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    Entries in Radjabov (3)

    Tuesday
    Oct252011

    Too Much Theory?

    A few days ago I was really amazed to see the following position as a puzzle in Chess Today:

    V. Onischuk - S. Dvoirys, Chigorin Memorial 2011, White to move.

    Why amazed? Because Shirov fell for essentially the exact same trap three years ago in Morelia/Linares 2008 against Radjabov. (The only difference is that Dvoirys's last move was 20...g7-g6? while Shirov played the alternative lemon 20...Bf6-h4? instead.) That was a very high-profile game, obviously, the line is pretty well-known in general and Dvoirys is an experienced grandmaster and a Najdorf specialist. Aside from the fact that White's next move isn't that hard for a GM to find, how could he have fallen into the trap in the first place? It's very strange.

    If you're a Najdorf player yourself, make sure you avoid this trap! The full game, together with the Radjabov-Shirov game and a couple of suggestions for Black can be found 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.