Ponomariov Catches MVL After Rook Endgame Masterclass

Ponomariov Catches MVL After Rook Endgame Masterclass

Ruslan Ponomariov showed top-class endgame technique in his game with Evgeniy Najer to win a two pawn versus one pawn rook endgame. Ponomariov's victory enabled him to join Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the lead at the Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dortmund.

All photos Dagobert Kohlmeyer.

One member of the Chess.com staff called Ponomariov the dark horse for this event. In the latest ChessCenter, IM Danny Rensch said: “Ponomariov has won this event before. I think the Ukrainian will be a bit more fresh than all the players coming off the Grand Chess Tour.”

However, didn't the Ukrainian and his wife just have their first baby? Aren't those first few weeks the toughest, with many sleepless nights? Well, perhaps the little one has been quiet, because without any signs of fatigue, Ponomariov won a long game where he showed fine technique in a rook endgame.

Ponomariov once famously lost a four pawn versus four pawn (!) rook endgame against Carlsen, but this time he showed that he still knows a thing or two about these endings. 

The winner took the slow approach; he was happy with small advantages in a game that started as a Slav. Najer didn't defend badly and kept things under control until move 37, when a natural king move turned out to be the losing one.

An excellent win for the former FIDE world champion.

That was all in the decisive games department. Kramnik, who had the disadvantage of starting with two black games, held Vachier-Lagrave to a draw in his beloved Berlin Endgame. It was still interesting from a strategic point of view: shouldn't White's kingside majority give him an edge when he wins the bishop pair so simply? However, Kramnik showed that he could play against the white pawns with some subtle knight maneuvers.

The Berlin still serves Kramnik well.

Caruana, the winner of the last two editions, couldn't beat Nisipeanu, and in fact, failed to get much at all in the opening. He certainly expected the Caro-Kann, and followed Volokitin vs. Nisipeanu from just a week ago in the Milan Vidmar Memorial. Only a few moves after the novelty 12.f4, Black looked perfectly fine, although maybe Caruana missed one or two chances for a slight edge in the endgame.

“I trust this opening; it's my main weapon against strong players,” said Nisipeanu. “Fabiano was certainly better, and I was a bit under pressure, but somehow I could always keep the position equal.”

A comfortable draw for Nisipeanu.

A very interesting game was Buhmann vs. Dominguez. It had the potential of being the most boring game, but then things got really wild. First, Buhmann avoided his opponent's Grünfeld with a specific move order, and then he went for the Exchange King's Indian. Dominguez took a lot of time (about 54 minutes for moves 8, 9 and 10) and decided to sacrifice an exchange in return for a beautiful bishop pair. Still, it was White who was holding the cards, and it's quite possible that there was a win somewhere.

Buhmann vs. Dominguez: A long and difficult battle.

Dortmund 2016 | Round 2 Standings

Place Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Ponomariov, Ruslan 2706 2871 ½ 1 1.5/2 1.50
2 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2798 3001 ½ 1 1.5/2 1.00
3 Kramnik, Vladimir 2812 2756 ½ ½ 1.0/2 1.25
4 Nisipeanu, Liviu-Dieter 2674 2758 ½ ½ 1.0/2 1.00
5 Dominguez Perez, Leinier 2713 2732 ½ ½ 1.0/2 0.75
6 Najer, Evgeniy 2687 2680 0 1 1.0/2 0.50
7 Caruana, Fabiano 2810 2546 0 ½ 0.5/2 0.50
8 Buhmann, Rainer 2653 2510 ½ 0 0.5/2 0.50

The third round, on Tuesday, will see the games Nisipeanu vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Najer vs. Caruana, Dominguez vs. Ponomariov, and Kramnik vs. Buhmann.

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