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    Entries in Ivanchuk (26)

    Tuesday
    Oct112011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao Concludes: Carlsen Defeats Ivanchuk in a Blitz Playoff

    A four-way tie for first was possible entering the last round. If Hikaru Nakamura could bounce back from OJ-gate (Nod-gate?) to defeat Magnus Carlsen, and Levon Aronian could take down Vassily Ivanchuk, then those four would all tie for first and go on to a blitz tiebreak. That would have been entertaining, but both games were drawn (pretty easily in both cases - Carlsen with Black, Ivanchuk with White), resulting in a two-man playoff between Carlsen and Ivanchuk.

    Once the round finished (Viswanathan Anand's win over Francisco Vallejo was the last game to conclude, putting Anand in a tie with Nakamura and Aronian for third) they went on to a blitz playoff. Carlsen had White in the first game and initially had Ivanchuk on the ropes, but it wound up a draw. That was a hopeful moment for Ivanchuk's fans, especially after two pretty convincing losses to Carlsen in the slow games, but he couldn't build on it. Carlsen broke through on the kingside in the second game, and became the official tournament winner. A pity for Ivanchuk, after his great start in the tournament, but a great job of bouncing back from Carlsen after a slow start and the blown game with Vallejo from the first cycle.

    Final Standings (3-1-0 scoring, with traditional scores given in parentheses):

    1-2. Carlsen, Ivanchuk 15 (6 for Carlsen, 5.5 for Ivanchuk); Carlsen wins the playoff 1.5-.5

    3-5. Nakamura, Aronian, Anand 12 (5)

    6. Vallejo 10 (3.5)

    Tournament site here, (unannotated) games here.

    Thursday
    Oct062011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao, Round 6: Ivanchuk Wins Again

    Vassily Ivanchuk hasn't always been the most resilient player in the world, but today was impressive. Neither a loss to Magnus Carlsen in round 5, getting mugged on his way to the airport, dealing with his wife's visa issues nor making the trip from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Bilbao in Spain threw him off his game. He picked up where he left off in rounds 1-4, defeating Hikaru Nakamura in a nice (though not completely clean) attacking game to extend his lead over the field.

    The lead was extended, because the other two games were drawn. Carlsen had the white pieces against Viswanathan Anand, but never enjoyed more than a symbolic advantage. In a Classical Nimzo-Indian Carlsen enjoyed the slight advantage of the bishop pair, which transformed into a slightly better pawn structure after exchanges on f6 left the world champion with doubled f-pawns. There was no way for Carlsen to reach them, however, and Anand made a comfortable draw.

    The game between Francisco Vallejo and Levon Aronian saw a very strange opening: 1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 c5 3.c4 dxc4 4.e4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 (slightly unusual for top chess, but still well-known) Bd7 (very rare!) 6.Bxc4 Nc6 7.Qe3. The unusual play continued, with both players burning lots of time in the opening. Vallejo had some advantage, but the way he chose to avoid the repetition on move 17 left him with practically nothing, and despite the mutual time trouble neither player had any trouble afterwards.

    Standings After Round 6 (of 10) (Note: 3-1-0 scoring is used; traditional scores are given in parentheses):

    1. Ivanchuk 13 (4.5 points)
    2-5. Carlsen, Nakamura, Anand, Aronian 7 (3 - all four players are +1 -1 =4)
    6. Vallejo 4 (1.5)

    Round 7 Pairings:

    • Vallejo - Ivanchuk
    • Aronian - Carlsen
    • Anand - Nakamura

    Official site here, games here.

    Tuesday
    Oct042011

    Ivanchuk & Wife Mugged At Gunpoint

    This apparently took place as they were leaving the hotel on their way to the airport from Sao Paulo to Bilbao. It has been suggested that the thieves thought Vassily Ivanchuk had won the tournament, as it was well-publicized locally, and assumed they would make a big score. A complication is that his wife's passport was also stolen, and Ivanchuk has said that he would not play unless his wife could make it to Bilbao with him. (According to this report, that situation has been resolved.)

    Hopefully they catch the donkeys that did this and give them a passport with a long-lasting visa to jail. On the plus side, at least Ivanchuk came out of this better than Artur Yusupov did back in the early 1990s, when he was actually shot by burglars in his Moscow apartment and was fortunate to survive.

    (HT: Brian Karen)

    Saturday
    Oct012011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, Round 5: Ivanchuk Loses to Carlsen, Still Leads at the Halfway Point

    It wasn't a good end to what had been a great first cycle for Vassily Ivanchuk. Already near the end of the opening he was struggling with White against Magnus Carlsen, and it was the relative strengths of the players' c-pawns that made the difference. White's pawn on c2 was weak and eventually dropped off; Black's pawn on c3 was a pillar of strength that diverted almost all of White's army. In the end Ivanchuk eliminated that pawn, but at the fatal cost of abandoning his kingside. That was Ivanchuk's first loss and Carlsen's first win; we'll see in a few days whether it marks the beginning of a new trend or just a bump in the road for one or both players.

    Viswanathan Anand has often had trouble against Levon Aronian, even with White, and decided to play 6.d3 rather than face the latter's beloved Marshall Gambit. For a while play was quiet, and after a brief tactical flurry it again calmed down. Aronian reached a pawn up rook ending, but with rook + g & h-pawn vs. the same several moves away the players called it a draw.

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura did his duty and beat Francisco Vallejo Pons. Unusually for the English Opening, Nakamura (with White) castled queenside, and Vallejo went on a sacrificial journey. It was exciting, but it never looked like it should work. Eventually Nakamura gave back almost all of the material, reaching a position with an extra pawn, better pieces and some attacking chances. Vallejo sacrificed some more, but to no avail: this time his opponent kept the material and the attack, and won.

    Now play stops until Thursday, giving the players time to pack their bags and travel from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Bilbao, Spain, where they'll play the second cycle of the double round-robin.

    Standings After Round 5 (on 3-1-0 scoring; normal scores given in parentheses):

    1. Ivanchuk 10 (3.5)
    2. Nakamura 7 (3)
    3-5. Anand, Aronian, Carlsen 6 (2.5)
    6. Vallejo 3 (1)

    Round 6 Pairings (on Thursday):

    • Ivanchuk - Nakamura
    • Carlsen - Anand
    • Vallejo - Aronian

    Official site here, games here.

    Thursday
    Sep292011

    Sao Paulo/Bilbao 2011, Round 3: Ivanchuk Leads, Carlsen Cracks

    As usual, Francisco Vallejo Pons was involved in a decisive game, and most of the way he was following the script. He lost his first two games and was well on the way to losing a third game, but a funny thing happened on the way to the finish. Magnus Carlsen had plenty of time - at least for a while - to find a win, but didn't manage. Vallejo had just about equalized when Carlsen uncorked an amazing blunder - a two-mover - and soon had to resign. Thanks to the 3-1-0 scoring system the win leapfrogged Vallejo out of the cellar, where Carlsen now resides! (Not for long, I expect.)

    More remarkable still, Carlsen has company there: the world champion. In this case, however, it was a more normal loss, albeit with White. Vassily Ivanchuk played the Schliemann (aka Jaenisch) against Anand's Ruy Lopez, and equalized without any obvious difficult against Anand's non-topical variation. Ivanchuk was doing well, and when Anand sacrificed (blundered?) a pawn for play the Ukranian was able to cool off his opponent's initiative and squeeze out the point in 69 moves. Ivanchuk is the clear leader with 2.5/3 (or rather, 7/9), and on the live rating list he's up to #5 in the world. (Incidentally, Aronian is within .3 of Anand for second, and isn't that far from Carlsen, either.)

    Finally, Hikaru Nakamura played a Kamsky opening Kamskyishly and achieved a pretty comfortable draw with Black against Aronian.

    Standings After Round 3 (3-1-0 scoring first, normal scoring in parentheses):

    1. Ivanchuk 7 (2.5)
    2. Aronian 5 (2)
    3-4. Nakamura, Vallejo 3 (Nakamura 1.5, Vallejo 1)
    5-6. Anand, Carlsen 2 (1)

    Round 4 Pairings (for Friday; Thursday's a rest day)

    • Aronian - Ivanchuk
    • Vallejo - Anand
    • Carlsen - Nakamura

    Official site here; games (with some comments) here.

    Monday
    Sep192011

    World Cup 2011: Round 7 (Finals), Day 4: Svidler, Ivanchuk Draw Their Games and Win Their Matches

    The 2011 World Cup is over at last, and Peter Svidler is the champion. He drew quite comfortably with the white pieces against Alexander Grischuk, and could easily have pressed for a win if he wanted to. His 34th move let Grischuk escape the worst of it, but only at the cost of allowing the position to be completely drawn. With the draw Svidler won the match 2.5-1.5 and Grischuk took the second prize.

    A third qualifying spot would go to the winner of the match between Vassily Ivanchuk and Ruslan Ponomariov. Ivanchuk entered the day leading their match 2-1, but unlike Svidler he had to hold with Black. There were some anxious moments, but at the end of a pretty long game he managed to hold the draw and win the match.

    These three thus qualify for next year's Candidates' matches. Eight players in all will participate: Svidler, Grischuk, Ivanchuk, the loser of next year's world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and challenger Boris Gelfand, three ratings qualifiers (at this point, it looks like Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian are sure things, with the third spot currently a toss-up between Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik), plus one player of the organizer's choosing (as long as his [or Judit Polgar's] rating is over 2700). If Carlsen once again turns his spot down, I'm not sure what the procedure will be - maybe Ponomariov will qualify, or maybe they'll take a fourth rating qualifier, or else the organizer will select two players.

    That's a ways off; for now, let's finish up on the World Cup. The tournament site (with today's video coverage) is here (I warn you, though, you might want to turn it off just before the very end!), and today's games (with my notes to the first game but not the second) are here.

    Sunday
    Sep182011

    World Cup 2011: Round 7 (Finals), Day 3: Two Draws

    With their draws today Peter Svidler and Vassily Ivanchuk have moved to within draw odds of winning their matches against Alexander Grischuk and Ruslan Ponomariov, respectively. With Black, Svidler drew pretty easily in a Classical Ruy, and is in great shape to win the World Cup tomorrow needing only a draw with White. Ivanchuk had a tougher time of things, despite having the white pieces. Like Ponomariov yesterday, he made a poor opening choice and was soon forced to defend an inferior ending. In Ivanchuk's case, this meant being a pawn down in an ending where both sides had a bishop and knight ending, but thanks to the opposite-colored bishops he achieved the draw on move 82, after 52 moves' worth of suffering in that ending. Will his serves hold up for one more day, allowing him to take the final Candidates' spot? We'll see.

    Meanwhile, check out the video coverage on the official site, or have a look at my comments to the games (or both).

    Saturday
    Sep172011

    World Cup 2011: Round 7 (Finals), Day 2: Svidler-Grischuk Draw, Ivanchuk Wins

    In game two of the match for the World Cup championship, Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk made a short draw, preserving the former's lead at the halfway point of the match. It may have looked like Svidler was content with a day off, but he insisted at the press conference that it was just him failing yet again in this tournament to get anything with the white pieces. Tomorrow, obviously, is Grischuk's last best chance to keep the match alive.

    In the battle for third place and the final spot in the Candidates matches, Vassily Ivanchuk continued the tournament trend and won with Black, taking a 1.5-.5 lead over Ruslan Ponomariov. The game had two especially odd moments. The first came early, when Ponomariov played 13.Nxe6?! after thinking for about 13 minutes in an extremely well-known position. Whether this was some sort of bluff or not I don't know: he burned another 25 minutes on his next two moves, which is a pretty big commitment to play-acting if that's what he was doing. On the other hand, it's pretty unbelievable to think that he hadn't prepared for the position after Black's 12th move, as there are almost 200 games in the database with it, featuring many of the world's top players. After Black's 4th move, all of Black's moves had been the number-one choice except for 10...Nbd7, but 10...Bd7 is only very slightly more popular - the two moves can be considered co-main lines.

    Anyway, not only was 13.Nxe6 a sideline on which Ponomariov burned lots of time, it also quickly left him with a chronically inferior endgame thanks to Black's queenside majority. Ivanchuk maintained some advantage for a long time, and was squeezing as the players neared the time control. White was under some pressure when facing his 37th move, but normally five and a half minutes would be plenty of time for Ponomariov to find 37.R1xe2 Nxe2 38.Nd3!, with very good drawing chances. Instead, he uncorked 37.Rxf5??, which lost to a series of obvious forcing moves. (It would be interesting to know what Ponomariov missed, but - understandably! - he didn't show up at the press conference.) Time trouble wasn't a factor, but exhaustion probably played a role.

    Tired or not, Ponomariov and other three remaining contestants continue their battle tomorrow. For now, chess fans can replay the video coverage on the official site, and/or have a look at today's games, with my comments, here.

    Friday
    Sep162011

    World Cup 2011: Round 7 (Finals), Day 1: Svidler Again Wins With Black

    For the fifth straight match, and the third straight where he hasn't (or hasn't yet) won with White, Peter Svidler has won with the black pieces. As usual when playing Black, however, he had some trouble in the opening, but with resilient play and some help from his opponent he escaped and then some. Alexander Grischuk simply missed Svidler's 18...Nb6, trapping his rook, though even after that the game was still very much up for grabs. From a purely chess point of view, the biggest problems came after Svidler's 23...Ra7, which set a nasty little trap. With under a minute left, Grischuk had no time to work everything out, and after an unsurprising series of mistakes he lost material, his attacking chances and the game. Not a great start, obviously, but at least he has three games left and not just one to catch up.

    In the battle for third and the final qualifying spot in the Candidates', Vassily Ivanchuk and Ruslan Ponomariov had a relatively long and complicated fight. Neither side was ever in trouble, but Ivanchuk, with White, was a bit better near the end. His 41st move was a serious lapse, however, allowing Ponomariov an immediate draw.

    Both game twos are tomorrow. The official website is here, the replayable video coverage is here, and the games (with my notes) are here.

    Wednesday
    Sep142011

    World Cup 2011: Round 6 Tiebreaks: Grischuk Beats Ivanchuk

    Poor Vassily Ivanchuk, part 325. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but Ivanchuk has a way of making spectacular errors at the worst possible time. Alexander Grischuk has proved again and again that he's an extremely resilient player, and for the second straight round his opportunistic play enabled him to win a match he could easily have lost.

    The first rapid game was well-played and well-fought into the ending. Grischuk, with White in an Advance French, didn't get much from the opening but kept plugging away. Eventually he reached a rook and two vs. rook and pawn ending that should have been drawn but required a little accuracy for Ivanchuk. Unfortunately for the latter, he failed to find the right move, after which the draw would have been trivial, and so Grischuk won.

    Ivanchuk showed that he could be resilient too, and he won the second game in good style. Grischuk's 16...e5 seemed to be an overreaction to Ivanchuk's threatened pawn storm, and White parlayed the weakened d5 square into an eventual win.

    Then it was on to the 10-minute games, and if Ivanchuk's error in the rook ending of game 1 was the appetizer, this time we got the main course. To be fair, the whole game was somewhat topsy turvy. Grischuk played very aggressively, and by "normal" means obtained a clear advantage. The position was so complicated, however, and time so short that the evaluation changed several times. By move 33 it was still a little messy but getting close to being clear. Ivanchuk was winning, but here it all went astray. He thought he saw a mating continuation and sacrificed a knight (and allowed his kingside to be decimated), only to discover that his next move, 34...Rc1+, was refuted by 35.Bxc1. He simply missed that the bishop could take the rook.

    After that horrible blackout he needed to win his last game to once again equalize the match, but couldn't do it. In fact, he was lost in the final position, but Grischuk forced a repetition to clinch match victory and advance to the finals.

    So here's the situation: Grischuk and Peter Svidler will meet in the finals to see who will win the World Cup. (It will be a best-of-four-game match, and will start on Friday after the event's one and only rest day.) The match matters for prestige and especially money, but is of no consequence for the Candidates' matches: both players have now qualified. Ironically, the match between semi-finals losers Ivanchuk and Ruslan Ponomariov is the more important one in the bigger picture, as its winner - and only its winner - will also qualify for the Candidates'. Ponomariov beat Ivanchuk in the FIDE World Championship k.o. final in 2002. Will he do it again, or will Ivanchuk get his revenge?

    Meanwhile, you can watch the video coverage of today's round and browse the official site here, and/or have a look at my commentary on the games - here.