Vassily Ivanchuk and Hou Yifan played a four-game match in China from April 5-8, and the favorite - Ivanchuk - won in unusual style, drawing games 1 and 3 with White and winning games 2 and 4 with Black. Here are the last two games from the match, both of which were short and entertaining.
Entries in Vassily Ivanchuk (35)
It may not be the world championship title Vassily Ivanchuk really wanted in his career, but it's a very nice feather in his cap all the same.* Scoring 11 out of 15, as did Alexander Grischuk and Magnus Carlsen but having the better tiebreak scores, Ivanchuk won the 2016 World Rapid Championship, defeating Carlsen, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Viswanathan Anand and other great players along the way. He drew with Grischuk, among others, and lost to Levon Aronian and Ian Nepomniachtchi along the way. But he won most of the big games, including victories in the last two rounds, and was the deserved winner. Among other accomplishments, he's now #2 in the world in rapid, behind only Carlsen himself.
Grischuk also lost twice, to Anton Korobov (the leader after the first day with 5/5) and to Carlsen on day 2, but finished very strongly with an undefeated 5/6 in the day two finale and on day 3. He won his last three games, with the last two victims the notable Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Nepomniachtchi. He came in second on tiebreak. Had he won, he'd have been the reigning champion in rapid and in blitz, heading into that championship which starts tomorrow (or today, depending on where you are) - Thursday.
Carlsen was third on tiebreaks, and given his so-called Swiss gambit (early losses and/or draws resulting in easier opponents in subsequent rounds) that was pretty much a guarantee early on if he finished tied for a top place. He was lucky to draw in round 1 against Surya Ganguly, especially when Ganguly missed a simple mate in three, and in round 2 he was crushed by Levan Pantsulaia. After that he won four in a row, mostly against non-elite opponents, and then lost to Ivanchuk in round 7. After a couple of good wins and a draw with Levon Aronian, he lost one ore time, to Korobov, but then reeled off four in a row to finish equal first. The last two wins were especially big, especially his win in the penultimate round over Nepomniachtchi. Nepo had the white pieces and was a full point ahead of what would be the winning trio. He had been undefeated up to that point, but he lost to Carlsen and then to Grischuk, as noted above.
The winning trio finished a point clear of their closest pursuers: Mamedyarov, Yu Yangyi, Nepomniachtchi, and the surprising David Anton Guijarro. The next score group saw six players with 9.5, including Aronian, while Anand and Sergey Karjakin were among those with 9 points. How difficult was the tournament? The group with 8.5 points included Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura. So the event was plenty strong, though it's still a slight pity that the world's #2-4 players, Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik, and Wesley So, didn't participate. (To be fair, those are their classical rankings; their rapid rankings are 19, 11, and 17, respectively.)
On to the blitz!
* Ivanchuk also won the World Blitz Championship in 2007, so this isn't his first world championship title.
Vassily Ivanchuk cooled off a bit in the second half of the Capablanca Memorial, but even finishing with a +1 =4 score in the second round robin was good enough for him to finish with an undefeated 7-3 score, a point ahead of his countryman Yuriy Kryvoruchko. Ivan Cheparinov and Zoltan Almasi both finished on 50%, while the native players Lenier Dominguez and Lazaro Bruzon took the bottom places with 4.5 and 2.5 points, respectively.
That was the Elite Group; in the "Premier" tournament the very young American GM Jeffery Xiong took first with 6.5/9. He won his first three games in the tournament, then drew five in a row before winning in the last round, and in so doing finished half a point clear of Cuban GM Isan Ortiz Suarez and Polish GM Kamil Dragun.
Not many (non-Cuban) members of the world's super-elite play in the annual Capablanca Memorial in Havana, except for Vassily Ivanchuk. This event is a favorite of his, and he has won it six times. This year, it looks like he's going to make it seven, as he has raced out to a 4-1 score, already enough for a point and a half lead over the rest of the field. Moreover, he has not just been successful; he has been playing excellent chess as well.
More here. (HT: Brian Gaines)
The column is here. I muse about recent suggestions that rapid chess should become "real" chess; i.e., that classical time controls should be eliminated and rapid ones take their place in main events, and then present a rapid game that is one of the best and most interesting games of modern times, period.
Vassily (now "Vasil") Ivanchuk won the Vladimir Petrov Memorial in Jurmala, Latvia this past weekend, scoring 9/11 in this open Swiss. This was an extremely strong rapid tournament, and Ivanchuk's score put him half a point ahead of Sergey Karjakin, Boris Gelfand and Richard Rapport. There was also a strong (but significantly weaker) field in the blitz tournament held on Friday; that finished in a four-way tie between Vladimir Malakhov (who won on tiebreaks), Daniel Fridman, Valentina Gunina and Loek van Wely.
A helpful page for English-speakers and readers is here.
HT: Thomas Richter
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.
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.