Oct 12, 2000

Russian Men Championship, Samara (Russia)

The 53rd Russia Championship was won by one of its main favourites S. Volkov. Just as two years ago in the Championship that was held in St.Petersburg he led the tournament from the very beginning having won in first three rounds. Taking pawns, sacrificed by his opponents, the grandmaster from Saransk achieved then gradually his material advantage. We present here one of these games, played in the beginning of the Championship.

Shaposhnikov - Volkov [C11]

Round 2

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 a6 8. Qd2 b5 9. Bd3 b4 10. Nd1 Qb6

It’s very dangerous for Black to close the position in the centre with 10... c4 in this variation of the French Defence. After 11. Be2 h5 12. O-O g6 13. Bf2 White transferred the bishop to h4 and gained an advantage in the game Shaposhnikov - Smikovsky (St. Petersburg, 1997).

11. Qf2 a5

White wants to exchange the passive light-squared bishop as soon as possible. Both opponents knew well the position after 11... cxd4 12. Nxd4 Nxd4 13. Bxd4 Bc5 14. Bxc5 Nxc5, too. In the game Shaposhnikov - Meshkov (St.Petersburg, 1999) White won with a straight attack of the black king after 15. Ne3 O-O 16. O-O-O a5 17. Kb1 Ba6 18. Ng4, whereas Black got a good play in the game A. Fedorov - Volkov (Krasnodar, 1998) after 15. O-O Rb8 16. Ne3 O-O 17. Rad1 Bd7 18. Kh1 Nxd3 19. cxd3 Qd4.

12. O-O Ba6 13. Bxa6 Rxa6 14. c3 Be7

Now Black may be absolutely content with his position after he castles so that he will be able then to tackle White’s queenside in real earnest.

15. f5?

White decided to sacrifice the pawn in order to liven up his dark-squared bishop as he did not want to exhaust passively the initiative of his opponent, for instance, with 15. Rc1.

15... exf5 16. Bf4 cxd4 17. cxd4 O-O 18. Kh1?!

White wants to get his knight to e3 which he could not do at once, as then the white pawn on d4 would hang. The same could be achieved with 18. Qd2. Now if Black continued 18... Bd8 like in the game, then White would have got some compensation for the sacrificed pawn after 19. Ne3 Ne7 20. Qd3 g6 21. a3 owing to the overcrowding of Black’s light pieces.

18... Bd8!

From e7 the black knight will defence both pawns on d5 and f5.

19. Ne3 Ne7 20. Rad1 h6 21. g4

White wants to open up files for his heavy pieces on the kingside but he gives a convenient f5 for his opponent’s knight as a result.

21... fxg4 22. Nxg4 Nf5 23. Rg1 Kh8 24. Rg2 Rg8 25. Rdg1 Nf8 26. Qd2 Qe6 27. Ne3 Ng6 28. Ng4

White’s last two moves show that his initiative is at a deadlock.

28... Rc6 29. Be3 Be7 30. h4

A sacrifice 30. Bxh6 gxh6 31. Nxh6 would be no trouble for Black after 31... Rgc8 32. Nxf5 Qxf5 33. Qh6+ Kg8 34. Rg3 Bf8.

30... h5!

Black begins to gather in the pawn harvest.

31. Nf2 Ngxh4 32. Nxh4 Nxh4 33. Rh2 Qf5 34. Qe2 Rc2 0-1

White resigned.

S. Volkov managed to climb the next level (plus 4) in three rounds only when he gained a heavy victory in a really unique endgame. Such a material combination (a rook and two knights vs. a rook and a knight without pawns) was never seen. The adventures in this longest game of the tournament began yet before the first time control.


Round 7

38... Rd2?!

Black could simply take the pawn with 38... Rxe4, whereafter the position on the board would be approximately equal.

39. Nf3 Rb2 40. Re1 Bf2 41. Rd1 Nf6 42. Rd2!

White escapes the tricky trap. After 42. Rxd6? Nxe4 43. Rxg6+ Kh7 44. Nce5 Black would arrange a mating net over the black king with 44... Be3!.

42... Rxd2 43. Nxd2 Nxg4 44. b5 Nf6

An attempt to mate the white king from the h-file after 44... Ne3 45. b6 Kf7 would be parried with a mere 46. Ra7+! Ke6 47. Rh7 making the white b-pawn irrepressible.

45. Kg2 Bc5 46. b6 Bxb6 47. Rxb6 Nxe4

To achieve a draw Black should only exchange some identical material (even losing his pawns), but it proves to be not at all easy.

48. Nc4 Kg7 49. Ne3 Nf6 50. Rb7+ Kh6 51. Kf3 Kg5 52. Rb5+ Kh6 53. Nd4 Re4 54. Ne2 Re5 55. Rb1 g5 56. Nc4 g4+ 57. Kf2 Rf5+

Black could prevent the white king from coming to the centre of the board with 57... Ne4+ 58. Kg2 and then choose between 58... Rf5 and 58... Rc5. But the latter would lead to a lost position by Black owing to the pawn on d5 because after 59. Ne3 Nc3 60. Rh1+ he would have to go 60... Kg5, as 60... Rh5 would be bad because of an intermediate 61. Nf5+! by White (in case of 61. Rxh5+ Kxh5 62. Nxc3 d5 the d-pawn would get to d3 or perish to Black’s pleasure) 61... Kg5 62. Rxh5+ Kxh5 63. Nxc3 d5 64. Nd4.

58. Ke3 d5 59. Nd4 Rh5 60. Nd6 Kg6 61. Rb6 Re5+ 62. Kf4 Re1 63. Ra6 Rf1+ 64. Kg3 Kh5 65. Kg2 Rd1 66. Ne2 Kg5 67. Nf7+ Kg6 68. Ne5+ Kf5 69. Nc6 Nh5 70. Ra4 Rd2 71. Kf1 Rd3 72. Kg2 Rd2 73. Kf2 Rb2 74. Ncd4+ Kg5 75. Ke3 Rb8

Complicating the defence. 75... Ng7 76. Kd3 Nf5 looked better.

76. Ne6+ Kf6

Black had to run the risks and send his king to the side of the board to support the g-pawn with 76... Kh4 77. N2d4 (if 77. Ra1, then 77... g3 ) 77... Kh3.

77. Nc7 Rb3+ 78. Kd4 Kg5 79. Nxd5

One enemy less.

79... g3 80. Ra8 Nf6 81. Ne3!

Upsetting the co-ordination of the black pieces.

81... Rb4+

After 81... Kh4 there would be an unpleasant 82. Rh8+ Nh5 83. Ng1.

82. Kc3 Rh4 83. Ra5+ Kg6 84. Kd3

White could not take the pawn immediately because of the check with the knight from e4.

84... Ng4

If 84... Ne4, then 85. Ng2

85. Nf5 Rh8 86. Nfxg3

Neither Chess Base nor Chess Assistant have games with such a combination of material. Now they will.

86... Rf8 87. Nd4 Rc8 88. Ra6+ Kg5 89. Ne6+ Kh4 90. Nf5+ Kh3?

One need not have seen the live game to note that the opponents were in hard time troubles. The black king has stepped right towards a mate. 90... Kh5 should have been played.

91. Ke4?

This was the first time that White remitted Black. The game would be over after 91. Nf4+ Kh2 92. Ra2+ Kg1 93. Nh3+ Kf1 94. Ng3+ Ke1 95. Ra1+.

91... Kg2 92. Kf4 Nf2 93. Ne3+ Kh2 94. Kf3 Nd3 95. Nf1+?!

This was the second time. It would be unexpectedly strong to try to exchange the knights with 95. Nf4!!. After 95... Ne5+ (there is neither 95... Nxf4 because of 96. Ng4+ Kg1 97. Ra1+, nor 95... Ne1+ because of 96. Kf2) 96. Kf2 Rh8 97. Nf1+ Kh1 98. Ra1 Ng4+ 99. Kg3 Black's king would be caught into a mating net.

95... Kg1 96. Ne3 Ne1+

96... Rc6 gives Black nothing because of 97. Ra1+ Rc1 98. Ra8.

97. Kg3?

97. Ke2 was better.

97... Rg8+ ?

Black overlooked his luck. After 97... Rc3! 98. Kf4 Ng2+ 99. Nxg2 Kxg2 he could reduce to a theoretically drawn endgame.

98. Ng4 Re8?

Black mistakes again. If he bound the knight on e6 with 98... Rg6 White would have had to look for chances after 99. Kh3 Kf1 100. Ne5.

99. Nf4 Rb8

99... Nc2 could not save Black because his knight would perish after 100. Rc6 Ne3 (if 100... Ne1, then 101. Rf6 Kf1 102. Nh2+ Kg1 103. Nh3+ wins) 101. Rc1+ Nf1+ 102. Kf3 Rf8 (if 102... Re7, then White mates in one after 103. Nh3+) 103. Ne3.

100. Ra3 Rb2 101. Re3 Ng2 102. Ra3

102. Nh3+ Kh1 103. Rf3 would be simpler.

102... Kf1

If 102... Ne1, then the solution is 103. Ne3 (threatening 104. Ra1) 103... Rb8 104. Ra2 Rg8+ 105. Ng4.

103. Nh2+

White prefers taking a piece to mating in three: 103. Ra1+ Ne1 104. Ne3+ Kg1 105. Rxe1#.

103...Ke1 104. Nxg2+ 1-0

Black resigned.

The last decisive step to the champion's title was made in the last round. S. Volkov used subtly the striving of his opponent for the alluring three places that qualify for the World Championship 2000.

Volkov-Shariyazdanov [A64]

Round 11

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. g3 g6 7. Bg2 Bg7 8. Nf3 O-O 9. O-O a6

White often manages to dictate in this variation: “either a draw through repeating moves or Black agrees to a worse play”. A harder struggle could began after 9... Na6.

10. a4 Re8 11. Nd2 Nbd7 12. h3 Rb8 13. Nc4

It was just this moment. After 13. a5 b5 14. axb6 Nxb6 15. Nb3 Black would be forced to repeat the position with 15... Nc4 16. Ra4 Nb6 17. Ra2 Nc4 or let the white knight come to a5.

13... Nb6

The matters would develop much more keen after 13... Ne5.

14. Na3 Na8

Black did not want to keep to the beaten track of 14... Bd7 (clearing the square c8 for the knight).

15. e4 Nc7 16. a5 Bd7

After 16... b5 17. axb6 Rxb6 18. Nc4 Rb4 19. Na5 Bd7 20. Re1 Nb5 that occurred in the game Steinhoff - Burgos (Sao Paulo, 1996) White could create some problems for Black with 21. Nc6.

17. Bf4 Nb5 18. Naxb5 Bxb5 19. Re1 Qc7?

The first move that Black did on his own was unhappy. He had to drive away the bishop on f4 with 19... Nh5. After 20. Be3 Nf6 (no 20... Be5 21. Qd2 Nf6 because of 22. Nxb5 axb5 23. f4 Bd4 24. Bxd4 cxd4 25. Qxd4 with a won position by White like in the game Ardiansyah - Santacruz (Thessaloniki (ol),1984)) White could “offer” a draw with 21. Bf4 or continue to play for a win with 21. Qc2 Nd7 22 f4 b6 23. axb6 Rxb6 24. Ra3 Qb8 25. b3 Bd4 26. Qd2 like in the game Przedmojski - Forintos (Koszalin, 1998).

20. e5!

The bishop on f4 helps White to organise a break-through in the centre.

20... dxe5 21. d6

Black’s opportunities could be reduced with 21. Nxb5 axb5 22. d6 Qd7 23. Bxe5. After 23... Re6 (the move 23... Rbd8 leads to the position in the game) White could continue with 24. f4 Bf8 (if 24... Rbe8, then 25. Qf3) 25. a6 bxa6 26. Rxa6 with a great advantage or with 24. Qf3 like in the game, as 24... Rbe8 was bad because of 25. Qxb7! Qxb7 26. Bxb7 Rxe5 27. Rxe5 Rxe5 28. a6.

21... Qd7 22. Bxe5 Rbd8

Black could look for a rescue with 22... Bc6 agreeing to a worse ending after 23. Na4 Bxg2 24. Kxg2 Qc6+ 25. Qf3 Qxf3+ 26. Kxf3 Nd7 27. Bxg7 Kxg7.

23. Nxb5 Qxb5

In case of 23... axb5 the answer 24. Qf3 would be as strong as in the game.

24. Qf3 Nh5 25. Bxg7 Nxg7 26. Re7!

Black’s position crumbles away both on the queenside and on the kingside.

26.. Nf5 27. Rxb7 Qc4 28. d7 Re7 29. Qc6 Qe6 30. Qxe6 Rxe6 31. Rc7 Rd6 32. Bc6 Ne7 33. Ba4 1-0 Black resigned.

The game Sveshnikov - Fominykh was of great importance for the distribution of the rest two passes to the World Championship.


Round 11

In the shown position Black played


... which finally allowed White to win.

After the correct 54... Bd4! 55. g4 (if 55. Na2??, then 55... e2#, if 55. Ne2, then 55... Ra8, and in case of 55. Nb3+ Black wins after 55... Kd1 56. Nxd4 Rxd4 57. Re5 Rxf4+ 58. Kg1 e2) 55... Kxc1 56. Ke2 Bb6 57. Re5 Rd2+ 58. Kf3 Rxh2 59. g5 Rf2+ 60. Kg3 Kd2 61. g6 Bd4 62. Rd5 Kc3 White would have no chance to escape.


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