf3 Ra5 56. Nd3 Ra4 57. Kc3 Ra3 58. Kc4 Ra4 59. Kb5 Ra3 60. Ne5 Rxf3 61. Nxf3 Kf4 62. Nd2 a5 63. Kc6 a4 64. Kxc7 Ke5 65. Kc6 Kd4 66. Nb1 Kc4 67. Kxd6 Kb3 68. Kc5 Kb2 69. Nd2 Kc3 70. Nc4
You can play through both games below:
Game viewer by Chess Tempo
In today’s games both Morozevich and Timofeev drew, meaning Morozevich takes a half point lead into tomorrow’s final round. You can follow that live on the Russian Chess Federation website.