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    Entries in Vassily Ivanchuk (22)

    Wednesday
    Apr022014

    Recent Rapid Results

    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.)

    Wednesday
    Jan012014

    Recently Completed Events: Beijing

    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.)

    Tuesday
    Dec242013

    A Game From Beijing

    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!

    Behold the disaster...

    Saturday
    Sep282013

    Catching Up on the Grand Prix

    (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.

    Wednesday
    Sep252013

    Updates on Ongoing Events

    1. FIDE Grand Prix (Men): After four rounds it's time for the first rest day in this, the final Grand Prix event of the 2012-2013 cycle. Recall that this event has greater competitive signficance only if either Alexander Grischuk or Fabiano Caruana takes clear first, in which case that person will qualify for the next Candidates' event (rather than Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who has already played his full complement of Grand Prix events in this cycle). Grischuk and Caruana played in round 4, and Grischuk was winning and really should have collected the point. It looks like the win slipped when he played 39.gxh3, hoping that the quantity of pawns would suffice and outweigh the slight cost to their quality that capture entailed. It was a plausible decision - who wants to allow a "coffin nail" like the pawn on Black pawn on h3 to survive? - but apparently a mistaken one.

    The draw left Grischuk at -1 and Caruana at +1. The latter is in third, half a point behind Boris Gelfand, who won in round 3, and Vassily Ivanchuk, who was rather lucky to win in round 4 against Laurent Fressinet. Fressinet was completely winning early on, but he lost the game a little at a time.

    In sum, from someone who is completely impartial: guys born in the 1960s still rule the chess world!

    2. FIDE Grand Prix (Women): Humpy Koneru continues to lead - solo at the moment - after 7 of 11 rounds. Her score of 5.5 points puts her half a point ahead of her fellow Indian Harika Dronavalli and the Ukranian Kateryna Lagno.

    3. World Junior Championships: There's one round to go, and while it's still technically a two-player race in the Open (Boys') division it's nearly a done deal. Top seed Yu Yangyi has a fantastic score of 10.5/12 and leads second seed and defending champion Alexander Ipatov by a full point. Yu has White in the last round too, so he's a pretty big favorite to get at least a draw and clinch the title. In the Girls' section it's a little closer, but Aleksandra Goryachkina is a pretty big favorite to win the title. Her 9.5 points gives her a half point lead over Zhansaya Abdumalik, and in addition she (Goryachkina) will have White in the last round against a player rated 200 points lower while Abdumalik has the black pieces against a higher-rated opponent.

    4. Topalov-Laznicka Match: This finished nicely for Veselin Topalov, who won both games 4 and 6 with Black while drawing game 5 with White. As a result of this Hou Yifanesque performance in the second half of the match, he defeated Viktor Laznicka by a 4-2 margin.

    Friday
    Jul262013

    A Short Review of Kalinichenko's Vassily Ivanchuk: 100 Selected Games

    Nikolay Kalinichenko, Vassily Ivanchuk: 100 Selected Games (New In Chess, 2013). 317 pp. $32.95/€28.95.

    Vassily Ivanchuk is one of the strongest and most creative players of our time, and has been a leading player for almost a quarter of a century. Despite this, Ivanchuk has not yet written a chess autobiography, and as far as I know there are no full-length chess biographies dedicated to him, at least not in English. Ideally Ivanchuk himself will rectify the situation at some point, but for now it's up to others to take up the slack.

    Nikolay Kalinichenko is a grandmaster in correspondence chess, and so one would expect him to be a strong analyst. There is a lot of analysis in the book - primarily variations - with "talk" serving primarily as grammatical glue. Further, a lot of the analysis appears to be independent. No bibliography is provided, so I did some spot-checking between Kalinichenko's notes and Ivanchuk's in the Informant, and found essentially no overlap. This surprises me. I believe wholeheartedly that Kalinichenko is completely right to do his own analysis without checking any other sources, but only in the draft stage. Even if one is convinced that one's own analysis is superior, it's still worthwhile to see what the player himself thought during the game, to see the direction of his thought and to grasp the "plot" of the game from moment to moment from the player's perspective. My impression is that Kalinichenko's analysis is largely computer-driven, rather than human-driven, and while that ensures that it will be at a high level it won't necessarily give an accurate picture of what the flesh and blood players had in mind.

    His opening commentary is generally helpful but somewhat idiosyncratic. Sometimes he cites very old games whose theory has been completely superseded, and the citations don't always seem to be there to make an instructive point. Overall though, the opening analysis, while not always cutting edge (or trying to be), does fill out the context.

    One area in which there could be a lot more context is the sporting background to each of the games. Kalinichenko opens the book with a functional but not inspiring pen portrait of his subject, and it touches on the familiar ground: Ivanchuk's talent, his wide-ranging chess erudition, his artistic approach and, of course, his sometimes shaky nerves. But once that's over and the main body of the text begins, it's almost 100% chess, with a near-complete absence of background information and "color". How was Ivanchuk doing in the tournament? How did he usually fare against that particular opponent? What did the game mean to him from a sporting or aesthetic point of view? There is very little of this, and again, that's one of the reasons why it's best when such books are written by the players themselves.

    Overall, the book is a little dry for my taste. Both because Ivanchuk is such a great player and because he's such an unusual figure, it would have been better if the book had presented a more fully-orbed picture of the man and his games. Still, despite its flaws the book's existence is a service to the chess community. To those of you who primarily think of Ivanchuk for his eccentricities, you are missing out on something special. His best games are exceptional and distinctive, and this book will give you a good taste of his greatness as a player.  There are wins over Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, Carlsen, Aronian, Topalov, Caruana, Karjakin and pretty much every other great player of the past 20 years - generally multiple wins. Kalinichenko's analysis is competent and instructive, so although I hope for a better book someday I'm glad I have this one today.

    Friday
    May242013

    Thessaloniki Grand Prix, Round 3: Ivanchuk Loses A Won Game

    Five of the six games in round 3 of the FIDE Grand Prix in Thessaloniki were drawn, and of the five four of them were logical; that is, neither side ever had a serious advantage. Kamsky-Grischuk was another story, as Kamsky had a huge time advantage and an outright win in his grasp with 27.Nxf7! Nxf7 28.Nxg6. White's attack is too strong, and Black has loose material on h5, f8 and e7. Kamsky waited one more move before firing away with his attack, but 29...Qa2+! (perhaps Kamsky had missed this a few moves back?) gave Grischuk just enough to survive. Enough to survive, but not to equalize: Kamsky could have played on with 34.Qh7+ Kf8 35.Qe4 (or likewise two moves later); instead, he took the repetition and called it a day - pretty understandably, taking into account his own vulnerable-looking king and the ridiculous (and loose) bishop on h2. (Note, however, that after 35...Qxh2? White has 36.Rg2 Qh1 37.Nh7+, when Black loses the rook on f6 for nothing [at least nothing but the bishop captured on move 35], as White will otherwise win Black's queen with a discovered attack.)

    As for the one decisive game, it was a catastrophe for Ivanchuk. He had a colossal advantage against Dominguez, missing an easy outright win on move 26 with 26.Be5 (he had time, too, but it's one of those moves you either "see" quickly or you don't; more time is unlikely to help), and then a more subtle win on move 31 (31.Nxg7 Rxd6 32.Qe8+ Kh7 33.Nh5! - not too difficult either, if one has time on the clock) and yet a third win the next move (32.Nxg7 followed by 33.Ne8). Even after these errors he was still better, and would have had good winning chances after 37.Nf6+ or especially 37.Nc7. Instead, he uncorked the ridiculous 37.f4??, hanging his knight.

    The finish was if anything even more amazing. Back in 2009 the same players had another time scramble. Ivanchuk knocked over some pieces then, and although he was winning at the time control he felt bad about the toppled pieces and offered a draw. In act of remarkable sportsmanship, Dominguez didn't take the knight but went for a perpetual check, to pay Ivanchuk back for the 2009 game, but Ivanchuk's flag fell on the last move of the time control and the arbiters declared the forfeit - even as Dominguez tried to declare the game drawn! Alas...

    Round 4 Pairings:

    • Grischuk (2) - Bacrot (1)
    • Morozevich (2) - Nakamura (.5)
    • Caruana (2) - Kasimdzhanov (2)
    • Dominguez (1.5) - Svidler (1.5)
    • Topalov (1.5) - Ivanchuk (.5)
    • Kamsky (2) - Ponomariov (1.5)

    Friday
    Mar292013

    Candidates' Tournament, Round 12: Kramnik Beats Aronian, Ivanchuk Beats Carlsen; Kramnik Leads!

    What a round! Magnus Carlsen had been in first place at the Candidates', either shared or alone, from round 4, and he entered today's round with a half point lead over Vladimir Kramnik and a full point ahead of Levon Aronian. With White against the erratic, self-destructive Vassily Ivanchuk he seemed well situated to increase his lead, especially with Kramnik having the black pieces against Aronian.

    Instead, another "miracle" happened - or two. Kramnik came up with a fascinating plan with 10...f5 in a typical IQP position, and it looked good enough to equalize. Practically, it was even better. Aronian's best choice at a certain moment early on was to force a draw by repetition (starting with 15.Bxb5 f4, as I recall), but in his tournament situation that would have been hard to do. So he played on and was worse, but soon the board exploded with tactics. Kramnik made an error that could have allowed Aronian to escape with a draw, but missed it. Instead of finding that move - 21.Ne5 - Aronian played 21.e4?, and Kramnik was very ready for that one. A very nice tactical sequence left Kramnik with a probably winning technical endgame...but again Kramnik slipped. Aronian had several ways to draw the resulting piece-down ending (all based on the wrong-colored bishop + rook pawn combination), but when he played 50.g6?? his last chance was gone. It's hard to know what was going on in Aronian's mind, but it looks as if he was trying to win. It's tough to balance fighting spirit and self-preservation, and in this case Aronian chose wrongly - especially as it was clear by this point that Carlsen would have to struggle to draw.

    Turning to that game, Carlsen played the opening poorly with White and was slightly worse. After Ivanchuk's odd 18...a5, however, Carlsen equalized, but then by the end of the first time control Chuky, with Black, was again somewhat better. Still, it wasn't clear for a long time what the result should be, and not only due to the ever-present concern that Ivanchuk would do something completely insane. This time around, he didn't, and when Carlsen failed to maintain his usual insanely high level of technical prowess the Ukranian great managed to convert his material advantage. Overall, Ivanchuk played very well, while Carlsen immediately labeled his play "absolutely disgraceful."

    Thanks to that loss, and Kramnik's remarkable run in the second cycle (4.5/5; three in a row) it is now Kramnik who leads by half a point, with Carlsen in second and Aronian a point and a half behind with two rounds to go. Tomorrow is the rest day, and then they finish up on Easter Sunday and Monday. Before giving the full standings and pairings for the last two rounds, a quick note about the other two games, games which could in fact prove very important.

    Boris Gelfand and Peter Svidler drew a game without fireworks, but that looked like a model squeeze by Gelfand before the inaccurate 32.Qa7. According to Svidler, 32.Qb3, maintaining the squeeze, would have kept an enduring advantage based on the bishop pair and the possibility of b4-b5. Teimour Radjabov-Alexander Grischuk was also drawn, and as in the Gelfand-Svidler game White may have missed an opportunity for more. Nothing much happened until 40...h5, but that was a serious error allowing White to target Black's f-pawn after 41.h4. Maybe 43.Rxf5+ would have given Radjabov better winning chances than 43.Bxf5; as it was, Grischuk had to wriggle before reaching the theoretically drawn ending with a rook against a rook and f- and h-pawns.

    Why were these games important? The answer is that the tournament regulations have a very unfortunate provision for settling a first-place tie: tiebreaks! This is the second-most important event in the chess calendar, behind only the world championship itself, and the geniuses at FIDE are going to allow the challenger's identity to be decided by which player won more games, or how the tailender does in the last round against the next-to-last placed finisher. This is just insane, especially as plenty of far less prestigious events run playoffs in case of a tie.

    About the games: I managed to goof my back up (for the second straight year; let's hope this doesn't become a tradition!), so for now I can't sit long enough to work up an in-depth analysis of the games. If things improve I may try to make up for it tomorrow, during the rest day; otherwise, my apologies.

    Standings After Round 12:

    1. Kramnik 8
    2. Carlsen 7.5
    3. Aronian 6.5
    4. Svidler 6
    5-6. Grischuk, Gelfand 5.5
    7. Ivanchuk 5
    8. Radjabov 4

    Round 13 Pairings (Sunday):

    • Radjabov - Carlsen (Clearly a big opportunity for Carlsen to bounce right back.)
    • Grischuk - Aronian (Will Aronian burn his bridges trying to stay alive, or just play "correct" chess?)
    • Kramnik - Gelfand (Gelfand has traditionally matched up well with Kramnik, and rarely loses games to him at a classical time control.)
    • Svidler - Ivanchuk

    Round 14 Pairings (Monday):

    • Carlsen - Svidler
    • Ivanchuk - Kramnik (Will Ivanchuk rise to the occasion again, or (indirectly) harm Carlsen a second time?)
    • Gelfand - Grischuk
    • Aronian - Radjabov
    Friday
    Mar082013

    Candidates Previews: Svidler, Ivanchuk, Grischuk

    ChessBase is doing a sort of countdown, profiling the eight Candidates going from lowest-rated to highest. So far they've done three: Peter Svidler, Vassily Ivanchuk and Alexander Grischuk. The articles present the full record of how each player has done against all his rivals in Classical games, which is quite nice; I wouldn't put much (any) stock in the author's conclusions about what openings each player will or ought to play, however. Anyway, it's fun to skim this information, and as I run across other interesting previews I'll pass them along.

    Friday
    Feb012013

    Vitiugov Wins Gibraltar

    (But where will he put it? It's an awfully big rock.)

    Russian GM Nikita Vitiugov won the 11th Tradewise Gibraltar Festival after tying for first with 8/10 and then winning a four-man blitz(ish) playoff. Vitiugov, who never trailed the field for even one round, wound up tied with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Nigel Short and Chanda Sandipan. It was an extremely strong field, as evidenced by some of the luminaries who finished with 7.5 points - Vassily "Quick Draw" Ivanchuk, Gata Kamsky, Michael Adams and David Navara - and some major figures were part of the tie at 7 points - Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Alexei Shirov and Chuky's partner in crime, Le Quang Liem.

    Rather than go to tiebreaks, the organizers used a knockout playoff of 10' + 5" games. Vitiugov dispatched of Sandipan without much trouble. Sandipan tried to "Zuke" Vitiugov in game 1, and failed, losing, and in round 2 it seemed near-miraculous that Sandipan got off the hook with a draw. In the second match a mild upset occurred. Short won game 1 with Black in a Delayed Steinitz. Vachier-Lagrave had more space, but seemed to get a bit careless. Short broke open White's kingside, and eventually took advantage. In game 2 Vachier-Lagrave managed to keep the game interesting, but Short's bishops kept enough control for the game to end in a draw.

    In game 1 of the final, Vitiugov, with White, won a pawn, and after 43 moves the players reached an ending where White had a queen, knight and four pawns against a queen, bishop and three pawns; all the pawns were on the kingside. Vitiugov took his sweet time, using lots of repetitions to accumulate precious seconds for thought, and finally converted his advantage after 104 moves. Short tried to grind out an endgame in the rematch, but the best he could do was to reach an opposite-colored bishop ending that was easily drawn.

    The tournament coverage was very good, with GM Simon Williams and IM Irina Krush providing live commentary (still available) and other videos as well. This includes a number of "master classes", including one by Vassily Ivanchuk that may have been his "punishment" for the quick draw with Le Quang Liem: