Ivanchuk Wins ACP Masters In Dominating Final

Ivanchuk Wins ACP Masters In Dominating Final

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GM Vasily Ivanchuk won the ACP Masters rapid tournament in Ashdod, Israel with a convincing final tally of five wins and five draws. The tournament, which took place from December 7 - 10, featured a unique format combining round robin and knockout stages.

On his way to victory, Ivanchuk suffered no losses and needed no tiebreaks. His performance merited a nearly 20-point rapid rating gain, which elevates him to second place in the world standings. He is the only player over 40 (or even over 30) with a rapid rating above 2800.

The participants included many players known for their individual style and fighting spirit. In order of their rapid ratings, the players were Vassily Ivanchuk (2825), Ian Nepomniachtchi (2821), Gadir Guseinov (2739), Richard Rapport (2736), Boris Gelfand (2713), Etienne Bacrot (2700), Dimitry Jakovenko (2700), Pavel Eljanov (2680), Kiril Georgiev (2633), Emil Sutovsky (2622), Ilia Smirin (2613) and Sam Sevian (2546).

The players and organizers after the awards ceremony. All photos courtesy of the official site.

The unique format was as follows: The participants were divided into two six-player groups. Those two groups each played a single rapid (15+10), round-robin tournament where the top two players in each group advanced to a knockout format.

The semi-finals of the knockout tournament were two-game matches. If undecided, play proceeded to a two-game blitz match played at 3+2. If the blitz didn't determine a winner, the match would be decided by an Armageddon game.

In Group A, Boris Gelfand and Ian Nepomniachtchi advanced with relative ease. Many eyes in the event were on Samuel Sevian, still 14 and still the world's youngest grandmaster.

Perhaps his most impressive achievement was his victory against Dmitry Jakovenko on the white side of the Berlin Endgame. Sevian was better early, and he kept his edge throughout the game. The finish featured a simple but aesthetic mating net.

Sevian's other win was a shorter affair as his opponent, Kiril Georgiev, a last-minute replacement, mistakenly captured a poisoned pawn on b7. Later in the tournament, a different poisoned pawn on b7 would also turn out to be Etienne Bacrot's downfall.

Against the group champions, Gelfand and Nepomniachtchi, Sevian was steadily ground down. That consistency played a large part in their victory.

Will Sevian soon break into the elite?

Final Standings - Group A

Rk. Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts.
1 Gelfand, Boris 2713 ISR phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 3.5
2 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2821 RUS ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 1 3.5
3 Jakovenko, Dmitry 2700 RUS ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 0 ½ 2.5
4 Guseinov, Gadir 2739 AZE 0 ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 2.5
5 Sevian, Samuel 2546 USA 0 0 1 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 2
6 Georgiev, Kiril 2633 BUL ½ 0 ½ 0 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1


In Group B, Vasily Ivanchuk and Etienne Bacrot advanced. Ivanchuk's victory was quite convincing, but Bacrot needed a bit of luck to get past Ilia Smirin. In the following game, he offered a questionable piece sacrifice, but after a mysteriously passive defense, he had the opportunity to land the following tactics and finish the game. 

Had Smirin won this game, it would have been him, not Bacrot, who advanced to the final.

Richard Rapport, famous for his opening innovations, won an interesting game, also against Smirin, venturing the rarely played Bird Defense. Rapport's pawns eventually formed a phalanx stronger than any seen since Greek times. He soon sacrificed his queen in the interests of promoting a pawn, and Smirin had no choice but to concede.

Final Standings - Group B

Rk. Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts.
1 Ivanchuk, Vassily 2825 UKR phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5
2 Bacrot, Etienne 2700 FRA 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1 ½ 3
3 Rapport, Richard 2736 HUN ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 0 ½ 2.5
4 Smirin, Ilia 2613 ISR ½ 0 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 2.5
5 Eljanov, Pavel 2680 UKR ½ 0 1 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 2.5
6 Sutovsky, Emil 2622 ISR 0 ½ ½ 0 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1

The semi-final match between Ivanchuk and Nepomniachtchi revolved around two knight sacrifices, Nepo offering both of them. His first sacrifice was a bit speculative, but it offered good practical chances in rapid. In the end, a draw was a reasonable outcome.

In the second game, Nepomniachtchi missed a winning rook infiltration to the seventh rank and instead he found a different, very frightening invasion of both the queen and rook to the seventh. Unfortunately he had to offer another knight to achieve this position, which turned out to be only optically promising. Ivanchuk defended flawlessly and won the game.

The match between Gelfand and Bacrot was easily the most dramatic of the tournament. In game one, Gelfand missed the following tactic in an already difficult position. Can you find Bacrot's winning shot?


In game two, Gelfand won a convincing endgame, converting a pawn advantage. The blitz games were also split with a win each.

The most interesting was probably the below game in which Bacrot caught Gelfand in a mating net. In the final Armageddon game, Gelfand shockingly lost on time in spite of an extra rook and knight!

The match between Gelfand and Bacrot was everything a spectator could desire.


In the finals, Ivanchuk handily defeated Etienne Bacrot 2.5 - 0.5 to claim a very convincing victory. The final was a best-of-four match; after Ivanchuk won the first two games decisively, he took a draw in a winning position in the third game and claimed victory a game early.

The most exciting game of the three was probably the second one, in which Bacrot embarked on a pawn-grabbing mission with his queen only to find Ivanchuk's central pressure too powerful to resist.

The victorious Ivanchuk; in addition to the trophy, he won €10,000 ($10,991) for first place.
Semi-Finals Bracket

Eljanov expressed his congratulations to Ivanchuk. I am sure many can agree: The chess world is better when Ivanchuk is in form and playing thrilling chess!

As fascinating as the games were in the ACP Masters, the tournament may best be remembered for its technical innovation. The ACP Masters partnered with Chess Vision to provide live coverage of the event.

Chess Vision offers an entirely new means of broadcasting live chess events. They use cameras, here smartphones, mounted above the board to capture and broadcast the position. It's a revolutionary method of broadcasting that may be cheaper and more scalable than any existing methods.

Chess Vision testing their technology before the event. Photo from their official Twitter page.

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