- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2019

If you overlook her Under-10, Under-14 and Under-18 girls’ world championships, her two world junior girls’ titles and her two Russian women’s championship belts, there was no way one would have predicted 20-year-old GM Aleksandra Goryachkina’s stunning result in this month’s women’s candidates’ tournament in Kazan, Russia.

Certainly, this columnist didn’t. But in a field studded with savvy veterans and past titleholders, Goryachkina made it look like — well — child’s play as she took first prize by an impressive 1½ points (even with a last-round loss to Ukraine’s Mariya Muzychuk) and earned the right to a match against reigning women’s world champ GM Ju Wenjun later this year.

Better research might have yielded a better prediction, including a study of some of the new challenger’s pre-Kazan play. We offer today a very pretty win Goryachkina fashioned over Russian FM Anastasiya Protopopova at the 2018 Russian women’s national finals. In a Closed Ruy Lopez Breyer, White wins a vigorous fight for the center and tips the contest with an unexpected pawn push.

In a wide-open middlegame, Goryachkina gives up a bishop for a knight to claim the initiative, pushing Black back on 22. Nxe5 Bxe5 23. f4!, when 23…Bxf4? is out because of 24. Nf6+. White finds a clever way to expand her advantage after 23…Bg7 24. Qd6 Qb6+?! (Qxd6, in hindsight, was the way to go, but White gets a very pleasant position in lines such as 25. Nxd6 Rxe1+ 26. Rxe1 h6 27. Bh4 Rb8 28. a5 Ba8 29. Re7) 25. Kh1 Re6 26. a5! (an inspired zwischenzug — White is clearly better now on 26…Rxd6 [Qf2 27. Qd7 Qxb2 28. Qxb7 Rae8 29. Kh2!, and if 29…Rxe4?, then 30. Rxe4! Rxe4 31. Qc8+] 27. axb6 Rd5 28. Be7 h6 29. Nc5 Rb8 [Bc8 30. b7] 30. Nxb7 Rxb7 31. Rxa6 Rd2 32. Ra8+ Kh7 33. Bc5 Rxb2 34. Re7) Qa7 27. Nf6+!, the beginning of a winning combination.

There followed: 27…Bxf6 28. Rxe6! Bxg5 (fxe6 29. Qxe6+ Kf8 30. Qxf6+ Kg8 31. Bh6 is also lethal; Black’s huddled pieces on the queenside make for a pathetic sight) 27. fxg5! Rf8 (White only needs her queen and rook to end things after 29…fxe6 30. Qxe6+ Kh8 31. Qe5+ Kg8 32. Rf1 Qb8 33. Qe6+ Kh8 34. Rf7 Qf8 35. Rxf8+ Rxf8 36. Qe7 Rf1+ [Rb8 37. Qe5+] 37. Kh2 Bc8 38. Qe8+ and wins) 30. Re7, and White has won an exchange and still dominates the position.

In the end, after 32. Rae1 Bf5 33. Qb7 (Rd1 was slightly more precise, with the deadly threat of 34. Rxf7! Rxf7 35. Rd8+) Qd8 34. Qxc6, Black is down major material with no hopes of counterplay; Protopopova resigned.

In Vegas, it’s often better to be lucky than good. Young Ukrainian GM Illya Nyzhnyk played more than enough skilled chess to earn clear first in this month’s National Open in Las Vegas, long one of the biggest summer events of the U.S. calendar.

But he also got some early good fortune from some crafty play against IM Alexander Katz in the tournament’s second round. Play had been largely balanced in their Classical French battle, which we pick from today’s diagram after Katz as White has just played 21. Qh5xf5.

Black baits the hook with 21…Be3+ 22. Kb1 e4 23. Nh4 Bg5!, when the fight would go on after a move like 24. a3! (giving the king badly needed luft) Rd8 25. Rxd8+ Nxd8 (Qxd8?! 26. Qxe4 Qd1+ 27. Ka2 Bxh4 28. Qxh4 Qd5+ 29. c4 looks good for White) 26. Qg4 Bxh4 27. Qxh4 e3 28. Nc3.

White instead goes in for the kill a move early and finds himself hooked instead on 24. Rd7?? Rd8!!, and the back-rank trap forced Katz’s instant resignation ahead of 25. Rd5 (Rxe7 Rd1 mate is the point) Rxd5 26. Qxd5 Bxh4 and Black wins a piece.

Goryachkina-Protopopova, Russian Women’s Championship Superfinal, Satka, Russia, August 2018

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d6 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 12. Bc2 Re8 13. Nf1 Bf8 14. Ng3 g6 15. a4 Bg7 16. Bd3 c6 17. Bd2 d5 18. dxe5 Nxe4 19. Bxe4 dxe4 20. Bg5 Qc7 21. Nxe4 Nxe5 22. Nxe5 Bxe5 23. f4 Bg7 24. Qd6 Qb6+ 25. Kh1 Re6 26. a5 Qa7 27. Nf6+ Bxf6 28. Rxe6 Bxg5 29. fxg5 Rf8 30. Re7 Qa8 31. Qc7 Bc8 32. Rae1 Bf5 33. Qb7 Qd8 34. Qxc6 Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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