Vassily Ivanchuk wins Capablanca Memorial for the eighth time!

by Antonio Pereira
5/14/2019 – After scoring a clutch victory over Adhiban, Vassily Ivanchuk won his eighth Capablanca Memorial title on Monday night. He had arrived in the final round tied in first with David Antón, but the latter could not convert a rook endgame a pawn up against Carlos Albornoz, thus allowing the Ukrainian to claim clear first. Samuel Sevian also won in round ten and caught up with Antón on 6½ points. | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

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The king of Havana

On March 18th, Vassily Ivanchuk turned 50, and what better way to celebrate than to travel down to Havana to claim his eighth title at the Capablanca Memorial! Since 2005, the Ukrainian ace participated ten times at the traditional tournament. Only in 2014, he had a bad time on the Caribbean island, finishing last after scoring 4 out of 10; in 2017, he got second place (on 5½/10) behind Sasikiran.

It was all victories for Chuky otherwise. All his triumphs in Cuba were achieved in double round robin events, except the one he got in 2007, when the organizers put together a ten-player single round robin — back then, Ivanchuk finished two points ahead of Leinier Dominguez and Vugar Gashimov, after scoring six wins and drawing the rest to end up with an impressive 2877 rating performance.

His '+4' this year netted him 14 rating points, which allowed him to climb 21 places in the live ratings list, leaving him another good performance away from returning to the 2700 club. 

Vassily Ivanchuk

A fan favourite | Photo: Nugzar Kereselidze

Suspense in the end

After five rounds, Samuel Sevian was sharing first place with the eventual champion, but the youngster from the United States faltered in the very next round, when he was defeated by Carlos Albornoz in the only game that favoured either of the local representatives. Ivanchuk was already the sole leader thanks to his draw with Antón, but he went on to widen the gap with a win over Yuri González in round seven:


'Chuky' had the black pieces and was in the mood for tactics. Here he played 26...xd3, a capture that does not give him any sort of large advantage by force, but one that made his opponent calculate accurately in order to avoid pitfalls. The game continued 27.xb4 (the computer thinks 27.cxd3 is better) xd2 28.xd2 cxb4 29.d6 xd6 30.xd6, and Black is a pawn up in an opposite-coloured bishop middlegame:


Vassily needed 15 more moves to get a winning advantage and force his opponent to resign.

Carlos Albornoz, Samuel Sevian

Albornoz upset Sevian | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

In round eight, Antón took down Vidal, while Ivanchuk got the better of Albornoz, thus securing a 4 out of 4 against the locals. This resulted in the Ukrainian getting a one-point advantage over the Spaniard with only two rounds to go. But the tides turned in the penultimate day of action...

First, Sevian took down the leader with the white pieces. The players dived into a line of the Sicilian that is not often seen among the elite. White ended up gaining space in the centre before going into a rook endgame with six pawns per side:


The computer already gave Sevian a 'two-pawn advantage' at this point, as Black's only source of counterplay on the kingside is rather slow. Vassily kept trying until move 48, but by then White had connected passers on d6 and c7 — it was time to resign.

Vassily Ivanchuk

It was time to regroup for Vassily | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

Meanwhile, Antón made the most of an early opening advantage against Adhiban. The Indian grandmaster found himself stuck with a bad bishop and, after the time control, decided he needed to give up a piece to get some chance of surviving:


42.xb5 gives up the knight for the b and d-pawns, but White's dark-squared bishop is still hampered by the pawns on b4, d4 and f4. Adhiban fought on until move 58, but the result was never in doubt — 0-1.

It was not a good event for Adhiban | Photo: Abel Rojas / Mi Columna Deportiva

So, before the final round, Ivanchuk and Antón were tied on 6 points, while Sevian was lurking a half-point behind. Vassily and David had the white pieces, while Samuel was Black against González. Ivanchuk was a pawn up against Adhiban, but 'The Beast' had a strong passer on the c-file and the pair of bishops; Antón was also a pawn up, but in a rook endgame with 4v3 against Albornoz; while Sevian got a clear advantage during time pressure in an endgame with rook and knight v rook and bishop.

Chuky got the full point after Adhiban incorrectly offered a queen exchange:


White is already three pawns up, but Black has a chance to get a draw by continuously threatening to queen on the c-file. Instead, after 28...b7, White happily takes the queens off the board and goes on to untangle his position in order to make the most of his material advantage. Ivanchuk got the full point after 37 moves.

Shortly afterwards, Sevian scored his last full point, while Antón kept trying to convert the rook endgame a pawn up against Albornoz. In the end, the Cuban grandmaster defended precisely and the draw was signed after 79 moves. Ivanchuk was the champion once again!

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Ivanchuk Vassily 7,0 0,0
2 Sevian Samuel 6,5 1,0
3 Anton Guijarro David 6,5 1,0
4 Adhiban B. 3,5 1,5
5 Albornoz Cabrera Carlos Daniel 3,5 0,5
6 Gonzalez Vidal Yuri 3,0 0,0

All games


Arnaldo Fernández wins the Open

Two International Masters from Cuba finished on 8/10 in the open section, with Arnaldo Fernández getting a better tie-break score than Michel Díaz, thus becoming the winner of the event. Grandmasters Lelys Martínez, Kevel Oliva and Omar Almeida — all from the island — got 7½ points. The fact that all these local players finished ahead of the favourites goes to show the strength of Cuban chess at all levels.   

Final standings (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Fernandez De La Vara Arnaldo 8,0 2400
2 Diaz Perez Michel Alejandro 8,0 2400
3 Martinez Duany Lelys Stanley 7,5 2396
4 Oliva Castaneda Kevel 7,5 2390
5 Almeida Quintana Omar 7,5 2387
6 Ortiz Suarez Isan Reynaldo 7,0 2446
7 Sambuev Bator 7,0 2436
8 Quesada Perez Yasser 7,0 2424
9 Krysa Leandro 7,0 2406
10 Hernandez Gonzalez William 7,0 2381
11 Soto Hernandez Henry 7,0 2317
12 Ochoa De La Rosa Manuel Dario 7,0 2312
13 Gomez Fontal Felix Manuel 7,0 2299
14 Piedra Salabarria Ernesto 7,0 2297
15 Acosta Pablo Ismael 7,0 2264
16 Batista Suarez Jeorling Yahytin 7,0 2231
17 Leon Valdes Jony Wilson 6,5 2476
18 Miranda Mesa Elier 6,5 2399
19 Aguero Jimenez Luis Lazaro 6,5 2384
20 Berdayes Ason Dylan Isidro 6,5 2378

...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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