Round 7. The Armenian Day
If the Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk ended right now, the medal score would look as follows: Russia – 3 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze medal, Armenia – 2+1+1, and China – 1+0+1. India and Iran would win just one silver each. Comparing this virtual score to the rankings of the players before the start, one can see that the result of the Russians is more or less expected, while the most progressing team is clearly Armenia.
Mikhail Kobalia, the head coach of Russia, expressed hi concerns about achieving the overall victory as a team. The current position of the Russians is decent, and local environment undoubtedly helps, but the main rivals are starting to gain the momentum… especially the Armenians – a small, but very proud team!
In the 7th round, the players from Armenia shone in all tournaments. Our congratulations to Artashes Minasian, grandmaster and last USSR champion, who quietly prepares the worthy successors to the three-time Olympiad-winning team.
Let us start the round recap with the main breakthrough of the championship, Haik Martirosyan. In the Open 16 section, he won six games out of six and showed no intention of slowing down…
In this double-edged position with attacks on the opposite wings, the Russian Maksim Sorokin made a small mistake: 22…exd5?! (22…Bd7!), giving the opponent time to reduce a threat level for his own king while effectively breaking through the strong-looking defenses of the black monarch.
23.Bxc4! Qxc4 24.Qh4 Be6 25.Qh7+ Kf8 26.Bh6 Bxh6 27.Qxh6+ Ke7 28.exd5?! (the Dvoretsky-style prophylaxis 28.b3! wins on the spot, pushing the black queen away) 28…Bf5+ 29.Kc1 Qb3 30.Qd2. Taking too much precaution. 30.Qg5+ Kd7 31.Rd2, maintaining a tempo of the attack, is a better technique.
30…b5 31.Rh7! b4? Black fights for the initiative, but it doesn’t work. Better is 31…Kd7 32.g4 b4 33.Rxf7 Kc8 34.gxf5 bxc3 35.Qxc3, although White should be winning with an extra pawn. However, Haik did not find the right way.
32.Qe2+? White wins after 32.Qe3+! Kd7 33.Rxf7+ Kc8, and now 34.Rxc7+! Kxc7 35.Nb5+, and the rest is a matter of technique. Now the game suddenly becomes even again.
32…Kd7 33.Ne4 Kc8 34.g4 Bxe4 35.Qxe4 Qxa4 36.Rxf7 (36.d6!? poses more problems) 36…Qa1+ 37.Kd2?! (37.Qb1=) 37…Qxb2+ 38.Ke3 Qc3+ 39.Kf4 Rd6! Here the players can basically shake hands, however, Martirosyan decides to continue pushing for a win.
40.Rd4 Qc1+ 41.Kg3 Qg1? Black takes too much liberty in his attack, and rejects the simple 41…a5, which would force White to take a draw with checks from e8 and b5.
42.Kh4 a5 43.Rxc7+! Kb8. Loses immediately. However, after 43…Kxc8 44.Qe7+ Kb6 45.Qxd6+ Ka7 46.Qc5+ Ka6 47.Qc4+ Ka7 48.Re4 Rb8 49.Qc7 White collects the queenside pawns and must win the pawn ending.
44.Qe8+. Black resigns, and the leader’s streak continues – 7 out of 7!
In another top game of the round, two Iranians, Parham Marsoodloo and Amin Tabatabaei, fought hard for five hours, but finished with a draw. So the gap between Martirosyan and his rivals increases to 1.5 points – a very significant margin!
Another big win for Armenia was scored by Siranush Ghukasyan, who as Black defeated the main favorite of the Girls 18 championship and her good friend Nino Khomeriki. The first six rounds went almost perfectly for the Georgian, but today she ran into a surprise as early as on the move 4! Lengthy considerations in the opening did not bring any fruit – White failed to pose problems. And then she suddenly rushed into an unprepared attack.
24.Qg4?! White overvalues her position, thinking she has a lead in development and can put pressure on the e6 and g6 pawns. Actually White has no advantage and should aim at simplifications by 24.Ne4, etc.
24…Bxa4 25.Nh4? A blunder – Khomeriki simply overlooks Ghukasyan’s next move. 25.Nh5!? is true to the spirit of the position, intending to meet 25…N7b6 with 26.Ng7, aiming at the e6-pawn. It is unlikely to equalize the game, but Black wouldn’t have such a devastating attack as in the actual game.
25…f5! A revelation. Here Nino had 10 minutes left, and 9 of them were spent on calculating the knight sacrifice – 26.Ngxf5. However, after 26…exf5 White has nothing better than 27.Qh3, because after 27.Nxf5 the attack quickly loses its steam.
26.Qh3 Nf4 27.Bxf4 Bxf4 28.Ngxf5. Desperation. White’s position is not enviable, but she could still fight by 28.d5 or 28.Nf3. Alas, Nino decided to lose at once.
28…gxf5 29.Nxf5 Nf6 (safety first; the second knight can also be taken – 29…exf5 30.Bc4!? Qxc4 31.Rxe8+ Rxe8 32.Rxe8+ Nf8, and the material must tell) 30.Rxe6 Rxe6 31.Rxe6 Rc1+ 32.Bf1 Bb5, and Black won easily.
“I lost this game myself”, admitted Khomeriki afterwards. Ghukasyan only gave a modest smile – the victory put her on 6 out of 7.
Alexandra Obolentseva from Russia has the same amount of points, following her win against the Israeli Michal Lahav – a very easy win, as it looked to me. Stavroula Tsolakidou also won an important game today, moving on 5.5/7.
Happiness of the Armenian head coach would be complete if Manuel Petrosyan won his game in the Open 18 section. Petrosyan, despite playing Black, tried hard against the Iranian, but was unable to squeeze more than a draw. Meanwhile, his main rival Maksim Vavulin won, and the victory was once again achieved mostly thanks to determination. In an equal position, the Russian started to outplay his opponent, Vahap Sanal from India, move by move.
White has more space and his pawn structure is slightly superior. The prophylactic 24.b3 looks natural, followed by further improvement of the position. However, all of a sudden White delivers 24.Ndc6+!?
24…bxc6 26.Nxc6+ Kc8 27.Nxd8 Na4? What is it for? After the natural 27…Kxd8 28.b3 Nd5 29.f4 Ned7 White has adequate compensation, but nothing more than that. After the text-move, he gets a free attack. As they say, fear hath a hundred eyes.
27.Qb4 Ncxb2 28.Nc6 Nxd1? An untimely desire of symmetry. After 28…Qc4 29.Nxa7+ Kd7 30.Rd4 Qxc4 31.Rxc4 Ra8 32.e5 Rxa7 33.exf6 Bc4 White has an advantage, but Black is still kicking.
29.Nxa7+ Kd8 30.Rxd1 Nb6?! Only 30…Qc4 saves from immediate disaster.
31.Rxd6+! (White begins gathering the harvest; almost all black pieces are passive witnesses of this onslaught) 31…cxd6 32.Qxb6+ Ke7 33.Qxa6 Qe6 34.Nc6+ Kf7 35.Nd4 Qd7 36.Qc6 Rb8+ 37.Kc1 Qd8 38.Qd5+ Kg6 39.Nc6. Black resigns, and Vavulin moves on 6 out of 7.
The leader of the Open 14 championship, Semyon Lomasov, has 7 out of 7, just like Martirosyan. Lomasov had a hopeless position against Felix Blohberger, but the insane pressure he puts on opponents worked again – in a position with an extra piece the Austrian blundered badly and lost in two moves.
Black is totally outplayed strategically, but now the fun part begins.
26…Bxg2!?? (26…Bd7 27.c6 bxc6 28.bxc6 Be6 etc is way too dry) 27.Kxg2 Ng4 28.Bf3 Qh4 29.Rh1? Not yielding anything. After 29.Ne4 Qxh2+ 30.Kf1 Qf4 31.Qd3 White would duly convert an extra piece. Now the fireworks begin.
29…h4 30.Qd3? A panic attack! After 30.Qd1 h3+ 31.Kf1 Qc4+ 32.Ne2 Nf6 Black is out of danger, but White is alive as well, while now he loses because of poor coordination of his forces.
30…h3+ 31.Kf1 e4! 32.Nxe4 Ne5 33.Qe3 Qxf3 34.Rg1? (after 34.Qxf3 Nxf3 35.Ke2 Ng5 36.f3 f5 37.Rg1 Nf7 Black ends up with an extra piece, but the text-move loses much more) 34…Qd1+ 35.Qe1 Qd3+ 36.Qe2 Qb1+ 37.Qe2 Qxb5+ 38.Qe2 Qb1+ 39.Qe1 Qxe1+, and White resigned in view of 40.Kxe1 Nf3+ and …Nxg1. A great example of overwhelming confidence!
In the Girls 16 category, Polina Shuvalova broke into a sole lead. The Chinese Zhu Jiner leads in the Girls 14 tournament with a full point gap. But who knows, who will have a national celebration tomorrow?