Reports Sep 15, 2015 | 9:49 PMby Colin McGourty

Baku World Cup, 2.2: Karjakin and Adams hit back

Fifteen players had to win on demand in Game 2 of Round 2 of the 2015 FIDE World Cup, but only three managed – Mickey Adams, Sergey Karjakin and Yuri Vovk, with the latter proving Wei Yi isn’t yet unstoppable. David Navara and Wang Hao were the biggest names who failed to recover from first day losses, while Pentala Harikrishna joined them in exiting the event after losing to his Indian compatriot S.P. Sethuraman. There’s lots of unfinished business, though, with no less than fifteen tiebreaks tomorrow!

Sinquefield Cup corner at the Baku World Cup - Caruana, MVL and Topalov to Giri: "What, you haven't qualified for Round 3 yet?" | photo: official website

Comeback heroes

Tuesday in Baku was evidence of why players are so afraid to fall behind in the first game of a two-game match. It takes Herculean effort to win on demand when your opponent needs only a draw… or sheer class. Adams and Karjakin provided plenty of the latter.

1. Adams 1-0 Laznicka

Jan Gustafsson looks at a fine win for the 43-year-old English no. 1 over the Czech no. 2:

2. Karjakin 1-0 Onischuk

This comeback win drew praise from no lesser figure than the current World Champion, though it was partly down to an opening choice:

The Anti-Berlin games were identical until move 12, except that Alekseev had played 5…a6 instead of Onischuk’s 5…0-0. In that earlier game queens remained on the board, Carlsen overpressed and then he actually lost in 84 moves – allowing Alekseev to go on to take the Biel title half a point ahead of Magnus.

You can replay that Carlsen loss by clicking on the result of the game in the "Database" tab below the World Cup broadcast

In Baku, Onischuk exchanged queens, and you could again see why the play that followed might appeal to Carlsen. Doing nothing flashy, Sergey quietly went about his business, nursing the advantage of a better pawn structure, control of the central files and a weakness on c7. Before Onischuk seemed grasp the danger he was in he found White’s passed a-pawn careening down the board and could find nothing better than giving up a bishop for the new queen. Was he dreaming of R vs. R+B ending? If he was, he soon parted ways with his dreams to shake Sergey’s hand on move 41.

Onischuk can still cause an upset if he beats Karjakin in the tiebreaks | photo: official website

3. Yuri Vovk 1-0 Wei Yi

Just when you think 16-year-old Wei Yi is about to take over the world he reveals chinks in his armour – and this one was familiar. Peter Svidler had beaten the young star in China this summer, and later explained:

He’s quite obviously an extremely gifted tactical player. The fact that dry, possibly slightly worse endgames do not interest him as much as positions where he can give mate should not be held against him.

You can watch more of Peter’s assessment below:

It was a similar story in Baku, when the following position was reached on move 34:

Although Vovk has seized space, has a better king position and pawn weaknesses to work with on the queenside, it looks tough to make progress after 34…Bc6. Instead Wei Yi went for the “active” 34…Bd7?! 35.Bxb7 Bxg4, but it turned out he’d simply given White a monster of a passed b-pawn. By the time it had raced to b7 it was mate-in-32, and Wei Yi resigned two moves later.

Grischuk passes by on a tough day for China - Wei Yi lost while Lu Shanglei qualified, but only at the expense of Wang Hao | photo: official website 

Those comebacks were rare exceptions, though.

Doing what it takes… and no more

While there were only three comeback wins there were also only three players who went all out and won both games, with Julio Granda ending the fairy tale for Cristobal Henriquez, Wesley So overpowering Csaba Balogh and Pavel Eljanov scoring a clean sheet against former World Junior Champion Alexander Ipatov. Eljanov and So are in fact the only players to have won all four classical games so far!

Kramnik and Caruana have found things very easy so far in Baku | photo: official website

There could have been more, but the likes of Kramnik (vs. Bruzon), and Wojtaszek (vs. Artemiev) decided to take a safe place in the next round rather than pressing on for victory in much better positions. In fact with top players taking strategic draws left, right and centre the top of the live rating list is suffering serious deflation!

The big name players who failed to recover were Wang Hao, who at least got a complex struggle against Lu Shanglei, and David Navara, whose attack only left him worse and with no better option than to accept a draw by repetition.

An Indian surprise

While 15 players managed to open the score in their matches in the first game only five matches saw a win after a draw. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was always one step ahead of Gabriel Sargissian in an ending that you might dismiss as drawn at a glance. Peter Leko won a powerful game of many stages against Wen Yang, and top seed Veselin Topalov dominated the whole board and beat Belarusian Sergei Zhigalko with some ease:

28.Rxg5! isn’t the toughest exchange sacrifice Veselin has ever played, since 28…Bxg5 29.Nxg5 would immediately be terminal. Instead Zhigalko struggled on, but Topalov passed the 68-move basic rook endgame knowledge test with flying colours.

Veselin Topalov and Julio Granda will bring a wealth of experience to Round 3 | photo: official website

The battle of the underdogs, Mareco vs. Kovalyov, ended in a victory for Canadian representative Anton Kovalyov. His reward is a match in Round 3 with Fabiano Caruana… and at least $16,000, which should enable him to cover the cost if he has to change his flights again!

Sethuraman knocked out world no. 21 Harikrishna | photo: official website

Perhaps the upset of the day, though, came in the battle between the last two remaining Indian representatives in Baku, Sethuraman and Harikrishna. You begin to wonder – what’s wrong with the Berlin Wall? 2737-rated Harikrishna established the notorious fortress against his 2640-rated countryman but one mistake (34…Kd7?) saw it wobble and another (37…Ke6??) saw it come tumbling down:

What could be more natural than this double attack on the two knights, especially when neither player had much time to spare? The fly in the ointment, though, is that it introduces a knight fork on d8 into the position, and sure enough there followed: 38.g6! Nf6 39.Nxf6! gxf6 40.Nd8+ and Black was losing a piece. The rest was inertia, and now Sethuraman, who starred with an unbeaten 7.5/10 in Indian bronze-winning Olympiad team last year and is on the rise…

…will play Mamedyarov or Hou Yifan.

The draw brigade

Svidler and Aronian take a stroll in Baku - Levon is now the only remaining Armenian in the field | photo: official website 

Mamedyarov and Hou Yifan were among the 12 pairings that drew both of their classical games, meaning no less than 15 tiebreaks await tomorrow. Their encounter at least featured a sharp struggle, with Mamedyarov commenting afterwards in the press conference (the English has been slightly edited):

We got a very interesting position during the game. I thought that my opponent would play for a draw and it would be easier for me, but she decided to complicate the game. After that the position became quite dangerous and Hou Yifan played very well. Close to the end I understood that there are very few chances for me to win the game. At some point I started to play very fast, trying to provoke a mistake from my opponent, but in reality I had nothing and the game ended with a draw.

Mamedyarov was asked how it differed to play a woman:

It depends on the woman. My opponent is a World Champion and I’m playing the strongest woman in today's chess. With such a woman you need to play more cautiously than with men.

Once again, any excitement in highly-anticipated pairings such as Nakamura-Shankland or Svidler-Nisipeanu was deferred to rapid chess. Giri and Motylev were other repeat offenders, taking draws in 17 and 22 moves.

At least Anish Giri's shirt was striking! | photo: official website

There was plenty to see elsewhere, though. Vladimir Fedoseev deserves some kind of curiosity of the day prize for turning his e-pawn into an a-pawn on move 12 after four consecutive captures:

True, when Grischuk then blew open the centre that escapade began to look a bit risky, but Alexander failed to find anything convincing – perhaps because there was simply nothing in the position. One of the final games to finish could have featured some great giant-killing by Egypt’s Bassem Amin against Dmitry Jakovenko, but he fell just short and couldn't escape perpetual check in a queen and pawn endgame.

Not much of a rest day

So 17 players are out and only 17 can enjoy tomorrow – or at least do some preparation – while the remaining 30 face tiebreaks.

That huge amount of uncertainty means that so far we know only five of the pairings for Round 3, though one of them is a repeat of the all-Russian final of the 2013 World Cup:

  • Andreikin - Kramnik
  • Topalov - Lu Shanglei
  • Guseinov - Ding Liren
  • Caruana - Kovalyov
  • GrandaWojtaszek

Those start on Thursday, but tune in at the same time tomorrow for all the FIDE World Cup tiebreak mayhem here on chess24. After that we’ll already be down to “only” 32 players…

Is anyone enjoying the World Cup as much as Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen, who plays tiebreaks against Tomashevsky tomorrow? | photo: official website

You can also watch all the games in our mobile apps:


See also:

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