Chess and Soccer - Ukraine is in the News!

The time really flies. This year my family celebrated 15th anniversary of our emigration from Ukraine to the United States. I’ve played a lot of chess on the junior level traveling across Ukraine, participating in various training camps as a student and, later, as a coach. These days, I am trying as best as I can to stay on top of what is happening in Ukraine and to stay in touch with my former teammates and opponents.

Since I consider myself a product of Ukrainian (technically, Russian, since Ukraine didn’t become independent until we left) chess school, I am always rooting for them in various team competitions. With one exception - when they compete against team USA.

It was great to see Ukraine winning men’s Chess Olympiad 2 years ago in Calvia. In Turin, 2 months ago, Ukrainian women won Chess Olympiad as well. This is a great success for Ukrainian chess. Now, we are witnessing a first super-tournament held in Ukraine – under the sponsorship of the Ukrainian airline Aeroswit. Here is the link to the official website.

In spite of a couple of last minute replacements, the 12 players participating are a tremendous group, blending youth and experience and playing creative exciting chess.

The hero of the start with 4 out of 5 was GM Bologan. He is a very creative player and is extremely dangerous to any opponent. Of course having a little bit of luck never hurts – in the first round Ukrainian prodigy GM Karjakin blundered in the nearly equal endgame:


Black to Move

Bologan,V (2666) - Karjakin,S (2661) [E15]
Aerosvit-2006 Foros (1), 17.06.2006

Black is a little worse here, but nothing too serious. After a solid 32...Rf8, the problem with the pin is solved. Instead Karjakin played...32...c3?? 33.Rxc3 Perhaps, the plan was to play 33...Rb1+ 34.Kg2 Bh3+ aiming at 35...Rxa8, but the Bf3 defends it and after 35.Kxh3 White is up a Bishop. Also, near miss is 33...Bh3, since after 34.Rxd8 Rb1+ 35.Rd1 the Bf3 defends the same rook but on a different square. So, with both counterstrikes failing, suddenly Black found himself not only losing a pawn, but also the pinned Bc8.


GM Rublevsky, on the other hand, started slowly – 0.5 / 2, but then went on a amazing streak – 5 wins in a row, including one over Bologan with Black in a long endgame.

Here is one of his victories - a blowout of Indian super-star GM Harikrishna

White to Move

Rublevsky,S (2687) - Harikrishna,P (2680) [B51]
Aerosvit-2006 Foros (7), 24.06.2006

After 20.Qa1 Ra8, Rublevsky didn’t hesitate to give up his Queen for a Rook, a Bishop and a full control over the 7th rank. 21.Rxb7 Rxa1 22.Rxa1 c4 23.Rxc7 cxb3 24.Rxd7 Qc8 25.Rxf7 Rg7 26.Rxg7 Kxg7 27.c4 bxc4 28.Nxc4 1:0



After 7 games, Rublevsky has 1 point lead with 5.5 / 7. Sitting on 4.5 out of 7 are Bologan and Ivanchuk.

After losing to Rublevsky in round 6, Bologan nearly bounced back at the expense of GM Shirov, but missed a surprising defense:

Black to Move

Shirov,A (2699) - Bologan,V (2666) [B12]
Aerosvit-2006 Foros (7), 24.06.2006

 Black has tremendous compensation for the Bishop. Two central pawns, well placed pieces and a very strong attack. After Rxh2 White should probably resign soon, but...21...Qe5+ [21...Rxh2] 22.Qe2! This unexpected reply creates big problems for Black. Now, he must trade the Qs and all of his advantage disappears. 22...Qxe2+ [22...Nxe2?? 23.Rxh8+ Kc7 24.Bxe2+-] 23.Bxe2 Rxh2 24.Nf3 Rh5 25.Ne5 Rh1+ 26.Bf1+/= After interesting struggle, the game ended in a Draw on move 73 1/2-1/2



Also, tied for 2 with +2=4 is GM Ivanchuk. I am big fan of Ivanchuk as we are of similar age and played in the same Ukrainian junior events (even played against each other a couple of times) and were members of various Ukrainian junior teams. However, soon thereafter at a very young age, Ivanchuk became a super-star and the #1 player of the Ukrainian chess. To this day, he remains a super-star, but now shares spotlight with the fellow Ukrainian – GM Ponomariov.

Ivanchuk’s two victories came in a similar fashion - as a result of executing flawless strategy in a static position with advantage.

Black to Move

Mamedyarov,S (2699) - Ivanchuk,V (2731) [D46]
Aerosvit-2006 Foros (4), 20.06.2006

With opposite color bishops, neither K should feel secure, but Black has an obvious advantage due to much more active Queen and a better pawn structure. Having extra pawn on the Q-side is nice and it insures various favorable endgames, but will not be playing any role in the near future. Black's plan is to attack White K and destroy what is left of it's coverage. A little accuracy is required to make sure that the White Q remains tied to the 1st rank.37...b5 38.axb5 axb5 39.Bd5 Be5 40.Bb3 f5 41.Bd5 b4 42.Bb3 Kh7 43.Bd5 Kh6 44.Qc1+ Bf4 

45.Qd1 Kg5 46.Bb3 Kh4 47.Bf7 g5 48.Bb3 Diagram 

Now it is time!48...Qg3 49.Kg1 Qh2+ 50.Kf1 Qh1+ 51.Kf2 Bg3+ 52.Kf3 g4+ 53.hxg4 fxg4+ 54.Ke3 Qxg2 55.Bd5 Qb2 0-1


In the 7th round Ivanchuk’s victim was Romanian GM Nisipeanu

White to Move

Ivanchuk,V (2731) - Nisipeanu,L (2695) [E16]
Aerosvit-2006 Foros (7), 24.06.2006

Another fairly static position. Black's Q-side pawns are paralyzed. Pawn c7 and pawn d5 are weak, but defended well and it is not easy for White to add more pressure. White executes a slow but very strong strategy - a pawn attack on the K-side in order to generate even more weaknesses as well as to create a safe path for White K to the center and K-side. 25.h4 Ke8 [25...a5 26.Rxb6] 26.h5 h6 27.b4 Kd8 28.Kf3 Re7 29.g4 Kd7 30.b5 Kd8 31.a4 Kd7 32.Kf4 Re6 33.Rxe6 fxe6 [33...Kxe6 34.Rc6+ Kd7 35.Ke5] 34.Ke5 a6 35.Rc6 axb5 36.axb5 Re8 37.f3 Re7 38.f4 Re8 39.g5 Re7 40.gxh6 gxh6 41.Kf6 Soon White K will be arriving safely to it's destination! 41...Re8 42.Kf7 Re7+ 43.Kg6 Re8 The rest is uneventful 44.Kxh6 Rg8 45.Kh7 Rg3 46.Rc3 Ke7 47.Rxc7+ Kf6 48.h6 Rg1 49.Rb7 Ra1 50.Rb8 Ra7+ 51.Kg8 Kg6 52.Re8 Kf6 53.Rb8 Ra1 54.Rf8+ 1-0


Overall, the tournament is very lively with a lot of fighting happening in every round. A couple of examples from the games of young super-stars.


First, GM Mamedyarov demolishes GM Areshchenko’s King-side -

Black to Move

Areshchenko,A (2660) - Mamedyarov,S (2699) [C24]
Aerosvit-2006 Foros (3), 19.06.2006

 Black's pieces are very dangerously placed. At the same time, White King is only protected by pawns. Therefore we are witnessing a small 'explosion' 43...Nxh3+! 44.gxh3 [44.Kf1 Qh2; 44.Kh1 Nxf2+] 44...Qg5+ 45.Kf1 Rxh3 46.Ke1 Rh1+ 47.Nf1 Qg2 0:1



Then GM Harikrishna does the same to Mamedyarov.

White to Move

Harikrishna,P (2680) - Mamedyarov,S (2699) [C47]
Aerosvit-2006 Foros (6), 22.06.2006

 Let's see how elegantly Harikshina opens the long diagonal for the Q+B tandem. 24.f5 Rxf5 25.Nh6+ gxh6 26.Qd4 threatening mate in 2 - Qh8+ and Qg7# 26...Ne6 27.Qh8+ Kf7 28.Rxf5+ Bxf5 29.Qf6+ Kg8 30.Qxf5 Nf8 [30...Rf8 The best practical chance. After 31.Qxe6+ Qxe6 32.Rxe6 Rf4 Black has some drawing chances. White should play instead 31.Qg4+ After 31...Kf7 Black would hope to get his K out of the danger zone. 31.Qg4+ Kf7 32.Qh3+/-; 30...Re8 31.Qg4+ Kf8 32.Rf1+] 31.Qd5+ Qf7 32.Re7 1-0



So, overall – Ukrainian first chess super-tournament is off to a great start, let’s see what happens in the remaining 4 rounds.

This article wouldn’t have been complete if I didn’t mention a real football (soccer in US). While chess is hot in Ukraine, all of the attention these days is to Germany where Ukrainian national soccer team participates in its first ever World Cup. After disappointing loss in the first game (Spain 4:0), Ukraine won two matches, took the 2d place in the group and qualified to play Switzerland for the spot among the top 8 teams. I used to be a huge football fan back in Ukraine, attending many matches with my father and my friends. Ukrainian head coach Blokhin was a famous striker and I saw many of his games live at the stadium. Honestly, I have seen very little soccer over the past 15 years (my sport of choice these days is American football), but watching Ukraine in the World Cup brings back some great memories. I will be watching the game today (Monday, 6/26 at 3PM Eastern) and I wish them the very best!

Yahoo provides excellent coverage of the World Cup!



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