One of the joys of visiting Cuba is the sun-kissed island’s vintage cars you learn to love even long before the plane gets to lands there. As a keen photographer, I’ve seen many shots from fellow photographers of all those wonderful old rustic 1950s classics, that for the past half century have been driven through the streets of Havana.
They’ve become an icon of the island, and it fills you with nostalgia to see Havana’s traffic jammed with all those old Pontiacs, Studebakers, Oldsmobiles and Chevrolets imports that were an unlikely happy consequence of tight domestic controls and US sanctions brought on in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s. But now these dinosaurs of the road are in danger of becoming extinct with the recent thawing of relationships between the US and Cuba.
But one majestic beast from the bygone Cold War era still motors on regardless in Cuba: veteran Vassily Ivanchuk. The Ukrainian former elite superstar has become just as famous and popular in Havana as its vintage cars, and he's also endeared himself with the locals with his record of dominating the Capablanca Memorial, that annually honours Cuba’s favourite son, José Raúl Capablanca, world chess champion from 1921-1927.
Ivanchuk has won seven times in the past and is seen as an ‘adopted favourite son’ of the Cubans - and he could well be set for an eighth victory there, as he powered into the lead with a brace of wins to head the six-player field of the 52nd Capablanca Memorial by a half point at the half-way stage. After a slow star with three steady draws, Ivanchuk found his winning rhythm with back to back wins; his most creative coming in round 5, over America’s Sam Shankland in today's featured game.
1. GM Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) 3½/5; 2. GM Krishnan Sasikiran (India) 3; 3-4. GM Emilio Cordova (Peru), GM Sam Shankland (USA) 2½; 5. GM Isan Reynaldo Ortiz Suarez (Cuba) 2; 6. GM Kacper Piorun (Poland) 1½.
GM Vassily Ivanchuk - GM Sam Shankland
52nd Capablanca Memorial, (5)
Queen’s Indian Defence
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 We've explained in previous columns the reason for this retreat, as, after Bd2, the bishop is not best placed here - and it will also have to move, so the loss of tempos will eventually even out. 6.Nc3 Bb7 7.Qc2 0-0 8.Bg2 Nc6 9.0-0 d5 10.cxd5 Nb4 11.Qa4 Nbxd5 12.Rfd1 Qe8 13.Qxe8 Rfxe8 14.Ne5 c5 15.dxc5 Bxc5 16.Rac1 Rac8 17.Nb5! Just when Shankland thinks his pieces are developing nicely, Ivanchuk's creative streak kicks in. 17...a6 18.Rxc5!? A well-timed positional exchange sacrifice from Ivanchuk! It is not immediately winning, nor does it give White a lasting initiative - but what it does do is make the position very awkward for Black to operate in, and this was Ivanchuk's calculated gamble here. 18...Rxc5 19.Nd6 Rb8 20.Nexf7 Ba8 The only realistic option. If 20...Bc6 21.Ne5 Ba8 22.e4 Nc7 23.Nd3! Rc2 24.Nb4! and Black is in a fix here, as his rook finds itself very short of squares, one logical continuation being 24...Rc5 25.Be3 Ra5 26.f3 Ra4 27.a3 and White will follow-up with Bf1-c4 and the White pieces wrecking havoc in all quarters. 21.e4 Nc7 22.f3 There's nothing in the position - but White has by far the easier game here, as his pieces have excellent outpost and scope to roam free - and now compare that to how awkward Black's pieces are, despite having the material advantage. But this is the sort of creativity that Ivanchuk often revels in. 22...Rf8 23.Be3 Rc2 24.Ne5 Rd8 You may wonder why Shankland just doesn't take the pawn on b2 - but in doing so, he would further risk White's pieces just simply taking over the board 24...Rxb2? 25.Bh3! Rc2 (Black has to stop White playing Rc1 and Bxe6+ - and there's no time for 25...Rxa2? 26.Bxb6 Nfe8 27.Nxe8 Rxe8 28.Bxc7 easily winning.) 26.Bxb6 Rb8 27.Bxc7 Rxc7 28.Bxe6+ Kf8 29.Bc4 Nd7 30.Nxd7+ Rxd7 31.Rd2 and White has two pawns for the exchange, but the knight on d6 is a monster, as Black can't play 31...Rbd8 32.e5! a5 (32...Bxf3? 33.Rf2) 33.f4 Rb8 34.Kf2 and White is easily winning this. 25.Bf1 Nfe8 26.Bd3 Rxb2 27.Ndc4 Rxa2 28.Bxb6 Ra4 29.Rc1 Rb4 30.Kf2 Rb5 31.Bf1 Rb8 32.Nd7 Rd8? It's a difficult position to be in against one of the game's most creative players, but Shankland's only chance here was to play the un-human, more awkwardness option favoured by the computer, of 32...Rb7!? 33.Bh3 where again White's position is the easier to play - but Black does have the material. Not easy to asses, but you would have to favour White here. 33.Nce5 Rb2+ 34.Kg1 Bb7 What else? If 34...Rc8 35.Bxa6! and Black's position is crumbling to defeat. 35.Bxc7 Rc8 36.Nd3! Not only hitting the rook, but also opening the door for Bf4 getting out of the pin with a won game. The rest of the game needs no further comment; White's minor pieces dominate the board, leaving the win easy to convert. 36...Rd2 37.Bf4 Rxc1 38.Bxd2 Rd1 39.Bb4 Bc6 40.N7e5 Bb5 41.Kf2 Nf6 42.h4 h6 43.Bc3 Nh5 44.Be2 Rb1 45.g4 Nf6 46.Ke3 Rh1 47.h5 Nh7 48.f4 Nf6 49.Bf3 Rb1 50.Nc5 1-0