The FIDE World Chess Championship resumed in an all-Ukrainian final. GM Ruslan Ponomariov who just overtook GM Vassily Ivanchuk as the country's #1 player has bolted out of the gate with a win! GM Ivanchuk caught a glimpse of things to come when the 18-year old spanked him at the chess board and forced him to resign in a mere 23 moves. What was striking was that the game ended without a massive loss of material, but Ponomariov pieces were poised at the king in what appeared to be a virulent attack on the e6 and f7 squares. The game started with Ponomariov trotting out Rubenstein's ambitious 4.Bg5!? line against the French. He slowly built a powerful position as Ivanchuk's pieces were in fetal positions on the first rank. Ponomariov grabbed more space and after 23.c5, Ivanchuk did not want to wait for the devastation bound to come from white's menacing pieces glaring at f7. Garry Kasparov made an interesting analysis last month by saying that GM Ivanchuk may play as either a 2800 or 2600. GM Ivanchuk will need to do something about his nerves against the Sphinx-like Ponomariov if he wants to avoid total humiliation.
After destroying his countryman yesterday, Ponomariov had to hold on for dear life to secure a draw in today's exciting encounter. The game started as a QGA and Ivanchuk unveiled 12.a3!? White appeared to gain an edge in space as players in the Internet Chess Club (ICC) were expecting 21.h4 and an attack. Ivanchuk had other ideas and began maneuvering his queen to bide time. The fight seemed to center around the d5 square, so Ponomariov played 23
Nd5 after which followed 24.Ncxd5 exd5 25.Rdc1!? The ICC debated on 25.e6, but after 25
fxe5 26.Nxe6 Bf6, white stands worse after the complications.
Time pressure started to approach and Ponomariov attempted to trap the bishop with 28
g5!? While the ICC spectators were analyzing 29.Qd2!? Qg6 30.Rxc6 bxc6 31.Qxa5 Qxd3, Ivanchuk plowed in with the speculative 29.Rxc6?! "I would have preferred the solid 29.f4 instead," commentator GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili said "since they had little time left and Black would not have any counter. This way, Ivanchuk had to calculate carefully, which he did, but at the same time it gave Black tactical chances. Ivanchuk had good chances, but he exchanged Queens too early."
Ponomariov found some resourceful answers and then complicated matters by sacking a rook with less than a minute on his clock! In the ensuing time scramble, pieces clashed violently and after the smoke cleared white had seemingly a clear advantage with the only problem being his clock and stranded bishop on h6. Meanwhile, the 18-year old wunderkind found a way to march his king up the board as an attacking piece to f3! After 43.Rxd4? Bc5 44.Rd2 Rf6!, black would regain the piece and a draw was agreed.
GM Vassily Ivanchuk is one of the most creative players in the world and is known to have a profound memory and deep repertoire. All of these attributes make him a dangerous opponent indeed. However, his opponent GM Ruslan Ponomariov is building quite a reputation himself for his tenacity, calm demeanor and killer instinct. Today's game personified both players as this game was very intriguing until the last move was made.
Ivanchuk changed the tempo by employing the Taimanov Sicilian and Ponomariov countered with the solid g3 system. This would be a classic Sicilian fight! In the spirit of this battle, Ponomariov played the ambitious 12.Qg4?! but was forced to retreat since after 12
h5 since 13.Qxg7?? loses to 13
Bf6 trapping the queen. Ivanchuk tried to send Ponomariov to the mat by opening the h-file and positioning his pieces aggressively. While black pressed hard, Ponomariov was able to get the queens off the board to diminish the risk to his naked king. At the post-game press conference, Ivanchuk admitted that he did not see 24.Qf2 by White which forced the exchange of queens. "It shows that I am still not in good form," he confessed.
Ivanchuk played 29
Bb5!? Hoping for 30.Bxb5? axb5 with incredible pressure on the queenside. More material was exchanged and the two Ukrainians settled down into a knight ending. After the paradoxical 35
f5!? a game of hide-and-seek ensued. As the knights danced, Ponomariov attempted to invade the black queenside with his king, but Ivanchuk's king squared off against the intruder and drove him away. The position reached a deadlock and neither side could make progress.
The word going around the tournament halls in Moscow is that stress took it's toll in Game 4 of the FIDE Chess Championship. "The level of this game was low," Ponomariov said at the post-game conference, "probably due to the stress," he added. The game's opening repeated the Game 2's QGA, but Ponomariov took a different course and refused to allow Ivanchuk to push him around as in Game 2. The young Ukrainian was looking for a fight, so he castled queenside, and unleashed a pawn avalanche on the white king. This tactic was perhaps used to rattle Ivanchuk and cause him to panic. It didn't appear that black's pieces were poised to support the attack, and after black's attack lost steam, mass exchanges occurred and Ivanchuk had an extra pawn, but a bad bishop.
Ponomariov sacked another pawn to cement white's pawn weaknesses on the dark squares. After playing 44
b5!, Ponomariov continued with 45
Kb6?! and the game ended in three-fold repetition. "Ruslan played the correct 44
b5 but then followed up wrongly with 45
Kb6 when Ne3 would have been preferable," commentator GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili said. "But then Ivanchuk missed some chances when he retreated his Bishop 50.Be1 instead of penetrating with g4 then Kh5 to f7 with winning chances," remarked the Georgian GM.
The shock of the hour! Ponomariov continues his march toward the World Championship title with an improbable win in a lost position against Ivanchuk. After Ponomariov's 1.e4, Ivanchuk played his third response with 1
e5 and faced off against an anti-Marshall Ruy Lopez with 8.h3!? After the common maneuver 10
Nb8 and 11
Nd7, the typical maneuvering ensued and after 25
c5, Ivanchuk got an impressive center. White struggled to neutralize black's initiative on the queenside buttressed by his passed a-pawns.
Like a vice tightening, Ivanchuk improved his position and came at the brink of winning after 45
Qb3. "White was lost after Black's Qb3," commentator GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili said. "I played very passively and Black gained a decisive advantage. Ivanchuk was winning after Ba4," Ponomariov confessed. After a few more moves, the queens came off and an interesting bishop ending occurred. It is hard to see how black could lose this game, but Ivanchuk was bitten by the time pressure bug once again.
This grim reality for Ivanchuk became more apparent as Ponomariov set two steamrolling pawns into motion toward the end zone. This forced Ivanchuk to reduce his position to passivity and the white king took up a threatening position as the black king began screaming for help. However, the black bishop acted too late and the white king escorted his pawns into the black territory and surrounded the black king. Another black bishop sacrificed himself to protect his king, but it would not help and Ivanchuk resigned. The unflappable Ponomariov has what now appears to be an insurmountable lead at 3½-1½.
See GM Rainer Knaak's annotated version.
In a must win situation, Vassily Ivanchuk was unable to win a point from the Ruslan "The Rock" Ponomariov and is now one draw from becoming "Vassily the Vanquished." Ivanchuk was in a relaxed mood and even posed for photographers during play. Ponomariov was all business and trotted out the Petroff Defense, an opening that has served him well in the FIDE Knockout Championships.
"Ivanchuk played a novelty with 13.h3 in this well known position," commentator Zurab Azmaiparashvili of Georgia said. "Even Anand and Adams played the Petroff and ended with a draw. White had the edge in the opening but after 14.a3, Black has a normal position," Azmaiparashvili said. There was only one point at which the game could've taken a decisive turn. "After the exchanges in the center, Black emerged better but on 24.f3, Ponomariov could have tried to find a win with 24
Ng3 or 24
Nc5," Azmaiparashvili commented. "But okay, Ruslan found a clear draw and chose this strategy." Ponomariov played 24
d3! to force either a drawing line or an Ivanchuk risky attempt at winning a R+P ending. Ivanchuk chose the first option, and the game ended in a quiet 2-hour, 27-move draw.
Of course, things are very dire for GM Ivanchuk as two wins in two games would require a total mental collapse from the young Ukrainian who has played the most inspired chess of this tournament.
Ponomariov became the 16th World Champion and the youngest in history by sealing the title with a draw against GM Vassily Ivanchuk! The game was rather short in moves (22) and in time elapsed (1½ hours). Needing a win to keep the match alive, GM Ivanchuk chose his fourth reply to 1.e4 with 1
Nf6, the Alekhine's Defense. This choice came as a surprise as this defense is not known for its aggressive nature.
"It is a strange opening by Ivanchuk. The Alekhine is not the type of opening to use when Black must win and if White does not want to complicate, he has many variations to choose," Azmaiparashvili said. "Ruslan Ponomariov chose 4.Nf3 and Ivanchuk replied with Nc6 which is worse than any other line," Azmaiparashvili added.
Ponomariov didn't play as if he wanted a draw and applied pressure early with played 6.e6!? Ivanchuk heart must've dropped as all chances for the initiative were non-existent. It was the young lion who played for an attack after probing the kingside with 9.h4!? Black's position was compromised as white penetrated with a rook on the 7th rank after 20.Rg7. A couple of moves later, Ponomariov offered a draw in a much better position, and Ivanchuk was obliged to accept. With this result, the 18-year old Ukrainian became the new FIDE World Champion! Congratulations to GM Ruslan Ponomariov!!
Final Match Score: 4½-2½