Entries in World Cup 2011 (21)
The 2011 World Cup is over at last, and Peter Svidler is the champion. He drew quite comfortably with the white pieces against Alexander Grischuk, and could easily have pressed for a win if he wanted to. His 34th move let Grischuk escape the worst of it, but only at the cost of allowing the position to be completely drawn. With the draw Svidler won the match 2.5-1.5 and Grischuk took the second prize.
A third qualifying spot would go to the winner of the match between Vassily Ivanchuk and Ruslan Ponomariov. Ivanchuk entered the day leading their match 2-1, but unlike Svidler he had to hold with Black. There were some anxious moments, but at the end of a pretty long game he managed to hold the draw and win the match.
These three thus qualify for next year's Candidates' matches. Eight players in all will participate: Svidler, Grischuk, Ivanchuk, the loser of next year's world championship match between Viswanathan Anand and challenger Boris Gelfand, three ratings qualifiers (at this point, it looks like Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian are sure things, with the third spot currently a toss-up between Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik), plus one player of the organizer's choosing (as long as his [or Judit Polgar's] rating is over 2700). If Carlsen once again turns his spot down, I'm not sure what the procedure will be - maybe Ponomariov will qualify, or maybe they'll take a fourth rating qualifier, or else the organizer will select two players.
That's a ways off; for now, let's finish up on the World Cup. The tournament site (with today's video coverage) is here (I warn you, though, you might want to turn it off just before the very end!), and today's games (with my notes to the first game but not the second) are here.
With their draws today Peter Svidler and Vassily Ivanchuk have moved to within draw odds of winning their matches against Alexander Grischuk and Ruslan Ponomariov, respectively. With Black, Svidler drew pretty easily in a Classical Ruy, and is in great shape to win the World Cup tomorrow needing only a draw with White. Ivanchuk had a tougher time of things, despite having the white pieces. Like Ponomariov yesterday, he made a poor opening choice and was soon forced to defend an inferior ending. In Ivanchuk's case, this meant being a pawn down in an ending where both sides had a bishop and knight ending, but thanks to the opposite-colored bishops he achieved the draw on move 82, after 52 moves' worth of suffering in that ending. Will his serves hold up for one more day, allowing him to take the final Candidates' spot? We'll see.
In game two of the match for the World Cup championship, Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk made a short draw, preserving the former's lead at the halfway point of the match. It may have looked like Svidler was content with a day off, but he insisted at the press conference that it was just him failing yet again in this tournament to get anything with the white pieces. Tomorrow, obviously, is Grischuk's last best chance to keep the match alive.
In the battle for third place and the final spot in the Candidates matches, Vassily Ivanchuk continued the tournament trend and won with Black, taking a 1.5-.5 lead over Ruslan Ponomariov. The game had two especially odd moments. The first came early, when Ponomariov played 13.Nxe6?! after thinking for about 13 minutes in an extremely well-known position. Whether this was some sort of bluff or not I don't know: he burned another 25 minutes on his next two moves, which is a pretty big commitment to play-acting if that's what he was doing. On the other hand, it's pretty unbelievable to think that he hadn't prepared for the position after Black's 12th move, as there are almost 200 games in the database with it, featuring many of the world's top players. After Black's 4th move, all of Black's moves had been the number-one choice except for 10...Nbd7, but 10...Bd7 is only very slightly more popular - the two moves can be considered co-main lines.
Anyway, not only was 13.Nxe6 a sideline on which Ponomariov burned lots of time, it also quickly left him with a chronically inferior endgame thanks to Black's queenside majority. Ivanchuk maintained some advantage for a long time, and was squeezing as the players neared the time control. White was under some pressure when facing his 37th move, but normally five and a half minutes would be plenty of time for Ponomariov to find 37.R1xe2 Nxe2 38.Nd3!, with very good drawing chances. Instead, he uncorked 37.Rxf5??, which lost to a series of obvious forcing moves. (It would be interesting to know what Ponomariov missed, but - understandably! - he didn't show up at the press conference.) Time trouble wasn't a factor, but exhaustion probably played a role.
Tired or not, Ponomariov and other three remaining contestants continue their battle tomorrow. For now, chess fans can replay the video coverage on the official site, and/or have a look at today's games, with my comments, here.
For the fifth straight match, and the third straight where he hasn't (or hasn't yet) won with White, Peter Svidler has won with the black pieces. As usual when playing Black, however, he had some trouble in the opening, but with resilient play and some help from his opponent he escaped and then some. Alexander Grischuk simply missed Svidler's 18...Nb6, trapping his rook, though even after that the game was still very much up for grabs. From a purely chess point of view, the biggest problems came after Svidler's 23...Ra7, which set a nasty little trap. With under a minute left, Grischuk had no time to work everything out, and after an unsurprising series of mistakes he lost material, his attacking chances and the game. Not a great start, obviously, but at least he has three games left and not just one to catch up.
In the battle for third and the final qualifying spot in the Candidates', Vassily Ivanchuk and Ruslan Ponomariov had a relatively long and complicated fight. Neither side was ever in trouble, but Ivanchuk, with White, was a bit better near the end. His 41st move was a serious lapse, however, allowing Ponomariov an immediate draw.
Poor Vassily Ivanchuk, part 325. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but Ivanchuk has a way of making spectacular errors at the worst possible time. Alexander Grischuk has proved again and again that he's an extremely resilient player, and for the second straight round his opportunistic play enabled him to win a match he could easily have lost.
The first rapid game was well-played and well-fought into the ending. Grischuk, with White in an Advance French, didn't get much from the opening but kept plugging away. Eventually he reached a rook and two vs. rook and pawn ending that should have been drawn but required a little accuracy for Ivanchuk. Unfortunately for the latter, he failed to find the right move, after which the draw would have been trivial, and so Grischuk won.
Ivanchuk showed that he could be resilient too, and he won the second game in good style. Grischuk's 16...e5 seemed to be an overreaction to Ivanchuk's threatened pawn storm, and White parlayed the weakened d5 square into an eventual win.
Then it was on to the 10-minute games, and if Ivanchuk's error in the rook ending of game 1 was the appetizer, this time we got the main course. To be fair, the whole game was somewhat topsy turvy. Grischuk played very aggressively, and by "normal" means obtained a clear advantage. The position was so complicated, however, and time so short that the evaluation changed several times. By move 33 it was still a little messy but getting close to being clear. Ivanchuk was winning, but here it all went astray. He thought he saw a mating continuation and sacrificed a knight (and allowed his kingside to be decimated), only to discover that his next move, 34...Rc1+, was refuted by 35.Bxc1. He simply missed that the bishop could take the rook.
After that horrible blackout he needed to win his last game to once again equalize the match, but couldn't do it. In fact, he was lost in the final position, but Grischuk forced a repetition to clinch match victory and advance to the finals.
So here's the situation: Grischuk and Peter Svidler will meet in the finals to see who will win the World Cup. (It will be a best-of-four-game match, and will start on Friday after the event's one and only rest day.) The match matters for prestige and especially money, but is of no consequence for the Candidates' matches: both players have now qualified. Ironically, the match between semi-finals losers Ivanchuk and Ruslan Ponomariov is the more important one in the bigger picture, as its winner - and only its winner - will also qualify for the Candidates'. Ponomariov beat Ivanchuk in the FIDE World Championship k.o. final in 2002. Will he do it again, or will Ivanchuk get his revenge?
And then there were three...sort of. Only three players remain in the fight for first, but all four are still eligible for advancement to the Candidates. Indeed, while it would have been better for Ruslan Ponomariov to win today, guaranteeing a spot in the next set of Candidates matches, it's better for him that he lost today rather than tomorrow, as it gives him an extra day to rest and prepare for the loser of tomorrow's tiebreaker between Vassily Ivanchuk and Alexander Grischuk.
Of course, the person in the best situation is Peter Svidler, who defeated Ponomariov, thereby advancing to the final and guaranteeing his spot in the Candidates. As against Judit Polgar in the previous round, he won the second game of the match with the black pieces after an unimpressive draw in his white game. Ponomariov played a sideline against the Grünfeld, which Svidler met with a move generally considered dubious. Ponomariov did enjoy the easier play for a while, but Svidler's play with 8...Nc6 and 9...e5 kept him alive, and once he castled long he was fine. Black's 13...0-0-0 allowed White to win the exchange for a pawn, but maybe White should have declined the offer, at least in part. Black's bishop pair and 3-1 queenside majority (also supported by the king, thanks to its having castled long) became a dreadful force. The last big mistake was 28.Re2, after which Black's pawns were unstoppable.
As for Ivanchuk-Grischuk, it was an interesting game where first Black and then White stood better, but neither side ever had anything too serious. Ivanchuk came closer to having something, but if it's there I didn't manage to find it - it seems that Grischuk was always able to construct some sort of fortress. So they're off to tiebreaks tomorrow.
Today we had a pair of short draws, but in both cases it was due to successful opening play by Black rather than collusion aimed at an unofficial rest day.
Peter Svidler "declined" the Berlin against Ruslan Ponomariov, aiming for the sort of slow kingside buildup that has become popular lately both as an anti-Berlin weapon but also in the Italian Game. The most interesting moment came on move 12, when Ponomariov broke precedent by giving up his seemingly better bishop in order to open the center. The plan looked very effective, and if anything Svidler was soon more eager to split the point than his opponent.
In the second game, Vassily Ivanchuk chose a very passive, very solid line of the French against Alexander Grischuk, in effect daring him to do something with his extra space. On this occasion, he was unable to, and once Black achieved the liberating ...e5 the draw was at hand.
Hopefully we'll have a bit more action tomorrow. Meanwhile, those who missed the official site's live coverage can see it here, and/or take the quick route and replay the games (with my comments) here.
It seems like 2001 all over again, and not just because today is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. In the 2001/2 FIDE World Championship in Moscow, the semi-finalists were Ruslan Ponomariov, Peter Svidler, Vassily Ivanchuk and Viswanathan Anand. Ponomariov faced Svidler and Ivanchuk faced Anand. Fast forward ten years, and it's practically the same thing. Anand "graduated" to become the current world champion (not in 2001/2 - Ponomariov won that event, beating Ivanchuk in the final - but in 2007), but the other three are at it again. Not only are they all back in the semis, the bracketing is even the same: Ponomariov faces Svidler, and the winner will face Ivanchuk if he wins. Interesting, Anand's "place" is taken by Alexander Grischuk, who was a semi-finalist in the 2000 FIDE world championship. It's nice to see that these "old-timers" can still play!
Ponomariov and Svidler had already qualified in "regular time", defeating Gashimov and Polgar, respectively. Today's pairings saw Grischuk - who was quite fortunate not to lose yesterday - take on David Navara and Ivanchuk face off against Teimour Radjabov.
In the first rapid round, Navara had White but got nothing against Grischuk's Caro-Kann, and should have reconciled himself to a fairly sterile equality after 15.0-0 0-0. Instead, he played 15.Bd3?!, either overlooking or underestimating 15...d4. Three moves later, he was lost, and although the game went to move 43 Navara never came close to saving it. Speaking of extending the game, Radjabov pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed against Ivanchuk. Rightly so, as he was the exchange ahead, but he was never winning. After White's 64th move it was a rook and pawn vs. bishop and pawn ending that was drawn according to the tablebase, and Ivanchuk held the balance all the way to the end on move 120.
In the second rapid round, Black again had the better of things in the Grischuk-Navara game. Navara even managed to reach a queen and knight ending a pawn up, but with all the pawns on one side Grischuk managed to hold. The game was drawn, and Grischuk progressed to the semis. Ivanchuk got "revenge" against Radjabov, as this time it was he who kept up the slow torture. By move 52 he had made decent progress, but against best play the win - if any - would have remained a long ways off. Radjabov, probably in time trouble, committed a huge tactical oversight, and resigned on move 54, having blundered a piece for nothing.
Now that we're down to the final four, it's worth remembering that although the final places matter for money, the main competitive objective is not to win this tournament but to make the top three. The finalists and the winner of the match between the losing semi-finalists all qualify automatically for the next series of Candidates matches (the Candidates' winner will play for the world championship against the winner of next year's title match between champion Viswanathan Anand and his challenger, Boris Gelfand). Winning in the semi-finals punches one's ticket to the Candidates, but a loss isn't the end of the dream.
So we have Ponomariov-Svidler and Ivanchuk-Grischuk, and it's a good time for another round of predictions: who will these matches, the final, and the third-place match?
We had another round like we're used to at the World Cup, with lots of fight and lots of wins. There were also plenty of mistakes - chess mistakes and mental errors too, which is to be expected near the end of such a long tournament.
Vassily Ivanchuk was in the best shape of anyone after the first day of round 5, as he had defeated Teimour Radjabov while all the other games were drawn. No more. Radjabov devised an enterprising piece sacrifice in a quiet-looking Symmetrical English, and it worked like gangbusters. Soon Radjabov regained the material (and then some) while enjoying strong attacking chances as well. Ivanchuk was crushed, and so they're off to tiebreaks tomorrow.
Judit Polgar was also in good shape coming into the round, having drawn easily with Black on day one. She enjoyed a reasonably promising position in today's game after sacrificing a pawn to set up a strong position where her light-squared bishop was extremely strong while Svidler's dark-squared bishop was correspondingly passive. Maybe at one moment she could have enjoyed a small advantage (and likewise Svidler too may have missed some chances earlier), but most of the way equality was the most she could have hoped for, and that was certainly true on her 30th move. Polgar should have played 30.Qh5, inviting a repetition, but instead hoped for more. Unwarrantedly. Svidler was able to consolidate his extra pawn and take care of his king's problems, and when Polgar continued to play as if she was better, Svidler counterattacked, winning almost immediately.
Simply put, Polgar lost her objectivity, and it cost her the game. Oddly, assuming Mark Crowther has transcribed her comments at the post-game press conference correctly, Polgar began by lamenting that "my luck was not with me today". That seems somewhat ungracious, slightly absurd after the colossal servings of luck she received in the Dominguez match, and odd considering her easy draw with Black yesterday despite mistakenly preparing to have White. (I think her point was that because she had an extra day of White preparation, Svidler decided to play 1...c5 rather than 1...e5 in their game, and in that way she was "unlucky". Svidler offered a different explanation in the press conference, but since Polgar got a very good position in the middlegame in any case, it's again hard to see what this "luck" business is all about.) Even aside from all of that, I can't see any way in which she was unlucky in the last game. She just got greedy, overpressed and lost. There wasn't some long combination she had seen that didn't work because of some ingenious resource Svidler hadn't seen but found at the last second. She just pushed where there was nothing to be had, and her opponent was able to use his trumps to win.
Ruslan Ponomariov also won with Black to advance to the semis; he and Svidler will reprise their battle from the semi-finals of the 2002 FIDE World Championship. (Ponomariov won the title, and by implication their match as well.) He got there by grinding out a very long victory in a knight vs. bishop ending. There were a lot of errors, as is to be expected (tired opponents without a lot of time to think), but Ponomariov's win was the most logical result given the game's general trend.
Finally, David Navara should have also qualified for the semi-finals today. He had done a great job of outplaying Alexander Grischuk from an equal opening, but at the last second, by his own admission, he got careless. 49.Nc3 would have won a second pawn and rendered the win trivial; instead, his 49.Ke5 allowed Grischuk to escape.
Tomorrow, then, the Ivanchuk-Radjabov and Grischuk-Navara matches go to tiebreaks. No rest for the players, commentators or bloggers!