Games: chess

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There was a marvellously entertaining, study-like finish to the Ivanchuk-Svidler game in the 10th round at Linares. In the diagram position it was Ivanchuk (White) to move. He is a pawn up, but the black a-pawn is threatening to become troublesome.

Rather than try to hold up the pawn passively with 1.Ra3 a4, when it is by no means clear that White stands better, Ivanchuk found a way to fight for the initiative. He played 1.Rg4, threatening 2.Bd4. Svidler replied with 1...Bxf3, which would crumple the white K-side pawns after 2.gxf3, but instead we saw the real point of Ivanchuk's idea when he continued 2.Rxg7+! Kxg7 3.Bxf3. Black's knight is attacked and pinned, and after 3...Rb8 4.Bf4 he had to lose one of his pieces.

Two bishops and a pawn for a rook would normally be a huge advantage, but Black still has his a-pawn, and it's not so easy to stop. Play continued 4...Rd8 (4...Rf8 is met by 5.Be5+) 5.Bxb7 a4. This is the position White had to assess when deciding on his combination with 1.Rg4 and 2.Rxg7+. As we shall see, the race is a very close one.

After 6.Be5+ Kg8 7.h5 Rd1+ 8.Kh2 White is ready to meet 8...a3 with 9.Bc8 Kf7 10.h6. Svidler cut across this plan with 8...Re1! Now 9.Bc3 Rc1 or 9.Bf6 a3 do not help White at all, so Ivanchuk continued with the natural 9.f4.

After 9...Rxe5 10.fxe5 a3, it looked as though White had blundered - he cannot stop the a-pawn. Ivanchuk, however, had it all under control: 11.Bc8! Kf7 12.h6 a2 13.Bxe6+! Kxe6 14.h7 a1=Q 15.h8=Q left White with a winning endgame since 15...Qxe5+ 16.Qxe5+ Kxe5 17.Kg3 Kf5 18.Kh4 wins for White. Instead Svidler continued 15...Kd5 but resigned the hopeless endgame a few moves later.

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