Gelfand close to the final?

In a one-sided affair Gelfand seized the initiative and took control very quickly against Karjakin. This Black win makes him a red-hot favourite to reach the final.
The other game was drawn with Makharov's Chebanenko Slav again holding firm.

Only four players from the initial 128 can now become World Cup Champion in 2009. All are vying for the $120,000 (96,000 after tax) winners prize. In case you were wondering, the losing semi-finalists will earn $50,000 ($40,000 net) and the losing finalist $80,000 ($64,000 net).

Boris Gelfand won convincingly today and so must have odds of something like 90% to be involved in the coveted final match which will be over four classical games rather than two.

NameCountryRatingAgeOriginal seedClassical game 1Classical game 2
Boris GelfandISR27584111
Sergey KarjakinUKR272319120

Sergey Karjakin (2723) - Boris Gelfand (2758)

Khanty Mansiysk (World Cup 6.1) 06.12.2009

Quiet Italian (C55)

1.e4 e5 2.♗c4

This move order is used to avoid Petroff's defence (that arises after 2.♘f3 ♘f6) of which Gelfand is a great specialist.

2...♘f6 3.d3 ♘c6 4.♘f3 ♗e7

Naming openings isn't always straightforward! This one started out as a 'Bishop's Opening' but transposed to a line of the Two Knights Defence, which in the case of the positional d2-d3, I call the 'Quiet Italian'!

5.0-0 0-0 6.♗b3 d5!?

The most ambitious. Black aims to open up lines for his pieces, at the risk of weakening his e-pawn.

A few months ago Karjakin played the more prudent 6...d6 against Radjabov but after 7.c3 then continued with 7...d5!? anyway. The justification for this tempo loss being that the d3-square can now become weak.

7.exd5 ♘xd5 8.h3

A cautious try aimed at avoiding ...♗g4.

The critical (and unclear) line is 8.♖e1 ♗g4 9.h3 ♗xf3 10.♕xf3 ♘d4 11.♕xd5 ♕xd5 12.♗xd5 ♘xc2 13.♖xe5 which Tiviakov has played a couple of times (1.5/2) recently.


Obliging some sort of concession on the queenside.


After 9.a3 Black consolidates by 9...a4 10.♗a2 ♔h8 11.♖e1 f6 with a rock-solid position.

9...♘d4 10.♘xd4

The materialistic 10.♘xe5 ♘xb3 11.cxb3 ♖e8 12.♘c3 leaves White's pawns so corrupted the fact that he has an extra one is of little significance. Black has such comfortable development, as well as the far-superior structure, he may even be better.

10...exd4 11.♖e1 ♖a6!

A dynamic rook shift.

12.♕h5 ♘b4

Another point behind the early ...a5 (that is after the reply a2-a4) is the creation of this outpost.

13.♘a3 ♖g6 14.♗f4

14.♕xa5?! allows 14...♗xh3

14...b6 15.♕f3


Trading White's best minor piece and opening the f-file.

16.♗xe6 fxe6 17.♕e4 ♗d6!

Now Gelfand trades his opponent's other bishop (and best defensive piece) when Black will have the more active set-up. Note in particular the position of White's knight stuck offside on a3.

18.♗xd6 cxd6 19.♕xd4

Taking a pawn gives White only temporary pleasure, the rest of the game being quite depressing from his point of view.

19...♕g5 20.g3 ♕f5

Probing away at White's poorly defended kingside.

21.g4 h5 22.♖e4

This fails to Black's next move, but it's already hard to suggest a decent move for White.


Karjakin's position is a shambles.

23.♔h2 ♕f3

Or here 23...♕xf2+ 24.♕xf2 ♖xf2+ 25.♔g3 dxe4 26.♔xf2 exd3 is also promising.

24.♖ee1 hxg4 25.♕e3 gxh3 26.♕xf3 ♖xf3

White saves his king by exchanging queens but the simplified position is hopeless.

27.♖g1 ♖xf2+ 28.♔xh3 ♖xg1 29.♖xg1 ♘xc2 30.♘b5 ♖f3+ 31.♔g4 ♖xd3 32.♘d6 ♘e3+ 33.♔f4 ♘c4


In the other match, Ponomariov kept plugging away with the white pieces but Malakhov never looked in danger. A repetition in a double-bishop ending signalled the end of hostilities. The Chebanenko Slav was again used by Malakhov to great effect (see also his quarter-final win against Svidler) a sign that this system is a tough not to crack.

NameCountryRatingAgeOriginal seedClassical game 1Classical game 2
Vladimir MalakhovRUS270629220.5
Ruslan PonomariovUKR27392670.5
Fueling up!
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