Sunday, December 6, 2009

So vs Ivanchuk


(Abridged version, as published in Chess Piece, BusinessWorld, December 7, 2009)

The FIDE World Chess Cup is taking place in the oil-boom town of Khanty-Mansiysk, in that general part of Russia we usually refer to as Siberia, from Nov. 20 up to Dec. 15, 2009. It is a seven-round knockout event comprising of 128 players with six rounds of matches comprising two games per round, with the winners progressing to the next round. The final seventh round consists of four games. The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move from move one. Aside from the huge cash prizes, the winner of the World Chess Cup automatically qualifies for the Candidates’ match-tournament, from which the challenger to the world championship title will come from.

As narrated last Friday Wesley So had defeated the Azerbaijani GM Gadir Guseinov 4-1 in the first round of the World Cup. His compatriots were not so lucky -- GM Joey Antonio had succumbed to the defending World Cup Champion Gata Kamsky 0.5-1.5, while GM Darwin Laylo had put up a hell of a fight vs the much higher-rated Czech GM David Navara, splitting the standard and rapid games and only losing wind in the 2-game blitz playoffs. Final score 3-5.

Wesley faced GM Vassily Ivanchuk in the second round. "Chuckie", of course, has been one of the world’s top players for two decades and was close to the world championship title in 2001 before being upset by compatriot Ruslan Ponomariov in the final round. He has too many achievements to enumerate here -- a short sampling of his credentials:

a) In 1990 the Soviet Union had not yet split into several independent republics, when powerhouses Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Estonia were represented by only one team. Kasparov and Karpov were busy playing their world championship match -- Ivanchuk was tapped to play board 1 for the Soviet Union. He was completely up to the task, scoring 7/10 to lead the USSR to the gold medals.

b) He won the Linares tournament in 1991. Fourteen players participated, eight of them rated top-ten of the world, including World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, while the rest were all among the world’s top 50 players. It was a race between Ivanchuk and Kasparov, but Ivanchuk won by half a point. In this tournament he defeated the three "Ks", Kasparov, Karpov and Kamsky. Nobody else has ever managed to do that in one tournament.

Ivanchuk is regularly ranked together with Kramnik and Anand as the best player in the world. He was not expected to have any difficulty disposing of Wesley So.

I like GM Golubev’s comment to this game: "Ivanchuk’s loss was the most dramatic upset of the Round 2.1 as he showed interesting ideas and could have easily forced a draw several times. But it also must be said that his opponent, Wesley So, defended extremely well and it is hard to call his victory in this game undeserved."

Ivanchuk, Vassily (2739) - So, Wesley (2640) [C01]
World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (2.1), 24.11.2009