Alexander Onischuk with his wife, Olga. Photo courtesy Alexander Onischuk
by Jennifer Shahade
The Aerosvit Foros Super GM tournament (June 18-June 29) was a challenge, a success and a homecoming for Baltimore based, Ukrainian-born GM Alexander Onischuk. He entered as the lowest rated player (at 2663 FIDE!) but came in third, good for a prize over $10,000. The Ukrainian super-GM Vassily Ivanchuk took clear first.
Onischuk lost the first round to Indian GM Krishnan Sasikirian, which was immediately alarming. "At this type of event, if players detect you're in bad form, they will try to crush you every game."
He recovered with a string of draws and a win against Loek Van Wely. In the last round he was on an even score and set to play against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu from Romania:
Alex had prepared this opening prior to the tournament for Shirov. Nisipeanu was not ready for 15. Re1 and Alex felt he got the better of the opening. " When played ....c5, I got a winning position but he fought very well." The main mistake, according to Alex, was Kg7. Alex thought Nisipeanu's best chance was to play Rd8 hoping for the line: Rb8 Rxb8 Qxb8 Kh7 c7 Qe1+ Kh2 Qe5 g3 Qc5 with a perpetual.
Onischuk was particularly pleased with his finish because he did not enter the event with a surplus of confidence: "I told everyone before the tournament I was the weakest one and probably would come in last place." Alex was impressed with the playing conditions. Highlights included a suite for each player, great food including a final dinner with caviar and crawfish, and a sitting room with drinks and snacks adjacent to the playing hall. The main sponsor of the tournament was Aerosvit, a Ukrainian airline, which paid the airfare for all participants plus a second or family member (Alex took his wife, Olga)
The sitting room for the players
Most of all, Alex was happy to reunite with his family. Born and raised in Crimea, his childhood home was just an hour drive away from the playing site. Alex, Olga and their son Phillipe got a chance to spend time with Alex's parents and five sisters. Surrounded by friends and family, Onischuk felt he had a home court advantage in the tournament and he used this to his advantage.
Final Standings: Aerosvit 2007
1. Vassily Ivanchuk - 7.5/11
2. Sergey Karjakin- 7/11
3-6 Alexander Onischuk, Peter Svidler, Loek Van Wely and Alexei Shirov- 6/11
Ivanchuk and Peter Svidler
Vassily Ivanchuk placed first in the tournament. In the penultimate round, he scored a key victory over Alexei Shirov.