Hidden in the glut of recent top-level chess activity such as Wijk aan Zee, the Gibraltar Masters and Zurich Chess Challenge, it was easy to perhaps overlook the Moscow Open, held at the Russian State Social University. This tournament is always seen as the “little brother” to the upcoming Aeroflot Open that gets underway in the Cosmos Hotel in Moscow on 1 March. But the Moscow Open is formidable in its own right, with many varied and subsidiary groups offering something for everyone.
In addition to the top Open A, there were separate opens for women, amateurs, veterans, students, and schoolchildren, a blitz tournament and the World Junior Championship in Chess Composition. The Open A had a mostly Russian field of 229 players, headed by Anton Korobov (Ukraine), Ernesto Inarkiev (Russia) and Vladislav Artemiev - but sharing first place ahead of the top seeds on 7.5/9 was the surprise package of Russian duo FM Dmitry Gordievsky and GM Urii Eliseev, with the latter taking the title on tie-break.
And en route to capturing the title, 20-year-old Eliseev was involved in something of a rarity in tournament chess these days, namely a tussle that involved no less than four queens on the board. And the lesson to be learned from it, as can be seen in today’s game, is that when there are four queens on the board, you better make sure your king is safe and sound!
There are very few top level games that feature four queens. Probably, the most famous one is Fischer vs. Petrosian from the 1959 Candidates Tournament in Portoroz, Yugoslavia. In it, a 16-year-old Bobby Fischer battled his Soviet foe and future world champion “Iron Tiger” Tigran Petrosian through incredible complications to an exciting draw - and it is one of the few non-wins Fischer thought worthy of including in his famous tome My 60 Memorable Games.
Also there is a line in the Semi-Slav Meran variation that was all the rage in the early 1980s that leads to four queens on the board by move 13 - and I once witnessed a game in an open tournament in Scotland where this was played, and after 10 minutes of the round starting, and one of the player’s looking for an extra set of queens, the arbiter had to dash down the corridor to the analysis room to find a set, as none of the other games in the tournament had exchanged queens as yet.
But four queens on the board at once isn’t the record. Tim Krabbé’s wonderful Chess Records site covers the many controversial and hoaxed games from the past with multiple queens (including the famous game Alekhine-Grigoriev, Moscow 1915 with five queens) but also records shows that in recent years, two genuine tournament games where six queens appeared simultaneously.
GM Artyom Timofeev - GM Urii Eliseev
Moscow Open ‘A’, (7)
Sicilian Defence, Richter-Rauzer Attack
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 The Richter-Rauzer Attack is one of the classical variations of the Sicilian Defence. 6...e6 7.Qd2 a6 8.0-0-0 Bd7 9.f4 b5 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Kb1 Qb6 12.Nxc6 Bxc6 13.f5 b4 14.Ne2 e5 15.Ng3 h5 16.Bc4!? A novelty here, as previously seen before has been 16.h4 to stop the advance of the h-pawn. This is a very aggressive response, as White now sacrifices two pawns for total control over the white-squares. 16...h4 17.Nf1 Bxe4 18.Qe2 Bxf5 19.Ne3 The knight is heading for the dominant outpost of d5 - also White has compensation with his rooks having play down the half-open d- and f-files. 19...Be6 20.Nd5 Bxd5 The knight would have been too powerful on d5 - now Black has a bad bishop and a chronic white-square weakness in his position for his two pawns. 21.Bxd5 Rc8 22.Qg4 Playing heavily on the white-square weakness in the Black camp. 22...Rc7 23.Rhf1 Rh6 If 23...Be7 24.Qg7 is very strong, as White will easily pick-off Black's h-pawn and swiftly push his own h-pawn up the board. 24.Rf3 h3 25.Rg3! Black was hoping he could ease some of the pressure with an exchange after 25.Rxh3 Rxh3 26.Qxh3 Qf2 27.Qd3 Qc5 28.h4 a5, putting his hopes on the opposite coloured bishops to save the day. But White found a stronger reply with 25.Rg3. 25...a5 26.a4 Qf2 On reflection, perhaps the better way of playing this instead was 26...bxa3 27.Rxa3 Qf2! where White will have to seriously consider bailing out with 28.Qa4+ Ke7 29.gxh3 Qxh2 30.Rh1 Qe2 31.c4 Rh4 32.Qxa5 Rhxc4 33.Bxc4 Qe4+ 34.Ka2 Qxc4+ 35.Ka1 where it is difficult to see how White can win this, as Black has a solid position. 27.Bb3 f5 28.Qg8 hxg2 29.Rg7! The weakness on f7 is the big target. Now the game gets decidedly 'messy' to say the least - hell for the players, but fun for those seeing it unfold. 29...Rf6 30.Rh7 With the not-too-subtle plan of Rh8 and capturing on f8 - and he has the g2 pawn safely under control....well, for now anyway. 30...d5 31.Rh8 Qc5 White has one dangerous pawn back; but Black still has an impressive pawn centre to contend with now. 32.Qxg2 d4 33.Qg7 Rcc6 34.Ka2 Taking a little time out to get the king into some safety before embarking on the critical phase of the game. 34...Rce6 35.Rg1 White shows a spirit of adventure, as he could have gone 'safe' by taking the rook with 35.Bxe6 Rxe6 - but where is all the fun in that, I ask? 35...Rh6 If White can capture on f5, then Black's game will fall apart. 36.Rg5 Rxh8 37.Qxh8 Rh6 38.Qg8 Rf6 It was important to protect both f5 and f7 - but now the fun really begins, as the rook moving off the h-file allows the h-pawn to sprint up the board. 39.Rg7 Qe7 Again, f7 has to be protected. 40.h4! f4 41.h5 f3 Now we see White's rationale for his safety-first approach earlier with 34.Ka2, as Black's pawn will not queen with a tempo-saving check. 42.h6 f2 If 42...Rxh6 43.Rxf7 and either f8 or f6 falls with White winning. 43.h7 f1Q 44.h8Q (See Diagram) Remarkably amidst all this mayhem of multiple queens on the board and Black's king under pressure, Black is the one still holding the advantage - but one wrong move here will be fatal. 44...d3 45.Rg1! Qf3 46.Rg3 Qc6 47.Rxd3 Rg6?? [And sure enough, Black cracks under the pressure of having to deal with the multiple threats of the multiple queens on the board! Instead, he should have played 47...Qcc7 48.Qg2 Qc6 49.Qe2 and White can still claim a small advantage as the Black king will still be pinned and constantly under pressure to defend. 48.Qxe5! Now, 48...Qxe5 loses to 49.Qxf7 mate and since there are no good defences to 49.Qf7 mate and 49.Qb8+, Black resigned 1-0