Wednesday, 20 March 2013

2013 Candidates, Round 4: Gelfand-Ivanchuk

The round four game between Boris Gelfand and Vassily Ivanchuk ended in a 35-move draw but, despite the result and relatively short length, it has already been hailed as the game of the round by the pundits. Rightly so: the only decisive game, Carlsen-Grischuk, had its moments but Grischuk dug his own grave, whereas this game had much more intrinsic chess value.

I shall have to be careful with my references. If I refer to Boris and Vassily as the 'old guys' or 'old-timers', I have to bear in mind that the two of them are young enough to be, if not my sons, my much younger brothers. And any reference to their low standing in the event must be tempered by their stratospherically high standing in chess as a whole. It is a reminder of just how strong this tournament is that these two legends of the game should have met whilst on ½/3. Bear in mind also that Boris Gelfand has already lost one more classical game here than he did in the entirety of his world championship challenge against Vishy Anand in 2012. It's mighty tough at Savoy Place and we should remind ourselves continually that we are witnessing one of the strongest, if not the strongest, tournaments of all time.

Vassily Ivanchuk and Boris Gelfand: game of the day - and press conference of the day, too.


There was a little surprise as early as move, when Vassily opted for the Chigorin Defence to the Queen's Gambit. Not a big surprise as Vassily plays almost all of the most respectable openings, and occasionally one of the more chancy ones, making him the hardest of all players to prepare for. It turns out that Vassily had played 2...Nc6 as recently as 2009, to win a game in the World Blitz Championship. His victim on that occasion was none other than Magnus Carlsen. He had also lost a rapidplay game to Garry Kasparov with it in 1995. It is a particular favourite of Alexander Morozevich, and Magnus Carlsen once used it to draw with Vlad Kramnik at the 2010 London Classic.

An imbalanced but level position ensued until Black hurled a 'Chucky bomb' at his opponent with 20...c5! This involved a piece sacrifice to generate a tremendous attack against White's king on b1. But of course Boris is highly experienced at bomb disposal and he picked his way through the complications to secure a draw by perpetual check. Well worth playing through to appreciate the tactical nuances. Also worth dipping into the full video stream of the encounter here.


After the game the two old pros gave a delightful press conference in which they looked back on their many games against each other (more than 100), paid tribute to each other, told stories of working together and sharing rooms when they were Soviet team-mates. Enjoy the press conference here. If you only have time for a quick look, set the slider to about 28 minutes into the video as Boris is asked about the effect of his world championship challenge in Israel. Vassily is still fixated on the game and interrupts, but Nastya Karlovich expertly steers them back to the question of their long and sporting rivalry around the 31 minute mark. Pardon me for being effusive but the very short part of the interview, particularly from 36 minutes onward, somehow expresses everything that is good and valuable about chess as a professional sport, and about the nature of good sportsmanship in particular.


  1. "It is a particular favourite of Alexander Morozevich....." I think you mean "was". When did he last play the Chigorin?

  2. Fair cop - he seems to have played it between about 1995 and 2005.