Reports Sep 21, 2015 | 10:22 PMby Colin McGourty

Baku World Cup, 4.2: Top seeds fall

Two of the top three seeds, Veselin Topalov and Fabiano Caruana, are out of the 2015 FIDE World Cup after failing to win on demand against Peter Svidler and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Mickey Adams was also unable to stop Hikaru Nakamura’s passage to the quarterfinals, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave hit the jackpot to win a bad position against Wesley So. Only Wei Yi held his nerve for a comeback win over Ding Liren, with that pair joining three others in tiebreaks tomorrow.

It was an intense battle, but Fabiano Caruana is out of the 2015 World Cup | photo: official website

Replay all the games from the Baku World Cup so far:

Winning on demand

How do you win a game of chess on demand with the white pieces? Play 1.e4! - or at least that was the choice of all four players in Baku faced with that dilemma. Surprisingly, though, it was only Hikaru Nakamura who responded with the opening that at times seems to refute Fischer’s favourite move. We refer, of course, to the Berlin Wall.

Nakamura is the both the last US and native English-speaking player now left in the event | photo: official website

Mickey Adams went for the ending and was confronted by the variation that led to a lightning fast draw by repetition in Game 9 of the second Carlsen-Anand match. Mickey was on Team Carlsen, and when he deviated with 14.a4 instead of 14.e6 he may have been following a plan worked out back then. The game at least continued, with the computer suggesting White may have missed moments to gain a real edge before Mickey admitted to blundering a forced drawing line. Hikaru Nakamura went through the game in some detail afterwards:

If you watched that video you’ll have seen that Evgeny Miroshnichenko stopped Nakamura talking about the Nepomniachtchi situation just when he was about to. Nakamura himself later steered clear of that controversy on Facebook, instead praising Adams, who he’d idolised as a child:

Another match is in the books, as I found a way to defeat the long time British #1, Michael Adams in the 4th round of...

Posted by Hikaru Nakamura on Monday, 21 September 2015

Elsewhere there were no Berlins and much more action! 

Veselin Topalov has never been a fan of the World Cup format and can at least console himself that his exit has cut Vladimir Kramnik's chances of reaching the Candidates Tournament still further | photo: official website

Veselin Topalov seemed to get a slightly worse position against Peter Svidler, but he kept almost all the pieces on the board and made progress until his edge finally evaporated as the time control approached. Svidler noted that Topalov seemed to lose interest when it became clear the best he could hope for was a draw that would still mean an exit from the tournament. 

41.Nb3? was shown to be bad by 41.Qc3! and then 42.Ra7? and the offer of a draw posed Svidler a real dilemma. He said he would have accepted a draw offer after 42.Ne2 "in three seconds flat without thinking", but now he saw he could win a lot of material. He finally rejected playing on, since it wasn’t so simple to convert his advantage:

A rook is a rook, but the black king is out in the open and Svidler decided 5 rating points weren't worth risking potential disaster

Watch Peter Svidler after the game, where he explains, “My time here is more about reading and watching rather than preparing,” and, 17 books down 3 to go, he blames our very own Jan Gustafsson for introducing him to the American crime writer Ross Thomas:

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is not famed for his skill as a defender of passive positions, but he solved that problem by finding a sharp tactical operation to defuse mounting pressure from Fabiano Caruana. The US player seemed to delay a move or two when he might have posed more problems, and then his nominally attacking 25.Rg1 backfired:

As chess coaches are fond of saying, "think how your opponent's last move weakened his position". Sure enough, 25…a5! sent Caruana into a 17-minute think, but it seems Mamedyarov had correctly judged that the pawn break solves all his problems. In the play that followed Fabiano actually ended up worse until Shakhriyar ended his suffering by forcing a repetition. A sad end to a tournament that had started so well for Caruana, but for the event as a whole it’s great to have a local representative still very much in the running for the title.

Just when people are on the verge of writing Wei Yi off as overrated he has an awkward habit of winning brilliant games | photo: official website 

And that brings us to the 16-year-old who showed his older colleagues how to go about things! We speak, of course, of Wei Yi, who handled the Ruy Lopez in a manner worthy of World Champion Magnus Carlsen. First a curious near-novelty (11.Bd2) in a quiet position, and then he slowly encouraged Ding Liren to become ambitious and lodge an isolated pawn in the heart of White’s position:

So far so good for Ding Liren, but, just as when you're playing Magnus, such pawns have a habit of dropping against Wei Yi - and when this one did Black had no real compensation.

Much manoeuvring followed until another black pawn fell, but although Ding Liren managed to exchange queens and enter a rook ending it was extremely treacherous, with the divide between a draw and a loss always only a single tempo wide. Both players got down to playing on the 30-second increment and Wei Yi showed he’s not completely inhuman by missing the best chance to seal the game:

65.Rb3! would have spared him a lot of nerves, as with the pawn safely stopped the white king is still in time to support the queening of the d-pawn. Instead after 65.Kd5? immediately the black b-pawn was able to race down the board, but although the situation that arose was objectively a draw it was almost impossible for a human to hold in time trouble – at some point he was always going to stumble into a position where White could win the rook with a queen fork:

This position is still a tablebase draw after 72…Kf3 or 72…Kf4 but 72…Kh4? was already mate-in-29. Once again, though, it illustrates how tough this is that Wei Yi’s 73.Qb1! was the only winning move!

So a fascinating all-Chinese battle will go to tiebreaks.

Three draws and a late twist

In the four games drawn on day one there was of course less need for anyone to press for a win. Sergey Karjakin played the 5.Re1 line in the Berlin against Dmitry Andreikin and drew in 27 moves, Pavel Eljanov and Dmitry Jakovenko made move 60 but without either player upsetting the balance and Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Anish Giri played out a closely-fought battle in which Giri rejected a draw before offering one himself when he failed to prove Black had any edge.

It was a good day for the Wojtaszek household as his wife Alina beat Lilit Mkrtian to race to 5/6 in the elite Women's GM Tournament in Wroclaw | photo: official website

Anish Giri went through the game in detail afterwards and explained that he wasn’t too stressed since this isn’t the only way he can qualify for the Candidates Tournament:

There are some players like myself and Fabiano and Nakamura who aren’t particularly worried, but no-one wants to lose a game of chess!

We also got to hear the somewhat disappointing explanation for Kramnik wearing sunglasses!

That just leaves one game, but it was an incredibly dramatic one. 

Maxime is back where he recently said he belongs - in the world's Top 10 | photo: official website

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave summed it up:

It was really bad. You have to be a bit lucky in the World Cup at some point and here I definitely dodged a bullet. I was more thinking that by a miracle I’ll get to tiebreaks, but then I was just winning the game.

It all turned around when Wesley So thought he’d spotted a neat tactic:

22.Bxd5 Ne5 23.Re4 Ng6 24.Bxf7+ Kxf7 25.Nd6+ Kg8 26.Nxb7

On the one hand you can admire the tactical vision, but alas, it seems Wesley simply missed 26…Bc6! from a distance and had no choice but to continue down the path to an ending where he was a piece down for two pawns. It was most likely drawn, but developed into a masterclass by the French grandmaster, who knew it was over when he planted a knight on g7:

Zugzwangs and a fight for the opposition followed, but seven moves later Wesley So resigned, bringing an end to his World Cup experience. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, meanwhile, has completed his odyssey back into the World Top 10 (on the live rating list) and can still end what has been a troubled year with qualification for the Candidates Tournament.

Wesley So will be back - in fact in just over two weeks' time he defends his Millionaire Chess title in Las Vegas | photo: official website

You can watch Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s account of his topsy-turvy game below:

So far we don’t know a single pairing for the quarterfinals, but everything will be decided tomorrow, when we have four tiebreak matches:

  • Ding Liren – Wei Yi
  • Wojtaszek – Giri
  • Jakovenko – Eljanov
  • Karjakin – Andreikin

Once again it should provide unmissable viewing. Follow all the FIDE World Cup action here on chess24. You can also watch all the games in our mobile apps:


See also:

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