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Ruslan Ponomariov vs Vladimir Malakhov
World Cup (2009) (rapid), Khanty-Mansiysk RUS, rd 6, Dec-08
Slav Defense: Chameleon Variation. Advance System (D15)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  YouRang: In this rapid-play tiebreaker game, it looks like Ponomariov's (white's) last chance to salvage a draw might have been on move 45 [diagram]

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Here, he played <45.g4>, which gave black the option to play <45...Rf8!>. Black offers to exchange his a-pawn in order to get white's f-pawn, and more importantly, transform his rook from a passive defender into an active attacker. White cannot allow this, e.g. 46.Rxa5? fxg4 47.hxg4 Rxf4+ and black is winning.

White played the stiffest defense with <46.g5>, locking up the kingside, but now black has time to activate on the open b-file: <46...Rb8!>. White can (and must) take the a-pawn <47.Rxa5>, but with white's king on the d-file, black can recover the pawn and seize the initiative with <47...Rb4+ 48.Ke3 Rb3+ 49.Ke2 Rxh3> [diagram] (BTW, 49.Kf2 or 49.Kd2 are really no better)

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White tried to threaten to advance the a-pawn and check from behind with <50.Ra7>, but black can easily defend with ...Ra3, and with white's K pushed away, black can begin his own c-pawn march with <51.Kd5> while taking advantage of white's vulnerable f-pawn. This is good enough to win.

Nice play by Malakhov with black. Of course, we know that Pono went on to win the remaining tiebreaker games to win the match, but with this game, Malakhov came shockingly close to making it into the final match.

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