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    Entries in Ivanchuk (26)

    Tuesday
    Sep132011

    World Cup 2011: Round 6, Day 2: Svidler Advances to the Final; Ivanchuk-Grischuk to Tiebreaks

    And then there were three...sort of. Only three players remain in the fight for first, but all four are still eligible for advancement to the Candidates. Indeed, while it would have been better for Ruslan Ponomariov to win today, guaranteeing a spot in the next set of Candidates matches, it's better for him that he lost today rather than tomorrow, as it gives him an extra day to rest and prepare for the loser of tomorrow's tiebreaker between Vassily Ivanchuk and Alexander Grischuk.

    Of course, the person in the best situation is Peter Svidler, who defeated Ponomariov, thereby advancing to the final and guaranteeing his spot in the Candidates. As against Judit Polgar in the previous round, he won the second game of the match with the black pieces after an unimpressive draw in his white game. Ponomariov played a sideline against the Grünfeld, which Svidler met with a move generally considered dubious. Ponomariov did enjoy the easier play for a while, but Svidler's play with 8...Nc6 and 9...e5 kept him alive, and once he castled long he was fine. Black's 13...0-0-0 allowed White to win the exchange for a pawn, but maybe White should have declined the offer, at least in part. Black's bishop pair and 3-1 queenside majority (also supported by the king, thanks to its having castled long) became a dreadful force. The last big mistake was 28.Re2, after which Black's pawns were unstoppable.

    As for Ivanchuk-Grischuk, it was an interesting game where first Black and then White stood better, but neither side ever had anything too serious. Ivanchuk came closer to having something, but if it's there I didn't manage to find it - it seems that Grischuk was always able to construct some sort of fortress. So they're off to tiebreaks tomorrow.

    Official site here, the official site's video coverage of today's action can be found here, and the games (with my comments) are here.

    Monday
    Sep122011

    World Cup 2011: Round 6, Day 1: Two Quick Draws

    Today we had a pair of short draws, but in both cases it was due to successful opening play by Black rather than collusion aimed at an unofficial rest day.

    Peter Svidler "declined" the Berlin against Ruslan Ponomariov, aiming for the sort of slow kingside buildup that has become popular lately both as an anti-Berlin weapon but also in the Italian Game. The most interesting moment came on move 12, when Ponomariov broke precedent by giving up his seemingly better bishop in order to open the center. The plan looked very effective, and if anything Svidler was soon more eager to split the point than his opponent.

    In the second game, Vassily Ivanchuk chose a very passive, very solid line of the French against Alexander Grischuk, in effect daring him to do something with his extra space. On this occasion, he was unable to, and once Black achieved the liberating ...e5 the draw was at hand.

    Hopefully we'll have a bit more action tomorrow. Meanwhile, those who missed the official site's live coverage can see it here, and/or take the quick route and replay the games (with my comments) here.

    Sunday
    Sep112011

    World Cup 2011: Round 5 Tiebreaks: Ivanchuk, Grischuk Advance to the Semis

    It seems like 2001 all over again, and not just because today is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. In the 2001/2 FIDE World Championship in Moscow, the semi-finalists were Ruslan Ponomariov, Peter Svidler, Vassily Ivanchuk and Viswanathan Anand. Ponomariov faced Svidler and Ivanchuk faced Anand. Fast forward ten years, and it's practically the same thing. Anand "graduated" to become the current world champion (not in 2001/2 - Ponomariov won that event, beating Ivanchuk in the final - but in 2007), but the other three are at it again. Not only are they all back in the semis, the bracketing is even the same: Ponomariov faces Svidler, and the winner will face Ivanchuk if he wins. Interesting, Anand's "place" is taken by Alexander Grischuk, who was a semi-finalist in the 2000 FIDE world championship. It's nice to see that these "old-timers" can still play!

    Ponomariov and Svidler had already qualified in "regular time", defeating Gashimov and Polgar, respectively. Today's pairings saw Grischuk - who was quite fortunate not to lose yesterday - take on David Navara and Ivanchuk face off against Teimour Radjabov.

    In the first rapid round, Navara had White but got nothing against Grischuk's Caro-Kann, and should have reconciled himself to a fairly sterile equality after 15.0-0 0-0. Instead, he played 15.Bd3?!, either overlooking or underestimating 15...d4. Three moves later, he was lost, and although the game went to move 43 Navara never came close to saving it. Speaking of extending the game, Radjabov pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed against Ivanchuk. Rightly so, as he was the exchange ahead, but he was never winning. After White's 64th move it was a rook and pawn vs. bishop and pawn ending that was drawn according to the tablebase, and Ivanchuk held the balance all the way to the end on move 120.

    In the second rapid round, Black again had the better of things in the Grischuk-Navara game. Navara even managed to reach a queen and knight ending a pawn up, but with all the pawns on one side Grischuk managed to hold. The game was drawn, and Grischuk progressed to the semis. Ivanchuk got "revenge" against Radjabov, as this time it was he who kept up the slow torture. By move 52 he had made decent progress, but against best play the win - if any - would have remained a long ways off. Radjabov, probably in time trouble, committed a huge tactical oversight, and resigned on move 54, having blundered a piece for nothing.

    Now that we're down to the final four, it's worth remembering that although the final places matter for money, the main competitive objective is not to win this tournament but to make the top three. The finalists and the winner of the match between the losing semi-finalists all qualify automatically for the next series of Candidates matches (the Candidates' winner will play for the world championship against the winner of next year's title match between champion Viswanathan Anand and his challenger, Boris Gelfand). Winning in the semi-finals punches one's ticket to the Candidates, but a loss isn't the end of the dream.

    So we have Ponomariov-Svidler and Ivanchuk-Grischuk, and it's a good time for another round of predictions: who will these matches, the final, and the third-place match?

    Event site (with video coverage) here, today's games, with generally brief comments, here.

    Saturday
    Sep102011

    World Cup 2011: Round 5, Day 2: Svidler, Ponomariov Advance to the Semis

    We had another round like we're used to at the World Cup, with lots of fight and lots of wins. There were also plenty of mistakes - chess mistakes and mental errors too, which is to be expected near the end of such a long tournament.

    Vassily Ivanchuk was in the best shape of anyone after the first day of round 5, as he had defeated Teimour Radjabov while all the other games were drawn.  No more. Radjabov devised an enterprising piece sacrifice in a quiet-looking Symmetrical English, and it worked like gangbusters. Soon Radjabov regained the material (and then some) while enjoying strong attacking chances as well. Ivanchuk was crushed, and so they're off to tiebreaks tomorrow.

    Judit Polgar was also in good shape coming into the round, having drawn easily with Black on day one. She enjoyed a reasonably promising position in today's game after sacrificing a pawn to set up a strong position where her light-squared bishop was extremely strong while Svidler's dark-squared bishop was correspondingly passive. Maybe at one moment she could have enjoyed a small advantage (and likewise Svidler too may have missed some chances earlier), but most of the way equality was the most she could have hoped for, and that was certainly true on her 30th move. Polgar should have played 30.Qh5, inviting a repetition, but instead hoped for more. Unwarrantedly. Svidler was able to consolidate his extra pawn and take care of his king's problems, and when Polgar continued to play as if she was better, Svidler counterattacked, winning almost immediately.

    Simply put, Polgar lost her objectivity, and it cost her the game. Oddly, assuming Mark Crowther has transcribed her comments at the post-game press conference correctly, Polgar began by lamenting that "my luck was not with me today". That seems somewhat ungracious, slightly absurd after the colossal servings of luck she received in the Dominguez match, and odd considering her easy draw with Black yesterday despite mistakenly preparing to have White. (I think her point was that because she had an extra day of White preparation, Svidler decided to play 1...c5 rather than 1...e5 in their game, and in that way she was "unlucky". Svidler offered a different explanation in the press conference, but since Polgar got a very good position in the middlegame in any case, it's again hard to see what this "luck" business is all about.) Even aside from all of that, I can't see any way in which she was unlucky in the last game. She just got greedy, overpressed and lost. There wasn't some long combination she had seen that didn't work because of some ingenious resource Svidler hadn't seen but found at the last second. She just pushed where there was nothing to be had, and her opponent was able to use his trumps to win.

    Ruslan Ponomariov also won with Black to advance to the semis; he and Svidler will reprise their battle from the semi-finals of the 2002 FIDE World Championship. (Ponomariov won the title, and by implication their match as well.) He got there by grinding out a very long victory in a knight vs. bishop ending. There were a lot of errors, as is to be expected (tired opponents without a lot of time to think), but Ponomariov's win was the most logical result given the game's general trend.

    Finally, David Navara should have also qualified for the semi-finals today. He had done a great job of outplaying Alexander Grischuk from an equal opening, but at the last second, by his own admission, he got careless. 49.Nc3 would have won a second pawn and rendered the win trivial; instead, his 49.Ke5 allowed Grischuk to escape.

    Tomorrow, then, the Ivanchuk-Radjabov and Grischuk-Navara matches go to tiebreaks. No rest for the players, commentators or bloggers!

    Official website (with video coverage) here, today's games (with my comments) here.

    Friday
    Sep092011

    World Cup 2011: Round 5, Day 1: Three Easy Draws and an Ivanchuk Victory

    Yesterday there were only three draws out of 20 games, today it only took four games to produce the same quantity. Two of them (Svidler-Polgar and Ponomariov-Gashimov) were so short that one suspects the players just wanted a day off. (Or maybe two days off - let's see what happens tomorrow.) The third (Grischuk-Navara) was also short by conventional standards, but while it wasn't exactly a bloodbath it continued to the point where the draw was clearly the appropriate result for purely chess reasons.

    The remaining game was more in keeping with the tournament ethos to date. Ivanchuk met Radjabov's Dragon Sicilian with the Fianchetto Variation, and put on a positional squeeze. After his 27th move Ivanchuk stood a little better, and now Radjabov played 27...g5.

    It's a thematic move, fighting for control over the dark squares. It does look a little suspicious, weakening Black's grip on f5 and the light squares in general, but as Fischer famously noted you've gotta give squares to get squares. Still, there is a problem with Radjabov's move - can you find it? Ivanchuk did, and won convincingly.

    You can replay that game (and the rest) with my comments, here, while the event site (with video commentary) is here.

    Thursday
    Sep082011

    World Cup 2011: Round 4 Tiebreaks

    And then there were eight.

    The bloodbath continued today, with only three draws in the 20 games played, for a total of eight draws in 36 games for the round overall. (Soon the little-known GMs Vonahzdmisak and Vopihs will propose some radical measures to lower the excessive quantity of decisive games. Since a properly-played chess game should almost certainly be drawn, the high level of wins suggests a certain lack of competence in top-level play. Accordingly, if a game is won - especially if it is won too quickly - one suggestion is that the players replay their game with colors reversed with the previous time limit doubled. But I digress...) The games have been very exciting, if not always perfectly played.

    Let's start with the bare facts and the pairings for the next round, and then we'll summarize the matches.

    Polgar 4.5 - Dominguez 3.5 (that's the total score; the tiebreak score was 3.5-2.5 in her favor)
    Ivanchuk 3 - Bu Xiangzhi 1 (2-0)
    Ponomariov 4.5 - Bruzon 3.5 (3.5-2.5)
    Gashimov 4 - Nielsen 2 (3-1)
    Grischuk 2.5 - Potkin 1.5 (1.5-.5)

    Quarterfinal Pairings (higher-rated player listed first, pairings given in bracket order):

    • Svidler - Polgar
    • Ponomariov - Gashimov
    • Ivanchuk - Radjabov
    • Grischuk - Navara

    Now for the summary. Starting with the easiest, or at least most lopsided tiebreaker, Bu Xiangzhi went down without a fight to Vassily Ivanchuk. In the first game Bu had White in a Reti, but played it very passively and was already worse after 11 moves. He tried sacrificing first one pawn and then two, hoping that his bishops would give him some compensation, but they didn't and "Chuky" won easily. In the second game Bu tried the Czech Benoni, which is a reasonable way to at least avoid letting White kill the play from the start. Again Bu tried sacrificing a pawn for some play (Benko Gambit-style here, but with less effect thanks to the Black pawn on e5), but wound up just down a pawn for nothing. He tried following with further sacrifices, but Ivanchuk collected all the gifts and won with ease.

    Grischuk-Potkin also finished in two games, but it wasn't anywhere near as easy. In the first game Grischuk didn't get anything with White from the opening. The game continued for a long time, with Grischuk generally having a very slight initiative, but it never became anything serious. In Potkin's white game, he repeated the aggressive anti-KID line that proved so effective in the first game of their match; naturally, Grischuk was better prepared this time. Instead of the (probably) dubious 7...Qe8 he went for the main line with 7...c6, which has scored very well in the past. The usual rejoinder is 8.Nf3, but Potkin went for 8.Qd2 instead. If it was an attempt at surprise, it boomeranged when Grischuk uncorked 8...d5, a new pawn sacrifice that looks completely sound. At a certain point Grischuk handled the position too slowly (e.g. 19...b5 probably improves on 19...a5), and Potkin started to consolidate the extra pawn. On move 22, it was probably best to swap rooks: 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Re1, when Black must either cede the file or draw closer to a two-results-only endgame. Instead, 22.b3?! b5! 23.cxb5?! Ne4! let Grischuk's pieces start jumping all over the place, and he soon regained his material and obtained the advantage. Eventually, Potkin rejected a bad rook ending for a completely lost pawn ending (exhaustion? time trouble?), and his great run came to an end.

    Gashimov-Nielsen saw four decisive games in a row. Gashimov won the first rapid game with a slow Ruy, gradually building up a kingside attack that broke through. Nielsen won the rematch after a long, hard struggle. The key moments came on moves 34 and 42. Gashimov should have played 34...Rd8, not fearing 35.Nb5(?) as after 35...axb5 36.axb5 the king evacuates to safety starting with 36...Kd7. Instead, Gashimov's 34...Bxc3 was strongly met by 35.Qxd6! On move 42, Black could have kept some hopes alive with 42...Rh3: 43.Kg2 Rh2+ 44.Kxh2 Qxf2+ 45.Kh3 Qxf5+ 46.g4 Qh7+ 47.Kg2 Qe4+ 48.Kh2 and now either 48...Qe3 or 48...b6 keeps Black afloat. After Gashimov's 42...Nxf5, White obtained a winning endgame after 43.Qf4 Qxg3+ 44.Qxg3 Nxg3 45.Kg2 Ne4 46.Rxf7 and went on to equalize the match.

    It was on to the 10-minute games (+10 second increments), and Gashimov again played a slow Ruy but eventually outplayed Nielsen to win again, and in the second game Gashimov went for the solid Schlechter Slav/Gruenfeld rather than repeating the Modern Benoni. It paid off, as he obtained an advantage out of the opening, and then the game and match were decided when Nielsen played 18.Be2??, an outright blunder costing him a piece. He kicked around a while longer - why not? - but there was nothing to be done, and he lost.

    On now to Cuba vs. Europe, parts 1 and 2.

    Starting with Ponomariov-Bruzon, Ponomariov won the first game by outplaying Bruzon from nothing on the white side of a Reti. The game was a nice illustration of how a knight can come to dominate a bishop even when that bishop isn't classically "bad". Bruzon struck back in game two with his own sideline opening, the Trompowsky. He didn't get anything from the opening either - or from the middlegame either, for that matter - but when Ponomariov blundered under pressure in the endgame, the match was tied. 42...Rd8 (preventing White's king from reaching d6) or 42...Rc8 (allowing the king to be driven back with ...Rc6+ after 43.Kd6 Ke8) would have held the balance. Instead, after the obvious but flawed 42...Ke7?/?? 43.Rf1 Rf8 44.Rxf8! Kxf8 45.Kd6 Black realized to his horror that the game cannot be saved. Even though Black could afford to lose everything if he can only eliminate the White e- and g-pawns (due to the bishop + wrong-colored rook pawn [or rook-pawn and wrong-colored bishop, if you prefer] problem), it couldn't be done.

    With the psychological momentum, Bruzon won the first 10-minute game with Black, just overwhelming his opponent. Match over? Of course not! After an unusual and strategically complicated opening, Ponomariov managed to bring the position to an ending with two bishops vs. a bishop and knight, with both players having a-, g- and h-pawns. Objectively, it's probably a draw, but to hold it in what's essentially a blitz game against a great technician is nearly impossible. It took Ponomariov 47 moves from the start of that ending to win it, but win it he did.

    On to blitz. Ponomariov drew the first game with Black without any adventures, and the match was finally decided in the next game. Ponomariov headed for a line where Black can win a piece for two pawns and a lot of risk, and Bruzon went for it. 17...Qd7 was natural but seems to be a mistake. Ponomariov was able to reach an ending with four connected passed pawns on the kingside as "compensation" for the piece, and while it took a while the fearsome foursome decided the issue: game and match, Ponomariov.

    Finally, Polgar-Dominguez. Polgar won the first game very easily, gobbling up one pawn after another in a Grand Prix Attack sideline. A very convincing win, but then Polgar went against her style, choosing the rather bland, passive Scandinavian in an attempt to be solid. Dominguez won very easily, and the only drama was trying to figure out why Polgar continued as long as she did. (Maybe she felt Dominguez should have resigned the first game sooner than he did, and wanted "revenge"?)

    Polgar won the first 10-minute game with a bit of luck; the kind of luck you get when you put a lot of pressure on your opponent. She burned too many bridges on the white side of a 6.Bc4 Najdorf, and while Dominguez had to be very careful, a few accurate moves would give him the win. Instead, successive errors on moves 27 and 28 took the position from won to equal to completely lost. (In case you're wondering, 27...Kg8 was winning and 28...Rg1+ 29.Kxg1 Bxh4 30.Qxh4 Rg8+ followed by 31...Rg6 holds the balance. In the rematch, Polgar again played the Scandinavian and again got a passive position out of keeping with her style. Dominguez won easily.

    In the first five-minute game, Polgar replayed the line that was so successful in game one, but Dominguez played much better this time. Polgar might have had a slight edge early on, but Dominguez outplayed her and obtained a serious advantage. At least twice the advantage could have been decisive (30...Nc5, 41...Rd1+ followed by 42...Rc1), but after 41...Nxa5? White was better. In fact, with 45.Rh8+ and only next 46.e7 Polgar would have been winning, but both players were in serious time trouble at this point. The game was soon drawn, and both players seemed relieved to have survived.

    Finally, Polgar returned to the Sicilian in the last game and reached a position similar to what would arise via her beloved Paulsen/Taimanov. Dominguez played by far his worst white game of the match, and after the oversight 19.h5?? was crushed after 19...Nxf3. His 20.Qg3 was even worse, but he probably felt that he'd have no chance in the endgame after the "correct" 20.Bxc7 Nxe1 21.Rxe1 Rxc7. Anyway, he had no chance after 20.Qg3 either, and Polgar finished with an iron hand.

    Official site (with video coverage) here.

    Monday
    Sep052011

    World Cup 2011: Round 3 Tiebreaks

    We're down to 16 players in the World Cup (remember, the top three qualify for the next Candidates event), and one of them is...David Navara, who pulled out the match against Alexander Moiseenko. In the first rapid game, Navara won a tough rook ending when Moiseenko wrongly retreated with 53...Kf6; it seems that the active 53...Kg4 54.c5 Kf3 55.Rb2 Rh4 speeds Black's counterplay just enough to hold the game.

    The adventures weren't over yet, and as in yesterday's game, the trouble came on move 35. (This time it was a purely chess problem, fortunately.) In a complicated Gruenfeld, White enjoyed a space advantage but Black had sufficient counter-chances thanks to his passed b-pawn. Navara should have played either 35...Qb8, preparing ...Ra2 with an eye to moving the passer further down the board, or at least 35...Bxc4 to avoid some structural damage and giving White a potentially useful passed e-pawn. Instead, his 35...Na5 gave White tremendous activity, and the b-pawn never became a factor; indeed, it was soon lost, along with the game.

    So it was on to a shorter time control, and with Black again Navara managed to obtain a material advantage. They eventually reached an ending where Navara had rook + f- and h-pawn vs. rook, where the rule of thumb is that the weak side should draw unless his king is cut off on the first rank. Moiseenko's king was cut off, but Navara's king was stuck on the h-file, in front of his h-pawn, so it was still a theoretical draw. With limited time to think, however, such an ending is difficult to play without errors, and Moiseenko went astray. His 74.Kf1 allowed Navara to execute a straightforward plan that allowed his king to successfully escape from its dungeon, and he was +1 once again. This time, he kept his lead and even increased it, winning pretty easily on the White side of a 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian.

    In other action, Ivanchuk completed his comeback against Sutovsky, winning both rapid games. In the first, Sutovsky seemed unable to decide if he wanted to play aggressively with White or solidly, and in the end that's what killed him. In a position that didn't really call for h4-h5 Sutovsky played it, then took on g6, and then castled, only to discover that Black could start a dangerous attack with ...Kg7 and ...Rh8. You might think Sutovsky would be discouraged, but he played the first half of the next game very well and stood clearly better with Black. With 27...Qc2 he'd have maintained the advantage, but from this point on he started slipping (probably in time trouble), and Ivanchuk's passed a-pawn decided the game.

    So an upset was avoided there, but not in the Zherebukh-Mamedyarov match. In the first rapid game, Zherebukh crushed Mamedyarov when the latter's attempt at a queenside attack only served to open lines for White's better developed forces. (23...c4? was the main culprit.) In the second game Mamedyarov dutifully pushed for a long time, but never came close to a win. Zherebukh drew the game and won the match.

    In Ponomariov-Efimenko the favorite won. Ponomariov won game 1 with Black, grinding out a win from an initially equal ending, and then gave Efimenko a charity draw in the second game, forcing perpetual in a dead won position.

    Kamsky advanced, keeping U.S. hopes alive in the event (and of course, his own pre-retirement hopes as well), defeating Nepomniachtchi. In an equal ending in game 1, Nepomniachtchi's slightly careless (or was it provocative?) 26.Rd2 was met by the strong exchange sac 26...Rxe3! It was a genuine sacrifice, and while the payoff wasn't immediate it eventually came. Kamsky reached a clearly winning position, but then he got sloppy and allowed his opponent to reach a clearly drawn rook vs. rook and pawn ending. I'm not sure what the clock situation was, but the increments should have been enough to draw what is usually the third elementary rook endgame given in the textbooks (after the Lucena and Philidor positions). Nepomniachtchi went for a more complicated drawing method but got confused and lost. In the rematch, Nepomniachtchi tried the Hippo with Black, but Kamsky maintained control and won that game too.

    Other winners: Svidler beat Caruana 2-0, Nielsen likewise beat Parligras 2-0, and in a pair of (relatively minor) upsets Potkin beat Vitiugov and Bruzon defeated Le Quang Liem by 1.5-.5 margins. In both cases the match winner first won with Black and drew with White.

    Finally, Dominguez and Lysyj played 6 quick draws, saving energy but wasting the day until the Armageddon game. Dominguez had White and the need to win, and win he did.

    So here are the pairings for round 4, which starts tomorrow (higher-rated player listed first; note that the pairings are given in bracket order, so the winner of the first match will play the winner of the second; the winner of the first quartet plays the winner of the second, and so on):

    Dominguez - Polgar
    Kamsky - Svidler

    Ponomariov - Bruzon
    Gashimov - Nielsen

    Ivanchuk - Bu Xiangzhi
    Radjabov - Jakovenko

    Navara - Zherebukh
    Grischuk - Potkin

    Links: Official site (with video coverage) here, and the games discussed above (with my comments) are here.

    Sunday
    Sep042011

    World Cup 2011: Round 3, Day 2: Maybe Chess Players Really Are Crazy

    There were some real surprises today, and they ran from one end of the pairing table to the other.

    On board 1, the top seed is out. Sergey Karjakin lost to Judit Polgar yesterday, and was unable to make any headway on the white side of an Open Ruy today. Polgar played well, drew comfortably, and advanced to the round of 16.

    On board 2, Emil Sutovsky reminded us of two things: first, why we love watching his chess; second, why he hasn't gone further in the chess world. With the white pieces and needing only a draw against Vassily Ivanchuk, whom he upset yesterday, you'd expect Sutovsky to choose something solid. Not passive, but solid. So what does he do? 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 Nf6 5.Nf3 0-0 and now not 6.Bd3 but 6.e5 Nfd7 7.h4. It's not that this is a bad line, but it's absurdly committal. Stranger still, a bit further on he went into a line that scores well for Black and that the computer likes for Black as well. The resulting position was an utter mess - just what Sutovsky would have wanted if he had been the one in the must-win situation, but not helpful in his actual circumstances. Sutovsky erred early on, and Ivanchuk played very accurately (though not quite perfectly) and won an impressive game.

    Mamedyarov - Zherebukh and Efimenko - Ponomariov were short draws by players who would apparently prefer to settle things in tomorrow's tiebreaks.

    Gashimov - Tomashevsky saw White get nothing from the opening or the middlegame, but Gashimov ground him down in the ending to win the game and the match.

    Back to the bizarro world. Alexander Morozevich lost a very exciting game to Alexander Grischuk yesterday, so with White you just know he's spoiling for revenge. Win, or at least come home on your shield. Get knocked down six times, get up seven. Eye of the tiger, rage against the dying of the light, etc., etc., etc. Okay, let's see what happened:

    Morozevich-Grischuk: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bxf6 Qxf6 8.a3 Bxc3+ 9.Qxc3 0-0 10.Nf3 Bf5 11.e3 Rc8 12.Rc1 (still theory) 1/2-1/2.

    Somewhere, the caricature of Peter Leko is spinning in its grave.

    Radjabov - Bacrot saw Radjabov win to advance to the next round. It's interesting that Radjabov plays such sharp and principled openings with Black, but with White is playing the slow systems of the Italian Game. Then again, he's succeeding with it, so why not? He came out of the opening with an edge thanks to his extra space, and Bacrot's attempt to neutralize it by sacrificing the exchange didn't succeed, as Radjabov showed good technique to win the endgame.

    Nepomniachtchi - Kamsky: Nepomniachtchi equalized the match, winning a Gruenfeld-like line of the Symmetrical English. White obtained two advantages out of the opening: the bishop pair and one giant pawn island against Black's two islands. From there, Nepo won a textbook game, restricting Black's position more and more, tying Kamsky up and breaking through on the queenside. They're off to playoffs tomorrow.

    Svidler - Caruana was a short draw; they too will continue to tiebreaks tomorrow.

    Jobava - Jakovenko went into a sideline of the Botvinnik System, and while Jobava never had an advantage, the game was pretty close until 33.c4? As Jakovenko had won the first day, maybe Jobava felt he had to do something radical there to avoid a draw. In any case, the pawn sac didn't help him, and Jakovenko won, sweeping their mini-match 2-0.

    Vitiugov - Potkin was a draw, but unlike many of the other drawn games in 1-1 matches, they played a real game. That's not to say that either player was ever in trouble though: Potkin comfortably equalized with Capablanca's system against the Reti, and had the slightly more comfortable half of the draw. Off to the tiebreaks.

    Nielsen - Parligras: An 18-move draw: playoffs for them.

    Bruzon - Le Quang Liem: A 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 Najdorf where Bruzon obtained a serious, at times winning advantage. There seem to be small inaccuracies here and there by both players, but White was clearly better (or more) from the opening through move 33. Here, perhaps in time trouble, Bruzon played two very strange moves: 33.h3? (the Ng4 wasn't in trouble and there were no back rank issues, so this is just an important loss of a tempo) Rxc2 34.b3? (allowing Black to eliminate the dangerous pawn on b7). The best move was 33.Rfe1 (33...Rxc2 34.Rxe4), with the subtle idea of meeting 33...Nd6 with 34.Red1! However, even the more obvious and human moves 33.b3 and 33.c3 would have maintained good winning chances as well. After the moves in the game, Le escaped and drew, and he and Bruzon will also play tomorrow.

    Moiseenko - Navara: I'd love to tell you what happened in this game, but as of this writing there's still some question. Navara failed to convert a winning position yesterday, and it seems he has done so once again today - though not the way you might think. (I doubt any of my readers could even invent such a story.) On move 55, Navara promoted a pawn to a queen, leaving him with just that queen against Moiseenko's rook and e3-pawn. A pawn on that square does not give its possessor a fortress, and on move 73 Navara captured the pawn. Queen vs. rook is a theoretical win for the strong side starting from any normal position, but against strong defense the side with the queen had better know what he's doing, or the 50-move rule will become a factor. And so it was here - it took Navara 32 moves to make four moves' worth of progress. From moves 106 on, however, Navara played perfectly and Moiseenko didn't, and on move 114 (after the move 114...Kd6-c6), with an imminent and obvious mate coming (in four moves), White resigned.

    Or did he? The arbiter put the White king on d4 and now a Black king placed on e5 would indicate that Black won. (For those who wonder why game scores sometimes have bizarre final moves, it's because of the idiotic design of the DGT boards, compounded by incompetent/inadequately trained arbiters. I would love to fire the people at DGT who refuse to create a design that sidesteps this issue and all the ruined and ambiguous game scores this design flaw creates...alas. Obviously the idea of putting a small switch on the side of the board with results for a White win, a Black win and a draw, with a confirmation button, is far too complicated. [No doubt other methods are possible, but isn't that simple enough?] Rant over, until next time.) Anyway, rather than putting the Black king on e5, the arbiter put it on d5. (The way it works is this: the kings go on the central squares. Put both kings on white squares: White wins. Both on black squares: Black wins. Opposite colors: draw.) So a draw?

    I assumed this was just a tired or inattentive arbiter inadvertently showing once again why the DGT design is so hopelessly stupid, but the real story seems to be that it really was a draw. But how? One hypothesis that was kicked around was that Navara misread the scoresheet and offered a draw, thinking that the 50-move rule had come into effect even though only 40 moves (actually 42) had been played. But apparently that isn't it either. Rather, according to Pavel Eljanov's tweets, Navara had accidentally touched a piece in the middlegame and asked his opponent what to do. His opponent just said to make any move he wanted, and he did. But according to those tweets, this occurred in the middlegame, so why did he wait until he had mate in four to offer a draw out of guilt? And in any case, why would he have felt any guilt at all? The touch-move rule covers only cases where one intends to move a piece; when a piece is touched by (physical, not mental!) accident there's no obligation to move it at all. (Maybe this happened in time trouble, and felt that his action caused an improper distraction to his opponent?) Crazy. Anyway, they're off to tiebreaks tomorrow. (HT to Mark Crowther for supplying me with some sources on the controversy.)

    Bu Xiangzhi - Abhijeet Gupta was also absurd, but in a purely chess-related way. Their first game was drawn, and today Gupta enjoyed the advantage in an a quasi-endgame with queens and opposite-colored bishops. I don't think he was ever winning (though 46...Qc1+ 47.Ke2 Qh1 gives him excellent chances, and later 50...Bf4, aiming to put the bishop on e3, would put White on the ropes), but he had enduring pressure in a position he couldn't possibly lose. (Which means, of course, that he did lose it.) The climax of the game came after Bu's ingenious 58.g3! Whether this is best or not is unclear, but it confused Gupta. After 58...hxg3 59.Kg2 Qxb4 (59...Bxb4 was better) 60.Qd8+ it's a draw after either 60...Kf4 or 60...Kh6, but after Gupta's 60...Kh5?? 61.f4! it was time to resign. White threatens both 62.Qg5# and 62.Qh8#, and neither capture on f4 saves Black: 62...Bxf4 63.Bd1+ Kh6 64.Qh8+ Kg5 65.f4#, or 62...Qxf4 63.Bd1+ Kh6 64.Qh8+ Kg5 65.h4+ Qxh4 66.Qd8+ wins the queen. Bu advances to the round of 16.

    Lysyj - Dominguez: White avenged his loss on the previous day, grinding out a win in an ending with knights and opposite-colored bishops. It looks as if Dominguez might have been able to save the game with 54...Ne4+, though it's hard to believe. After 55.Bxe4 fxe4 Black seems to have a kind of fortress: White's knight can't move without dropping the c-pawn (which doesn't make the a-pawn's life a safe one either) and if his king goes to the fifth rank Black has ...e3. So maybe 55.Bxe4 isn't good, but if he doesn't take the knight Black plays 56...Nc5 and White's queenside pawns will disappear. Anyway, even if White has a study-like win after 54...Ne4+, it was Black's best chance. Dominguez preferred to bring his king to f6, to prevent White from playing Kg5, but this simply lost a piece: after 56.Ng3 Black has no defense to the idea of Be6/Bb7 followed by c8Q. They'll have tiebreaks tomorrow.

    The official site (with terrific, replayable video coverage) is here, while a quick source to look at the games (useful to make full sense of the notes above!) is here.

    Saturday
    Sep032011

    World Cup 2011: Round 3, Day 1: Polgar and Sutovsky Beat Karjakin and Ivanchuk

    While Judit Polgar and Emil Sutovsky are both generally rated in the neighborhood of 2700, their victories today over Sergey Karjakin and Vassily Ivanchuk were still very much upsets. Garry Kasparov famously suffered his one and only loss to Polgar when he chose the Berlin against her, and although many - Kasparov included - were inclined to say the fault was with Kasparov playing an opening antithetical to his style, Polgar showed today that she could handle White even against a more experienced Berliner. It was a game she won a little at a time, with perhaps the fatal error being 37...Bb7. A nice win for Polgar, who seems to be on her way back to the elite if she's not there already.

    Ivanchuk-Sutovsky had a different feel to it. Ivanchuk was doing fine for a long time, and though Sutovsky had made a little progress as the game entered the time trouble stage it was still roughly equal through 34 moves. Had Ivanchuk played 35.Bxf6+ Kxf6 and only then 36.Nxa3 a draw would have been the likeliest result; instead, he blundered with 35.Nxa3??, missing the zwischenschach 35...Bc5+. After this White either loses a piece immediately or a few moves later on account of the connected passed pawns, and Ivanchuk resigned after Black's 40th move.

    The marquee match of the day was Grischuk-Morozevich, and it lived up to expectations. Grischuk played a rare gambit, and the players were breaking (practically) new ground by move 8. The chances were relatively balanced for a long time, with Grischuk having the slightly better chances most of the way. This changed from moves 36-40. Maybe Morozevich felt that trying to defend the queenside would be hopeless in the long run, or perhaps he was sanguine about his kingside chances. At any rate, the moves 36...Rf8?! (36...d4!), 37...h5?! (again 37...d4 was indicated) and 40...g4? (you guessed it: 40...d4) left him lost - and ironically, both on the queenside and on the kingside, too.

    Other winners: in a battle of Gruenfelders, Gata Kamsky won with White against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Dmitry Jakovenko beat Baadur Jobava (also with White), and Leinier Dominguez, following Polgar's example, won on the White side of a Berlin against Igor Lysyj.

    Official site here.

    Thursday
    May122011

    The 46th Capablanca Memorial, Starring Ivanchuk, Is Underway

    And not only Vassily Ivanchuk, mind you; it's a very strong tournament. Ivanchuk is the top seed, with his 2776 rating, but there's also Leinier Dominguez (2726), David Navara (2702), Lazaro Bruzon (2693), Le Quang Liem (2687) and Dmitry Andreikin (2687). After yesterday's first round, it's Andreikin who leads after beating Bruzon with White; Ivanchuk-Navara and Dominguez-Le were both drawn.

    Tournament website here.