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    Entries in Vassily Ivanchuk (45)

    Friday
    Jan162015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 6: Carlsen Defeats Caruana; Ivanchuk Still Leads

    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.

    The tournament site is here, the games (with my comments) are here, and these are tomorrow's pairings for round 7:

    • 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.

    Tuesday
    Jan132015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 4 Recap: Ivanchuk Leads with 3.5/4

    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.)

    Monday
    Jan122015

    Wijk aan Zee 2015, Round 3 Recap: Caruana & Ivanchuk Lead

    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.

    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)