Reports | June 21, 2011 1:38

Kings' R9: the collapse of Vassily Ivanchuk

Kings' R9: the collapse of Vassily IvanchukThe second half of the King's Tournament in Medias, Romania has a dominating theme, and it's not a happy one. We're witnessing a total collapse of Vassily Ivanchuk, who played one of his worst games in years today and lost in just 22 moves, having spent only 17 minutes. Nisipeanu-Carlsen and Nakamura-Radjabov ended in draws. On Tuesday the final round, with Carlsen vs Karjakin, starts at 12.30 CET.

Organizer Elisabeta Polihroniade making the first move at the board of Karjakin-Ivanchuk

General info

The Kings Tournament takes place June 11-21 at the Natural Gas Documentation and Information Centre in Medias, Romania. Magnus Carlsen, Vassily Ivanchuk, Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, Teimour Radjabov and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu play a double round-robin with one rest day after five rounds. The rate of play is 2 hours for 40 moves, then 1 hour for 20 moves and then 15 minutes to finish the game, with a 30-second increment after move 60. No draws are allowed before move 30. Round 9 starts at 15.30 local time (14.30 CET); round 10 starts at 13.30 (12.30 CET).

Kings' Tournament, round 9

Round 9 report by GM Dorian Rogozenco

Ivanchuk’s quick loss against Karjakin was the biggest surprise of the 9th round. After just 15 moves Black’s position already looked bad, allowing Karjakin nicely to finish the game with a direct attack against the opponent’s king. Ivanchuk resigned at move 22 after spending just 17 minutes of his time for the entire game.

Karjakin vs Ivanchuk, a short affair

Nisipeanu-Carlsen was an interesting strategic battle in the Breyer Variation of the Ruy Lopez. On move 16 the Norwegian chose a rare subvariation, forcing his opponent to think for about 20 moves. The result of this lengthy thinking was an interesting novelty from the Romanian GM, which looked promising for White indeed. However, Carlsen quickly started activity in the center and after a Nisipeanu’s positional exchange sacrifice it became clear that the chances for both sides are equal. Draw agreed on move 32.

Nisipeanu vs Carlsen

Radjabov met Nakamura’s 1.e4 with the so-called Kalashnikov Variation of the Sicilian Defense. The game confirmed Radjabov’s words from the beginning of the tournament: “The opening doesn’t matter, everything should be a draw”. In spite of Nakamura’s extra pawn, the better control of the dark squares secured Radjabov the draw in the bishops endgame.

Nakamura vs Radjabov

Photos © Ionut Anisca

Thus before the last round Carlsen and Karjakin are leading the field with 6 points out of 9. They will meet tomorrow (Carlsen with the white pieces) to determine the victor of the 5th edition of the Kings’ Tournament.

Here are the regulations in case the game ends in a draw:

  • A greater number of wins.
  • The result of the direct mini-matches between contenders.
  • Berger.
  • A tie-break match will be played in case of a tie for the first place in the tournament between the first two players in the final standing (according to points, or the additional criteria). The match will consist of two games with a time-control of 15 minutes per player + 3 seconds added for every move played. In case of a tie, another match of two blitz-games will be played with a time-control of 5 minutes per player + 3 seconds for every move played. In case of another tied result – there will be played a last "sudden-death" decisive game with a time-control 5 minutes for the whole game for the White-player and 4 minutes for the whole game for Black-player. The White-player will only need a victory in this game to win the tournament; whole the Black-player will win the tournament by just not losing that final decisive game.
  • In case the first place might be shared by more than two players – the final standing will be determined according to the criteria that have been mentioned above.

Round 9 games with notes by GM Dorian Rogozenco

Game viewer by ChessTempo



Kings Tournament 2011 | Schedule & results
Kings Tournament 2011 - full schedule
Kings Tournament 2011 | Round 9 standings


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


dick.hardy's picture

in the very near future we shall se Carlsen Karjakin match for the world title.

ebutaljib's picture

That "very near future" is at least 6 years from now.

For that to happen one of them would have to win the Candidates in the next cycle and dethrone the Champion. And then in the following cycle the other one would have to win the Candidtes to become the challenger.

Very unlikely to happen.

danny1's picture

yeah about as likely to happen as the anand-gelfand match.

ebutaljib's picture

Those who thought Gelfand was a class outsider don't know much about chess. And those who still think that anandwill have it easy, don't have a clue. While the name Gelfand is not so flashy as some other names, he has been in absolute elite since the very beginning of 1990's - constantly. In fact Kasparov has given him the most chances to challenge him next for the title. He did well in the last two regular cycles, but didn't quite make it. and then there was no real cycles for 10 years so he didn't really have a chance. When the cycles came back he comfortably qualified for 2007 World Championship where he tied for 2nd place. 2007-2010 was again no real cycle, and in the current 2008-2012 cycle he qualified for the World Championship match. Gelfand has benn doing much better in World championship cycles as for example Kramnik. But Kramnik got his chance, while Gelfand never did. Until now. He is a worthy and very unpleasent challenger. Make no mistake about that.

S3's picture

Are you suggesting that Hans Arild runde doesn't know much about chess??

I quote once again: " Gelfand is no serious contender"

Horst's picture

and Karjakin, or Radjabov, in the case of a Radjabov-Carlsen match, will win in that case, they are both underrated.

jussu's picture

Anything can happen but not all scenarios have equal probability. Up until now, their performance in the last bunch of years suggests that Carlsen is a whole category stronger than Radja.

Celso's picture

Let's see tomorrow!

kaboom's picture

He'll be back!

Fireblade's picture

Agreed Chucky had one of those ' landing on planet Chucky ' moments....but has anyone noticed that Karjakin has become so lethal lately.

ken h's picture

"Has anyone noticed Karjakin lately?" ?
Well, I guess you would have to have been paying closer attention to the tournament scene. He's been one of the ten strongest players in the world for a few years - with a constantly rising rating. This result was very predictable.

Here's a serious future watch for ya in names: Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin, Levon Aronian, Alex Grischuk, Ian Nepomnichtchi, Teimor Radjabov, Hikaru Nakamura, Le Quang Liem, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Illya Nyzhnyk. All are under 30, and most all of them should be top 15 of the ELO rating list (if they are not already) in, let's say, three years max. Probably a few world champs in there.

R.Mutt's picture

It's particularly striking that Ivanchuk lost twice to Karjakin, who used to be his client. I remember a (chessvibes?) interview with Karjakin some time ago, in which Karjakin said something like "I lost to Ivanchuk but that's okay, I always lose to him..."

Celso's picture

To the fanseniors: What is that? Tired of playing chess? Mental failure? Decided to play soccer (goalkepper) instead? Homesick?.........

LMedemblik's picture

There certainly blows a sleepwave through the game room.
First Ivanchuk and now Nakamura is hit by it. :-)

Solomon's picture

I like Chucky. I hope this is not the beginning of something worse. A total mental collapse is not unheard of among geniuses. Perhaps he just need to step away from chess for awhile.

ebutaljib's picture

Ivanchuk away from chess? Never going to happen!

Michel83's picture

It's hard to say whether chess is good for Chucky or not- but I think with his type of personality if it wouldn't be chess it'd be something else.

Chess (or whatever he would choose otherwise) can be bad for his health for sure, at the same time he can't be healthy without it for a longer time either. Without chess he'd have no reason to live.

Remember his loss against Wesley So? He said "I have to stop, chess is destroying me!" in the interview and I am sure that was heartfelt- that was a collapse. Some weeks later he realized he can't live without it. Chess is his pact with the devil.

Although I do think it does help him to wrap his mind around something else for a short while (before going back to chess) once in a while, like learning languages or poetry, both things he's already doing. Or physical exercise.

But I doubt by himself he will do much of that- he probably needs somebody to look after him and push him gently in a healthy-for-himself direction once in a while. He's...a genius. They sometimes are like that.

And yes, he's amazing. Is there any other present player that almost nobody dislikes and that at least half of the fans (of any player) love?

Michel83's picture

I tried hard to be an amateur psychologist, but after the win against Nakamura I shall give my own post right here above a thumb down.

rick's picture

poor chaoschuk, of course clearjakin will see your messing point.

Thomas's picture

But maybe it was a pleasure for Carlsen to watch the same great player do more or less the same thing (main difference: it happened after about 40 moves were already played) two rounds earlier - when HE, rather than another guy in competition for first place, was sitting on the other side of the board ... .

Bob's picture

The horse is dead, Thomas.

noyb's picture

Feel bad for Chucky, just one of those tournaments. Best to forget it and set up the pieces again ASAP in another tournament.

Showdown tomorrow b/w Carlsen-Karjakin should be good!

Zomerschaker's picture

The game Nakamura Radjabov makes me a bit sad. Can we still play the open Sicilian with white these days?

gg's picture

Carlsen is in a good position when a draw with white is enough to win Bazna again. I don't think Karjakin will win with black and maybe he would even be rather content to draw and lose on tiebreak. He should be, +3, a Bilbao ticket and #4 on the rating list would be a great achievement.

rick's picture

karjakin is the next kramnik, if he work very hard fischer then.

gg's picture

Fischer sounds a bit much, but he'll pass his 2785 on the rating list unless he loses tomorrow, 2788 with a draw and 2793 with a win.

Juan's picture

8 of 9 decisive games include Ivanchuk and Nisi, just Carlsen-Nakamura doesn't.

Garrett's picture

If Carlsen and Karjakin draw tomorrow, Carlsen wins on tiebreaks, by virtue of his third win being against Nakamura, who will finish above Ivanchuk.

Thomas's picture

Actually - if I understand the regulations on the tournament homepage correctly - they will play rapid games (15 minutes with 3 second increment) in case of a tie for first place, i.e. a draw between Carlsen and Karjakin tomorrow. And if necessary, blitz followed by Armaggedon. In any case, Karjakin should get a Bilbao invitation - in the worst case, he'll finish in clear second place.

Regarding Ivanchuk, the issue about his form takes a funny turn: two rounds ago, Carlsen got praised for "nicely outplaying the opponent". Today Karjakin won, and we were "witnessing a total collapse from Ivanchuk". Fact is that both games have one thing in common: Ivanchuk suddenly played one-sided rapid at classical time control - today from the very start, Saturday only after the first time control.

rogge's picture


The following criteria will be decisive for the tie-break:

A greater number of wins.
The result of the direct mini-matches between contenders.
A tie-break match will be played in case of a tie for the first place in the tournament between the first two players in the final standing (according to points, or the additional criteria.

Berger favours Carlsen, who'll win the tournament with a draw tomorrow.

Peter Doggers's picture

It's not one or the other - Ivanchuk played too fast against Magnus, who imo at the same time nicely outplayed him.

Thomas's picture

I agree that it's a bit of both - in both cases: Ivanchuk did a few things wrong (if not his moves, then his time management was strange) and his opponents Carlsen and Karjakin did a few things right. What I pointed out and to some extent criticized was
1) the tone of your reports, primarily emphasizing Carlsen's good play in round 7, and Ivanchuk's bad play in round 9.
2) subsequent comments here likewise stressing "what's right with Carlsen", then "what's wrong with Ivanchuk".

As to tiebreak rules, you (or Rogozenko if you directly copied him) left out number of wins - irrelevant as it's the same for Carlsen and Karjakin, but so is the result of their minimatch [if they draw today]. There's no criterion "number of wins with black", which would favor Karjakin. I consider the written rules ambiguous, interpreting them that the first two bullet points (plus the one which isn't mentioned) would only distinguish between second and third place etc., or between first, second and third place if more than two players tie for first. Hence, there should be a tiebreak match - we might now in a few hours ... .

In any case, while Carlsen fans may have the right to formally claim "Carlsen won!!!" based on roughly half an extra Sonneborn-Berger point, I would consider them simply tied for first place

anhmhc's picture

Because Carlsen is the favorite now. Karjakin should do what Carlsen has done in recent years then he'll be treated the same as Carlsen. Now the titles seem unfair though, because if Carlsen “nicely outplaying the opponent” then actually Karjakin "brutally demolishing the opponent" :D I

Vassya's picture

WoW! Great tournament by Ivanchuk! Probably there, he does not stand behind his chair moving back and forth in losing positions, just to distract his opponents.

kaboom's picture

Would like to see a fight Carlsen-Karjakin tomorrow, but sadly I'm afraid both of them will be content with a draw.

Septimus's picture

Karjakin is on fire. Too bad Chucky was at the wrong end of the fireworks on both ocassions.

Adolfo's picture

Chucky , if you happen to read this, you could have realized how much we (all!) still love you and support you. You are still, my favourite player.
Kudos to Karjakin and Carlsen, for their in outstanding form. Incidentally, they are my “other” favourite” players, together with Naka. This has been an amazing tournament; one has doubts whom to root for.
And by the way, how is the bad form of a player the headline? This is yellow press Chessvibes, the title should be “Great miniature of Karkajin who reaches Carlsen in the lead” “they are paired for the next and last round” or something like this, not how poorly is someone doing. Next you could put Ivanchuk´s bad time, not the other way about.
Go, Vasyl!

Nima's picture

I tend to agree. The comments on Ivanchuck’s “total collapse” and mental health seem overblown and sensationalized. He is having a bad tournament and will be back. It has happened before and most likely will again.

dick.hardy's picture

What's this obsession of you all sucking his pawn?

blueofnoon's picture

1. Ivanchuk is certainly not in his best form. No big deal, we have seen this kind of ups and downs many times. If anything, we should worry about Topalov more.

2. Even when Ivanchuk is in bad form, he is still a tough opponent to beat, as his personal record against Kramnik and Anand shows. Carlsen, Karjakin and Nisipeanu did a great job, and we should not try to diminish their achievement in any way.

3. I certainly did say Ivanchuk's high rating comes mostly from beating lower rated players. This is not his fault. What else can you do when there are only 5-10 players who are higher rated than you?

4. Conclusion - Ivanchuk is STILL the man.

buri's picture

Worry about Topalov? Nahhh, I don't think we'll lose much lol

gg's picture

Man great insights there.
1. The guy in last place is not in form. Wow!
2. Lifetime records to prove that he is difficult to beat in particular form. Special!
3. Most rating points he gets of lower rated players. Wow. That's really special indeed.

the first gg's picture

"Lifetime records to prove that he is difficult to beat in particular form. Special!"

His lifetime record doesn't prove that he is difficult to beat when in form, it shows that he is difficult to beat.

"Most rating points he gets of lower rated players. Wow. That’s really special indeed."

In general it isn't easier for a 2750+ player to gain rating points from 2600s since you must score much better results against them. Morozevich is good at it while Radjabov is bad at it, for example.

Gens una sumus's picture

Chucky is full of surprises, as always! ;)))

sab's picture

About the "collapse" and the "quick moves", we could remember this interview of Ivanchuk by Danilo Mokrik : "I can still become World Champion" (findable at

Here are some revealing abstracts.

1) "I feel I should play a little less – so that I’ll have time to acquire a reserve of nervous energy. Otherwise you get situations where at a certain moment your head simply switches off and your hand starts to make moves quickly."

2) "For me the big problem is [the time between games]. For that reason, perhaps, it’s better for me to play in rapid chess tournaments which end after a day or two."

3) "I know myself – if a tournament is very important, then that’s it, I can’t prepare for it [...]. Why is it like that? I don’t know."

4) "Somehow I held on, but I need to work on [withstanding the blow]. Believe me, it’s not my strong point."

sab's picture

Sorry for the parenthesis at the end of the link in the previous post.

mishanp's picture

Ivanchuk also mentioned in another interview that he can be disturbed by his opponent's behaviour:

One example was: "In my career I remember an opponent who, having made a move, would hit the clock as hard as he could."

I thought of that recently when reading Aronian's Crestbook conference: (the question is from a chess fan not a journalist!)

"- What do you think of the way Nakamura always make excuses for his losses, and in general acts slightly arrogantly? Is it a topic among the rest of you?

Hikaru is irritating when he hits the clock very hard and, once in a while, for the way he behaves at the board, while I’ve got no complaints about anything else, and I don’t think my colleagues have either."

Here's hoping Ivanchuk didn't have Nakamura in mind, as it's probably not what he needs today! (in any case I guess it would be more of an issue in blitz)

calvin amari's picture

Confusing the issue with facts will get you nowhere with some people, rogge.

dick.hardy's picture

What's the obsession of you all sucking his pawn?

gg's picture

Karjakin has taken advantage of Ivanchuk's play excellently. At the same time I think the news item in these games is Ivanchuk, this is definitely the first time in his very long career that he has lost twice against the same opponent already in the opening. It's much more common to see him play well and make mistakes in time trouble, or play well and then get tired and lose concentration in the endgame. This was something entirely different, it was weird to see him use maybe five minutes to blitz into a lost position and then think a few minutes more about when it was bad enough to resign.


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