Ukrainian grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk, a runner-up in the 2002 FIDE world championship, won the gold medal yesterday at the fifth European championship in Antalya, Turkey. He defeated veteran Bosnian grandmaster Predrag Nikolic in a playoff after both players shared first place in the main event with 9 points in 13 games. Armenian grandmaster Levon Aronian clinched the bronze medal.
Against Finnish grandmaster Tomi Nyback, Ivanchuk created a positional masterpiece in the style of former world champion Jose Raul Capablanca. It began with a subtle opening idea in the Slav defense.
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Nh4 Bd7!? (An awkward retreat, but after 7.e3 Ivanchuk would have a choice between holding on the pawn with 6...b5 or transferring to the Queen's Gambit Accepted with 7...e6 8.Bxc4 c5.) 7.g3 (White chooses to gambit the pawn, placing his light bishop on the long diagonal.) 7...e6 8.Bg2 c5!? (An amazing exchange sacrifice, giving black a strong counterplay in the center.) 9.d5 (After 9.Bxb7 Bc6 10.Bxa8 Bxa8 11.0-0 cxd4 black has a good compensation for the exchange.)
9...exd5! (Ivanchuk's improvement on the game Sakaev-Popov, St. Petersburg 2004, where after 9...Nxd5 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Qxd5 Nc6 12.Qxc4 Be7 13.Be3 0-0 14.0-0 Na5, a draw was agreed to.) 10.Nxd5 Nc6 11.Qc2 (After 11.Bg5 Be7 white still has to get the pawn back.) 11...Nxd5 12.Bxd5 Nb4!? (Ivanchuk goes aggressively after white's bishop pair.) 13.Qe4+ (After 13.Qxc4 Nxd5 14.Qxd5 Bc6 black has the edge.) 13...Be7 14.Bxc4 (After 14.Bxb7 Rb8 15.0-0 Qb6 16.Bd5 Nxd5 17.Qxd5 Qe6 two bishops give black better prospects.) 14...0-0 15.Nf5 Bxf5 16.Qxf5 Qd4! 17.Bd3 (Worse is 17.Bb3?! c4 18.Bd1 c3! 19.Be3 Qf6 with a strong pressure.) 17...Nxd3+ 18.Qxd3 Qb4+! (Making it difficult for white to coordinate his forces.)
19.Kf1?! (Better was 19.Qd2, although after 19...Qe4 20.0-0 Bf6, black is ready to put his queenside pawn majority in motion. After 19.Bd2?! Qxb2 20.Bc3 Qb3 white does not have much for a pawn.) 19...c4 20.Qc2 Bf6 21.Kg2 Rfd8 22.Rb1 a6 23.Be3 b5 (Capablanca would certainly approve of Ivanchuk's smooth positional play. White is without a counterplay and black can slowly create a passed pawn on the queenside.) 24.Rhc1 h6 25.h4 Rac8 (White is tied up and can't easily escape from Ivanchuk's grip.) 26.axb5 axb5 27.Qe4 Qb3 28.Qc2 Qa2 29.Bd2? (Runs into several pins. But 29.b3 would help black to create a dangerous passed pawn.) 29...c3! 30.Bxc3 (Loses a piece, but black wins either after 30.bxc3 Rxd2 or after 30.Be3 cxb2.) 30...b4 31.Ra1 Qd5+ 32.e4 Qe6 White resigned.
Alexei Shirov of Spain won the fifth Bosnia round-robin tournament in Sarajevo last Thursday. He zoomed through the competition almost effortlessly, scoring 71/2 points in nine games. Sergei Movsesian of Slovakia, who won the event two years ago, finished second, 11/2 points behind the winner.
Lately, Shirov has been trying to tone down his previous wild tactical adventures in favor of sound positional play. He outplayed former world junior champion, Bojan Kurajica of Bosnia, early in the Scandinavian defense and prevailed in all tactical clashes.
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 (The latest rage in the Scandinavian defense.) 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 g6?! (Kurajica wants to pressure white's center by placing his bishop on the long diagonal. After 5...c6 6.Ne5!, the threat of 7.Bf4 will force the black queen to run again.) 6.Nb5!? (Shirov decides to grab the space in the center.) 6...Qb6 7.c4 c6 8.Nc3 Bg4 9.c5 Qc7 10.Bc4 Bxf3?! (Surrendering the bishop pair, but after 10...Bg7 white unpins himself with 11.Qb3!, for example 11... Bxf3 12.Bxf7+!; or 11...e6 12.Ne5 with a clear advantage.) 11.Qxf3 Bg7 12.Bf4 Qd8 13.0-0-0 (White's pieces are ideally placed.) 13...0-0 14.g4 b5!? (Kurajica is trying to find some play, but it is not a great idea to engage Shirov in a tactical battle. However, after 14...Nbd7 white continues his kingside buildup with 15.h4!) 15.Bxb5! Nxg4 16.Bc4! (Keeping the pressure on. Black hoped for 16.Qxg4?! cxb5.) 16...Qc8?! (Better was to retreat with 16...Nf6.)
17.Rhe1! Qf5 (Black could not protect the e-pawn: 17...Qd7 is met by 18.d5! and 17...Bf6 loses to 18.h3!) 18.Rxe7 g5 (White can break this pin rather easily. Also after 18...Bh6 19.Ne2 g5 20.Rg1! wins.) 19.Be2! (Protecting the queen and attacking the knight.) 19...Qxf4+ (After 19...Nxf2 20.Qxf2 Qxf4+ 21.Qxf4 gxf4 22.Ne4! black is playing without his queenside pieces.) 20.Qxf4 gxf4 21.Bxg4 Na6 22.Bf3 Rfc8 23.a3 (Restricting the knight on a6.) 23...Kf8 24.Rb7 Rd8 25.Bh5 Bxd4 (Loses immediately, but 25...Kg8 26.Bxf7+ Kh8 27.Bc4 Nb8 does not look inviting for black either.) 26.Rg1! (Black can't defend against 27.Rxf7+ Ke8 28.Rg8 mate.) Black resigned.
Solution to today's problem by D. Bronstein and V. Chepizhny (White: Kb1,Qg5,Re2,Bg2,Nf1; Black: Kg1,Rg8,Rh1,Bf7,P:d4,e6,h5): 1.Nh2!! (Threat 2.Nf3 mate.) 1...Rb8+ 2.Bb7 mate; or 1...Bg6+ 2.Be4 mate; or 1...Kxh2+ 2.Bf1 mate; 1...Rxh2 2.Qc1 mate.