Ivanchuk Wins Grand Prix Tournament; Aronian Wins Overall Grand Prix

Dylan Loeb McClain

New York Times
Aug 26 2009

Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine won the 5th World Chess Federation Grand
Prix tournament with a clutch win over Vladimir Akopian of Armenia
in the final round on Sunday. Peter Leko of Hungary, who was tied
with Ivanchuk before the round, lost to Boris Gelfand of Israel and
ended in a tie for fourth. Gelfand tied for second with Levon Aronian
of Armenia, who beat Ernesto Inarkiev of Russia. Final standings,
round-by-round results and player profiles are on the tournament’s
Web site.

With his second-place finish, Aronian has won the overall Grand Prix
and locked up one of the two places in the world championship cycle
allotted to the top finishers in the series. Teimour Radjabov of
Azerbaijan and Alexander Grischuk of Russia are currently tied for the
second in the standings, with Wang Yue of China not far behind. Only
the top three finishes in Grand Prix events count in the standings
and there is only one more tournament left.

Ivanchuk’s victory continues what has been a feast-or-famine year
for him. He started it by finishing in a tie for last in the elite
section of the Corus tournament in the Netherlands. He then tied for
first in the Linares super tournament in Spain. That was followed
by another tie for last place in the 4th Grand Prix tournament in
Nalchik, Russia. From there, he went to Bulgaria, where he finished
last at the M-tel Masters. He then turned it around again with a
dominant performance at the King’s Tournament in Bazna, Romania.

In Round 13 on Sunday, Ivanchuk beat Akopian on the Black side of a
Giuoco Piano. It was an unambitious choice by Akopian and he achieved
absolutely no advantage out of the opening. In an equal position,
Akopian erred and misplaced his rook, allowing Ivanchuk to break
open the center and cripple White’s position. Ivanchuk then ground
down his opponent, picking off one pawn after another to build an
overwhelming advantage in the endgame.

Leko succumbed to Gelfand after a long struggle. Leko was actually
a bit better out of the opening. Gelfand played a well-known
pawn sacrifice in a double-edged variation of the Queen’s Indian
Defense, but he got little for his investment as Leko maneuvered
carefully. Stymied by Leko’s defense, Gelfand sacrificed a second
pawn and Leko erred by allowing Gelfand’s pieces to penetrate the
Black position. The game should still have ended in draw, however,
if Leko defended correctly, but he did not. Gelfand won back one pawn,
then the other and then won a pawn in an endgame. In a rare situation,
Gelfand had a winning position even though he only had a bishop and
pawn against Leko’s bishop, with both bishops on dark squares. The
problem was that Leko’s king was cut off and Gelfand was able to
force his pawn through to promote.

Aronian’s game against Inarkiev was marked by the kind of long, careful
maneuvers in which Aronian excels. Inarkiev was fine for a long time,
but he finally got impatient and made an ill-advised queen sortie to
the kingside. Levon immediately took advantage, winning a pawn. He
then managed to double his rooks on the seventh rank and initiated
a trade of the rooks for Inarkiev’s queen and a few pawns. In the
resulting position, White’s pieces were better coordinated and he
had too many pawns for Black to handle.