15-year-old Javokhir Sindarov pulled off the biggest upset of the FIDE World Cup so far when he took down one of the dark horses to win the whole event, Alireza Firouzja, after a stylish win in the second 10-minute tiebreak game. Another Uzbek player, Jakhongir Vakhidov, beat world no. 13 Leinier Dominguez, while it was also the end of the road for the likes of Gukesh, Parham Maghsoodloo, Dmitry Jakovenko and fan favourite IMs Ravi Haria and Volodar Murzin. We got two Armageddons, with the pieces flying as Olga Badelka beat Ana Matnadze on time.
Replay the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Laurent Fressinet.
Let’s again take the matches in order of when they finished.
Most of the tiebreaks on Saturday ended after just two games of 25-minute and 10-second increment rapid chess, with 11 of the 16 wins coming for the favourites. That included wins for some of the star names such as Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Vidit (who now plays Adhiban!), Nils Grandelius and Andrey Esipenko, and the end of the road for some of the players who have lit up the tournament so far.
15-year-old Gukesh finally fell to Daniil Dubov after a pawn grab gone wrong in the first game, though for a while he seemed to be doing everything right to win on demand in the second.
English IM Ravi Haria’s fairytale ended with a convincing win for Etienne Bacrot in the second game after a quick draw in the first. Another IM, 14-year-old Volodar Murzin, once again put on a show, though he got some help from his older compatriot Vladislav Artemiev, who could have won by force in the first rapid game.
This was the clearest moment. 42…h5+! 43.Kg5 Qg7+ 44.Kf4 and now not 44…Qd4+ 45.Qe4 but 44…Qc7+! wins the bishop on c4. Instead after 42...Qg7+ 43.Kf3 Qc3+ 44.Qd3 the game went on and Volodar ultimately followed up 59.b5! with a flourish a couple of moves later.
61.a6! exchanged off another pawn and forced a draw, since 61…Bxb5?? 62.a7 would be a horrible mistake. It was great to see how confidently Volodar executed the final moments of the game.
Artemiev again got a winning position in the second game, however, and this time he didn’t spoil it, with 37.Ra8! wrapping things up.
Volodar resigned after 37…Rxa8 38.Rc8! Rd6 (there’s nothing better) 39.Rxa8.
Among the wins for the favourites, it’s worth mentioning how German no. 1 Matthias Bluebaum finished off Hungary’s Viktor Erdos.
The queen sacrifice 31.Rxh5! was the only winning move, and after 31…Rxd4 32.Rdh1! Matthias went on to give checkmate on h8.
Among the five upsets, two were for lesser-known names. Azerbaijan’s Vasif Durarbayli (2606) took down Russian Higher League winner Alexander Predke (2683) and Iran’s Tabatabaei managed to win a 3 vs. 2 ending against Hungary’s Ferenc Berkes.
The remaining upsets were all at the expense of very well-known players. Timur Gareyev (2606) made it look amazingly easy to beat the usually formidable Dmitry Jakovenko, whose rating has dropped to 2684. 55-year-old 1983 World Junior Champion Kirill Georgiev (2594) took down 20-year-old 2018 World Junior Champion Parham Maghsoodloo, after the Iranian miscalculated badly in a tricky position in the first game.
The stand-out result at this stage, however, was 26-year-old Uzbek GM Jakhongir Vakhidov (the son of GM Tahir Vakhidov) defeating world no. 13 Leinier Dominguez. Leinier is a speed chess specialist and usually as solid as a rock, but his early d5-break with Black in the first game looked loose, and 20…Rd5? was a losing blunder (he had to bite the bullet and give up the exchange with 20…Nc6).
21.e4! left no good way to defend the a5-knight, with 21…Rb5 22.a4! met by the sad 22…Rb6. Jakhongir cruised to victory and won the second rapid game as well.
Four matches ended in 25-minute games in the women’s section, with two upsets. Kazakhstan women’s no. 3 Bibisara Assaubayeva (2389) did end up knocking out no. 1 Zhansaya Abdumalik after a nervy match, while Azerbaijan’s Gulnar Mammadova (2382) won both rapid games against Lela Javakhishvili (Georgia).
17-year-old US star Carissa Yip (2430) talked about how hard it was get over her loss the day before to Ukraine’s Nataliya Buksa (2413):
It was really stressful for me. I was devastated after losing yesterday, so it took some time to emotionally get myself back together for tiebreaks today, but I’m pleased with the result.
After winning convincingly in the first rapid game Carissa admitted to being caught in unfamiliar territory in the opening in the second game, but her policy of playing fast and hoping for a blunder from her opponent paid off. 32.e5? (32.Rxc8 was an only move) ended Natalia’s hopes.
32…Qxb5! 33.Rxc8 Qxd3 was game and match over.
That wasn’t as dramatic as the blunder that saw Iran’s Sarasadat Khadelmalsharieh beat India’s Padmini Rout 2:0, however.
With 42…Rxg6! 43.Qxg6 Qg7! Padmini would likely have won and taken the match to 10-minute games. Instead she played 42…Rxd7?? and 43.Rg8# was checkmate.
Six of the seven matches that ended in 10-minute games saw the favourite or a roughly equally rated player triumph. In the open section there were wins for Jorge Cori (vs. Sandro Mareco), Alexei Shirov (vs. Yaroslav Zherebukh, in a match with no draws), Vladislav Kovalev (vs. Alexey Sarana, with Kovalev at the end defending Rook vs. Rook + Bishop for 75 moves!) and Sam Sevian (vs. Benjamin Bok)
The one sensation, however, was 15-year-old Javokhir Sindarov (2558) from Uzbekistan taking down 18-year-old world no. 12 Alireza Firouzja (2759).
What was remarkable about the result was that there was nothing accidental about it at all. In fact it was Sindarov pressing in both of the classical games, and completely winning in the second. The 25-minute games were tense, with Firouzja perhaps having his best chance in the 2nd game, where he might have made more use of a big space advantage.
In the first 10-minute game Sindarov showed no fear as he went for the King’s Indian and took over on move 22 with the thematic 22…f3!
After 23.Nxf3!? Nh5 24.Ng5 Nf4 Sindarov had great play for a mere pawn, and perhaps the situation of finding yourself on the ropes against a younger player was so unfamiliar to Alireza that he soon cracked. He sacrificed a couple of pawns on the queenside for no obvious reason and sank without a trace.
Javokhir then needed only a draw, with his decision to play the 6.h3 Najdorf surprising our commentators. It looked like just the kind of position Alireza needed in a must-win game, but instead Javokhir got to demonstrate that he’d learned the lesson of the second classical game as this time he timed his attacking moves to perfection and crushed Alireza. The final position was completely winning for White, but Sindarov only needed a draw and took it.
Javokhir now faces Jorge Cori in Round 3 and might start dreaming. If he defeats Cori he’s seeded to face Jorden van Foreest, then Bassem Amin (his Uzbek colleague has knocked Dominguez out of that section of the draw), then Magnus Carlsen in the quarterfinals.
Hikaru Nakamura joined Sindarov's fan club.
And 12-year-old GM Abhimanyu Mishra either has a huge number of selfies in reserve or a great sense of a potential future star (or both!).
In the women’s section Marie Sebag won the all-French battle against Almira Skripchenko, while Sweden’s Pia Cramling, 10 days younger than Garry Kasparov, is the oldest player left in the event after overcoming Poland’s Monika Socko.
Pia won the first 10-minute game...
...but the match looked set to go to 5-minute games after Monika found some nice blows in the 2nd rapid game.
In the end, however, the game was drawn in a position where Monika was still winning. It looks as though she stumbled into a 3-fold repetition.
The only match to end in 5-minute games was Germany’s Elisabeth Paehtz’s victory over 18-year-old Nurgyul Salimova from Bulgaria. That was a win for the ratings favourite, but as Elisabeth admitted, “this match was actually equal to a lottery”, adding “I first have to somehow swallow what happened today — it will take some time!”
The players swapped wins in the 25-minute games and although both 10-minute games were drawn either player could easily have won the second game. Elisabeth won the 1st 5-minute game, but Armageddon looked on the cards in the 2nd.
44.a7! for Nurgyul would have cost Black a rook (44…Ra6 45.a8=Q), but after 44.Ra4? Rxa6 the game fizzled out into a draw in 95 moves.
For the first time in the 2021 FIDE World Cup matches went all the way to Armageddon. Bulgaria’s Ivan Cheparinov (2667) and Germany’s Rasmus Svane (2615) drew their first four tiebreak games before trading wins in the blitz. Despite the increment there was already some drama in the second game, as Ivan won only after using two hands at one point to reset pieces and hit the clock to avoid a loss on time in a game he went on to win.
The Armageddon saw Cheparinov get the white pieces and play a dominant game.
That wasn’t the whole story, however, as Cheparinov got perilously low on time before an increment kicked in on move 60.
That was nothing, however, compared to Belarusian Olga Badelka’s 5:4 win over Spain’s Ana Matnadze. The whole match was crazy, with countless tactical hits and misses, including Ana’s win in the first blitz game. 39.Nd5+ would have been a clever way for Olga to extract her queen with a winning position, but 39.Qa6? was a blunder.
39…Bxe4+! 40.Nxe4 Rxa6 won the queen, but Olga hit back to level the scores and take the match to Armageddon.
What followed was wild and unsurprisingly defeated the DGT board that tried to record the moves (Olga didn’t actually miss mate-in-1 at one point).
It was the kind of game that raises questions about whether Armageddon should be an option for deciding a chess match — potentially it still is even for the World Championship itself. Ana had more time when the last wild sequence of flinging pieces and hitting the clock began, but went on to lose by two seconds.
Ana was extremely gracious in defeat and later in a Spanish interview described the game as “a memorable experience” and one that would stay with her for her whole life.
As we saw from many of the interviews, trying to process the drama of tiebreaks and losses is tough, but the players who won through to Round 3 have no time to spare, as the first classical games start immediately on Sunday. There are only GMs left in the Open section, with the 32 matches featuring some great clashes, including Carlsen vs. Tari, Vidit vs. Adhiban, Abdusattorov vs. Giri, Nihal Sarin vs. Andreikin, Praggnanandhaa vs. Krasenkow, Artemiev vs. Gelfand and Jumabayev vs. Caruana.
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