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Grandmaster Konstantin Landa presents the key moments of the World Cup Semi-finals

R. Ponomariov P. Svidler

Only Russian and Ukrainian players managed to pass the Quarter-finals. It felt like a second edition of the Chess Olympiad. Let me remind you that Ukraine won that Olympiad, and Russia finished second.

The Semi-finals weren’t too exciting. The first games (the Russians played White) ended in dull draws. Annotating those games makes little sense. On the second day the Ukrainians took a quick start. At some point it felt they both are going to qualify for the Final, however, it ended exactly the other way round!

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Qa4

Peter Svidler: «My textbook gives 7…Bd7 8.Qb3, and Black is fine, but when Ruslan made this move, I thought — what if he retreats to a3? I didn’t dare playing 7…Nd7, because the opponent clearly prepared it at home. So if there is a 3% chance that White retreats the queen to b3, I should move the bishop to d7!»

7…Bd7 8.Qa3!

«Of course! Black’s position is now unpleasant» (Svidler).

8…Nc6 9.Nf3 e5 10.Be3

This move gives some life to the g7-bishop. Much stronger is 10.d5! Ne7 11.Bd3 b6 12.c4 Bg4 13.Nd2 0−0 14.0−0, and White is better.

10…exd4 11.cxd4 Qe7 12.Qxe7 Nxe7 13.Rb1

13.Rc1!? is interesting. After 13…f5 (Peter intended to play 13…0−0−0, but after 14.Bf4 c6 15.Bc4 I like White very much) 14.Rxc7 fxe4 15.Ng5 (15.Ne5 Bxe5 16.dxe5 Nd5 17.Rxb7 Nxe3 18.fxe3 Rc8 19.Rxa7 Rf8 gives enough compensation) 15…Nf5 16.Nxe4 Bc6 17.Ng5! White’s chances are better, but there is a lot of play ahead.

13…0−0−0 14.Bc4 f5!

Exploding White’s center.


The safe-looking 15.e5 allows Black to place his piece on d5 with comfort: 15…Bc6!

15…fxe4 16.Nf7 Nf5

We considered this position with Anna Sharevich during the online commentary and figured that White has an extra exchange and the bishop pair. Surprisingly, this was a very accurate assessment! Ruslan will part with one of the bishops in a couple of moves, and his position will deteriorate!


17.d5 is an interesting idea, not giving Black two connected passed pawns on the queenside. For example, 17…Bc3 (weaker is 17…Nxe3 18.fxe3 Bc3 19.Kd1 Rhf8 20.Nxd8 Rxd8 21.Rf1) 18.Bd2 Bd4 19.Nxh8 Rxh8 20.0−0 Re8 with approximately even chance.

17…Nxd4 18.Bxd4?!

This is very dangerous!

Black has three replies to the strongest move 18.Rfd1, but nothing is clear anywhere. I have a feeling that the resulting positions are okay for Black, or at least not worse. For instance,

1) 18…Bf5 19.Bxd4 Rxd4 20.Rxd4 Bxd4 21.Nxh8 Bxh8 22.Re1 Bc3 23.Re2 c6;

2) 18…Ba4!? (suggested by Peter Svidler after the game) 19.Bxd4 Bxd4 20.Be6 Kb8 (20…Bd7 favors White: 21.Nxd8 Rxd8 22.Rxd4 Bxe6 23.Rxd8 Kxd8 24.Rxb7) 21.Rxd4 Rxd4 22.Nxh8 c5 23.Kf1! (after 23.Nf7 c4 Black is better) 23…Rd6 24.Bb3 Rb6!;

3) 18…Bg4 19.Bxd4 Bxd4 20.Nxh8 Bxd1 21.Nf7 Bc2 22.Rc1 Ba4 23.Be6 Bd7 24.Nxd8 Kxd8 25.Bxd7 Kxd7 26.Re1 c5 27.Rxe4 b5.

18…Bxd4 19.Nxh8 Rxh8 20.Bd5 b5!

The pawn rushes for promotion! After this move Black’s advantage became apparent.

21.Bxe4 c5 22.g3 a5

Attention! A pawn tsunami on the queenside!

23.Kg2 b4 24.Bd5 Kc7 25.Bc4 Kd6 26.Rfe1 a4 27.f3 Rb8 28.Re2?

White created a dam on the а2-g8 diagonal, but now he forgets to strengthen it on the right side. It was necessary to play 28.g4!, after which White can survive: 28…Bb5 29.Re6 Kd7 30.Bd5! (much weaker is 30.Bxb5 Kxe6 31.Bxa4 c4) 30…b3 31.axb3 a3 32.b4! cxb4 33.Rxb4 Bf1 34.Kxf1 Rxb4 35.Ra6 Bc5 36.Ke2 Rb2 37.Kd3 Rxh2 38.f4 with equality.


Breaking the defense from another side.

29.Rd1 b3 30.axb3 axb3 31.g4 Bd7 32.Re3 b2 33.Rb3 Rxb3 34.Bxb3 Bb5

Black’s bishops are totally dominating: they not only help promoting their pawns, but also cut the White king off the queenside.


Taking the d5-square under control. On 35.Bc2 there is 35…Kd5!


Black cannot be stopped.

36.Rd2 Kb6 37.f4 Bc6 38.Kg3 Be4 39.Rd1 Kb5 40.Re1 Bd3 41.Re7 c4 42.Rd7 c3 43.Rd5 Bc5

White resigns. By this excellent victory Peter secured his promotion to the Final and a place at the Candidates Tournament.

V. Ivanchuk — A. Grischuk

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.Nc3 dxc4 6.e4 c5 7.e5 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Qa5 9.exf6 Bxc3 10.bxc3 Qxg5 11.fxg7 Qxg7 12.Qd2 0−0 13.Bxc4 Rd8 14.Qe3 Bd7 15.0−0 Nc6 16.Nf3 Ne7 17.Ne5 Ng6 18.f4 Rac8 19.Be2 Bc6 20.Bf3 Bd5

Black does not rush to push the White rook to f3. Less accurate is 20…Bxf3 21.Rxf3 Rd5 22.Raf1! Nxe5 23.fxe5 Rxe5 24.Qxa7 with better chances to White.


A new move. Trading the rooks favors Black: 21.Rad1 Bxf3 22.Rxd8 Rxd8 23.Nxf3 h6 24.Nd4 Ne7! 25.Rf3 Nd5 26.Qc1 Qf6 with equality.

Kempinski — Georgiev, Moscow 2006 saw 21.Bxd5 Rxd5 22.Qxa7 Nxf4 23.Rxf4 Qxe5 24.Raf1 Rd7 25.Qf2 f5 26.Rd4 Rxd4, and a draw was agreed.

21…b6 22.a4 h6 23.Rae1 Nxe5 24.fxe5 Qg5! 25.Qf2 Bc4 26.h4 Qg7?!

After the strongest 26…Qf5 27.Qg3 (27.Rg1 Bd3!) 27…Qg6! White has some problems.


A very strong reply — White gives two bishop for a queen, but the Black’s king becomes very insecure.



28.Rg4 Bd3

After 28…Qxg4 29.Bxg4 Rc4 30.Bh3 playing White is very easy.

29.Rxg7 Kxg7


Black simply missed this move.

30…Bf5 31.Bxc8 Rxc8


After this Black is out of danger. It would be extremely unpleasant for Grischuk to face 32.g4!, especially considering his time trouble. The game could continue 32…Bxg4 33.Qf6 Kg8 34.Qxh6 Bf3 35.Kh2 Rxc3 36.Qg5 Kh7! 37.Qd2 Ra3 38.Qd7 Kg7 39.Qxa7 Be4. And yet, I feel Black’s drawing chances are higher than White’s winning chances.

32…h5! 33.Kh2 Rc5 34.c4 Ra5 35.Qd7 Rc5 36.Qd4 Ra5 37.Qd8 Bg4

The riskier-looking 37…Rxa4 is possible: 38.Qf6 (38.Qg5 Bg6 39.g4 Ra2 40.Kg3 Ra3 41.Kf4 hxg4 42.h5 Rf3 43.Kxg4 Rf5=) 38…Kg8 39.Qg5 Bg6 40.g4 Ra2 41.Kg3 Ra1 42.Kf2 Ra2 43.Kf3 hxg4 (taking the pawn with check!) 44.Kg3 Ra3 45.Kxg4 Ra1 46.Qe3 Rh1 with equality.

38.Kg3 Rxa4 39.Qc7

White changes his plan. The king’s light-square march yields nothing: 39.Qf6 Kg8 40.Kf4 Rxc4 41.Kg5 Kf8 42.Qh8 Ke7 43.Qb8 Kd7 44.Qxa7 Kc6 45.Qxf7 b5, and Black is okay.

39…a5 40.Qxb6 Rxc4 41.Qxa5 Bf5 42.Qd8 Rg4 43.Kf2

Game drawn. The most interesting part of the match was still ahead.

A. Grischuk V. Ivanchuk

Grischuk had an opening advantage and a pleasant ending, but Vassily Mikhailovich managed to hold for a long time, and almost solved his problems.

36…a5 37.bxa5 Ke6!

Defending the g5-pawn at any costs is critical!

38.Rxg7 Rxa5

After 38…Kf6 39.Rd7 Rxa5 40.Rd3 g4 a draw is inevitable.


White’s last chance is activating the king. And here the Ukrainian suddenly collapses.


39…Kf5 draws immediately 40.Rf7 Kg6 41.Rf3 Ra4.

40.Rxb7 Rxa3 41.Kg4 Ra4 42.Kh5


An unbelievable move! Black draws easily by 42…Ra2 43.Rb6 Kf7 44.f3 Ra3 45.Kg4 Ra5.

43.Rb6 Kf5 44.Rb8. Black resigns.

In the second game Ivanchuk easily equalized the score — Grischuk’s position after the opening was just hopeless.

V. Ivanchuk A. Grischuk

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.g3 Qb6 6.Nc2 Ne5 7.b3 Qc6 8.f3 Nf6 9.Bb2 Qc7 10.Nc3 a6 11.f4 Ng6 12.e4 d6 13.Qf3 b6 14.0−0−0 Bb7 15.Kb1 Be7 16.g4


This move creates even more problems for Black.

17.g5 Nd7 18.f5 Nf4 19.Rg1 g6 20.Ne3 Nc5 21.h4 Bc6 22.Rg4!

An excellent maneuver — White wants to remove the main defender of the d5-square.

22…Qb7 23.Rxf4 exf4 24.Ned5 0−0−0 25.b4! Na4 26.Nxa4 Bxa4 27.Rc1 Kb8 28.b5! gxf5 29.Qa3

The rest is easy.

29…fxe4 30.bxa6 Qxa6 31.Nxe7 Qa7 32.Bxh8 Rxh8 33.Qxd6 Qc7 34.Qf6 Rd8 35.Nd5 Qd6 36.Qxf4 Qxf4 37.Nxf4 Rd2 38.Be2 Rd4 39.Nd5 Kb7 40.Rf1 Rd2 41.Rxf7 Ka6 42.a3

Black resigns. The players proceeded to the 10-minute games.

A. Grischuk V. Ivanchuk

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Be2 Nge7 7.0−0 Ng6 8.g3 Be7 9.h4 0−0 10.h5 Nh8 11.dxc5 Bxc5 12.b4 Be7 13.b5 Na5 14.h6 f5 15.hxg7 Kxg7 16.Kg2 Ng6 17.Rh1 Rf7 18.Bh6 Kh8 19.Nbd2 Qc7 20.Rc1 Rg8 21.c4 d4 22.Bd3 b6 23.Nxd4 Qxe5 24.N2f3 Qc7 25.Ng5 Bxg5 26.Bxg5 e5 27.Qh5 Bc8


A typical «All in». Alexander was not satisfied with 28.Nc6 Nxc6 29.bxc6 Qxc6 30.Kg1 Bb7 31.Rh2.


Black accepts the challenge and takes the loose knight.

29.cxb6 Bb7

29…Qxb6 30.Rc6 Qb7! is quite strong.

30.Kg1 Qe5 31.Rc7 Rxc7 32.bxc7 Rg7 33.Rh2


The second blackout of Ivanchuk! He simply overlooked that the c1-square is protected! Maybe Sasha Grischuk learned to hypnotize the opponents? I don’t think their blunders against Grischuk can be explained solely by his luck! Black could reveal the bluff by 33…f4 34.gxf4 Nxf4, and wins.

34.Qxg6 Rc1 35.Bxc1

On 35.Bf1 Ivanchuk prepared a checkmate: 35…Rxf1 36.Kxf1 Qxb5 37.Ke1 Qb1 38.Ke2 Bf3 39.Kxf3 Qe4#, but unfortunately for him the rook was taken by the bishop. So Black resigned.

The last game was relatively comfortable for Grischuk, who made a draw without much trouble and advanced to the Final. We are looking forward for two very interesting matches: the World Cup Final between two good friends Grischuk and Svidler, and the 3rd Place Match between historical rivals Ivanchuk and Ponomariov. Ruslan and Vassily already played a match for the chess crown — the FIDE Championship Final in January 2002! Since there are only three tickets to the Candidates Tournament, we can expect a very bloody 3rd Place Match!

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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