This profound question is raised by French GM Vladislav Tkachiev, who wonders if Vassily (aka Vasil) Ivanchuk is a genius. His colleagues are split on the issue, while he himself does not offer an opinion. I'm not sure the word has any clear sense, so while we can obviously say that Ivanchuk is a brilliant and immensely creative player declaring him a genius may be more a matter of taste and emotion than anything objective. But have at it, and if you want to weigh in with some useful remarks on the nature (if any) of genius, feel free.
Entries in Vassily Ivanchuk (28)
There is no pending draw death taking place before our eyes in Wijk aan Zee. Going into the round almost 50% of the games (24 out of 49) finished with a winner, and in round 8 today only one game in seven finished in a draw - and it took 55 moves. There has been lots of fire and blood on board, which is just what we the fans like to see.
The tournament leader is Magnus Carlsen, who won his fifth game in a row to reach unshared first with five rounds remaining. His victim today was Baadur Jobava, who has been many players' victim in this event, despite winning in the previous round. Jobava trotted out 1.b3, which is one of his signature openings, only to find himself slightly worse in the opening. With resourceful play Jobava managed to equalize and probably would have drawn if the time control had come a move sooner. In the last moves prior to the control Jobava played rather passively, culminating in 40.Qc1. Maybe Jobava could have drawn with 45.Qf2, but it wouldn't have been easy. Instead he swapped down to a queen ending, and that couldn't be saved as White's king was too weak.
Vasil Ivanchuk shared first coming into the round, but lost a very mysterious game to Wesley So. Ivanchuk had White and followed the Viswanathan Anand - Levon Aronian game from round 1 of the 2014 Candidates; a good idea if all you know is the result of that game, but a terrible idea if you know that a humongous opening improvement was found for Aronian that very day. It was published all around the web and in print, and there have even been a couple of games in the database showing the improvement. (Those games featured very decent players, like Jan Gustafsson.) Somehow Ivanchuk missed all the possible sources showing and even detailing the move, and walked right into it. So was ready, played well, and crushed him. Ivanchuk thus fell a full point behind Carlsen, while So moved into (a tie for) second, half a point behind Carlsen. (He also moved up to #6 on the Live Rating List.)
Another player in (the tie for) second is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who crushed Anish Giri in a 4.d3 (Anti-) Berlin. Giri's decision to head for a position where MVL would have an isolated d-pawn doesn't seem to have been a good one, as the enemy bishops received too much scope. From there Vachier-Lagrave turned his attention to Black's kingside, and while Giri managed to hold off the attack it came at the price of a lost rook ending.
Ding Liren also won his game and thereby joined the tie for second. His victim was Ivan Saric, whose decision to play 22...Qxc6 was probably based on a miscalculation. My guess is that he missed the nice tactical trick 27.Nxd5, which netted not only an important pawn but the exchange as well.
Radoslaw Wojtaszek had been tied for first going into the previous round, but with a second straight defeat he's almost surely out of the running. He lost with Black in a 6.h3 Najdorf to Teimour Radjabov after sacrificing a pawn but failing to get enough counterplay in return.
Fabiano Caruana started the tournament with two wins but had gone -2 since then. He badly needed a win, and he got one at Loek van Wely's expense. A win over van Wely turned Carlsen's tournament around; who knows, maybe the same will be true for Caruana. Van Wely started coughing up pawns with White in a sort of Hedgehog, and eventually Caruana managed to convert his material advantage into a win.
Finally, Hou Yifan drew with Levon Aronian in an old-fashioned line of the Giuoco Piano. Aronian tried a little too hard to win, and if White had played 42.Rd6+ she might have had good chances for a win. After Hou's 42.Rxd4 her advantage was too small to win, and Aronian held pretty easily after that.
The games, with my comments, are here. Tomorrow is a rest day, and on Tuesday we'll see these pairings for round 9:
- Saric (2.5) - van Wely (2)
- Giri (4) - Ding Liren (5.5)
- So (5.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (5.5)
- Wojtaszek (4) - Ivanchuk (5)
- Carlsen (6) - Radjabov (4.5)
- Aronian (3) - Jobava (1.5)
- Caruana (4.5) - Hou Yifan (2.5)
In the Challengers' group, it was a bloodbath as usual, though there were "only" five decisive games there today as compared to six in the A-group. Haast beat Gunina (in a surprise), Saleh beat Dale, Navara beat Michiels, Wei Yi beat Klein and van Kampen beat Timman. Navara and 15-year-old Wei Yi are running away with the event, sharing first with 6.5/8; Shankland and van Kampen are next with 5 points apiece.
Update: The game score of the Jobava-Carlsen game was corrupted by an arbiter's error at the end; I've updated and uploaded the correct version in the revised link above.
Magnus Carlsen is on a roll, and the question now is simply this: can anyone stop him? Today Hou Yifan gave it a good shot, but Carlsen ground out the full point - admittedly, with some serious inaccuracies near the end. Still, between the high general quality of his moves and the persistence of his pressure, the women's world champion eventually buckled. This gave Carlsen his fourth win in a row, and enabled him to finally catch Vassily Vasil Ivanchuk in the leader's circle.
Carlsen nearly took that spot all for himself, as Ivanchuk had to struggle for a long time to save a queen ending against Anish Giri. The position was objectively drawn most of the way, but Giri was always better and at one moment could have won thanks to some unobvious play on move 90.
Radoslaw Wojtaszek could have made it a triumvirate, and with the white pieces against tailender Baadur Jobava his chances looked good. Indeed, he was clearly better in a complicated middlegame, but Jobava did a better job of navigating the tactics and eventually even won the game.
Wesley So also had the chance to reach the first-place tie, and had some winning chances against Teimour Radjabov before letting the latter escape in the run-up to the time control. He is thus half a point behind the leaders, as are Ding Liren and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
Ding Liren shouldn't have been within half a point of the leaders, as he was much worse against Loek van Wely - losing, even, at least two or three times in the game. Most of van Wely's advantage had disappeared by the end of the first time control, but it still seemed as if he'd have the better half of a draw. Somehow, it just didn't pan out, and he even went on to lose the game.
Vachier-Lagrave's win was also a gift, awarded in a single moment. An exciting Najdorf with Ivan Saric had been balanced throughout, and a perpetual check would have resulted after 31.Qc1. Instead, Saric played 31.Rd2??, missing a nice but simple tactic a couple of moves later, which ended the game on the spot.
It's incredible that the only game involving two players who came into the round more than a point behind the leader was between Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana. Caruana played the first part of the game well and enjoyed a serious edge. Unfortunately, he has been getting into time trouble throughout the event, and did so once again. This gave Aronian the chance to not only escape but to press, but once Caruana had some more time to think in the second time control he managed to survive.
- van Wely (2) - Caruana (3.5)
- Hou Yifan (2) - Aronian (2.5)
- Jobava (1.5) - Carlsen (5)
- Radjabov (3.5) - Wojtaszek (4)
- Ivanchuk (5) - So (4.5)
- Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) - Giri (4)
- Ding Liren (4.5) - Saric (2.5)
In the Challengers' Group, there were six decisive games and the seventh should have been decisive too. Wei Yi beat Jan Timman and David Navara defeated Robin van Kampen; those two winners are tied for first with 5.5/7. Sam Shankland is in clear third with 4.5 points, but he could have 5, as he had a decisive advantage at one point against Salem Saleh. Valentina Gunina upset Erwin l'Ami, Vladimir Potkin bested Anne Haast, Bart Michiels beat Ari Dale and Sam Sevian won against David Klein.
For now. With Magnus Carlsen winning his third game in a row, and his second straight over a key rival, I don't think the odds are looking good for the rest of the field when it comes to the battle for first. Carlsen is fit, playing well and confident, so it's going to take something special to stop him from rolling the field.
Fabiano Caruana had White and good memories of having the last win in their series, and in addition he probably felt like he had the better position as well. Carlsen played risky chess in a Rossolimo Sicilian, counting on his counterplay to compensate for a compromised structure. Maybe he was never in grave danger, but 21.Rfe1, creating a cubbyhole for White's king on e2, might have given Carlsen some difficult problems to solve. After 21.Nh2? Caruana reached an endgame, but not an easy one. He hoped to buy his way out of his problems with 29.Bxf4?, but after 29...exf4 30.Kxg2 f3+ 31.Kf1? Rf4! his king was in a mating net. Carlsen won a few moves later, though he did miss a beautiful way to win more quickly and convincingly.
The win clearly re-established the pecking order in the world rankings. After three rounds Caruana was closing in on the champion, within about 26 points, but now the gap is up to almost 49 points, and Caruana is in danger of falling to third place on the rating list. Levon Aronian, meanwhile, until recently the world's consistent #2 player, has fallen all the way to 8th and is more than 50 points lower-rated than he was a year ago. The biggest winner so far in the rating realm is Wesley So, who continues to fly up the rating list and has passed Hikaru Nakamura to take over the mantle as the highest-rated U.S. player.
Back to the tournament. Vassily Ivanchuk (who is now going by "Vasil" rather than "Vassily" - I didn't hear the explanation of this, so if someone understands this please drop us a line in the comments) continues to lead after his draw with Ivan Saric, but maybe he could have had more if he had played 28.d5.
Ding Liren entered the round tied for second place with Radoslaw Wojtaszek, but lost today to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Ding had prepared very deeply in a razor-sharp line of the Caro-Kann, and had he played 25...Rh5 he might have had decent chances for a win. Instead, it was the first of a series of inaccuracies, and by move 32 all he had left was a bad endgame a pawn down, and Vachier-Lagrave converted his advantage smoothly.
As for Wojtaszek, he remains half a point behind the leader after a comfortable draw with Black against Hou Yifan. Hou tried a rare sideline against the Dragon that had worked well for Vladimir Onischuk, but Wojtaszek was well-prepared and put the line out of business.
Wojtaszek and Carlsen are tied for second, and So joined them with a win over the suffering Baadur Jobava. Jobava found another interesting opening novelty - 7.Bd5 in the Giuoco Piano - and it looks like a good surprise idea for blitz or rapid. Classical chess is another story, and after a 15-minute think So found a way to neutralize it, and soon he stood better. Thanks to his bishop pair and pressure against f2 Black was always doing well, and with the exception of an understandable error on move 25 it was a convincing victory for the younger player.
With a win Anish Giri could have made it a four-way tie for second, but if I've analyzed 15.Nf3 correctly he was fortunate to get a draw against Teimour Radjabov. Radjabov went for an entertaining rook sacrifice instead with 15.fxe6 dxe6 16.Rxf7, and the result was an entertaining flurry resulting in a perpetual check.
Finally, in the only game where neither player could at least reach a tie for second with a win, Loek van Wely and Levon Aronian drew by repetition after 30 moves. The game had its interesting moments, though, and may have some theoretical significance as well, so it would be wrong to write it off as a "grandmaster draw" in the bad old sense.
- Ding Liren (3.5) - van Wely (2)
- Saric (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3.5)
- Giri (3.5) - Ivanchuk (4.5)
- So (4) - Radjabov (3)
- Wojtaszek (4) - Jobava (.5)
- Carlsen (4) - Hou Yifan (2)
- Aronian (2) - Caruana (3)
In the Challengers' group there were five wins, and four of them were quick and brutal: van Kampen's win vs. Dale, Navara's over Timman, Wei Yi's against Sevian and Shankland's vs. Michiels. Klein also won, vs. Gunina, in a long ending, while Haast-Saleh and l'Ami-Potkin were drawn. Navara and Wei Yi lead with 4.5/6 half a point ahead of Shankland, l'Ami and van Kampen.
There was another exciting round today at Wijk aan Zee with four decisive games out of seven. World champion Magnus Carlsen notched his first win of the tournament, while Vassily Ivanchuk and Ding Liren picked up their third wins.
Let's go through the games one at a time, beginning with Ivanchuk's win as he's the clear leader. Ivanchuk had White against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and they went for a 6.Be3 Ng4 Najdorf. MVL is a Najdorf specialist, but it was Ivanchuk who introduced something new with 15.a4 followed by Nc3-d5-e3. It didn't seem as if he did anything special, but somehow his plan left him with a clear advantage. For a time he was unable to increase his edge, but when Black played 28...Ba6? the game came to an abrupt end. Ivanchuk's 29.Bf2! followed by 30.Nb5! won material, so the French GM gave up after the latter move.
Fabiano Caruana was the co-leader entering the round, but he was unable to get anything with White against Wesley So in a Ruy Lopez, and even stood worse near the end of the game. There's a long way to go, but So has finished with 2/3 against the top three seeds, and if anything could have pressed more against both Carlsen and Caruana.
Caruana is therefore in second, and he has company. Ding Liren won his third game in a row, defeating Teimour Radjabov with Black in a King's Indian. Radjabov was doing well in the early middlegame, but at a certain point lost the thread. With 29.Qh6 he lost the entire spool, and was overrun by Black's attack culminating in the nice queen sac with 34...cxd2.
Two players won to get back to 50%, and the most notable winner was the world champion. Carlsen chose a slightly dubious line of the Fianchetto Gruenfeld against Loek van Wely, but after van Wely's inaccurate 16.Qb3 Carlsen found a very nice idea with 16...Qe6 followed by 17...fxe6. The resulting position was dangerous for White, but van Wely defended very well until his 25th move. Whether 25.g5 was a minor blunder in time trouble or a bit of overoptimism is something for him to answer, but objectively it just lost a pawn without promising anything worthwhile in return against accurate play. After a further error on move 33, Carlsen rolled to victory. If he is able to build on this confidence and put together a winning streak, the rest of the field can blame van Wely for letting Carlsen off the mat.
The other winner, who also got back to 50% in the process, was Ivan Saric. His win came at the expense of Baadur Jobava, who is definitely not having his best tournament here. As I've noted in previous reports, Jobava is full of unusual ideas in the opening, and while they occasionally backfire (as they have in some previous rounds here) they sometimes work magnificently. This was a success story. Despite the final result Jobava's opening play was terrific, and he had a serious opening advantage after 16 moves. Unfortunately, his 17th move was well-motivated but made his king a tactical liability, and Saric turned the tables and won.
The other two games were drawn. Levon Aronian enjoyed some pressure against Radoslaw Wojtaszek but not enough to win, while Hou Yifan and Anish Giri drew quickly in a Two Knights with 4.d3.
Tomorrow is a rest day, and the next few rounds will be played in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, the games with my notes are here, and here are the pairings for round 5:
- Vachier-Lagrave (2) - van Wely (1)
- Ding Liren (3) - Ivanchuk (3.5)
- Saric (2) - Radjabov (1.5)
- Giri (2) - Jobava (.5)
- So (2.5) - Hou Yifan (1)
- Wojtaszek (2.5) - Caruana (3)
- Carlsen (2) - Aronian (1.5)
In the Challengers' group (the B-group) there were six decisive games out of seven! Three of the four co-leaders entering the round won (David Navara beat Ari Dale, Wei Yi beat Valentina Gunina and Robin van Kampen beat Anne Haast); they share first with 3/4. Sam Sevian and Erwin L'Ami also won a couple of very long games, against Vladimir Potkin and Bart Michiels, respectively, and the final winner of the day was Salem Saleh who beat David Klein. (The day's only draw was a tough struggle between Sam Shankland and Jan Timman.)
There was a lot of action today in Wijk aan Zee, complete with a surprisingly large number of errors and even blunders. We begin with Radoslaw Wojtaszek's remarkably one-sided defeat of the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. Wojtaszek struck a powerful blow for his "boss" - he has long been one of Viswanathan Anand's seconds - defeating Carlsen with surprising ease on the white side of an unusual Leningrad Dutch. Rather than opting for the traditional kingside fianchetto Wojtaszek expanded on the queenside with an early b4. Carlsen prevented White from consolidating his extra space on that flank by pushing his a-pawn all the way to a3, where it was soon lost. Carlsen may have had some compensation for this, but objectively speaking that went out the window after 28...Qe6. Whether it was a blunder or a case of unnecessarily desperate action is unclear, but what does seem clear is that White was winning after this move if he played well, and Wojtaszek did. One might have wondered how Wojtaszek would feel after escaping from seriously lost positions in the first two rounds; it seems the answer could be that he felt revitalized.
While one can wonder if Carlsen blundered in his game there's no question that Levon Aronian did in his, against Wesley So. After 20...Nd7 White can win an exchange, but Black will have at least enough activity to make up for the material. After Aronian's 20...Ng8?? 21.Bh5 g6 22.fxg6!, however, he was simply lost. Aronian fought for another 32 moves, but against So's accurate play he never had a chance to save the game.
Baadur Jobava also lost disastrously, but it wasn't so much due to any one move (though there were some clear errors) as it was to an overly risky strategy. Sometimes Jobava's provocative play backfires, and against Ding Liren he had to resign after just 22 moves.
The final winner of the day was Vassily Ivanchuk, whose victory over Loek van Wely was more to his credit than to any particular egregious move or plan by the Dutchman. Ivanchuk just played well and overwhelmed his opponent.
Ivanchuk caught Fabiano Caruana in first place with 2.5/3, as Caruana only managed a draw against Anish Giri. That may not be the best way of putting it, as it suggests that he had some chances to win. He didn't, but had to suffer for 97 long moves with the black pieces before escaping with half a point.
The games Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Teimour Radjabov and Ivan Saric vs. Hou Yifan were also drawn, and in both cases one player missed a likely win. In the first game it was Vachier-Lagrave who missed a great chance with the subtle 32.Nc7!!, while in the second it was Hou Yifan who could have had her opponent on the ropes had she played the obvious and banal 18...Rxa4.
The games, with my notes, are here. These are tomorrow's pairings for round 4:
- van Wely (1) - Carlsen (1)
- Aronian (1) - Wojtaszek (2)
- Caruana (2.5) - So (2)
- Hou Yifan (.5) - Giri (1.5)
- Jobava (.5) - Saric (1)
- Radjabov (1.5) - Ding Liren (2)
- Ivanchuk (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)
In the B-group, David Klein beat Bart Michiels, Vladimir Potkin beat Valentina Gunina and Anne Haast upset Jan Timman. Klein, Robin van Kampen, Wei Yi and David Navara lead with 2/3.
Here's a quick note about two recent rapid tournaments - there has been some high-level action outside of the Candidates. (Not much, maybe, but some.)
First, Vassily Ivanchuk won the Latvian Railway Rapid Open with an incredible 13 out of 14. He won his first nine games, drew two, and then won his last three to win the tournament by three full points.
Second, Alexei Shirov and Yuriy Kuzubov were leading the 5th Chebanenco Rapid Open with a round to go, but both lost and Viktor Bologan wound up the clear winner with 7/9. (Appropriately, I suppose, as he was one of Chebanenko's [sic] students.)
In the previous post and this older one I presented a pair of games from the SportAccord World Mind Games; in this one I will recap the results and present still another game. It was a very strong event with 16 elite GMs participating. The event had three stages: a 7-round Swiss in rapid chess, a double round-robin in blitz, and finally five rounds of Basque System chess. (The Basque System refers to a match where the opponents simultaneously face each other on two boards, having one color on one and the opposite on the other.)
In the Rapid, Peter Leko was leading with 5/6 going into the last round, but he lost to Wang Yue and took second to him on tiebreak. Alexander Grischuk took the bronze with 4.5 points, also on tiebreaks ahead of Leinier Dominguez.
Likewise in the blitz, there were ties for both the gold and the bronze. Sergey Karjakin scored 19.5/30 and finished ahead of Levon Aronian on tiebreaks, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's 18 point total proved better than Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's, likewise thanks to the tiebreaks.
Finally, Karjakin was also able to "Basque" in the glory of a triumph in the third tournament, winning with a very impressive score of 8.5/10. Mamedyarov was second, a full two points behind, and Ruslan Ponomariov was third with 6 points.
Now to another game from the tournament. In my older post on the event (linked above) I presented a catastrophic loss by Vassily Ivanchuk to Ian Nepomniachtchi in just 20 moves. For an encore, let's see his loss to Gata Kamsky, which only went 21 moves. (Sometimes the best thing one can do about a tournament is to forget it as quickly as possible.)
I haven't presented too many games lately, but I hope to rectify that somewhat over the holiday season. Let's start with a quick one, a speedy win by Ian Nepomniachtchi over Vassily Ivanchuk from the recently completed World Mind Games event in Beijing, China. This was from the rapid tournament, and illustrates what can happen even to a super-GM who inappropriately violates the rules of thumb we all learned early on about not moving our queen out too quickly and about not keeping our king in the center. These are not laws, of course, but only rules of thumb. Still, they are rules of thumb for a reason!
(Or Grands Prix, if you prefer. You can find all sorts of interesting discussion about this on the interweb.)
In the men's/open Grand Prix in Paris two more rounds have passed since we last took notice, and at the end of these two rounds - making six in total of the eleven to be played - Boris Gelfand is still in front, but sharing the lead with Fabiano Caruana. Gelfand has drawn his last two games, whlie Caruana just won, taking advantage of the precipitously plummeting Vassily Ivanchuk.
Ivanchuk had shared the lead after four rounds, but it was very shaky, as he was lost or nearly lost in the two games he went on to win. In round five against Alexander Grischuk he got another lousy game early on, but this time there was no reprieve. Despite having the white pieces, he was crushed in just 31 moves. In round six, as already mentioned, he lost to Caruana - weirdly. First, he committed a fingerfehler on move 16, intending or at least calculating 16...f6 and then playing 16...Bd7. (Chalk this up as another of the horrors we discussed here some weeks ago, as well as yet another odd episode in Ivanchuk's strange [though often spectacularly successful] career.) Second, he resigned rather prematurely, even if his position may have been lost with best play by Caruana. Ivanchuk should have continued, but he just couldn't stand his position!
All the other round 6 games were drawn, while in round 5 there was a second decisive game: Etienne Bacrot defeated Anish Giri with the black pieces. So Gelfand and Caruana lead with four points, and remember that if Caruana takes clear first in the tournament he qualifies for the Candidates'. Likewise if Grischuk wins, but for the moment he's a point behind, in a six-way tie for 4th-9th place. Just so I don't have to be accused of "forgetting" something, I'll note that Hikaru Nakamura is in third, half a point behind the leaders.
In the Women's Grand Prix (in Tashkent, Uzbekistan), round nine was very strange. After eight rounds Humpy Koneru was plowing through the field with a great score of 6.5/8, gaining tons of rating points and making steady overall progress towards winning a spot in the 2015 World Championship match. She led by a point over the persistent peleton led by Harika Dronavalli and Kateryna Lagno, both of whom were a full point behind. So what happened in round 9? All three lost!
Their relative positions are obviously the same, and no one has passed any of them. Someone has joined the tie for second, though, and that's Bela Khotenashvili, who defeated Humpy in round 9. Two rounds remain, and as Humpy's last two opponents aren't doing very well in the tournament she's still a strong favorite to take clear first.