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    Entries in Ruslan Ponomariov (4)

    Tuesday
    Jun112013

    A Funny Blitz Game

    In the just-completed World Blitz Championship there was a game between Alexander Grischuk and Ruslan Ponomariov that showed both the best and the worst of blitz chess. Grischuk sprung a near-novelty on Ponomariov in an opening backwater, and it had its effect. Ponomariov spent almost half his time trying to figure out what to do, and came up with an interesting but flawed tactical idea. Grischuk thought for a minute or so and refuted it, and as a result he was up a piece for a pawn and under only the most minimal pressure.

    Here's how they reached the crucial position in the diagram:

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Be2 Bc5(?!) 5.Nxe5 Nxe5 6.d4 Bd6 7.dxe5 Bxe5 8.Nb5!+= (the near-novelty) 0-0?! 9.f4 Nxe4 10.Qd5!+/- Bf6 11.Qxe4 Re8 12.Qf3+- a6 13.Nc3 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Qe7

    So far, so good for Grischuk. His position is completely winning, and he has only to find an accurate move or two to break the pressure on the e-file and finish his development. It was simple and elegant, and it proved effective: 15.Bd2 d5 16.0-0, and Ponomariov resigned due to 16...Qxe2 17.Rf/ae1.

    It was, in addition, an absolute blunder! After the rook goes to e1, Black can play 17...Qb5, saving the queen and protecting the rook, winding up a pawn to the good. It's amazing that players of that caliber could miss such a simple tactic, but what it really shows is that the disease suffered by beginners and club players strikes the elite as well: once you've mentally checked the game as a win - or a loss - all kinds of lapses are possible.  You can't afford to relax when you're winning, and if you're losing the game and playing on, you might as well stay alert!

    Saturday
    Apr202013

    Zug Grand Prix, Round 2: Champions' Day!

    Maybe their FIDE World Championship titles don't rank as high as those associated with the historical lineage through Kasparov, but Veselin Topalov, Ruslan Ponomariov and Rustam Kasimdzhanov are all great players capable of taking down any opponent on a given day. In round 2 of the Grand Prix in Zug, they and only they were successful in bringing home the full point - though not without some trouble.

    Topalov in particular was at times in serious trouble against Peter Leko, but the latter's time trouble errors on moves 39 and 40 brought Topalov from much worse to much better. Leko erred a final time, in the second time control, and that left Veselin victorious.

    Kasimdzhanov likewise had some anxious moments in his game before winning. Like Topalov, Kasimdzhanov had the white pieces but wound up outfoxed in the complications. I don't know if Kamsky ever had a serious advantage, but he was the one pressing through most of the middlegame. The imitation also carried over in the negative way too, though: like Leko, Kamsky went awry in time trouble, and Kasimdzhanov enjoyed a fairly easy technical task in the second time control.

    The third winner was Ponomariov, who showed Fabiano Caruana and all watching the considerable technical prowess that allowed him to become the FIDE World Champion back in 2002 as a mere 18-year-old.

    In other games, Hikaru Nakamura (lightly) pressed Anish Giri for a long time, but only because of the rule against draw offers. (As an editorial note: when a player as renowned for his ferocious fighting spirit as Hikaru Nakamura says that such a rule is dumb, as he did in the post-game press conference, it might at least incline one to suspect that it really is dumb, and that other critics of the rule aren't necessarily objecting because they pine for the days of the 30-move draw. In fact, in that same press conference Nakamura offered his general approval of the idea of not having draw offers before, say, move 40.)

    Finally, Alexander Morozevich and Teimour Radjabov both enjoyed some advantage on the white side of the Gruenfeld against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergei Karjakin, respectively, but little slips let their opponents reach safety.

    Morozevich, Ponomariov and Topalov are the early leaders with 1.5/2; here are the round 3 pairings:

    • Mamedyarov - Kasimdzhanov
    • Caruana - Morozevich
    • Karjakin - Ponomariov
    • Giri - Radjabov
    • Leko - Nakamura
    • Kamsky - Topalov

    Saturday
    Jul142012

    Dortmund 2012, Round 2: Four Lead

    Round 1 of the Dortmund Sparkassen may have been dull, but today's round was a lot of fun, with both fire and blood on board. When it was over, four players shared the lead: Vladimir Kramnik, Sergey Karjakin, Ruslan Ponomariov and round 1 winner Georg Meier.

    The first game to finish was a beautiful massacre by Vladimir Kramnik, essaying the King's Indian(!!) against Jan Gustafsson. It was one elegant tactic after another, and after only 27 moves Gustafsson threw in the towel.

    The next game to finish was a sort of "appendix" to round 1, a short, dull draw in an Open Catalan between Daniel Fridman and Peter Leko.

    Sergey Karjakin, my pick to be "vice champion" to Kramnik, won with Black against Mateusz Bartel in a Petrosian Queen's Indian. White achieved a powerful-looking passed pawn on d6, but after the overoptimistic 18.Qxc4(?; 18.0-0 would have been safer and sufficient for equality) Karjakin's pieces worked around it on their way to White's king. Karjakin played very well (though not perfectly: the power shot 28...Rf5! was one of several possible improvements) and poor Bartel never managed to get his king to safety or his rook from h1 into the game, and was routed.

    Ponomariov's game with Fabiano Caruana wound up with the "right" winner, but the "wrong" way. Ponomariov enjoyed a slight advantage for a long time with White in a Moscow Sicilian, but by this point his advantage had disappeared:

    It's White (Ponomariov) to move; what should he do? He found a very nice tactical blow, but had Caruana reacted appropriately the position would have remained equal. Unfortunately, Caruana had only around one minute (plus the 30-second increments) to make his next ten moves after seeing 31.Qxc4!? on the board, and that wasn't enough time to find the right move - especially if he was surprised by this shot and needed to regain his psychological bearings. (My analysis of this portion of the game, along with Kramnik-Gustafsson, can be found here.)

    Finally, Arkadij Naiditisch and Georg Meier drew their game after a long fight. A Hedgehog with a fianchettoed king's bishop turned sharp when White (Naiditsch) sacrificed his knight on d5. Eventually Meier returned the piece to break the pressure, and even had a slight but unconvertable edge in a rook ending.

    After two rounds, Meier, Kramnik, Karjakin and Ponomariov share first with 1.5 points apiece. Leko, Naiditsch and Fridman have 1; Gustafsson and Caruana have half a point and Bartel has the same total we do.

    Round 3 Pairings:

    Leko - Gustafsson
    Caruana - Fridman
    Meier - Ponomariov
    Karjakin - Naiditisch
    Kramnik - Bartel

    Tuesday
    Jan242012

    The 10th Anniversary of Ponomariov's Winning the FIDE World Championship

    Some friends of Ukranian GM and 2002 FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov have made a nice video commemorating the 10th anniversary of that fine accomplishment, and features comments and well-wishes from various notables, including Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian. The whole thing speaks quite well of Ponomariov as a person - and it's great for him to have such fans and friends!