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Soumya shines in Moscow

by Sagar Shah - 19/02/2016

Soumya Swaminathan was the tenth seed at the Women's Cup in Moscow. She was the lone Indian in the fray. Fighting the cold as well as some really tough opponents, she played an excellent tournament gaining 35 Elo points and finishing second. In this article she shares her experience of playing in Russia and how she managed to keep her "cool" in the sub zero temperature weather.

Many people say that playing in Russia against the Russians is one of the toughest experiences they have ever had in their chess careers. This is the overall impression that most of the players have: the Russians with their classical chess school knowledge are simply unbeatable. Every Russian schoolboy is taught the toughest of endgames, he knows how to convert minute edges, knows how to calculate the way Kotov has prescribed, and has overall a very high chess education. After all, you must take things seriously when players like Kasparov, Karpov or Dvoretsky make statements like this is a move that "every Russian schoolboy knows!"

But thanks to information explosion Russia's hegemony on chess is no longer absolute. Many countries are developing into strong chess powers and Indian is one of them. So how did a lone Indian do in the chess capital of the world, when she participated in the Moscow Open that took place just a few days ago?

India number seven, Soumya Swaminathan, travelled to Russia to take part in the Moscow Open B - Women's Cup of Russia, held from the 30th of January to 7th of February 2016. It was a nine-round Swiss event, that attracted 142 women players from 15 different countries. There were nine WGMs and seven IMs. This is how the starting list looked like:

Starting rank

No.     Name FideID FED rtg Club/City
1   IM Bodnaruk Anastasia
4181751 RUS 2453 St. Petersburg
2   IM Nechaeva Marina 4149351 RUS 2438 Stavropol
3   IM Charochkina Daria 4180917 RUS 2396 Moscow
4   IM Bulmaga Irina
13903063 ROU 2389 Yasa
5   WGM Kovanova Baira 4164083 RUS 2381 Saratov
6   IM Vasilievich Tatjana 14101610 UKR 2380 Yevpatoriya
7   WGM Mirzoeva Elmira 4127951 RUS 2361 Moscow
8   FM Pustovoitova Daria 4182146 RUS 2356 Moscow
9   WGM Stepovaia Tatiana 4106970 RUS 2351 Krasnodar
10   WGM Soumya Swaminathan 5016193 IND 2345 Pune

Soumya was the tenth seed at the event. She faced strong female opponents from Moscow, Krasnodar, St.Petersburg, Saratov etc. Add to that the fact that she was the only Indian player in her tournament and you would realize what a tough task she had at hand.
So why did she choose to play in this tournament?
"Personally I am fascinated by the idea of playing in places where there has been a chess tradition. So I am always happy to play in Moscow."
The girl from Pune started off the tournament on a positive note with three wins out of the first three rounds. But they were all lower rated players. Her real test came in the fourth round against the top seed Anastasia Bodnaruk. Soumya drew that game and followed it up with a win against 2188. She then drew her next two rounds and was on 5.5/7. At this point she was on the sixth position. But in order to finish in the top three she needed to win her last two games. In the eighth round she defeated IM Lilit Galojan of Armenia.
Partners in crime: Lilit and Soumya were room mates and became excellent friends with each other
Says Soumya, "Apart from Yogesh Gautam (who was playing in the A section) I was the only Indian player in Moscow. Things could have got quite lonely, but I was very lucky to get a great roommate in the form of Lilit Galojan, and that really helped me.
It all boiled down to the crucial last round game against Veronika Schneider of Hungary (2259). Soumya was sharing the lead on 6.5/8 with four other players. She had the black pieces. 
Tiger's Modern was the Indian player's recipe to get a fighting position in the last round
The game was quite complicated but Soumya was able to lure her opponent into a nice trap and crown the game with a fine attack. She has sent us a specially annotated game which we now present to you. If you are on a laptop or a computer use the magnifying glass on the top right of the chess board to maximize the board and view it on full screen.
[Event "Women's Cup of Russia"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.02.07"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Schneider, Veronika"]
[Black "Soumya, Swaminathan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B08"]
[WhiteElo "2259"]
[BlackElo "2345"]
[Annotator "Soumya Swaminathan"]
[PlyCount "76"]

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Be3 a6 5. a4 Nf6 6. h3 Nc6 7. Nf3 O-O 8. Be2 e5
9. d5 Ne7 {I was happy with the outcome of the opening, as my aim was to get
into some kind of fighting position with all 3 results possible.} 10. Nd2 Nd7
11. g4 f5 12. f3 $6 {I think now white has a real problem to solve. He has
opened both the kingside & queenside so where shud he castle ?! Black has the
initiative now as he has a clear plan - of opening the position on the
queenside and posing problems for the white king.} Nf6 (12... fxe4 {But white
will not fall in the trap !} 13. Ndxe4 {& knight has a permant outpost here} (
13. fxe4 $4 Nxd5)) 13. Nc4 Bd7 {after playing this move I felt 13...b6 was
better, preventing a5 & threatening Bd7 , b5.} (13... b6) 14. a5 Nc8 15. Qd2 b5
16. axb6 cxb6 17. b4 b5 18. Na5 Qc7 19. O-O Nb6 20. Kh2 Rf7 {A useful move in
such positions. It supports g7 & in future after fe - fe , white will not be
able to take my rook with a check & some tricks become available. Besides, I
can double on f file or c file as well.} 21. Rg1 $6 {Diagram [#]} Rc8 22. Ra3 (
22. gxf5 Qxc3 23. Qxc3 Rxc3 24. Bxb6 Rxc2 25. Rg2 Bxf5 $1 26. Nc6 Nxe4 27. fxe4
Bxe4 28. Bf1 Bxg2 29. Bxg2 Bh6 $17) 22... fxe4 23. fxe4 Na4 $1 {I was eyeing
this combination for a long time and finally I got a chance to play it !} 24.
Nxa4 Nxe4 {The point. Black is clearly better after this shot. However I felt
perhaps my opponent was taken by surprise and did not offer the best
resistance here onwards. The game finished rather quickly.} 25. Qd3 Nf2 26. Bb6
(26. Bxf2 Rxf2+ 27. Kg3 e4 $1 28. Qe3 (28. Qxe4 Re8) 28... Rcf8 29. Qb6 Be5+
30. Kh4 Qc8 {& black will win easily}) (26. Qd2 $142) 26... Nxd3 27. Bxc7 Rxc7
28. Bxd3 bxa4 29. Bxa6 $2 (29. c4 Rf4 $17) 29... Rxc2+ 30. Rg2 Rc1 31. b5 e4
32. Rga2 Be5+ 33. Kg2 Rff1 34. Rxa4 Rh1 35. Rxe4 Rh2+ 36. Kf3 Rxa2 37. Nc6 Rf1+
38. Ke3 Re1+ 0-1

With this win Soumya finished second behind Anastasia Bodnaruk on tiebreak.
Anastasia Bodnaruk: the winner of the tournament
When we asked Soumya whether she felt that the Russian players were much stronger than players from other countries, she replied, "I cant say that as all my opponents were tactical players, while I always thought Russians give more stress on technique and positional play.  It is clear that if we compare an Indian who has a rating between 1900 - 2200, he will be stronger than a player with an equivalent rating from any other country, including Russia."
And how was the feel of playing in Russia different from other European countries?
"In Western Europe the atmosphere in a chess tournament is very happy and friendly. They celebrate chess. Whereas in Russia everyone is very professional. Simply put, their living conditions are different and so the atmosphere is also different here."
Soumya not only overcame her opponents but also sub zero temperatures of Moscow!
 Beautiful Moscow: All covered with snow
When we go to a chess tournament it is natural that we study openings, indulge in tactical and positional training and also refresh some of the theoretical endgames. But in Moscow another type of arrangement had to be made - the preparation to beat the cold. The temperature can go as low as -7 dregree celsius.
"It was extremely cold and I had to wear a lot of protection gear. Here are some of the things you require: thermals, sweatshirt with fleece lining, shell jacket, winter jacket, woollen socks, snow boots, gloves, scarf and woollen cap. These will help you to beat the Russian cold.
War Memorial at Russian State Social University (RSSU)
Lilit Galojan feeding the ducks
How can any picture gallery be complete without a selfie! Soumya went back home richer by 2000 Euros and 35 Elo points.
We congratulate Soumya for her stellar performance and thank her for sharing her analysis, pictures and some invaluable information for players who would like to visit Moscow in future. With just 20 more Elo points to go, we hope that she becomes an IM soon.

Final Ranking after 9 Rounds

Rk. SNo     Name FED Rtg Club/City Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3 
1 1   IM Bodnaruk Anastasia RUS 2453 Санкт-Петербург 7,5 57,0 52,5 6,0
2 10   WGM Soumya Swaminathan IND 2345 Пуне 7,5 53,5 49,5 6,0
3 36   WFM Obolentseva Alexandra RUS 2194 Москва 7,5 52,0 48,5 7,0
4 5   WGM Kovanova Baira RUS 2381 Саратов 7,0 54,0 50,5 5,0
5 12   WIM Tsolakidou Stavroula GRE 2338 Греция 7,0 49,5 45,5 5,0
6 56   WFM Utiatskaja Irina RUS 2108 Москва 7,0 47,0 44,0 6,0
7 11   WFM Osmak Iulija UKR 2343 Киев 6,5 51,0 46,5 6,0
8 21   WGM Schneider Veronika HUN 2259 Будапешт 6,5 49,5 45,5 5,0
9 17   WIM Schepetkova Margarita RUS 2283 Владимир 6,5 48,0 44,5 5,0
10 24   WFM Martynkova Olena UKR 2245 Краматорск 6,5 43,0 40,0 6,0

Official tournament page 

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