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Ivanchuk Implodes On 1st Day Quarterfinals

Ivanchuk Implodes On 1st Day Quarterfinals

He spent 42 minutes on his 10th move and resigned as early as move 24. Vassily Ivanchuk imploded after misplaying the opening and lost quickly to Levon Aronian as the quarterfinals of the FIDE World Cup took off in Tbilisi.

Just four boards are left in the playing hall. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

The quarterfinals started today with eight players from seven different countries. Two of them are above 40 (Svidler is 41, Ivanchuk is 48). Aronian is the only player in his thirties, and five are in their twenties.

In this grueling schedule even the younger players must be yearning for a rest day. However, in the whole event two are scheduled: the day before the semifinal, on September 18, and the day before the final, on September 22. Baadur Jobava, knocked out in the previous round, said that he would be happy to pay for an extra night if he could have had an extra day himself.

2017 World Cup | Quarterfinals, Day 1

Fed Player Fed Player Classical Rapid Blitz Score
Svidler (2756) Vachier-Lagrave (2804) ½-½
Aronian (2802) Ivanchuk (2727) 1-0
Fedoseev (2731) So (2792) ½-½
Rapport (2675) Ding Liren (2771) ½-½

Vassily Ivanchuk has been unpredictable throughout his career, and probably will always remain so. He can beat the world's best player on one day, and lose like a child the next.

Today things went wrong early against Levon Aronian, and the loss was quick and painful. It reminded the Chess.com editor Sam Copeland of the first game in the 2002 FIDE world championship final between Ruslan Ponomariov and Ivanchuk, where the latter resigned on move 23, also positionally busted. He subsequently (and famously) lost the match.

Today's early resignation indicated "some sort of nervous breakdown," said the commentator Ivan Sokolov, although our commentator Dejan Bojkov demonstrates that the position was indeed pretty hopeless.

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It was one of those days for Vassily Ivanchuk. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Aronian, who visited the Armenian embassy on his "rest day" where he met with the legendary weight lifter (now diplomat) Yuri Vardanyan, explained what happened today. He takes off from the moment where Ivanchuk spent 42 minutes for 10...c5.

"I think by that moment he realized he misplayed the opening because Black is not able to play ...c5, simply. If he doesn't then I play Ne5 and the position is rather unpleasant. It would have been more practical of course for Black to proceed with the passive Nf6, Be7 but that position is just very pleasant for White. White just puts a rook on d1, and maybe some Bg5. I don't think Black is in time to pay ...c5 so it will be a very passive position. Which I thought Vassily would do. But 10...c5 was I think a bit suicidal."

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1.c4 e6 was the start of Aronian vs Ivanchuk. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

He continued: "It's an old-fashioned line. Nowadays people play this with ...Nbd7 instead of ...Nc6. But I think there are games where White plays Nc3. The point is that I do want to play e4 at some point and play with Ne5 and that's why Black shouldn't ply ...a6 or ...Rc8. He should just develop his pieces instead.

"I think it was more or less a principled decision. Black has done everything to prepare c5 and now he gets this position where if he doesn't he is still in a lot of trouble."

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Knocked out yesterday, Alexander Grischuk could be found among the spectators today. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Ivanchuk's 10...c5 allowed 11.d5! and if this pawn break is possible, it's usually bad news for Black. White ended up with a passed d-pawn while simultaneously preventing Black from castling. Black's queen was a bad blockader; she was easily chased away. By move 24 Ivanchuk had enough, and his loss almost looked amateurish.

Which Ivanchuk we'll see tomorrow is anyone's guess.

Dejan Bojkov's Game of the Day

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Aronian seemed to be wearing the same shirt as two days ago—probably more a laundry issue than superstition. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

The other three games ended in draws, and two of these rather quickly. Richard Rapport vs Ding Liren was an especially brief affair, and might be the effect of the World Cup's tough schedule. Would Rapport really have given a quick draw with White in any other circumstance? He might be suffering as Black tomorrow.

The draw kept the mutual score even. Before the game it was three draws, and one win each.

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A welcome quick draw for Ding Liren. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Vladimir Fedoseev and Wesley So played eight more moves, but it wasn't much either. The Petroff is making a bit of a comeback in this World Cup, and it worked perfectly for So, who equalized easily. After playing this opening five times between 2010 and 2014, So used it twice in his León rapid match with Vishy Anand in July, so Fedoseev and his coach Alexander Khalifman couldn't have been too surprised here.

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Who wouldn't agree that this looks much better than a player in T-shirt or shorts? | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Meanwhile, Martin Bennedik is still updating his Google spreadsheet where he tracks the average ratings of the world's top players, to see which two are taking the two spots for the Candidates'. Apparently it's really close, although we'll only know for sure when FIDE's December rating list is published.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's preparation was just excellent. If you get your opponent thinking on move two, you've done a good job, right? So, why was Peter Svidler thinking? 

The clue can be found in the database. At least in the one used by this author, there are no games of MVL playing the Symmetrical English! Svidler must have skipped looking at 1...c5 altogether, and had to dig up everything from more distant memory.

"I did play it but it was a long time ago," MVL told Chess.com. "In fact I only changed the move order." And indeed, the position after four moves was also seen in his first classical game with Aleksandr Lenderman in this tournament. The American grandmaster went 5.e3 there.

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"1...c5! Now it's your turn!" | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

The line that was played is rather cool, especially if you've never seen it before. White gives up his right to castle in return for some tempi and better development.

White pointed almost all his pieces to the one weakness in Black's camp: the c5-pawn. Ironically, Vachier-Lagrave saved all his problems at some point by just giving it up. 

"My position was bad," said the Frenchman. "I was surviving until the move 37...h5, which he shouldn't have allowed. After that it was still unpleasant but the worst was over."

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MVL and Etienne Bacrot right after the game. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

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Genna Sosonko (right) chatting with more distinguished guests. Today Anna Chakvetadze, former WTA #5, came along with her husband Pavel Kuftyryev. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

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(Click for bigger version.)

Download all games in PGN

Games from TWIC.

The World Cup takes place September 3-27 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Each round consists of two classical games (four in the final), and possibly a rapid and blitz tiebreak on the third day. The total prize fund is $1.6 million, including a first prize of $120,000. The top two finishers will qualify for the 2018 Candidates' Tournament. 

Chess.com relays the games at Chess.com/Live. You can watch also live commentary on Chess.com/TV provided by the Chessbrahs, which includes some of the best commentators on the planet: GM Eric Hansen, GM Robin van Kampen, GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Aman Hambleton.


Correction: A earlier version of this article wrongly stated that there is only one rest day. There are two.


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