Reports Sep 28, 2015 | 6:41 PMby Colin McGourty

Baku World Cup, SF2: Svidler!

2011 World Cup winner Peter Svidler has made it into his third Candidates Tournament in a row and, as a bonus, the 2015 World Cup final, after holding Anish Giri to a draw in their second semifinal game. His opponent in the final is not yet known, since Sergey Karjakin offered a draw with White on move 14 for the second match in a row to take his battle against Pavel Eljanov to tiebreaks tomorrow.

Peter Svidler - World Cup finalist and one of the eight players who will compete to face Magnus Carlsen in a World Championship match next year | photo: official website

Jan Gustafsson recaps the whole Svidler-Giri World Cup semifinal match:

Now let's take a look at today's game with some of Peter Svidler's comments: 

Svidler 1/2-1/2 Giri: “I got the job done”

After committing chess suicide the day before Anish Giri faced that classic dilemma – how do you beat a world class player with the black pieces when your opponent needs only a draw? Do you play an offbeat opening to unbalance the game as Kramnik tried against Ivanchuk in the London Candidates or Aronian tried in Round 2 in Baku against Areshchenko, or do you go for a calm approach as Nakamura attempted against Eljanov in the quarterfinals? Though perhaps, given the failure of the superstars mentioned above, it’s also simply a matter choosing how you want to bow out of an event.

Anish Giri starts his mission improbable | photo: official website

Anish Giri went for the latter approach, playing the Caro-Kann Defence and heading for a line where a queen exchange was encouraged as early as move 9:

After 9...Qxe5+ Svidler went for the endgame with 10.Qe2

That seemed a curious choice, but Svidler explained it interrupted his plans for the game:

From a psychological viewpoint I thought that was a very decent choice, because my approach to today was I decided of course I will not play anything crazy in the opening, but I was planning to play a normal game. I wasn’t planning to try and exchange too many pieces…

Then Anish went for the Caro and I had this choice of going for this endgame, which of course to begin with White cannot be worse – White has two bishops and no weaknesses – but psychologically I was more or less forced… to exchange queens by move 10 and have a position where optically I cannot be worse at any moment, but I will have to defend a slightly passive position. Well, defend is maybe not the right word, but I will have to play in a style in which in a normal game I would never in a million years go for this line, because I would be bored. More than anything, I would just be bored to death. So it forced me to do something I’m not particularly good at doing.

Queens were soon exchanged and both Svidler and the commentators felt Giri was at least in the running until he played 24…b5?!

Back to Svidler:

I went for this position feeling it’s completely safe, but then I realised if he starts pushing the queenside pawns I’m not sure which structure I should aim for. I just got very lucky, because the first move he made, 24… b5, made my task much easier. I was able to take the a-pawns off without moving my b2-pawn, so my structure is still solid and it’s much easier to hold, whereas if he starts pushing with the a-pawn if I want to swap some pawns on the queenside I will have to weaken my structure. I think it should be fine still, but I would have to face much bigger problems.

In the end Anish kept playing and playing, but for the last twenty moves it was clear his World Cup campaign was going to end not with a bang but a whimper. It summed things up that Svidler even managed to miss claiming a draw by 3-fold repetition (moves 39, 41 and 43) before a draw was agreed on move 51. 

Anish Giri knew the game was up... | photo: official website did his coach Vladimir Tukmakov, who devoted a chapter of his book, Modern Chess Preparation, to how you should approach such deciding games | photo: official website

When hands were finally shaken Svidler could bask in the glory of securing qualification to the Candidates Tournament for the 3rd time in a row, since both finalists qualify:

Frankly I did not rate my chances very highly. Getting through this tournament twice to get to the Candidates has to rank very high on the list of things I achieved in my professional career, because this is an incredibly hard tournament to do well in. So I’m very, very happy right now.

Anish Giri was the 125th player to be eliminated from the event:

The young Dutchman can console himself with the fact he’ll likely qualify for the Candidates Tournament on his average rating for 2015, with Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk needing to dazzle in the next few months if they’re going to have any chance of a 2016 World Championship bid – assuming, that is, the Candidates Tournament isn’t organised in Russia, in which case they’ll need to fight each other, and perhaps Karjakin, for a wildcard place!

Svidler looked forward to the Candidates Tournament, which will now definitely include Anand, Caruana, Nakamura and Svidler:

It’s going to be a very hard one for everyone, but for me in particular because, I think, even if you compare it with the previous Candidates there’s been a very marked change of the guard, because the tournament will be chock-full of people who the public has been clamouring for them to finally play in the Candidates – Hikaru will be there, Fabiano will be there, I think Anish is qualifying by rating. At least half the field will be the young guns who were not playing in the previous ones, and I’m not getting any younger, so for me it will be a very challenging tournament, but I’m obviously very happy to have a chance to play in it. When I play well, as this tournament shows, I can play against these people. They’re not untouchable.

We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, though, since there’s still a World Cup final to come, with the winner earning a cool $120,000 and the runner-up taking home $80,000, even if Hikaru Nakamura did caution us:

Svidler went on:

Now I have two rest days and I can start thinking about the final. I was absolutely honest when I said on more than one occasion here that for me the main aim of this tournament was to qualify, but now that I’m in, winning it twice would be nice. I hope that I can refocus and play the final as well as I can.

You can watch Peter Svidler’s full interview below:

To have a final you need two players, though, and so far we don’t know the name of Peter Svidler’s opponent.

Karjakin 1/2-1/2 Eljanov: High stakes tiebreaks ahead

Sergey Karjakin has had to fight his way to the verge of the final and qualification for the 2016 Candidates Tournament | photo: official website

Sergey Karjakin is staying faithful to a tried and tested formula. In the quarterfinals against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov he had a narrow escape with an 88-move draw with the black pieces. Then, just when you thought he’d go all-out to punish his opponent with the white pieces, he took a 14-move draw.

Against Pavel Eljanov he had to hang on for 77 moves with the black pieces in a position that Eljanov described as, “probably mathematically winning, but not so easy”. And just when Karjakin did and could press on with White… he offered another 14-move draw. It seems a curious strategy for one of the world’s very best players (currently live-rated no. 11), but it’s hard to argue with results. 

Pavel Eljanov, like Svidler, is yet to lose a game in Baku, but then his opponent has only lost one - against Onischuk in the second round | photo: official website

The Russian star has avoided tiebreaks on only one occasion in this World Cup (against Yu Yangyi in the third round), but he finds himself on the brink of the final and qualification for the 2016 Candidates Tournament.

Pavel Eljanov, meanwhile, is his polar opposite. After playing his 12th rating gaining classical game in a row he’s needed tiebreaks only once, in Round 4, when he beat Dmitry Jakovenko 1.5-0.5 in the first two rapid games. 

He certainly had no good reason to reject the draw in today’s game, though it was a curious situation. Eljanov noted he'd been in unfamiliar territory from as early as move 6 and then faced a crisis on move 12:

I asked myself what I will do after 12.Nh4, then he played it immediately. It was not in my book.

This novelty took Karjakin all of 9 seconds, deviating from 12.Nxe5, that saw Aronian and Anand draw a quick game in Norway Chess earlier this year, and 12.Nd4, which helped Kasparov beat Karpov all the way back in 1987, but also featured in Khismatullin 0-1 Tomashevsky in the recent Russian Championship – though it should be noted it was only Khismatullin’s ill-judged exchange sacrifice that turned the tables in that game.

In the semifinal Eljanov wisely rejected taking the c4-pawn and play progressed naturally with 12…d6 13.d3 Ng6. Here, to general bewilderment, Karjakin sank into thought. Russian commentator Sergey Shipov was puzzled as to why Sergey started to give up his time advantage rather than play his planned 14.Nf5 immediately. We finally saw an answer, of sorts, when Karjakin instead played 14.Nxg6 after a 31-minute think… and offered a draw.

The camera crew has gone nowhere, but they're running out of players and action to film! | photo: official website 

Pavel explained that the position really is drawish when White gives up his knight and leaves Black with a powerful bishop. It seems Karjakin got cold feet about going for the kind of wild lines Eljanov pointed out after the game.

One of the lines shown by Eljanov - 18...Bxd1? 19.Nxf6+ Kh8 20.Raxd1 would be trouble for Black, but Pavel saw 18...Rxe8 19.Qc1 Nxe4 allows him to pick up another pawn

Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam asked Eljanov if he’d discussed these lines with Karjakin:

I can discuss, but who cares – engines can calculate in a few seconds!

Actually in this case Eljanov and the engines coincide (except that 15.e4 isn't considered obligatory). You can watch the Ukrainian grandmaster's full post-game press conference below:

So make sure you tune in for the tiebreaks tomorrow at the same time and place here on chess24. Peter Svidler will be there, since he needs to be present for the drawing of colours for the final after the tiebreaks end – but that's not the only reason!

I’m a compulsive live viewer – I tend to watch live chess regardless of what the tournament is. 

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


See also:

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