Philippines, 01 Dec 2020
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(Special to -- Boris Gelfand of Israel (formerly of Belarus) crowned himself the 2009 FIDE World Chess Cup Champion after he defeated Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine in their play-off match yesterday at Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia .

The match went into the play-off after the players’ regular games consisting of 4 games played under normal time control (2 hours to make 40 moves) ended in a stand-off with all games drawn. Affected apparently by fatigue, the two chess grandmasters opted to play calculating games and avoided too much risk, thus, resulting into a dour struggle.

In the rapid play-off (with a time control of 25 minutes to finish the game with 10 seconds increment for each move played), Gelfand drew first blood when he squeezed out a win from a positional pressure in the 2nd game. Ponomariov had chances in the 3rd game but Gelfand managed to hold on to earn a draw. In the 4th game where all Gelfand needed was a draw to close out the match, Ponomariov, who played the black pieces, made things interesting by choosing a very sharp variation of the Benoni Defence, pushing his pawns to h6 and g5. His aggressiveness was aptly rewarded when he obtained a very promising position with his two menacing bishops working strongly with his queen and rook and two connected passed pawns on the queenside versus Gelfand’s queen, two rooks and a knight. In severe pressure both in time and in the position, Gelfand finally cracked allowing Ponomariov to equalize the score and sending the match further into the blitz play-offs.

Under tournament rules, the players will play a pair (a “set”) of blitz games (where they alternately play the white and black pieces) and each player is given 5 minutes (with increments) to finish the game. The player who wins the set would emerge as the winner of the match. If the set is tied, another set of games shall be played to a maximum of five sets until one player comes out victorious. If the match remained tied after 5 sets, the players will go into what is called “Armageddon” consisting of a single game where the player with the white pieces is given 6 minutes to complete the game whilst the player with the black pieces is given 5 minutes. If the game ends in a draw, the player with the black pieces is considered the winner.

In the first set of blitz games, Gelfand once again took the lead when he won the 1st game but Ponomariov easily evened the score in the 2nd game. Gelfand, finally clinched the match when he won both games in the second set of blitz games crowning himself the 2009 World Chess Cup Champion.

Gelfand, who at the age of 41 is already considered among the “elderly” in an age where so may youthful players excel, entered the final stage of the tournament after defeating Sergei Karjakin of Russia (formerly of Ukraine) in the ?-final. Likewise, Ponomariov qualified after edging Vladimir Malakhov, Wesley So’s conqueror in the 4th round, in the other ?-final.

Earlier, Philippine chess teen sensation Wesley So created quite a sensation in the tournament after he defeated two giants and tournament favourites in Vassily Ivanchuk and Gata Kamsky in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the tournament before bowing out to the super solid player in Malakhov.

Incidentally, Fil-Australian Arianne Caoili, who used to represent the Philippines in international competitions back in the late 90s and early 2000s, just won the London’s FIDE Women’s Invitational whose score of 7 points was 1? ahead of her nearest pursuer. The 10-women field was quite credible in strength and was a side event to the ongoing London Chess Classic being held in London, England where the latter tournament features, amongst others, teen chess whiz Magnus Carlsen and former world champion Vladimir Kramnik. Winner of the recently concluded Australian Women’s Championship, Caoili shows just how competitive still she is these days.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Salvador Lopez.

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