Reports Sep 18, 2015 | 11:05 PMby Colin McGourty

Baku World Cup, 3.2: Unpredictable

Alexander Grischuk, Vassily Ivanchuk and Peter Leko are all out of the 2015 World Cup, with the latter losing to Anish Giri despite a certain Magnus Carlsen having tipped that match to end in nine draws. None of the first day losers managed a comeback win, but apart from Giri there were also wins for Ding Liren, Wei Yi, Radek Wojtaszek and Dmitry Jakovenko. That leaves us with seven matches going to tiebreaks on Saturday, including Nepomniachtchi-Nakamura, Radjabov-Svidler and Andreikin-Kramnik.

Nakamura looks on to see if Carlsen's prediction comes true | photo: official website

Before we get to the day’s action, perhaps it’s time for a quick personal (no hate mail to chess24, please!) rant:

The 15-minute “anti-cheating” delay

The organisation of the World Cup in Baku has been close to flawless, with even the potential political stumbling block of Armenian players taking part in an event in Azerbaijan handled with great tact. One thing has grated, though.

No, not the unusual semi-ban on such suspicious items as pens and watches (#IstandwithAhmed?)… but another anti-cheating measure - the decision to randomly delay the broadcast of a number of games on each day of classical chess. The aim is to make it difficult for someone to watch games live and then signal or somehow transmit moves to a player. A sensible precaution in this day and age? 

Well, while the idea of a delay has never exactly been popular, there are two places it’s been tried where it hasn’t proven a great nuisance either – the Dortmund Supertournament and the German League (whose 2015/6 season starts this weekend with 144 games!). There are two big differences there, though:

  1. All the games are delayed
  2. There’s no live video broadcast

In Baku, meanwhile, we end up in the awkward situation that we have a great battling game of chess such as Dominguez-Perez in Round 1, where the young Argentinian would pull off a sensational victory if he could only draw a drawn position. On move 106 of the game broadcast he still seems to be doing so… but if you’re watching the live video you see the players shaking hands and the commentators struggle to explain exactly what happened – one thing is certain, though, Leinier Dominguez has won! Then, if you’re an idiot working for a popular chess website, you tweet about the result:

Mea culpa  As Justin Horton wrote in a post entitled "Spoiler" on The Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog:

I'd forgotten, there was a delay in transmission to try and combat cheating. Fair enough, but having followed the game all afternoon, I felt pretty cheated myself in having been told the result before the end of the game.

So since then we’ve been operating a no-spoiler policy, but how can that work when the live broadcast inevitably doesn’t keep to it? Before today’s round Sergey Shipov, the Russian commentator, announced that four games would be impossible to follow live. It was a shock to discover they included Eljanov–Grischuk (the obvious game to watch), Wei Yi–Areshchenko (which lived up to expectations as a thriller) and Giri–Leko (the game Magnus had made a must-watch even if it ended in a draw). To some extent Shipov kept to the plan, though he couldn’t avoid giving the results of games and wrapped up the show when a game was still “in progress”.

We had to delay this devastating image of the Giri-Leko postmortem for 15 minutes...

Evgeny Miroshnichenko on the English broadcast, meanwhile, kept asking the “operators” (=the cameramen) to focus on the games that were being broadcast with a delay so we could see the position on the board – which somewhat defeated the point of an anti-cheating delay! In short, it was a farce which interrupted the broadcast of a fascinating day’s play in a prestigious tournament where none of the players were under any suspicion of cheating. 

There’s a slightly different reason for this rant, though – the threat that this might be tried again. Miroshnichenko’s co-commentator and President of the Association of Chess Professionals Emil Sutovsky wrote the following on his Facebook page:

It took a lot of time and effort, but finally FIDE introduced some serious Anti-cheating measures for the World Cup...

Posted by Emil Sutovsky on Saturday, 12 September 2015

Unless you want to see even round-robin tournaments in which the internet audience (which dwarfs any audience in the hall) can’t be sure who’s won because a game or two is delayed, feel free to comment and suggest there must be better ways to deal with cheating. Or, at the very least, we could restrict this measure to tournaments which don’t have a live video broadcast.

Or maybe you disagree? Have your say in the comments below! And now... back to chess.

No way back

There was yet more evidence for how hard it is to recover after losing the first game of a two-game match, since none of the four players facing that task in Round 3 managed.

Sethuraman and Anton Kovalyov made no impact on Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Fabiano Caruana and took the booby prize of some rating points for a draw. 

A stroll in the park for Caruana so far, but Mamedyarov is up next | photo: official website

Yu Yangyi took more drastic measures to try and unsettle Sergey Karjakin, but all it gained him was a dead lost position... although that too ended in a “mercy” draw. The longest and most colourful attempt at a comeback was Eljanov-Grischuk. 

2011 World Cup finalist Grischuk had met his match | photo: official website

The world no. 10 played a waiting game with a Hedgehog setup, but in gruesome slow motion that loveable creature was reduced to roadkill. This is the position on move 40:

As you might surmise, things hadn’t gone well for Grischuk, and Eljanov had no trouble finishing the job. Pavel may have had some luck the day before, but it’s hard to argue with his tournament record so far!

Eljanov is currently up 15 places to world no. 17 on the live rating list, while Grischuk's 22.2 point drop in Baku is a blow to his chances of qualifying for the Candidates Tournament. Chess by the Numbers notes that Kramnik has now overtaken Grischuk in the race to gain the potentially important third place in the list of those hoping to qualify by average rating. Kramnik's overall chances of qualification have grown to 38%, while Grischuk is at 24%.

Magnificent Seven

Ok, perhaps the title doesn’t entirely apply, but seven matches finished in two draws, meaning tiebreaks ahead. The Radjabov-Svidler, Nepomniachtchi-Nakamura, So-Le Quang Liem and Adams-Dominguez pairings didn’t feature many fireworks. Topalov and Lu Shanglei took a rest after their crazy first game, with Chess by the Numbers wondering whether Lu Shanglei, blitz rated 2780 to Topalov’s 2647, can still be considered the underdog in tiebreaks.

Lu Shanglei (standing) could still join Ding Liren in the fourth round of the World Cup | photo: official website

Evgeny Tomashevsky pushed for a long time against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but couldn’t quite find the killer blow in a tricky ending. 

Unlike in their 2013 World Cup final, Andreikin has managed to take Kramnik to tiebreaks | photo: official website

That was nothing compared to Vladimir Kramnik’s doubled-edged attempts to beat Dmitry Andreikin, though. First he sacrificed a pawn to open the a-file on move 20, then he sacrificed a knight on move 26:

26.Nbxc6!? The computer here preferred another sacrifice – 26.Na6!? The non-standard decisions continued, but Kramnik seemed to go astray in time trouble (or more precisely, move 40) and one more sacrifice, this time of a bishop, couldn’t stave off a draw.

Five more players qualify for the Last 16

And so we come to the five players who followed a draw with a win. Ding Liren eased past Gadir Guseinov after the Azerbaijan player mistakenly put a pawn on c4 and saw it methodically surrounded and gobbled up. Sadly, the way that Vassily Ivanchuk exited the event was no more glorious. 

Aronian out and a World Cup with no memorable Ivanchuk moments? It's been a tough few days for chess fans | photo: official website

He played the kind of opening strong players usually reserve for must-win games and then accepted a pawn sacrifice by Dmitry Jakovenko:

Well, pawn sacrifice isn’t quite the word, since the price the Ukrainian genius had to pay was high. Here he gave up his queen with 18…Nxd3 19.Rxb6 Nxb6. He managed to extract his knight from its tough spot on d3, but though material was more or less balanced it was White who had all the fun, coordinating his queen, knights and passed pawns to perfection. Ivanchuk resigned on move 35, meaning the chances of crowning his career with the World Championship are slimmer than ever before.

Yet again we can only conclude that this kid is pretty good... | photo: official website

Wei Yi, meanwhile, is a very real contender. There used to be a time when opening preparation was considered a Chinese weakness, but the matches this summer between Boris Gelfand and Ding Liren and Peter Leko and Li Chao suggest that’s a thing of the past. The Chinese players again and again sprung the first novelty, and in Baku it was Wei Yi’s turn against Alexander Areshchenko:

Alexander had played this super-sharp position three times (one win, two draws), but when he repeated it Wei Yi responded not with 16.Kh1 but 16.Rbd1!? Perhaps it’s just a line for one game… but what a game! Areshchenko sank into a 21-minute think, but after 16…h3 17.g3 Bb4 18.Qe3 he failed to pull the emergency brake with 18…Qg5 and went for 18…Bxc3, inviting 19.Nxe6!

This isn’t, to put it mildly, the kind of position you want to be working out over the board, but Areshchenko should have gone down the rabbit hole with 19…fxe6!, when a long forced sequence seems to end in a draw. After 19…Qe5?! 20.Nc7+ Kf8 21.Qxe5 Bxe5 22.Nxa8 Nxf6 23.Nb6 Areshchenko found himself an exchange down in a miserable ending with his World Cup experience coming to a close.

Yet another fan favourite is out - 48-year-old Granda was always on the back foot against his immensely well-prepared opponent | photo: official website

Granda Zuniga had managed to set up a blockade across the whole board with the white pieces in Game 1 of his match with Radek Wojtaszek, but he couldn’t repeat that trick in the second game. The Polish grandmaster’s attack crashed through, and he could even afford to miss one beautiful win with 26.fxe6!, perhaps, as Jon Ludvig Hammer suggested, because he feared 26…Rg4:

But then he would still have had one winning move: 27.Qxg4!! and however Black captures it’s mate-in-3: e.g. 27…hxg4 28.exf7+ Bxf7 29.Bxf7+ Kh8 30.Ng6#

So that leaves just one game. Remember that match that Magnus Carlsen had hashtagged #9draws? Well, it didn’t quite follow the script!

In a quiet position with a symmetrical pawn structure Leko's sense of danger failed him and he allowed his opponent to expand at will. Then he blundered on the time control move with 40…Rb4?

Giri revealed his knight had greater ambitions than the a5-pawn with 41.Nd8! (if Leko had played 40…Rc3! he could now defend with 41…Rc7). The f7-pawn is a goner and the game is lost – Leko, to his credit, found a more painful way to die.

The end of the road for Peter Leko in this year's World Cup | photo: official website

So nine players have made it through to Round 4 and we already have some great pairings:

  • Ding Liren – Wei Yi

The current Chinese no. 1 against the future Chinese (or world) no. 1? Ding Liren shared some melancholy thoughts with New in Chess:

  • Giri – Wojtaszek
  • Eljanov – Jakovenko
  • Caruana – Mamedyarov

But before we know the remaining four pairings we have tiebreaks, featuring the likes of Nakamura, So, Kramnik, Svidler, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave. In short, don’t miss all the FIDE World Cup action at the same time and place each day here on chess24. You can also watch all the games in our mobile apps:


See also:

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