Shakhriyar Mamedyarov got a spontaneous round of applause from his fans after almost mating Fabiano Caruana in the kind of walkover you don’t often see at the highest level. Peter Svidler’s victory over Veselin Topalov wasn’t quite as smooth but he went one better – giving mate on the board. Hikaru Nakamura shrugged off any controversy to beat Mickey Adams while Ding Liren got the day’s fourth white win by outlasting Wei Yi in a mind-bogglingly strange encounter.
The Round 4 winners will already be in the quarterfinals, but if there were any fears the players would play it safe with the stakes so high they proved largely unfounded. Half the eight games finished decisively and of the draws only a single one saw no real play.
Dmitry Andreikin has made a career of going his own way. When Magnus Carlsen, an exact contemporary, became world no. 1 in 2010, Andreikin was still dawdling back on a 2635 rating. He drew some attention to himself by winning the World Junior Championship that year, but he hasn’t been in any rush since. He won the Russian Championship in 2012 but after one of the great achievements of his career – reaching the 2013 World Cup final – in the whole of 2014 he played only the 14 Candidates Tournament games in April and then two 11-game Grand Prix events that started in October. His approach to the World Cup seems to match his approach to life – he’ll take a chance if he gets it but he’s not going to force anything and is perfectly happy to wait for tiebreaks. With his talent and apparently the best nerves of any player in Baku, he can still go far.
That long preface is simply to note that Andreikin, with the white pieces, played 11 moves against Sergey Karjakin with barely a thought, then paused for 21 minutes on his 12th move, then agreed a draw in a position seen a number of times before. To be fair, though, if anyone was better it was probably already Black.
Elsewhere the draw “shock” of the round was that Pavel Eljanov has lost his 100% record! You couldn’t accuse him of changing his approach, though. Just when Dmitry Jakovenko was threatening to seize control of the whole board he hit back with 21…g5!
A sharp struggle ensued, but though Jakovenko agreed a draw two pawns up the rook ending was absolutely drawn.
Giri-Wojtaszek was a duel between two newly-wedded men and two of the best prepared players in world chess. It was Vishy Anand’s second Radek Wojtaszek who emerged the moral victor, after his logical and computer-suggested novelty 16…Qd7 seemed to catch Anish Giri slightly off-guard. At any rate, it was only the Polish no. 1 who could have harboured any hopes of winning in the quiet final position reached on move 35.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesley So blitzed out 15 moves of theory in a 5.Re1 Berlin before Wesley sprung a slight surprise with 15...Nf5. He still ended up clearly worse, but although Maxime’s bishop pair was menacing the black position held and the lack of pawns meant a win was never likely.
But enough draws, let’s get to the decisive action:
While Ian Nepomniachtchi was still struggling to come to terms with the way Sunday’s tiebreaks ended Hikaru Nakamura went straight out and won his first game against Mickey Adams. His approach was to play a rare line as early as move 7, getting his English opponent thinking immediately. Although Mickey seemed to solve the initial problems he gradually drifted into a difficult position, with Nakamura winning most of the strategic battles:
The American has a rook on the 7th rank, the better bishop and weaknesses to work with on a7 and c4. The e6-pawn break here provoked Adams into 24…g5!? but the isolated and weak black pawns on a7, c4, e6 and h7 after that operation were the chess equivalent of getting dealt 2,7 in Texas holdem. Sadly for Adams he couldn’t fold while the stakes were low and, perhaps still groggy after the tiebreaks, he could do little to stop Nakamura smoothly going on to win in 54 moves. The US no. 1 is now the very clear world no. 2 on the live ratings, 11 points ahead of Topalov and Anand.
With Teimour Radjabov out all the hopes of the local Azerbaijan fans rest on the shoulders of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and he certainly didn’t disappoint in the first game of Round 4. Fabiano Caruana had cruised through in Baku so far, but on Sunday he revealed more of the vulnerability we’d seen in the Sinquefield Cup.
Mamedyarov went for a sideline on move 5 and if he was following home preparation his 38-minute think over 10.Ne2!? looks a little odd. Caruana fell into the same rhythm by thinking for 24 minutes over his response and then soon began to take huge strategic risks. 13…Nh5!? was criticised by Sergey Shipov who expected the “normal” 13…Ng4, but it might have worked out ok if not for the choice one move later:
Caruana played the ugly-looking 14…Qd8, and although ugly moves are often fine in modern chess this doesn’t seem to be a case in point. Instead 14…Nf4 was possible, returning the knight to the heart of the action. The e7-pawn is immune, since 15.Bxe7?? runs into 15…Nxg2+ followed by 16…Ne3+ and White’s not losing a pawn but a queen! In the game 15.Bxh5 gxh5 16.Nf3! was played and the black king was a sitting duck for Mamedyarov, perhaps the fiercest classical attacker among the modern chess elite (the likes of Baadur Jobava deserve a class of their own!).
What followed was painful to watch. Not only was Caruana lost, he was low on time and Mamedyarov didn’t even need to sacrifice any material for his attack until the penultimate move. The massacre ended when 39.Qh5 finally convinced Caruana it was time to call it a day - 40.Rh8 mate does look somewhat hard to parry!
As we mentioned in the introduction, Peter Svidler actually gave mate, but his game against Veselin Topalov was anything but straightforward. Peter later called it “a complete mess” and explained he was “in full panic mode” at one point and on the verge of forcing a draw on multiple occasions. Luckily for us, he didn’t, eventually deciding that 32...Nxe4!? wouldn't leave Black better:
In any case, as you can see in Svidler’s wonderful account of the game afterwards, despite time trouble he still saw an awful lot – including how Topalov could have saved himself just before the end of the game.
In his 2011 World Cup victory Svidler really put his foot on the accelerator in Round 4, beating Gata Kamsky 2:0 and not needing tiebreaks for the remainder of the event. Could lightning strike twice in Baku?
This weird and wonderful encounter was something of an unfinished symphony, since 16-year-old Wei Yi collapsed in time trouble at the end after treating us to flashes of brilliance. It was Ding Liren we could thank for the initial course the game took, since in the morning before he’d prepared a surprise in a line his opponent had played before, telling Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam: “12.Qa4!? is not the first line of the computer, but it’s very interesting”.
So it proved, and after 15…Nc6 forced 16.Nf7 we got the most picturesque of positions:
It tells you everything you need to know about how curious a game it was that this knight survived unscathed until move 29, even finding time to take a brief trip to d8.
It had looked earlier that Wei Yi might take over when he played the fine zwischenzug 19…f3!
But for an account of the game let’s go again to the winner, Ding Liren, who exemplified the Chinese team spirit when he noted, “There will be one player from China in the last stage, so I’m not that stressed!”
That wasn’t quite all for the day’s commentary, though, as Vladimir Kramnik also joined Dirk to talk about his early exit from the event, joking, “I’m even wearing dark glasses because I’m ashamed of myself!” He talked about why he lost to Andreikin and also what he thinks about Magnus Carlsen’s World Championship proposal:
So, once again, we have four players who must win on demand on Monday if they want to stay in the event, including the top seed and the world no. 5. They’ll all have the white pieces and a fighting chance, so you won’t want to miss all the FIDE World Cup action here on chess24. You can also watch all the games in our mobile apps:
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