Ivanchuk and Sevian lead Capablanca Memorial midway through

by Antonio Pereira
5/8/2019 – The traditional Capablanca Memorial is celebrating its 54th edition in Havana, Cuba. After taking place in Varadero in 2016 and 2017, the event returned to the capital last year. Seven-time winner Vassily Ivanchuck and American rising star Samuel Sevian are atop the standings table on 3½/5. Meanwhile, top seed Adhiban is having a hard time, as he lost to Sevian and David Antón in the first half. In the Open, Isán Ortiz and Luis Agüero are sharing the lead. | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

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Chuky beats the locals

Ukrainian fan-favourite Vassily Ivanchuk has dropped out of the 2700 club, but his skills seem to gain new life when he travels down to Havana. 'Chuky' is the second seed and is currently leading the field. To do so, he first took down Cuba's number five in the ratings list Yuri González. Ivanchuk had the white pieces and gobbled up a pawn on the queenside in a heavy-piece middlegame:


After 32.xa5 Black cannot capture on c6 due to 32...♜xc6 33.♖xc6 ♜xc6 34.♕a8 gaining the rook with the fork. Later on, the c-pawn got to the seventh rank and González decided it was time to call it a day.

Vassily Ivanchuk

Fan-favourite Vassily Ivanchuk | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

Immediately afterwards, Vassily defeated the other Cuban in the field, Carlos Daniel Albornoz. He did it from a Petroff Defence with Black — the "drawish" defence continues an already lengthy revival after Fabiano Caruana popularized it on his way to the 2018 World Championship match. Black had more space and took advantage of White's over-confident play shortly before the time control:


It is already difficult for Albornoz, but after 37.f3? e3+ 38.c2 e2 the Cuban grandmaster gave up, aware of the fact that Black's initiative is too much to handle.

Sevian continues on the rise

18-year-old Samuel Sevian impressed during this year's US Championship, although his lack of experience played against him in the final stretch. Despite having started with three Blacks in five games, he is in shared first place on +2. 

After defeating Albornoz in the opening round and drawing Antón the following day, he beat Adhiban Baskaran a.k.a. "The Beast" with White. Samuel gained a couple of pawns in the middlegame and never looked back: 


Here the youngster realized the exchange of queens would favour him and played 25.f5. Black's best option is to accept the trade with 25...c4, and after 26.xg5 xd6 27.d5 White is set to take the point if he handles the technical phase appropriately. Addhiban resigned on move 40.  

Carlos Albornoz, Samuel Sevian

Albornoz vs. Sevian | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

Addhiban's woes continued in round four when he played the King's Indian against recent Prague Challengers winner David Antón. A tense struggle arose after the players castled on opposite flanks, and when the position was opened up White's initiative was for choice. In the end, Antón's passed d-pawn allowed him to win an exchange. 


Black gave up the exchange by playing 41...xe7 — in case of 41...♜ec8 White has 42.♗g8 and after 42...♜xg8 43.♖xg8+ ♜xg8 44.♖xg8+ the d-pawn promotes. Adhiban resigned four moves later. 

Adhiban Baskaran

Adhiban will try to bounce back in the second half | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

The final round prior to the rest day was the first one to finish with all three games drawn. Carlos Albornoz and David Antón only played sixteen moves each, but the battle did not lack emotion as White was forced to go for a perpetual while in material disadvantage.

David Anton

Spaniard David Antón Guijarro | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

Standings after Round 5


All games


Two on 4½ in the Open

No less than 221 players are participating in the parallel ten-round Open, with 24 federations represented — besides Cuba, Costa Rica and Colombia have the biggest number of participants. Nine 2500+ players are taking part, with sixteen grandmasters in total. Yasser Quesada Pérez and José Cuenca Jiménez are the top seeds.

After five rounds, the Open also has a rest day on Wednesday. Current leaders are Isán Ortiz Suárez and Luis Agüero Jiménez, both from Cuba. In their direct encounter set for Thursday, Agüero will be the one with the white pieces.

Isan Ortiz

Cuba's number nine in the ranking, Isán Ortiz | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

Standings after Round 5 (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Ortiz Suarez Isan Reynaldo 4,5 2404
2 Aguero Jimenez Luis Lazaro 4,5 2355
3 Martinez Duany Lelys Stanley 4,0 2417
4 Quesada Perez Yasser 4,0 2417
5 Sambuev Bator 4,0 2408
6 Berdayes Ason Dylan Isidro 4,0 2402
7 Miranda Mesa Elier 4,0 2396
8 Oliva Castaneda Kevel 4,0 2382
9 Fernandez De La Vara Arnaldo 4,0 2364
10 Krysa Leandro 4,0 2353
11 Almeida Quintana Omar 4,0 2328
12 Diaz Perez Michel Alejandro 4,0 2326
13 Leon Valdes Jony Wilson 3,5 2472
14 Castellanos Sanchez Carlos M. 3,5 2417
15 Benitez Lozano Javier 3,5 2402
16 Fernandez Guillen Ernesto J. 3,5 2366
17 Diaz Garcia Mario Daniel 3,5 2327
18 Mihajlov Sebastian 3,5 2326
19 Gonzalez Acosta Bernal 3,5 2309
20 Hernandez Sanchez Jairo Andres 3,5 2305

...221 players


Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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