SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The 5th round of the Grand Prix saw 2 decisive games,the first between Wang vs Eljanov and the second between Ponomariov vs Ivanchuk. Black won both! The rest of the games ended in relatively quick draws, with the exception of Inarkiev vs Jakovenko (which ended in a draw after 60 moves).
The scoretable can be seen below. The Ukrainian Eljanov is in the lead with 3.5 points, followed closely by Gashimov, Inarkiev, Leko and Gelfand with 3 points.
Wang was very unfortunate to lose against Eljanov, a heart-breaker really. Eljanov seemed to be doing well from the opening stage of play right up until around move 30, when somehow his position started to go downhill. By move 36 the Ukrainian’s position was almost desperate:
White threatens to move his Rook to the h-file and play Rh8, which would win quickly. Eljanov took his only chance and sacrificed the exchange on a3.
36… Rxa3!? 37. Kxa3 Kc7 38. Rh1 Qe7 39. Kb2 Ba5
Black has some counterplay along the dark squares around the White King, but still it is hard to imagine that it should be enough to hold the game. White continued forcefully:40. Rh7 !
It may be hard to believe, but the White position is so strong that he can afford to take a couple of pawns and still defend against any perpetual that Black might have up his sleave!40… Qb4 41. Qxf7 Kb8 42. Rh2
The whole point of White’s play. There is no perpetual and soon White will take on g6 and get the g-pawn moving. By move 47 Wang seemed to have the game in his pocket, but he was already running short of time:
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 46th MOVE
Here Wang should play 47. Re2! (forcing the Queen to move to the edge of the board, far away from the White King) 47… Qh3 48. b4! with Qa4ch being threatened with decisive effect.
Unfortunately, the Chinese star started to play very imprecisely. Infact, he even blundered the game on the 53rd move –and had to immediately resign– when he still had some winning chances with some other moves. You will have to take a look at the finish! This hurt even more for Wang because now he finds himself tied for last place!
The tournament had been going very poorly for Ivanchuk up until this round (2 losses and 2 draws) and today things didn’t seem to be so hot for him either by move 21.
Even though material is equal, Black’s weakened King-side position is a reason for concern. Ponomariov might now consider playing 22.Qd2!?, exploiting the fact that the Black Rook is only defended once. Black could not play 22…Nh5 (?) because he loses material after 23.Nf3!: 23…Ng3 24.Nxd4 Nh5 25.Nf5!
Ivanchuk would have had an uphill battle on his hands… Instead, Ponomariov must have been too confident of his position and he made a move that allowed Ivanchuk to take the advantage in just a few moves!
22.h4? gh4! (Ponomariov must have underestimated this strong (and forced!) move. 23.Bf4 (forced) 23…Bxe5! Another strong move that must have escaped White’s attention 24.Bxe5 Ng6! 25.Bd4 b5!
Ivanchuk takes the initiative. Black’s extra pawn is not as important as the initiative that he will soon develop with …Nf4 coming. Ivanchuk built up very strong threats on the King-side. The rest of the game, while hardly perfect, is quite worth the playing over. Ivanchuk scored his first win of the tournament!
It will now be interesting to see what effect Ivanchuk will be now on the course of the tournament. Even though he is tied for last place, he has re-gained his confidence and must now be considered a possible tournament spoiler. Ivanchuk is capable of defeating any player, with either colour.
The tournament site
Spectators watching in the theatre reception
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS