Monday, 07 December 2009 19:09
For years Boris Gelfand enjoyed the sharp positions of the Sicilian Naidorf, but later he moderated the style and switched to the solid Petroff defence. Having seen him refuting the attacks of Judith Polgar, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Dmitry Jakovenko, the new Russian star Sergey Karjakin thought it would be wise to sidestep the Petroff and open with Italian in the first game of the semifinal match.
But Karjakin ended caught in his own trap as Gelfand boldly took the initiative with black, sacrificed a pawn and stormed towards the white Monarch. The only way to absorb the pressure was to exchange heavy pieces, but black also collected several pawns in the process and claimed an important victory.
In the second game, Sergey Karjakin was faced with an incredibly difficult task - to win against Gelfand with black in order to reach the tiebreaks. The Israeli Grandmaster is well known by his powerful opening preparation and thirst for the initiative from the move one. He took early control of the game and with constant aggression forced the young opponent to commit a mistake. A clean 2-0 victory and Gelfand qualifies for the World Cup final.
The second semifinal match, between the former World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov and Russian GM Vladimir Malakhov, took a more moderate course. In the first game, Chebanenko Slav passed another test in the hands of the well prepared Malakhov. In the return game, Ponomariov prepared a special surprise in the Classical Nimzo-Indian, but Malakhov was alert not to allow too much of the counterplay to his opponent. The position was balanced and the draw was agreed on move 27.
Vladimir Malakhov said after the game: "Truly speaking I don't know what would happen if Ruslan did not offer a draw. We both had a chance, but if you intend to win, you enormously risk. There is almost no time and there is a danger to miscalculate."
Ruslan Ponomariov added: "I was trying to find something new. I created some problems, but at the end was scared myself, everything was so mixed up (laughing). There were several variations in the endgame, but it was difficult to play. If you make a mistake, you pay a high price."
The tiebreak games take place on Tuesday. Official website