Chess Piece

WGM Polina Shuvalova

The Women’s World Chess Championship is currently ongoing between the defending champion Ju Wenjun of China versus Russian challenger Aleksandra Goryachkina, who won the 2019 FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament. The first six games were held in Shanghai, China and they are currently moving over to Vladivostok, Russia, for the second half.

I expect women’s chess to be on the rise in the coming years. FIDE President Arkdy Dvorkovich has spoken several times that he considers it his responsibility to address and dismantle any barriers that females face at engaging in chess and he wants to inspire your girls to immerse in the game, foster their talents and provide every opportunity for them to compete at the very top level.

We are off to a good start. One of the world’s top chess websites has come up with year-end awards of Best Player for 2019, Best Combination for the Year, Best Endgame for the Year. For the latter two categories no distinction is made between male and female and, believe it or not, for the first time ever both were won by women.

The ”Best Combination for 2019” was from the game Polina Shuvalova versus Anna Afonasieva from the World Under-18 Girls Championship held in Mumbai last October. Polina’s creation outpointed the 2nd placer Safarli vs Rodshtein by a factor of more than 2 is to 1.

First, a few words about the winner. WGM Polina Shuvalova (Russia) was born March 12, 2001. She is one of the newest young stars from Russia and has won the World Under-18 Championship twice (2018 and 2019) and just last October took home the World Junior (Under-20) Championship for girls.

Even more impressive than her excellent results is the quality of her games. She is a disciple of power chess — excellent preparation in openings backed by forceful play and the ruthless ability to finish off a game. This is aptly demonstrated in the following game with first a rook and then a queen sacrifice to force checkmate. Watch!

Shuvalova, Polina (2412) — Afonasieva, Anna (2312) [B92]
World Under — 18 Ch Girls 2019 Mumbai (7.1), 07.10.2019

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Kh1 Be6 10.f4 Qc7 11.f5

I believe that the attacking sequence 11.f5 followed by 12.g4 was first played by Nigel Short against Boris Gelfand in the 1996 Amsterdam tournament. Nigel is a notorious “Sicilian Killer” and attacks the opening all the time with gusto. Kasparov has joked that Short has only one idea against the Sicilian: the move g2–g4. Well, it works doesn’t it?


The stem game went 11…Bc4 12.g4 h6 13.g5 hxg5 14.Bxg5 Nbd7 15.Rg1 Rfc8 16.Bxc4 Qxc4 17.Qf3 Kf8 18.a3 b5 19.Nd2 Qc6 20.Qh3 White is clearly better. Short,N (2665) — Gelfand,B (2700) Amsterdam 1996 1–0 44.

12.g4 Bc6 13.Bf3 h6 14.h4 Nh7 15.g5 hxg5 16.Rg1 gxh4 17.Bh6 Bf6 18.Qd2

White is already threatening mate with 19.Bxg7! Bxg7 20.f6 Nxf6 21.Rxg7+! Kxg7 22.Qg5+ Kh7 23.Rg1 etc

18…Kh8 19.Be3 b5 20.Rg4 b4 21.Nd5 Bxd5 22.Qxd5 Nc6 23.Rag1 Ne7 24.Qd2 d5 25.Qh2 Qd7?

No time for Black to get passive. He should aggressive try to get some action going on the queenside, for example with 25…Rac8.

26.Nc5 Qc8 27.Bf2 dxe4 28.Bxh4! Ng8

The bishop on f3 is taboo: 28…exf3 29.Bxf6 Ng6 30.Qh6! Rg8 (30…gxf6 31.Rh4 Nxh4 32.Qg7#) 31.fxg6 fxg6 32.Qxh7+ Kxh7 33.Rh4#

29.Bxe4 Qxc5 30.Bf2! Qe7 <D>


31.Rxg7!! Bxg7 32.Qxh7+!

[32.f6?? Ngxf6]

32…Kxh7 33.f6+ Kh6

[33…Kh8 34.fxg7#]


[34.fxe7?? f5!]

34…Kh5 35.Bf3+ Kh4 36.Bf2+ Kh3 37.Bg4# 1–0

After Shuvalova won the gold in the World Youth Championships she was asked if the gold medal was more special than the combination. With a big smile on her face she replied, “I have to say it’s the combination!”

Now for the Best Endgame for 2019. Magnus Carlsen had two games which were nominated for this award, his win against Wesley So (from the Saint Louis Sinquefield Cup) and the well-fought draw versus Vishy Anand from the Zagred Grand Chess Tour. The two games finished in 2nd and 3rd place. Surprisingly, the 2-time Russian women’s champion Aleksandra Goryachkina took first place ahead of Magnus.

Goryachkina, Aleksandra (2522) — Gunina, Valentina (2506) [E15]
Candidates Tournament
(Women) Kazan (2), 01.06.2019

Valentina Gunina, a 3–time Women’s European and Russian Champion, is a tactician who loves to mix it up, sometimes to the point of exceeding the bounds of acceptable risk. She is a very resourceful player and can never be counted out.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 c5 6.d5

This pawn sacrifice in the center has a good reputation — even the computer program Alpha Zero plays it!

6…exd5 7.cxd5 Bb7 8.Bg2 Nxd5

Taking with the bishop is not so good as after 8…Bxd5 9.Nc3 Bc6 10.e4 White gets additional tempi for the attack. In five games played in the international tournament praxis white has won 5, and all within the first 29 moves! Here is a sample: 10…d6 11.Bf4 Nh5 12.0–0–0 Nxf4 13.gxf4 Be7 14.e5 0–0 15.h4 Qc7 16.Ng5 g6 17.Bd5 dxe5 18.Nxh7 Kxh7 19.h5 Kg7 20.hxg6 fxg6 21.Rdg1 Qd6 22.fxe5 1–0 Tregubov, P. (2596) — Greet, A. (2439) Fuegen 2006.

9.0–0 Be7 10.Rd1 Nc6 11.a3

Not 11.Rxd5? Nb4.

11…Nc7 12.Nc3 0–0 13.Bf4 d6 14.e3 h6?!

Trying to win the bishop backfires: 14…g5? 15.Nxg5 Bxg5 16.Bxc6 Bxc6 17.Rxd6 wins back the piece and now Black’s king safety is compromised.

15.h4 Ne6?

[15…Qd7 was the move]

16.Bxd6! Bxd6 17.Ne4 Ncd4!

Typical Gunina, she must have had this move prepared when she “provoked” 16.Bxd6, but White nevertheless emerges with the superior game.

18.exd4 Bxe4 19.Qxe4 Qf6 20.dxc5 Nxc5 21.Qd4 Nb3 22.Qxf6 gxf6 23.Rab1 Rad8 24.Nh2 Bc5 25.Ng4 Kg7 26.Bd5 Nd4 27.Ne3 b5 28.Kg2 Rfe8 29.Rd3 Re5 30.Ba2 Nc6 31.Rxd8 Nxd8 32.Rd1 Ne6 33.Bxe6?! fxe6 34.Rd7+ Kg6 35.Kf3 h5?

[35…Bxe3! 36.fxe3 a5 completely equalizes the position, but, knowing Gunina I think the text move is actually a winning try.]

36.Ng2! Kh6 37.Nf4 a5 38.Nd3 Rf5+ 39.Ke2 Bf8! 40.Ke3 Bc5+ 41.Ke2 a4 42.f3 Bf8 43.Ke3 Kg6 44.Ke4 Kh6 45.Ke3 Kg6 46.Ke2 Kh6 47.g4! hxg4 48.fxg4 Rd5 49.Rf7 Bg7 50.Nf4 Re5+ 51.Kf3 Re1 52.Rb7 Rf1+ 53.Ke3 Bf8 54.Rxb5 Bd6 55.Rh5+ Kg7 56.Nxe6+ Kg6 57.Nd4 Be5 58.Nf3 Bxb2 59.Ra5 Bxa3 60.Rxa4 Bc5+ 61.Ke4 Rf2 62.h5+ Kg7 63.Nh4 Kh6 64.Ra5 Re2+ 65.Kf3 Rf2+ 66.Kg3 Rc2 67.Nf5+ Kg5 68.h6 Rc3+ 69.Kg2 <D>


Now the magic begins.


Retreating the king to g6 will most likely draw. This is a very interesting position and is typical Gunina.

GM Elizabeth Paehtz: Taking such a pawn with seconds on the clock is an act of iron nerves or Hercules strength. I honestly think sometimes it is not bad to be a chicken. Valja is rather a serial killer with generally speaking the lowest percentage of draws compared to the rest of the field. Since knowing this ruthless and courage approach from her a lifetime, I can assure you that in her case it usually pays off. My Latin teacher, however, used to say: “Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis!


Only move to win.

70.Rxc5? loses to 70…Rxc5 71.h7 Rc2+! (71…Rc8 is only good for a draw 72.Nh6+ Kf4 73.Ng8 Rc2+ 74.Kh3 Rc1 75.Kg2 Rc2+ 76.Kh3 etc) 72.Kg1 Rc8 73.Nh6+ Kg3 74.Kf1 (the difference between this line and the previous is that 74.Ng8? is not an option because of 74…Rc1#) 74…Rh8 wins;

70.Nh4? is a draw: 70…Kxh4 71.h7 Rg3+ 72.Kf1 Rf3+ 73.Ke2 (73.Kg2 Rg3+ we repeat the position) 73…Re3+ 74.Kd2 Re8 75.Rxc5 Rh8 76.Rf5 there is nothing left to play for.


[70…Rh3? 71.Ra4+]

71.Kf1 Rh2 72.Nh4!!

The 10–Star move. If Black takes the knight with the king then the white pawn queens. If he takes with the rook then 72…Rxh4 73.Ra4+, then exchanges rooks, then queens.

72…Kg3 73.h8Q Rf2+ 74.Ke1 Bb4+ 75.Kd1 Bxa5 76.Ng6 Bd2 77.Qh4+ Kf3 78.Qxf6+ Kg2 79.Qc6+ Kg1 80.Nh4 Bf4 81.Qg6+ Kh2 82.Qg4

With the idea of Nf3.

82…Bg3 83.Nf5 Rf1+ 84.Ke2 Rf2+ 85.Kd3 Rg2 86.Qh5+ Kg1 87.Ne3 Ra2 88.Qg6! Kh2 89.Qh7+ Kg1 90.Qg8!

Now hitting at black’s rook and bishop at the same time.

90…Ra3+ 91.Ke2 Kh2 92.Kf3 1–0

Goryachkina eliminates one of her principal rivals to take the Candidates’ title and goes on to challenge for the world crown against the Chinese GM Ju Wenjun.

What a nice segue to the ongoing Women’s world championship match! We will take it up in the next “Chess Piece.”


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.