Former top grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk showed his class in Havana this week where he won the Capablanca Memorial for the eighth time. The Ukrainian GM finished half a point ahead of GMs Sam Sevian (U.S.) and David Anton (Spain).
Ivanchuk must be feeling much at home in the Cuban capital, where he is a regular guest at the Capablanca Memorial—and a regular winner. Ivanchuk, a former world number-two, has reached the age 50 but is still a force to be reckoned with.
It must be noted that the field of the “elite” group wasn’t terribly strong this year, and Ivanchuk was the second seed behind Baskaran Adhiban of India. Still, winning the tournament was definitely a good result for the Ukrainian legend, who at times has preferred to play in draughts tournaments in recent years.
After a draw with third seed Anton, Ivanchuk beat the two Cuban GMs Carlos Albornoz and Yuri Gonzalez to reach 2.5/3. The latter was nicely outplayed in a drawish-looking endgame. White played too passively, but then became active the wrong way:
Ivanchuk then drew with Sevian and also with top seed Baskaran Adhiban, who had a disappointing tournament (3.5/10) and dropped out of the 2700 club. Halfway the tournament, Ivanchuk was leading with Sevian.
After another draw, a second interesting struggle with Anton, Ivanchuk was again too strong for the two Cubans. This time we’ll pick his game with Gonzalez, for the beautiful 26th move:
In the penultimate round it almost went wrong for the veteran in the field. Ivanchuk lost to the American grandmaster Sevian, who is 32 years younger. Sevian, the world number-five among juniors, played a game that Capablanca himself would have been proud of.
This allowed Anton to catch the leader with one round to go, but whereas the Spanish player couldn’t break the defense of Albornoz on the last day, Ivanchuk defeated Adhiban to clinch first place in Havana for the eighth time in his career—seven alone, and one shared with Le Quang Liem in 2011.
His last game saw a novelty on move seven, and several profound follow-up moves from the winner:
2019 Capablanca Memorial | Elite Group, Final Standings
|4||Albornoz Cabrera,Carlos Daniel||2566||2549||00||01||½½||0½||½½||3.5/10||17.75|
The Capablanca Memorial was held for the 54th time in honor of Cuba’s greatest chess player, the third official world champion José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera (1888–1942). The first edition was held in 1962, when chess fan Che Guevara could easily sponsor the tournament as director of the National Bank and Minister of Industries. More about chess and Cuba can be found in a blog by this author.