Eljanov leads in Astrakhan
Ukraine's new number one Pavel Eljanov started strongly in Astrakhan. After five rounds he's leading the sixth FIDE Grand Prix tournament with 3.5 points. His compatriot Vassily Ivanchuk started with 1/4, but yesterday he defeated another Ukrainian, Ruslan Ponomariov, with the black pieces.
The sixth and final FIDE Grand Prix takes place May 10-24 in Astrakhan, Russia. Akopian (2694), Alekseev (2700), Gashimov (2734), Gelfand (2741), Eljanov (2751), Inarkiev (2669), Ivanchuk (2741), Jakovenko (2725), Leko (2735), Mamedyarov (2763), Ponomariov (2733), Rajabov (2740), Svidler (2735) and Wang Yue (2752) play. More details can be found in our first report.
In round 4, played on Thursday, Vassily Ivanchuk already suffered his second loss. The Ukrainian obtained a big advantage in a Caro-Kann and the game quickly proceeded to an endgame. Ivanchuk needed to make a few accurate moves to secure a win, but instead he lost the thread. He conceded the initiative to the opponent, and soon initiated an unsuccessful rook maneuver, allowing Black to promote his passed pawn.
At the press conference "Chucky" said: "I got a big advantage, and all I needed to do was to find the best way of converting it. Maybe 34.Kd4 instead of 34.Kf4 was the right move. I’d probably win the game if I played 34.Kd4. And then I made an elementary blunder..." Inarkiev: "I consciously went for an inferior ending, expecting to neutralize White’s advantage. However, I made a mistake somewhere, and my position became lost. Of course I was very lucky in the end."
All other games ended in a draw. (With five more undecisive games in round 5, the drawing percentage is now as a high as 78%). Good games were Akopian-Mamedyarov and Eljanov-Gashimov, where both Azeri GMs had winning chances.
On Friday Pavel Eljanov took the lead by defeating Wang Yue in round 5 with Black. Quite an achievement, we'd say, since the last classical game the ultra-solid Chinese number one lost with White was art Corus 2009!
It must be said that Eljanov was forced to defend a difficult position for most of the game. In his own words: "I played terribly in the first half of the game, partly because I underestimated my opponent. My position was worse, and I wasted a lot of time... Wang Yue played well and obtained a solid advantage."
The Chinese obtained a big space advantage following a temporary pawn sacrifice in a well-known variation of the Slav Defense. Eljanov: "I even wanted to resign at some point, but then found the only chance and sacrificed an exchange. I was almost exhausted at that moment and had nothing to lose..." Prior to the first time control Eljanov managed to complicate the game with an exchange sacrifice, and Wang Yue got nervous. First he missed the winning continuation, and then, after the control was already passed, blundered a rook instead of transposing into a better ending.
Vassily Ivanchuk won his first game in Astrakhan, defeating his arch-rival Ruslan Ponomariov. Ponomariov, having White, got a slight advantage after of the opening, but made an unsuccessful pawn sacrifice on the 22nd move and gave away the initiative. White’s problems got worse after he missed Black’s strong bishop manoeuvre. After the first control Black already had a winning position.
Ponomariov's take on the game at the press conference: "Both players showed a lot of creativity from the start, especially after Vassily Mikhailovich played 9...Qe7. I thought I played logically, developed my pieces... Ivanchuk was taking his decisions very fast, and maybe I didn’t get enough time to fully comprehend the position. After 28...Be3 I gave away the initiative completely. Black started to attack... Maybe I had to play something more principled, but it’s hard to say without serious analysis. I thought I played well, but Black’s energetic play left me perplexed."
Ivanchuk said: "As far as I know, 9...Qe7 occurred in the Anand-Karpov match. I misplayed something in the opening, as I didn’t like my position early on. The a6- and b6-pawns could easily become weak. 22.h4 gave me some hope. Instead of 31.Nd5 White had 31.Bc2 intending 32.Bd1 with an unclear position."
Saturday was the first rest day of the tournament. Today the sixth round is played.
Report based on the excellent tournament website
Games rounds 4-5
Game viewer by ChessTempo
Astrakhan Grand Prix 2010 | Round 5 Standings
Astrakhan Grand Prix 2010 | Schedule & results
The brand new Astrakhan State Drama Theatre...
...with a stunning area for commentary by GM Evgeny Sveshnikov
Chess fans getting as close as possible to the players
A cheerful press conference with Peter Leko and Ruslan Ponomariov
Peter Svidler and Teimour Radjabov are not in a bad mood either
Vassily Ivanchuk: a bad start, but also a first victory
Pavel Elanov, in sole first place after five rounds
Photo courtesy of FIDE, more here
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