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World Cup Semis: Gelfand Unleashed!

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The word "gangly" was invented to describe Boris Gelfand. He's got a Kurt Rambis vibe, that supporting cast feel that makes you think he's destined for a life as a character actor, never the leading man. But you sleep on him at your peril, as player after player has found out at the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. The Israeli veteran, both the top seed in the event and one of the oldest players in the original field at 41, smoothly disposed of Jakovenko in the rapids, drawing the first with black and then winning two in a row. And he's already halfway to the final match, wasting no time and beating Sergey Karjakin with the black pieces in a sharp attack. Always one of the deepest calculators in the game, Gelfand's preference for slower play, and especially his recent dropping of his Najdorf for the Petroff, make this a welcome reminder of how tactically acute he is. He'll have more opportunities if his opponents keep avoiding the Petroff like Karjakin did today.

Now Gelfand needs only a draw with white tomorrow to head into the final match against either Ponomariov or Malakhov, who drew their first semifinal game. Ponomariov took out Gashimov in rapids, also with a 2.5-0.5 score. He got some help in the very sharp first game as the players traded mistakes in the time crunch. Ponomariov either lost or gave up a piece for dubious counter-chances that paid off when his Azerbaijani opponent allowed the white c-pawn to become a factor. Ponomariov's play hasn't exactly been convincing but the guy is just relentless and has no nerves at all. His semifinal opponent, Russia's Malakhov, has been playing very confidently as well. He drew their first game with black with great precision, inexorably swapping every possible chance out of the position.

There will be a rest day on the 9th after the semis and then the four-game final match begins. This will overlap with the London Chess Classic, where Kramnik, Carlsen, and Nakamura star starting on the 8th.


I'm not sure if this "World Cup" is an important tournament, but Gelfand definitely deserves to win it more than anybody. Go Boris!

"This will overlap with the London Chess Classic, where Kramnik, Carlsen, and Nakamura star starting on the 8th."

Gelfand is the 6th best player in the world. I'm really looking forward to London and seeing the English and Nakamura play e4, the Sicilian, and maybe even the Grand Prix.

Since many years Gelfand is a world class player. But some years ago I read that Gelfand has said he has problems against strong opponents. He gets his rating by underperforming against strong opponents and overperforming against weeker.
Maybe he had to much respekt.
But today some of the strong opponents are childs.
Teens ore twens. And he is a man. Could be therefore he wins against the world elite.
Now the opponent has to have respect.

gelfand not only played well,but he was very lucky not to play grischuk.all their previous encounters,world cup or world ch were gained by alex.instead he dispatched jakovenko with ease.so teh saying that in chess you got to play well and be lucky is true.

Ha, this is about the last place I expected to find any references to Kurt Rambis. The images of Gelfand in 80s style shorty-shorts evoked by that comparison are, well, somewhat unpleasant.

... start of games now, when i suddenly realize: Gelfand has White, and Malakhov has White against Ponomariov,

As a dyed in the wool 1.d4 player who is used to seeing so many Sicilians, Ruy-Lopez, and Petrof's for years, its so refreshing:

Its like i have died and gone to heaven!

My imagined heaven would be somewhat more replete with earthier pleasures.. :-)

All I want is a harp :)

Ra6! was just lovely :)

Gelfand is unleashing some monster tactics right now!

I don't have any money, and I'd stake it all on Gelfand and Malakhov advancing to the final! (Can't beat the adrenalin rush of real risk-taking)

Prescient ICC Tell GuessTheMove:

R6.1 Gelfand-Malakhov: 1.d4 d5
R6.2 Malakhov-Gelfand: 1.d4 d5
R6.3 Gelfand-Malakhov: 1.d4 d5
R6.4 Malakhov-Gelfand: 1.d4 d5

Shear heaven for me!

Gelfand played a blinder! Beautifully played; no mucking about, went for the best line and had the confidence to back his calculations. Those were some truly delightful tactics!

Maybe it's just me, but Gelfand does not bring to mind the word "gangly".

awkwardly tall and spindly; lank and loosely built
Tall and thin, especially so as to cause physical awkwardness.

No... Mig should save that adjective for Malakhov. "gangly" looks a lot like Ganguly. :-)

Wow! That was a beautiful game by Gelfand! Inspiring!

I first got a look at Malakhov's games last year. He is perhaps the most under-rated 2700 plus player. I am his fan in this world cup.

I can't see Gelfand as 'gangly' either! 'Portly', and we're talking.

Was it me, or did Karjakin just blunder and allow this Bh7+ trick? Pretty and all but still just a one-shot game, wasn't it?

I don't think the Bh7 line was at all easy to see to its end. I think Gelfand had to have calculated all the criitical lines when he played b4 and Bd3.

Gelfand's attack didn't look that tricky to calculate - and the instinct for self-preservation should have been enough for Karjakin to choose a better defence, but his play's been very tired and blunder-prone in the last couple of rounds. Not too surprising giving the format, but why Gelfand's looking fresher each round is a mystery! The "pre-computer school" (Shipov yesterday) in chess is still very much alive :)

"Gelfand's attack didn't look that tricky to calculate"

Perhaps, if you are armed with Fritz. Its not complete madness, but precise calculation was involved. Starting from move 15, he had to see about 10 moves deep.

I'm not sure if you mean 10 moves for Gelfand or moves for both players, but this is about as far as Gelfand would need to see - taken from Chesspro - the line Karjakin played is in brackets, while Nf8 is the better defence. You wouldn't absolutely need to calculate further to play Bd3 (& if black doesn't take the pawn on b4 white is fine), though I'm sure Gelfand did look deeper.

15.Bd3 Bxb4 16.Ng5 Nf8

(16... h6? 17.Bh7 Kf8 18.Nxb5 axb5 19.Bxb4 c5 20.dxc5)

17.Nxb5 axb5 18.Bxb4

The point is that especially the h6 line is completely forced. I wouldn't see it at the board, but I'd expect most 2700+ players to play it in a blitz game. Gelfand played very well, but Karjakin clearly wasn't on top of his game - seemingly just making aggressive moves because of the match situation without actually calculating them.

I was gangly 30 years ago...but compared to Gelfand?

See 2005 photo here:


"The point is that especially the h6 line is completely forced. I wouldn't see it at the board, but I'd expect most 2700+ players to play it in a blitz game. Gelfand played very well, but Karjakin clearly wasn't on top of his game - seemingly just making aggressive moves because of the match situation without actually calculating them."

Well I tend to agree actually. Full marks to Gelfand for not ducking out of complications just because of the match situation.

You alliteratively challenged boneheads are confusing Mig's "Gangly" characterization for Gelfand's physical appearance instead of his chess persona.

If you trolls can't blog any better than that, give it up. And let's see you come up with material of Mig's quality week after week, year after year!

You go Mig!

Back to chess. Its hard to choose: I so much enjoy Malakhov and Ponomariov alike but cannot help but think that Ponomariov has more chances in rapids, but surely in blitz.

Why? Ponomariov must have played more in the last year or two, but then again, Malakhov cannot be called hardly out of form, giving him chances in a four game playoff? But in blitz, has to be Ponomariov.

Nice to see either, and good luck to them both!

I appologize folks, intended one more line:

WOULD LOVE IT IF YOU COULD SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS, would love it if I could hear them please. Thank you, dk

Purely ELO-wise, they are separated by 33 points which isn't much, so it may come down to psychology: Ponomariov is still (considered) the favorite, but this might be a disadvantage - extra pressure?

If it was already the final, Malakhov might have another problem, asking himself "Do I really want to play the candidates tournament?". After all, until now and including tomorrow it is a matter of getting known, earning prize money (and maybe high-level tournament invitations) - the perspective of a VERY high-level event is something else (you have to prepare seriously, because you do not want to lose without a chance ...).

Rapid games they played so far:
Malakhov 8.5/9 against Smirin, Elyanov and So
Ponomariov 8/11 against Akobian, Bacrot and Gashimov
Blitz is another story, but wasn't Grischuk also clear favorite against Jakovenko end lost both games?

"Ponomariov must have played more in the last year or two"
It may surprise you as much as me, but those are their statistics about rated games:
Ponomariov 74 in 2007, 33 in 2008, 17 in 2009
Malakhov 93 in 2007, 55 in 2008, 69 in 2009.
This year, Malakhov didn't play high-profile events but several team competitions: Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Croatian leagues

From a purely sporting point of view, i.e. as a qualifier for the World Championship cycle, the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk is irrelevant. The winner of this won't get into the World Championship or even anywhere near the World Championship. It was fun as a stand-alone tournament.

"Gangly" describes a person who is "tall, thin, and awkwardly built," so sez my online source.

I watched a lot of Showtime in the 1980s & was amused by the Rambis comparison. But didn't Gelfand look more like James Worthy taking it to the hole?

Good thing the World Cup is not in Vegas this year: the inevitable Charley Hustle / Gelfand comparisons might be awkward.

rdh are you playing in any of the side events at the London classic?

Is Kramnik doomed to play Carlsen with black in the first round of every tournament now!?? :) http://www.londonchessclassic.com/classic/the_classic.htm

Round 1, Tues Dec 8th, 14:00

Magnus Carlsen v Vladimir Kramnik
Luke McShane v Nigel Short
David Howell v Michael Adams
Hikaru Nakamura v Ni Hua

Two very convincing wins by Gelfand. In both games, Karjakin didn't even manage to put up a fight.

@David Korn,
Actually I´ve seen Malakhov´s performance in the Villarrobledo rapid chess tournament for the last two years and he´s very good at it, in my opinion they have equal chances.

Second Cup in a row where Karjakin has exited in the semis. That has to be very depressing.

dtal: Yes, I'm playing the FIDE Open.

Agree Malakhov-Pono must be very close to 50-50. Everyone must be so tired it could hardly be otherwise.

thank you @thomas. excellent. i have up to date megabase and twik updates, but didnt check that. i was affraid of that, when i wrote. good work.
but when wang yue had his long run, was it, of 80 or 82 wins or such, megabase had much of it but not all... or w/twik updates. not perfect, but well enough. dk

@chessGirl: thank you. whatever it is, it wont be dull. and since i play the cherbanenko slav, this is a treat for me. its also nice to see Ponomariov do well. he took a lot of guff about the failed kasparov match, but give him, per cBase article, as not disingenuous about having wished her could have contested it. whatever it is, Pono has grown as a young man, now an adult, with a life, living. blessings to both these players who entertain...
and to all of us over 50, even if we can run a 10K with our eyes closed, or an alpine traverse at altitude, are heartwarmed to be boris thru. warmly, dk

Ah, but Gelfand has two rest days now! Might make him the favourite.

A gangly persona? Good try, but .... no.

gang-ster-ly perhaps? The cropping of his picture in CB reminds me of Robert de Niro's character in The Untouchables. I think it's the angle of the headshot.

I don't even have Megabase, I generally use chessgames.com or - as in the given case - the FIDE Elo pages. I had already checked a while ago, after Malakhov eliminated Wesley So and after I asked here "Who is Malakhov by the way?".

It basically shows that there are lots of events which escape our attention. For example, Malakhov played Pamplona (a rather strong round robin) and Politiken Cup (a B open, if A is reserved for Aeroflot). Team competitions may be particularly neglected: Malakhov's opponents in the Croatian league included Naiditsch, Navara, Eljanov, Grachev, Bologan and Tiviakov (as a matter of fact, he seemed to be in bad form scoring 1.5/6 from these games). This field is [almost] comparable to San Sebastian, which had detailed coverage here. Regarding the German Bundesliga: There is detailed coverage at German Chessbase, much less anywhere else on the Web ... .

Before Mig jumps at me: Of course it is his site, and he can, actually has to select what he covers and also how he covers it. San Sebastian had, and was won by Nakamura, "nuff said". And Hikaru got more coverage than the one who shared first with him before the blitz playoff, a certain Ponomariov.

BTW, Wang Yue had a string of 80-some unbeaten games - impressive enough, but he didn't win them all but had at least a few draws ... .

Malakhov is doing very well against Ponomariov, winning the first game and, as White, having much the better chances in the second game. Looks like it will be a Geldand-Malakhov final.

An absolute catastrophe for Malakhov in the 2nd game, trying to be too tricky (22.Rb4?) in a winning position when simpler a simpler move like 22.Nd4 would have won outright, and then falling apart in the endgame. A great display of nerves by Ponomariov.

Pono won three straight!

Knockout Performance
Some of the best performance in KO format

2000-Winner(World cup)
2002-Winner(World cup)

2005-Final(World cup)
2007-Quarterfinal(World cup)
2009-Final(World cup)

2000-semifinal(World cup)
2005-Quarterfinal(World cup)
2009-Final(World cup)

2007-Final(World cup)

2007-Pre-quarterfinal(World cup)

2002-Final(World cup)

2007-semifinal(World cup)
2009-semifinal(World cup)

2002-Quarterfinal(World cup)
2005-Pre-quarterfinal(World cup)
2009-semifinal(World cup)

Pradeep post reminded me of something i wanted to say.

Everybody is talking about a Ponomariov comeback.
I don't think so.
I think Pono is a strong player, but not super strong. Top 20 but not top 5.

But he is an amazing knock out player.
I think it's a different kind of skillset.

You must have very strong nerves (and this is a problem for Ivanchuk)

You have to be quite a solid player, because a single loss means you're almost out (and this is a problem for Morozevich)

You must be a good rapid player.

You must have a solid and not-so-easy to kill opening repertoire (and this might be a problem for players like Svidler, his sharp grunfeld can occasionally run into some lesser player home preparation. Same thing for Radjabov and his king's indian)

You must have great physical endurance and stamina (if I remember correctly Kramnik lamented about this after being eliminated by Adams).

I like knock-out, but I don't think it should be used for world championships, simple because it doesn't select people in the proper way.

In the world championship the proper selection should be based ON THE ABILITY TO PLAY CHESS.

Actually , in spite of all the dubious changes made to the cycle , the world cup is very fair way to find a well deserved challenger for the crown .
If you add the Prix ( i dont like it but it is indeed a different format) and the ELO spots , plus the corruption spots , almost every way of choosing candidates are in place.
If we could only have Kasparov pointing out a russian nominee , we would be complete :)

It looks like Gelfand will win this edition of WCC. The only participants who could knock him out were Shirov and Mamedjarov, but they didn't get to meet him. Gelfand plays solid, but I cannot overlook the clumsy way he handed Madame Polgar the full point in their second 'normal' game. He was nice to do that, to not obliterate Polgar's Elo, but the way he did, it was embarrasing. Was this a nice, chivalrious gesture, or there is something more that is missing in this picture?

"It basically shows that there are lots of events which escape our attention."


If you keep an eye on the "events rated" overview of the Live Top List, you would be quite up to date on the where-abouts of any 2700+ player. For instance, even Malakhov's participation in the Chinese league has been "followed" game by game there, despite no results being available on any "western" site until the results also appeared on the FIDE web site (when the event was rated).

Just a tip!

The World Cup, with all its shortcomings, is exciting. I like to follow KO events :-). As long as it is not the only or the main qualifier, it's fine. It allows much wider participation, and KOs are exciting :-).

Good to know that nothing escapes _your_ attention ,:) - BTW are you 120% sure that you do not miss _anything_, e.g. if Malakhov or another not-that-well-known 2700plusser played an open in Uruguay?

Maybe I should rather have written "events which are noticed, but then again forgotten": even if I heard of an event, I may remember it in the medium-term only if it had spectacular results or games (and the games are published, being one of thousands in a database doesn't count), or if there was a scandal. Just as an example: the Croatian league was mentioned here in the Netherlands because of "Tivigate" [Tiviakov wanted to play a prearranged 0-move draw in the last round of the Dutch championship and skip losing ceremony and possible tiebreak. When the organizers disagreed, he dropped out of the tournament.].

Maybe I am the only one ... oh wait, I have at least David Korn for company ,:) - the origin of this was that he wrote "Ponomariov must have played more [than Malakhov] in the last year or two".

Of course I might miss some semi-obscure event now and then - it has happened in the past, and I don't claim to be 100% complete. To the contrary; I call it a "best effort" kind of thing.

But if there had been any more complete source than my site for games/tournaments of 2700+ players available, then I would've been using that one myself to make my life easier. :o)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 7, 2009 12:19 AM.

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