Khanty Mansiysk: Rating favourite Boris Gelfand of Israel has earned nearly decisive lead after
defeating Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine in the first game of the
semifinals of the World Chess Cup.
The other semi-final game between Ruslan Ponomariov of
Ukraine and Vladimir Malakhov of Russia ended in a draw
without much action, leaving the scores tied after the first
Gelfand had been involved in a lot of tie-breakers in the
preceding rounds but in the semis he was a man on a mission.
The most important aspect of his victory was the fact that
it came with black pieces and now in the return game he will
have the advantage of playing white and will need just a draw
to qualify for the summit clash.
Ponomariov surprised everyone going for a Bishops opening
that transposed to an Italian game in quick time. At top level
chess this variation is a very infrequent visitor as black
gets nice play but the Ukrainian former world champion had his
reasons, Gelfand would have gone for the Petroff defense, a
rock solid opening by consent these days.
However, with the advantage of hindsight, many experts
agreed that it was not a good choice by Ponomariov as Gelfand
got a fine position out of the opening and nurtured it well in
the middle game.
An eye-catching rook lift by the Israeli left Ponomariov
gaping and after the dust settled Gelfand`s rook had
dominating position on the board.
A pawn sacrifice followed soon after and all black pieces
were in pursuit of the white king. Ponomariov defended the
assault at the cost of a handful of pawns but the result of
the game was never in doubt as Gelfand completed the
formalities in quick time.
Ponomariov took his chances against a solid Chabanenko
Slav by Malakhov who played black.
The Ukrainian holds the distinction of being the youngest
ever world champion, winning the title in 2001-02 ahead of
Viswanathan Anand in a similar knockout format, but in the
first game of Semis he did not show much inclination towards a
The game continued on known territories and Malakhov
equalised without much ado in the resulting middle game. A
heap of exchanges followed leading the game to a level double
Bishops endgame where the draw was a just result.