Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The young ones’ run comes to end

THE truism “all good things must come to an end,” attributed to Chaucer (1374), was once again spot on in Round 4 of the 2009 World Chess Cup when the triumvirate of future chess stars all went down in flames.

The Philippines’ Wesley So, Italy’s Fabiano Caruana and France’s Maxine Vachier-Lagrave all went down in defeat against their respective rivals in the fourth round (round of 16) of the 2009 World Chess Cup.

Caruana (rating 2652 and seed 50th) lost to Vugar Gashimov (2758, seed 2nd) of Azerbaijan, 1.5-3.5. The 17-year-old Caruana, who played against GM Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan, could not stand up the extra class performance of his opponent (although he had winning position in the second game of the match) and could not control the situation after his first defeat in the rapid game.

Earlier, Fabiano defeated Lazaro Bruzon of Cuba (2619, seed 79th), 1.5-0.5, in Round 1; in the next round, Fabiano eliminated the current Cuban number one and last year's world blitz champion, 15th seed Leinier Dominguez (2719) with the score of 4-2 from twin victories both with the black pieces in the rapid tiebreak. In Round 3, he showed the door to former Russian champion Evgeny Alekseev (2715, seed 18th), 3.5-2.5, with the lone victory from their rapid tiebreak encounter.

The 19-year-old Vachier-Lagrave (rated 2718, seed 17th) is this year's world junior champion—the title he earned from the event that preceded the World Cup. He disposed China's Yu Shaoteng (2529, seed 112th), with the score of 1.5-0.5 in Round 1; then pipped Germany's George Meier (2653, seed 48th) in the fourth rapid tiebreak game to win the match, 3.5-2.5, in Round 2. Maxine made mincemeat of another Chinese in Round 3, beating Yu Yangyi (2527, seed 113th), 1.5-0.5, that ended the latter's surprising advance. In Round 4 he had a brilliant match against top seed GM Boris Gelfand of Israel, but could not cope with him in the blitz game after their two-game classical and four-game rapid tiebreak matches all ended in draws.

So, 16, rated 2640 and seeded 59th, shut out Azerbaijan's Gadir Guseinov (2625, seed 70th) in the rapid tiebreak after they split their two classical games with a score of 4-1 and advanced to the second round.

A sensational upset was scored by Wesley when he defeated Ukraine's Vasily Ivanchuk (2739, seed 7th) in the first game and drew the second game that kicked the latter out of the World Cup. The loss to a relatively unknown and weaker player caused Ivanchuk to declare, in a fit of frustration and disappointment, his retirement from professional chess.

Fortunately for the chess fans, he retracted his retirement declaration and apologized to his fans, three days later. This he only did after Round 3, when So similarly disposed of the defending World Cup champion, the American Gata Kamsky (2695, seed 27th), with a similar score of 1.5-0.5.

Wesley's twin victories over two chess titans, Ivanchuk and Kamsky, sent shock waves in the global chess community and easily ‘overshadowed’ the similarly fine performances of Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave.

So, dubbed by the foreign chess media here as the “biggest sensation in the tournament,” lost all his three rapid tiebreak matches to GM Vladimir Malakhov of Russia in their fourth round showdown and bowed out of contention at the Khanty-Mansiysk Center of Arts.

The 16-year-old Filipino, whose strong positional games during the prestigious, 128-player competition earned him comparison with former world champion Anatoly Karpov, failed to shake off the older and more experienced Malakhov in the first two classical games.

It was a divergence from his stints at the previous rounds, where he stunned former world championship finalist GM Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and defending champion GM Gata Kamsky of the US both in two games.

Slowed down by two hard-fought draws in their classical games, So was forced to battle it out with the 22nd-seeded Malakhov (Elo 2706) in the rapid tiebreak stage. But the Filipino, who was once quoted by foreign journalists here that he prefers to play in rapid tiebreaks, could “not oversee that Malakhov feels completely at home in rapid.”

The final score: 4-1 for Malakhov.

The event is now on its semifinal round (round of four) featuring Israel’s Boris Gelfand against Ukraine’s Sergey Karjakin and Ruslan Ponomariov, also of Ukraine, against Wesley So’s conqueror –Vladimir Malakhov!

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