16-year-old Chinese prodigy Wei Yi is in the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup after Ding Liren missed a great chance before losing in the second 10-minute tiebreak game. The other Round 4 tiebreak clashes were over in just two 25-minute rapid games, with Anish Giri shrugging off a time penalty to beat Radek Wojtaszek, Pavel Eljanov winning a tight match against Dmitry Jakovenko and Sergey Karjakin crashing through in style against Dmitry Andreikin.
For once on a tiebreak day in Baku there was no need for Armageddon, or even 5-minute blitz, but that didn’t deprive us of some unforgettable live action. Don’t miss GM Jan Gustafsson’s video analysis of the Wei-Yi vs. Ding Liren match later in this report, but first let’s look at the tiebreak matches that ended at the first possible opportunity.
Dmitry Andreikin knocked Sergey Karjakin out of the 2013 World Cup in Tromsø at exactly this stage last year, winning both rapid games, with the first, in particular, featuring a devastating attack. In Baku it looked as though history might repeat itself when Sergey went for the dubious “win” of a piece with 17.g4?!
After 17…hxg4 18.hxg4 Bxg4 19.fxg4 Nxe5 Andreikin was already better, and he soon went on to pick up a third pawn for the piece. Karjakin admitted afterwards that his opponent simply “played brilliantly,” up to a point, but then with both players short on time things became highly unclear, and Andreikin lost the thread with 40…e5?:
The threat is of course to push that pawn one square further with a fork and pin, but 41.Ne3! was a crushing refutation. Now 41…e4 can be met by 42.Nxd5 and the queen can’t maintain the pin with 42…Qf5 due to 43.Ne7+. Andreikin instead went for 41…d4 42.Ng4 Qg5 43.Nxe5 R8c3, when it was time for a classic move:
The winning idea here was famously missed by Alekhine against Euwe but also, for instance, by Caruana in the final round of the Sinquefield Cup, while Vishy Anand used it as an example of how historical games help you to find tactics in your own. We refer, of course, to 44.Qh8+! Kxh8 45.Nxf7+ Kg7 46.Nxg5. White’s connected passed pawns on the queenside soon proved to be unstoppable and Andreikin resigned on move 54.
In the second game Andreikin, with the white pieces, tried to confuse matters as much as possible but, as often happens in such situations, he simply ended up worse and was dead lost by the time Karjakin took a match-ending draw on move 35.
Now all that remains is to see if Karjakin can go at least as far as Andreikin in 2013 i.e all the way to the final!
Pavel Eljanov started the World Cup like a man possessed, winning his first six games to make it to Round 4. Dmitry Jakovenko is a very tough opponent, though, and put an end to the winning streak for no less than three games.
Neither player managed to make much of an impact, but you can’t keep a good man down, and in the second rapid game Eljanov rediscovered his mojo:
It’s not hard to identify the great trump of White’s position, though it was curious that the black c-pawn made it to c2 before White’s d-pawn reached d7. There were no prizes for speed, though, and while the c-pawn was lost the d-pawn tied down the black forces as Eljanov manoeuvred his king and bishop into place. The final position was reached on move 49:
Jakovenko’s woes are illustrated by the fact that if he took the d7-pawn now with 49...Rxd7 50.Rxd7 Bxd7 White has the luxury of choosing whether to capture Black’s pawn on h7 with the king or the bishop. So it was Eljanov who went through to face Nakamura in the quarterfinals, but at least that saved Jakovenko from a curious situation:
Anish Giri’s victory was founded on an impressive achievement – he managed to outprepare Radek Wojtaszek in their first game. The Dutch no. 1’s 7th move was already unusual, and his 16.Nb5! posed serious enough problems to plunge the Polish no. 1 into a 9-minute think - an eternity in 25-minute rapid:
The knight is headed to d6 and c4/f4-f5 are all threatened. Radek failed to find any antidote, even speeding up the end with the provocative 23…g6?
All that remained was for Anish to play a few more standard attacking moves: 24.f5! Nd4 25.Qd2! Nxf5 26.Rxf5! (although 26.Nxf5 also wins, of course) 26...gxf5 27.Nxf5 and Wojtaszek simply resigned since there’s no palatable way to stop the threat of Qg5+ and mate on g7.
So Giri had one foot in the quarterfinals, but the second game didn’t exactly go his own way early on. First of all, he suffered from the backlash of the Nakamura-Nepomniachtchi tiebreak, when the Russian had lambasted the arbiters present for not intervening when the rules of chess were broken. This time round Anish Giri was taken to task for the fact he’d been adjusting his pieces in his opponent’s time. He later joked:
I’m in the trend of Hikaru – we are all dirty players!
He explained that it was a long-standing habit like Nakamura’s “power castle” and he’d been warned by the arbiter before the games began and then received a one-minute punishment when he committed the offence twice. He noted that if he did it once more he would have lost a game, and added, not entirely seriously:
Now it gets tough. I don’t have my bracelet (as it’s banned due to the cheating precautions), I cannot adjust pieces… They tried to destroy me from the inside, but I am not giving up. I keep fighting the tough FIDE regime!
That wasn’t all, though. On the board Giri lived to regret giving up a pawn in order to exchange some pieces, since after 16.Nc7 (which Giri admitted to missing) 16…Rb8 17.d5 White not only had a passed pawn but one that was advancing with tempo and threatening to do real damage:
White needed to stabilise somehow, but Wojtaszek couldn’t find a good way to extricate the knight on c7 and instead found a radical solution – 23.g4!?
Jettisoning the knight, though of course not for nothing – 23…Rxc7 24.d6 Rxc4+ 25.bxc4 Nc6. Still, it was no longer clear who was playing for a win, and when the black rook found a way into the white camp via the h-file the momentum had switched to Giri’s side. He went on to score a comfortable second win and confirm his place in the next round.
When Giri joined the English commentary team afterwards he found himself largely commentating on Ding Liren – Wei Yi, on which he had some interesting and sometimes controversial thoughts.
For instance, when it was confirmed to him that Magnus Carlsen had worked with Ding Liren:
I think he should leave China to the Chinese. He tries to have a taste of Chinese… he should not mess, he should leave it how it is!
And he talked down some of the play between the Chinese stars in Baku:
What surprised me was how low the quality was of their games… They were calculating complex lines but there were a few moments when a simple move would do… The guys are not so invincible as you think (after Ding Liren missed a forced win in the final game).
If there’s one player who has breathed life into this World Cup it’s 16-year-old star Wei Yi, whose incredible tiebreak victory over Yuri Vovk was perhaps the highlight of the event so far. That was covered in a video by Jan Gustafsson for our Round 2 tiebreaks report and now he’s back to look at the match between Wei Yi and Ding Liren. We already saw a great comeback in the classical games and the tiebreaks certainly didn’t disappoint.
Over to Jan:
For all Ding Liren had said about simply being happy that a Chinese player would make the quarterfinals you could see his desolation after the game:
The Chinese interest continues, though, and Wei Yi is only two matches away from snatching a place in the 2016 Candidates Tournament - since both finalists qualify. To get there he’ll need to beat Peter Svidler and then either Anish Giri or Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, as you can see in the pairings for the remainder of the tournament (via Wikipedia):
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave couldn’t resist returning to Magnus Carlsen’s ill-fated prediction of nine draws in the Giri-Leko match:
Anish was also impressed by his opponent's strategy:
You won’t be surprised to hear there’s no break before the
quarterfinals, which start tomorrow, although when they’re over we do have a
rest day on Saturday before the semifinals.
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