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The Chuckster Prevails

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Nerves, schmerves. Ivanchuk came very close to folding against Leko in their 12-game rapid match in Mukachevo, Ukraine. Ivanchuk dominated play on the first day but only came away with one win. He was under more pressure on the second day but still came away with another win to head into the final brace of four games with a two-point lead. The momentum completed its turn away from him on the final day when he couldn't hold Leko with black. He went to the well one too many times by playing my dear Accelerated Dragon for the fourth time in the match in game nine. Leko finally figured it out and won nicely. Needing a draw to hold his one-point lead against Leko's final white in game 11, Ivanchuk finally abandoned the Sicilian. But instead of a Petroff or Caro or Ruy or something else solid, he aimed Alekhine's Gun at his foot and pulled the trigger, just like he did against the same opponent in the final of the ACP Rapid Cup last January. The result was also the same: 1-0. That Rapid Cup game, also in Ukraine, cost Ivanchuk the final. This loss only sent the match into a blitz playoff. Leko held the first game with black with precise defense. In the second, Ivanchuk went with the Scheveningen and quickly benefited from Leko's overly conservative play. Black made it to a winning endgame in which his pawns and minor piece were much better. The new world #2 pushed through to victory without needing any help from his king.

Okay, it was blitz, but justice was served considering the pair of wins Ivanchuk let slip away earlier in the match. Plus, it was a win for the old guy, my fellow 1969er taking out the 1979er Leko. Ivanchuk now hustles to Greece to join his mates at the Euro Team Championship, where they could only draw with Spain in the second round despite a win by Karjakin over Shirov. Leko isn't joining him, which is no surprise. He hasn't played on the Hungarian national team since the 2002 Olympiad, skipping two Euro Team events and two Olympiads. Has he talked about this boycott? I assume it's a simple lack of funding, considering how many other top Hungarian players have been absent from team events in recent years.


Both Leko and Polgar promised to join the Hungarian team at the next Olympiad. We will see...

Otherwise, it's a funding issue indeed. Corus or Linares pays much better. But of course it is also an attitude issue: pretty many fellow top players do play for their national teams despite the low paycheck. Leko was occasionally criticised for this. by the local press, but not very heavily.


No matter what people say, these matches are simply more exciting than normal round-robin tournaments or, heaven beware, silly knock-out tournaments.

More matches, please! The longer the better!

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 29, 2007 11:18 PM.

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