Throwback Thursday: Ivanchuk scores 9/10 on the Rock

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/17/2021 – For no fewer than 18 years, the Gibraltar Chess Festival was organized at the Caleta Hotel. Now that the hotel is about to close and a new format will be used in 2022, we look back at a memorable edition of the Masters Tournament. Ten years ago, in 2011, Vasyl Ivanchuk was the rating favourite on the Rock. The Ukrainian lived up to the expectations and won the event with an astounding 9/10 score and a 2968 rating performance.

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A 2968 performance

Vasyl IvanchukAt 52, Ukrainian genius Vasyl Ivanchuk is still a top-100 player, rated 2678 in the last official list published by FIDE. A bit over 30 years ago, in July 1991, he reached his peak world ranking for the first time: number 2 in the world. The brilliant man from Kopychyntsi remained among the best in the world for many years, accumulating success after success while failing to qualify for a World Championship match — according to many, he belongs to the group of elite stars that deserved but never managed to fight for the crown.

One of Ivanchuk’s favourite tournaments throughout the years has been the Gibraltar Masters. The event, organized since 2003, was hosted yearly by the Caleta Hotel, with the Ukrainian grandmaster often making his way to ‘the Rock’, including at the 2020 edition, the last time the tournament was organized at the aforementioned hotel.

In 2011, ‘Chucky’ got clear first place at the excellently organized event. At the time, Ivanchuk had a 2764 rating, which put him in ninth place in the FIDE ranking (Magnus Carlsen was already the highest-ranked player in the world, only a few points above Vishy Anand though). With many of the strongest players battling it out in Wijk aan Zee, Ivanchuk arrived in Gibraltar as the rating favourite.

Michael Adams and an 18-year-old Fabiano Caruana were the other two 2700+ players in the field, but it was Nigel Short (seeded 11th with a 2658 rating) who proved to be Ivanchuk’s strongest contender at the event. The eventual champion scored 9 points in 10 rounds for an astounding 2968 performance, but only finished a half point ahead of the English star, who also excelled at the event with a 2883 performance — which he got despite losing to the Ukrainian in round 6.

Remarkably, Ivanchuk inflicted Caruana’s second loss of the event in the penultimate round. Caruana had also lost in round 2, when he was defeated by a 79-year-old Viktor Korchnoi!

Viktor Korchnoi, Francisco Vallejo Pons

Viktor Korchnoi performed at 2634 and came within a hair of beating Vallejo in the last round

Eight wins and two draws

On his way to the memorable triumph, Ivanchuk only conceded draws in rounds 3 and 7, both with the black pieces, against Rubén Felgaer (Argentina) and Victor Mikhalevski (Israel) respectively. 

As it is often the case when Ivanchuk is involved, the games he played in Gibraltar were hard-fought struggles, with the ever-creative Ukrainian exploring various systems with both colours. In round 3, Ivanchuk beat Hungarian grandmaster Viktor Erdos with the white pieces. A closed pawn structure which had been established in the middlegame was eventually broken after Erdos failed to correctly assess a tactical shot by his opponent.

 

Erdos’ 39...Qa7 did not deal with the threat of 40.Rxd5 exd5 41.e6+, a discovered check that gave White a clear advantage despite having given up a whole rook.

The in-form Ivanchuk not only found this recourse but also converted his advantage brilliantly. There followed 41...Kh6 42.Rxd5 Rbd8 43.Rxd8 Rxd8

 

White does not shy away from simplifying the position, as he knows his active pieces and passed pawns are stronger than Black’s unopposed rook. Soon enough Black gave up an exchange, and once the queens left the board Ivanchuk’s passers were too much to handle for his Hungarian rival.

 

White is completely winning — 51.Ke4 followed, and there was no way for Black’s minor pieces to stop the passed pawns protected by the king.


Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Ivanchuk Vassily 9,0 2968
2 Short Nigel D 8,5 2883
3 Kulaots Kaido 7,5 2750
4 Roiz Michael 7,5 2743
5 Caruana Fabiano 7,0 2681
6 Dzagnidze Nana 7,0 2672
7 Gopal Geetha Narayanan 7,0 2651
8 Vallejo Pons Francisco 7,0 2648
9 Harikrishna Pentala 7,0 2647
10 Georgiev Kiril 7,0 2641
11 Lafuente Pablo 7,0 2637
12 Nisipeanu Liviu-Dieter 7,0 2629
13 Melia Salome 7,0 2610
14 Kacheishvili Giorgi 7,0 2608
15 Erdos Viktor 7,0 2607

...232 players


All games by V. Ivanchuk

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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