- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002

Triumph and bitter defeat mix uneasily as we mark a milestone week in the history of the game.
Ukrainian GM Ruslan Ponomariov, 18, this week became the youngest man ever to claim the world title, defeating 32-year-old compatriot Vassily Ivanchuk 41/2-21/2 in the FIDE title match that ended Wednesday in Moscow.
Ponomariov is clearly a major talent, but one hesitates to call him the best in the world, or even the best in the match he just won. Russian GMs Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov, the world's top-ranked players, have boycotted the FIDE knockout format, and the luck of the draw meant that Ponomariov never had to face such top contenders as India's Viswanathan Anand or England's Michael Adams on his way to the finals.
Ivanchuk clearly is a world-class talent, but he was let down by a combination of bad nerves, bad clock control and bad luck in the finals. He lost badly in Game 1, but then threw away a win in the drawn Game 2. He lost virtually all hope in Game 5, when he again outplayed his young opponent only to wind up with his second loss in time pressure.
Ivanchuk consistently showed a deeper understanding of chess during the match, and in this Breyer Ruy Lopez, Black clearly dominates the positional battle.
White's 25. Nf3 c5 26. Qh2?! (c4 deserved serious consideration here) is a play for tricks on the kingside, failing to counter Black's ominous pawn advance on the other flank. Ivanchuk strikes immediately: 26…Nd4! (removing the White attacker on f3, weakening the sting of g4-g5, and opening the c-file, all in one move) 27. Nxd4 cxd4 28. c3 dxc3 29. bxc3?!, accepting an isolated pawn on the half-open file.
Black increases his edge with the disruptive 38. Rd1 Qa2! 39. Rxd7 Bxd7 40. Qd1 Bb5 (Bxg4 41. f3 Be6 42. Bxa4 Qc4 is also strong, but Ivanchuk wants to hold onto the advanced a-pawn) 41. Be3 Qc4 42. Kh2 Bc6 43. Qa1 Bf8 44. Bb1 (see diagram).
Ponomariov is virtually paralyzed and the obvious 44…Bxe4 45. Bxe4 Qxe4 46. Qd1 Qc4 47. Qd8 Bg7 48. Qa5 Qxg4 49. Qxa6 f5 looks simply winning, but Ivanchuk in time pressure starts getting too clever for his own good.
The ice-cool Ponomariov seizes the chance for counterplay on 44…a3?! 45. f3 Qb3 46. Qa2 Ba4 47. Kg3 Kg7? 48. Qd2!, when 48…Qxb1? 49. Bxh6+ Kf7 50. Qd5+ Ke8 51. Qe6+ Kd8 52. Bxf8 a2 53. Qd6+ is perfectly all right by White.
With 51. Qd5! Qxd5 52. exd5, White's central passed pawns prove more than enough to equalize, and one last inaccuracy by Black costs him a full point: 59. Ke3 a4? (the White king had to be restrained by 59…Bf1! 60. g3 a4 61. Ke4 Be2) 60. Ke4! Be2 61. Kf5! e4 62. Ke6, and the White pawns are about to break through.
In the final position, White wins after 64…f2 65. Be6+ Kb8 66. c7+ Kb7 67. Kc5 f1=Q 68. c8=Q mate. Ivanchuk resigned.

Before getting to our second tragedy, we should congratulate GM Alexander Wojtkiewicz and master Rodion Rubenchik for sharing first place in the 54-player top section of the 2002 Virginia Open, played last weekend in Fredericksburg. Both went undefeated at 41/2-1/2.
In the Amateur section, Maryland's David Paulina took the title with a 51/2-1/2 score, edging Erik Walker and Htay Kwaye in the 72-player field.
With most of the country's top players occupied with the U.S. championships in Seattle, the Polish-born Wojtkiewicz cruised to a 4-0 start before ceding a final-round draw. But Rubenchik was the beneficiary of some more hard luck, this time at the expense of Maryland expert John Rouleau. Rouleau, one of the region's rising junior stars, won his first three games and built up a winning edge against Rubenchik in Round 4.
As in Ponomariov-Ivanchuk, the game is turned around by the power of connected passed pawns.
In a Caro-Kann, White's slow maneuvering pays off with 28. b3 Rbc8 29. Rc1, and Rubenchik can't prevent the advance of the White c-pawn, mobilizing his queenside majority.
With 38. Rxb5 Rxa4 39. cxb6 Ra3+ 40. Ke2, White enjoys an outside passed pawn and much better-placed rooks. He picks off a pawn with 43. Rxg7 Kc6, but appears to squander his edge in the complex, four-rook ending: 44. Re5 (my Fritz program threw out the startling 44. Rxf5!? Rxb6 [exf5 45. Rxc7+ Kd5 46. Rxc3 Rxb6 47. Ke3 looks fine for White] 45. Rc5+ Rxc5 46. dxc5 Rb2+ 47. Ke3 Rxh2, and Black doesn't get the fine passed pawn duo) Kd6 45. d5?! exd5 46. Rxh7 Rb3! (Rxb6 47. Rh6+ Kc5 48. Rxb6 Kxb6 49. Rxd5 Rc2+ 50. Ke3 Rxh2 51. Rxf5 should win for White) 47. Rxf5 R8xb6.
With 52. Ke2 d4 53. Ra2 Rf3!, freezing the kingside, White's edge is gone and the two Black passed pawns prove much more agile than their three White counterparts. Rouleau's king is soon pinned to the back row and in the final position, White must give up a rook to prevent a new Black queen.
Rouleau managed to bounce back with a fine final-round win over FM Boris Privman to tie for third at 4-1.

FIDE World Championship Finals, Game 5, Moscow, January 2002
1. e4e533. Qf3Rc7
2. Nf3Nc634. Bc1Rcd7
3. Bb5a635. Bb1Qe6
4. Ba4Nf636. Rxd7Rxd7
5. 0-0Be737. Bc2Bc6
6. Re1b538. Rd1Qa2
7. Bb30-039. Rxd7Bxd7
8. h3Bb740. Qd1Bb5
9. d3d641. Be3Qc4
10. a3Nb842. Kh2Bc6
11. Nbd2Nbd743. Qa1Bf8
12. Nf1Re844. Bb1a3
13. Ng3c645. f3Qb3
14. Nh2d546. Qa2Ba4
15. Qf3g647. Kg3Kg7
16. Ba2Bf848. Qd2g5
17. Bg5h649. Ba2Qb7
18. Bd2Bg750. Qd3Be8
19. Ng4Nxg451. Qd5Qxd5
20. hxg4Nc552. exd5a5
21. Rad1Rc853. c4Bb4
22. Nf1Ne654. c5Kf8
23. Qg3Kh755. Kf2Bb5
24. Nh2f656. c6Ke7
25. Nf3c557. Ba7Kd8
26. Qh2Nd458. Bb6+Kc8
27. Nxd4cxd459. Ke3a4
28. c3dxc360. Ke4Be2
29. bxc3dxe461. Kf5e4
30. dxe4Qe762. Ke6exf3
31. a4bxa463. d6Bxd6
32. Qh3Red864. Kxd6Black resigns

Virginia Open, Fredericksburg, January 2002
1. e4c632. Rec2Kf6
2. d4d533. Bxe4dxe4
3. exd5cxd534. b4Rb8
4. Bd3Nc635. b5a6
5. c3Nf636. Rb1Ra7
6. Bf4Bg437. c5axb5
7. Qb3Qd738. Rxb5Rxa4
8. Nd2e639. cxb6Ra3+
9. Ngf3Bxf340. Ke2Ke7
10. Nxf3Bd641. Rc7+Kd6
11. Bxd6Qxd642. Ra7Rc3
12. 0-00-043. Rxg7Kc6
13. Rfe1Rab844. Re5Kd6
14. a4Qc745. d5exd5
15. Qc2Rfc846. Rxh7Rb3
16. Qe2Nd747. Rxf5R8xb6
17. g3Re848. Rf6+Kc5
18. Bc2Nf849. Rxb6Rxb6
19. Ne5Nxe550. Ra7Rb2+
20. Qxe5Qxe551. Ke3Rb3+
21. Rxe5Nd752. Ke2d4
22. Re2Nb653. Ra2Rf3
23. Bd3Nc854. Rc2+Kd5
24. f4Nd655. Rc8d3+
25. Kf2Kf856. Kd2Rf2+
26. Ke3f557. Ke1e3
27. Kd2Kf758. Rd8+Ke4
28. b3Rbc859. h4d2+
29. Rc1Rc760. Kd1Rf1+
30. c4Ne4+61. Kc2Rc1+
31. Ke3b6White resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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