Vassily Ivanchuk will be Anand's next opponent. Of course since Ruslan Pononmariov has also advanced, one can be certain that the "dynamic duo" from the Ukraine will provide mutual support in quest an "all-Ukrainian" final. Ivanchuk had an exciting theoretical encounter with Lautier as all the games were Queen Indians! The 1st tiebreak ended with two unceremonious draws, so the matter would be settled in the 2nd tiebreak blitz matchup. In the 1st game, Ivanchuk had an interesting strategy of trading a wretched pawn structure for active piece play and control of the critical c-file. Then "Chucky" hit the Frenchman with the shocking 20.Nd7! which, if nothing else, gained some time on the clock. Lautier decided to brace for the endgame, but white's pieces were actively poised for penetration. A R+P ending followed and white was able to develop two dangerous passed pawns and Lautier's fate was sealed. In the 2nd game, Lautier came out aggressively opening, but Ivanchuk mobilized, won a pawn and Lautier had to accept a draw and resign the match.
Ponomariov is playing with so much confidence. His win over Bareev was impressive. As minor pieces danced around the board, he demonstrated his grasp of tactics in a heated middlegame. Bareev then did the unthinkable and blundered a piece! Moves later he resigned. In the 2nd tiebreak game, Bareev played the Modern Defense. The game plodded along until
BOOM! Ponomariov sacked his queen for two pieces and a promising attack!! Apparently shaken, Bareev declined a draw offer, but then made a final blunder that would leave him a piece down in the ending. Impressive play by the 18-year old Ukrainian GM! In the 1st tiebreak of Gelfand-Svidler, the improbable happened
a four-piece ending occurred featuring Svidler's queen vs. Gelfand's rook! What is more interesting was that Svidler, one of Russia's best, could not win within the required 50 moves!!
After another draw (in the French), they would then go to the blitz set. Svidler would have white first and have a chance to improve on the previous game
that he did! In the same line of the Advanced Variation of the French, Svidler threw in a wrinkle with 11.Qf4 as opposed to 11.Qxc4 and built up a promising position. Black's weakened pawn structure finally took it's toll as white's queen and bishop chased the king out into the open, battered it into submission, then mated it on f4. In the 2nd game, Gelfand played impressively the whole game, won a piece, but then walked into a pin and allowed Svidler to set up a drawing fortress
truly a disappointment for Gelfand after playing so well.
In the women's battles, Alexandra Kosteniuk closed out the match with Xu Yuhua by winning two exciting tiebreak games. In the first, Xu played the Rossolimo Sicilian and got a good position before mounting an all-out attack on the black king. Kosteniuk sacrificed an exchange to ward off the menacing attack and countered with incredible force. Xu was sent scrambling to protect her exposed king. Under the relentless pressure, Xu lost a piece and the two minor pieces and connected pawns overpowered the rook.
In the 2nd, Kosteniuk-Xu would go into a classic Sicilian Najdorf characterized by 13.f5!? Bxg5+ 14.Kb1. Black seemed to be OK
the only major issue being the safety of her king. Unfortunately, she never solved that problem and the Russian teenager begin weaving a net around Xu's king. Before Kosteniuk could finish her plan, Xu's darted her black king across the board with white pieces in hot pursuit. The bare king would get caught in a crossfire and when the black queen tried to protect her king, she was bayoneted by a white bishop causing massive material loss.
To beat such a strong player three games in a row is a confidence booster and Alexandra will need it when playing GM Zhu Chen. In the other match, Zhu Chen prevented the resurgence of GM Maia Chiburdanidze by winning the 2nd of the tiebreak games after an initial draw. In this game, Zhu played with a lot of energy and grabbed a space advantage. The game appeared to be headed for another draw when the Georgian GM played 29
Kf8?! and allowed Xu to penetrate on the 7th rank and win a pawn. A R+P ending ensued and Zhu showed impeccable technique in putting away the win.