Khanty-Mansiysk: The best-laid plans of men and mice...

11/25/2007 – ... gang aft agley, Robert Burns taught us. Or, in plain English: they often go horribly wrong. As in the FIDE World Cup, where Vassily Ivanchuk duly dispatched his 435-point weaker opponent, but where fellow Ukraine Ruslan Ponomariov, in a fit of overconfidence, faltered against Egypt's Essam El Gindy. Greek grandmaster Efstratios Grivas gives us his take on the drama of round one.

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A total of 126 participants turned up on November 23 for the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The competition is taking place from November 24 to December 18. The winner of the World Cup receives the right to challenge the former world champion Veselin Topalov in a match.

Round one Game one

Impressions by GM Efstratios Grivas

The FIDE World Cup started on Saturday in Khanty Mansiysk, with 126 participants (instead of the 128 scheduled players, due to withdraws by Zamora because of illness and Izoria because of visa problems). There was a lot of tension on the remaining 62 tables, and some major and minor surprises were on the program.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Alexander Filippenko, governor of the Khanty-Mansy, at the start of the board one game between Pedro Aderito and Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine

I wonder how Pedro Aderito from Angola, at 2352 the weakest players on the cards, felt when he arrived in Khanty Mansiysk and had to face the number one of the tournament, the great Vassily Ivanchuk, 2787, from Ukraine. It should have been all magic to him, but on the other had nobody likes to be a 435-point underdog. So, I suppose that this is a well-known case of ‘losing’ the game before he even arrived in the venue; nobody can withstand such strong emotions.

A lesson from the best for Pedro Aderito of Angola

The reader can be easily focused on the minor surprises on tables 7, 11, 12, 15, 16, 19, 22, 24 and 42. In all these matches the strongest player did not succeed to convert his strength difference in-to the full point but this happens all around these days. These underdog lands really become hard nuts to crack!

No.    White  
7 Adams, Michael ENG
Zugic, Igor CAN
8 Ismagambetov, Anuar KAZ
Alekseev, Evgeny RUS
11 Kamsky, Gata USA
Adly, Ahmed EGY
12 Filippov, Anton UZB
Akopian, Vladimir ARM
14 El Gindy, Essam EGY
Ponomariov, Ruslan UKR
15 Wang, Yue CHN
Pridorozhni, Aleksei RUS
16 Laylo, Darwin PHI
Bacrot, Etienne FRA
19 Eljanov, Pavel UKR
Hossain Enamul BAN
22 Gopal, G.N. IND
Kasimdzhanov, Rustam UZB
24 Nguyen, Ngoc Truong Son VIE
Van Wely, Loek NED
42 Baramidze, David GER
Short, Nigel D ENG

Gata Kamsky managing just a draw against his young opponent Ahmed Adly

But the major upsets were to be seen in tables 8 and 14. Ex-FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov lost a winning position against the Egyptian Essam El Gindy. He just relaxed too quickly and was cruelly punished by a determined opponent. While I was analysing this particular game I had the feeling that Ruslan underestimated his (strong) opponent, clearly believing that the 200-points rating difference would be too much for him in the end.

But things do not run as smoothly as we want to believe; the other side can nearly always present some strong objections to our plans.

El Gindy,Essam (2503) – Ponomariov,Ruslan (2705) [E32]
FIDE World Cup 2007 Khanty-Mansiysk (1.1), 24.11.2007 [Efstratios Grivas]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5 Bb7 8.e3 d6. Another try is 8...c5 9.Nf3 h6 10.Bh4 cxd4 11.Nxd4 d5 12.cxd5 Bxd5 13.f3 Nbd7 14.e4 Rc8 15.Qe3 Bc4 16.Bxc4 Rxc4 17.b3 Rc8 18.0-0+/= Ivanchuk,V-Beliavsky,A/Batumi 1999. 9.Ne2. White has also played 9.f3 Nbd7 10.Ne2 c5 (10...h6 11.Bh4 c5 12.Qb3 cxd4 13.Nxd4 d5 14.cxd5 Bxd5 15.Qd1+/= Bareev,E-Volokitin,A/Warsaw 2002) 11.Qd3 h6 12.Bh4 d5 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Nc3 Re8 15.Be2 cxd4 16.Qxd4 Qe7 17.Kf2 Ne4+ 18.Qxe4 dxe4 19.Bxe7 exf3 20.gxf3 Rxe7 21.Rad1 Ne5 22.Rd4+/= Bareev,E-Volokitin,A/Warsaw 2002.

9...Nbd7. 9...c5 10.dxc5 dxc5 11.Qc2 h6 12.Bh4 Qe7 13.0-0-0 Rd8 14.Rxd8+ Qxd8 15.Nc3 Nbd7 16.f3+/= was seen in Kramnik,V-Bologan,V/Dortmund 2003. 10.Qd3. The main alternative is 10.Qc2 c5 11.Rd1 (11.Nc3 cxd4 12.exd4 Qc7 13.Bd3 Rac8 14.0-0 Ba6 Ivanchuk,V-Topalov,V/Linares 1999) 11...Qc7 (11...Rc8 12.Nc3 cxd4 13.Rxd4 Rc5 14.Bh4 Qa8 15.Be2 d5 16.b4 Rcc8 17.0-0 Bareev,E-Efimenko,Z/Turin 2006) 12.Nc3 cxd4 13.Rxd4 a6 14.Be2 h6 15.Bh4 Bxg2 16.Rg1 Bh3 17.Ne4 Morozevich,A-Beliavsky,A/Heraklion ETC 2007. 10...a5!?

Black seems to be fond of either

  • 10...Ba6 11.b4 (11.Nc3 d5 12.Qc2 Bxc4 13.Bxc4 dxc4 14.Qa4 c5 (14...h6 15.Bh4 c5 16.Qxc4 cxd4 17.Qxd4 Nc5 18.Bxf6 Qxf6 19.Qxf6 gxf6 20.0-0-0 Rfc8= Ivanchuk,V-Kasparov,G/Rethymnon ECC 2003) 15.Rd1 cxd4 (15...Qc8?! 16.0-0 Nd5 17.Qxc4 Nxc3 18.Qxc3 Qb7 19.f3 h6 20.Bh4 Rfc8 21.e4 cxd4 22.Qxd4 Nf8 23.Rd2+/= Navara,D-Pelletier,Y/Fuegen 2006) 16.Rxd4 Qc7 17.0-0 Rfc8 18.Rfd1 Qc5 19.Bh4 Qh5 20.Bxf6 Nxf6 21.Rxc4= Shirov,A-Naiditsch,A/Sochi 2006) 11...c5 12.b5 Bb7 13.Nc3 a6 14.f3 h6 15.Bh4 Qe7 16.Be2 cxd4 17.Qxd4 e5 18.Qd1 g5 19.Bg3 axb5 20.Nxb5 d5 21.0-0+/= Kasparov,G-Grischuk,A/Rethymnon ECC 2003;

  • or 10...h6 11.Bh4 c5 12.Nc3 Qe7 13.Rd1 (13.Be2 cxd4 14.Qxd4 e5 15.Qd1 Bxg2 16.Rg1 Bc6 17.Bg4© Bareev,E-Karpov,A/Cap d'Agde 2002) 13...Rfd8 14.Be2 cxd4 15.Qxd4 Nc5 16.Bxf6 Qxf6 17.Qxf6 gxf6 18.Rd4 (18.Nb5 d5 19.cxd5 Bxd5 20.Nc7 Bb3 21.Nxa8 Bxd1 22.Bxd1 Rxa8 23.Bc2 Rc8 24.Kd2 Kf8= Bareev,E-Karpov,A/Wijk aan Zee 2003) 18...Nb3 19.Rh4 Kg7 20.Kd1 d5 21.Kc2 Na5 22.cxd5 Bxd5 23.Nxd5 Rxd5 24.Rd1 Rc8+ 25.Kb1 Rcd8 26.Rxd5 Rxd5 27.Kc2 Rc5+ 28.Kd3+/= Bareev,E-Leko,P/Monte Carlo 2003.

But the text-move chosen by Ruslan is a good example of playing the opening according to the opponent's strength:

11.Nc3 a4 12.Be2. The alternative is 12.Bh4 Ra5 13.f3 Qa8 (13...c5 14.Be2 d5 15.cxd5 exd5 16.0-0 Re8 17.Rfe1 Ba6 18.Qd2 Bxe2 19.Rxe2+/= Masse,H-Mikanovic,G/Toronto 2004) 14.Be2 (14.0-0-0 d5 15.Qc2 Rd8 16.Kb1 1/2-1/2 Morovic Fernandez,I-Arencibia,W/Havana 2004) 14...d5 15.cxd5 Ba6 16.Qd2 exd5 (16...Nxd5 17.0-0 c5 18.Bxa6 Qxa6 19.Nxd5 exd5 20.dxc5 Nxc5 21.Rad1 Nb3 22.Qd3 Qxd3 23.Rxd3 Re8 24.Rfd1+/= Farrell,N-Aloma Vidal,R/Calvia 2007) 17.Bd1 Bc4 18.Kf2 Re8 19.Re1 b5 20.Kg1+/= Khismatullin,D-Kiriakov,P/Tomsk 2004. 12...Ra5.

13.h4!? A new move. Instead of transposing to the above comments on White's 12th move with 13.Bh4, the later has also tried the less ambitious 13.Bxf6 Qxf6 14.0-0 Qg5 15.f3 c5 16.Bd1 cxd4 17.exd4 Rfa8 18.Bc2 Nf6 19.Qe2 d5 20.cxd5 Nxd5 21.Nxd5 Qxd5= Sutter,O-Pelletier,Y/Switzerland 2005.] 13...Qa8 [13...Bxg2? 14.Rg1 Ba8 15.0-0-0 gives White a strong attack and should be avoided.

14.Bxf6?! This move has nothing in common with the previous one (13.h4!?). 14.f3 is preferable. 14...Nxf6 15.f3 e5 16.0-0-0?! 16.d5 looks safer. 16...e4! 17.Qc2. 17.fxe4?! Nxe4 can only be helpful to Black. 17...exf3 18.gxf3 Bxf3 19.Rhg1. Black has sacrificed a pawn in order to get a kind of attack against the black king. But still it seems that Black's defence will not be broken easily and then the extra-pawn will carry the day. 19...Be4 20.Bd3 Bg6 21.Rdf1 Qd8 22.Qg2 Qe7 23.Rf3 Kh8 24.e4?! Black seems to be doing OK, even after 24.Bxg6 fxg6 25.e4 Rh5. But White had to try it. 24...Rh5 25.Rf4 c5! 26.d5 Re5. Now Black is a healthy pawn up, combined with a positionally better position due to the control of the dark squares and the weak white e4 pawn. It seems that another Goliath-David battle will soon finish in favour of the strongest side, unlike in the Biblical story... 27.Rf5 Nh5 28.Rxe5 dxe5?! 28...Qxe5 was rather natural and strong. 29.Qg4 Nf4 30.Bc2 f6?! 30...Ra8 31.Kb1 h5 32.Qg3 Kg8 was the right track for Black. 31.Re1?! White had to go for 31.Bxa4 f5 32.exf5 Bxf5 33.Qg3 unclear.; 31.Nxa4? Bh5. 31...Ra8 32.Kd2 Bh5 33.Qg3 Be8 34.Rg1 Bd7 35.Bd1 g6 36.Bg4 Kg7 37.Bxd7 Qxd7.

Black is clearly on a winning tune. A healthy extra pawn and a safe king. But still several technical difficulties have to be overcome. 38.Rf1 Rf8 39.Re1 h6?! As 39...h5 40.Rg1 does not help much, I think that Black ought to open the f-file by; 39...f5 . Then he would have good chances to convert his material advantage. 40.Kc2 g5 41.Rh1 Kg6 42.Rh2 h5 43.Kb1 Kh6 44.Nd1 Qh7 45.Nc3 Qg6 46.Ka2 Ra8 47.Rd2 gxh4 48.Qxh4 Qg5 49.Qh1 Qg4 50.Rh2 Kg6 51.d6

51...Kf7? Black's chosen plan with the expansion of his kingside pawns was a dangerous one. He should now have second thoughts about his strategy and draw with 51...Rd8 52.Nd5 Rxd6 (52...Nxd5 53.Rg2 Nf4 54.Rxg4+ hxg4 55.Qh4 Rxd6 56.Qxg4+ Kf7 57.Qc8) 53.Nxf4+ Qxf4 54.Rxh5 Rd2 55.Rh8 Rxb2+= .] 52.Nd5 Rh8 [52...Nxd5 53.cxd5 Rh8 54.Rg2 Qc8 55.Qf1 h4 56.Rg5!+-. 53.Ne3? White kicks away his chances. He should continue with 53.Nxb6 Qe6 54.Qd1 h4 55.Qxa4 Qxd6 56.Nd5+/-. 53...Qe6 54.Nf5 Qxc4+ 55.Ka1 Ke8 56.d7+ Kxd7 57.Qd1+ Kc6 58.Qd6+

58...Kb5? Again the 'playing the opponent' strategy. Black had to be satisfied with a draw: 58...Kb7 59.Qd7+ Kb8 60.Qd6+. 59.Qd7+ Ka5 60.Nd6 Qf1+ 61.Ka2 Ra8 62.Rc2! Qd3 63.Rc3. Not bad also was the straightford 63.Rxc5+ bxc5 64.Qc7+ Ka6 65.Qc6+ Ka5 66.Nb7# . 63...Qe2 64.Rc4.

As mate follows, Black resigned. A painfully defeat. White attacked the black king in the kingside but finally mated him in the queenside! 1-0.

What went wrong? Ruslan Ponomariov during the game

About the author

Efstratios Grivas is a grandmaster, and a highly experienced chess trainer and chess author. He was born on March 30th, 1966 and earned his GM title in 1992. He lives in Athens, and he is also a Senior FIDE Trainer, an International FIDE Chess Arbiter and an International FIDE Chess Organizer.

Grivas has represented his country on a great many occasions, winning the fourth position in the World Junior Championship in 1985, an individual gold medal at the 1989 European Team Championship and an individual silver medal at the 1998 Olympiad.

Efstratios Grivas is cooperating with the Greek and Turkish Chess Federations as a federal trainer. He is an experienced writer, working, among others, with Everyman Chess Ltd, Gambit Books Ltd, New In Chess Ltd, ChessBase GmbH and


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