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Esipenko rising star

LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2021 - 12:00am

With the resurgence of over-the-board chess activity in the Kremlin (and elsewhere), the Russian Team Championship (Premier League) was held last week in the resort city of Sochi.

St. Petersburg (Mednyi Vsadnik), the defending champion and top seed, clinched first in the open section with still one round left while top favorite Moscow Chess Team dominated the women’s competition, also securing the title with a round to spare.

Nine teams took part in the all-play-all open section and 16 teams competed in the nine-round Swiss System women’s event. Each team is composed of six players and two reserves. The 2021 edition may have been without Russian top guns Ian Nepomniachtchi,  Alexander Grischuk and Sergey Karjakin, but the presence of Super GMs Dmitry Andreikin, Daniil Dubov, Nikita Vitiugov, Vladislav Artemiev, Kirill Alekseenko and Andrey Esipenko (to name a few)  made  the cast formidable.

Esipenko (St. Petersburg) and Kateryna Lagno (Moscow) spearheaded their respective teams with very impressive 6.5 out of 7.0 performances.

*     *     *

Who is Andrey Esipenko?  At 19, he is Russia’s rising young star, and ranked 26th in the latest world live ratings. He defeated world champion Magnus Carlsen last January at the prestigious Tata Steel chessfest and carried off the best individual performance award at the recently-concluded Russian Team Championships.

By winning the Best Individual award in Sochi, the young Esipenko had to shove off a number of his elders. His sacrilegious ways are evident in the following game, where he knocks down an eminent Russian grandmaster.

2021 Russian Team Championship

Premier League Round 06

W) A. Esipenko GM

B)  M. Kobalia GM

Catalan System

1. d4 Nf6, 2. c4 e6, 3. Nf3 d5, 4. g3 Bb4ch, 5. Nc3 dxc4, 6. Bg2 Nc6, 7. O-O O-O, 8. a3 Be7, 9. e4 Rb8, 10. Be3 b5, 11. Qe2 Na5, 12. Rad1Bb7

After a hard labor in the opening, Black emerges a pawn up, but white’s center pawns are formidable. Chances are about even in the ensuing middle game.

13. Ne5           Qc8?!

Seems a tempo-losing move. 13....Qe8 is better, according to the engine.

14. g4!             ....

Threatening to harass black’s pieces and seize the initiative on the kingside. The engine recommends 14. b4!? with these interesting possibilities. 14....axb3 15. Qxb5 Bxe4 16. Qxa5 Bxg2 17. Kxg2 Qb7ch 18. f3 Rfd8, and white’s one-piece advantage is probably stronger than black’s two pawns, due to the presence of major pieces.

14.... b4, 15. axb4 Bxb4, 16. g5 Nd7, 17. Ng4! ....

Avoiding exchanges, and creating a bridgehead for a possible kingside offensive.

17.... f5, 18. gxf6 Nxf6, 19. Nxf6ch Rxf6, 20. Bg5 Rf7, 21. d5 e5, 22. f4 h6, 23. fxe5! ....

White starts a complex tactical battle. He sacs a piece in return for an attack against the vulnerable black king.

23.... Rxf1ch, 24. Rxf1 hxg5, 25. e6! ....

A thematic pawn advance which cut off black’s army from defending the kingside.

25....               Qd8

25....Qe8 has a better chance, according to the engine.

26. Qh5 Qe7, 27. Rf7 Qc5ch, 28. Kh1 Bxc3, 29. Rf3! ....

Threatening 30. Qf7ch Kh2 31. Rh3ch.

29....                Be1?

This move loses outright. Correct is 29....g4 30. Qf7ch Kh7 31. Rf5 Bd2, with chances to hold.

30. Qf7ch Kh8, 31. e7 Qd6

Or 31....Nc6 32. Qh5ch Kh7 33. e8=Qch Rxe8 34.. Qxe8ch Kh7 35. Rf8 followed by 36. Rh8ch and wins.

32. e8=Qch 1-0

After 32....Rxe8 33. Qxe8ch Kh7 34. Rf8, black has to give up his queen to avoid mate.

*     *     *

Black to move and win.

White=Kh1, Qe2, Ra5, Rf1, Na7, Pb2, Pg2, Ph2

Black=Kg8, Qg5, Rc8, Bd5, Be5, Pb4, Pf7, Pg6, Ph7

1.... Qh4, 2. Qxe5 Qf2!

0-1

Black threatens mate with 3....Qxf1 and 3....Qxg2. If.  3. Rxf2 Rc1ch and mate follows, or 3. Rg1 Qxg2ch 4. Rxg2 Rc1ch and mate next move.

CHESS
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