We’re down to the Last 16 of the FIDE World Cup, with just three matches as seeded: Carlsen-Esipenko, Grischuk-Duda and MVL-Karjakin. Vidit is the other player seeded to the Last 16 to make it and will face Vasif Durarbayli, who overcame Nodirbek Abdusattorov. The one major surprise of the tiebreaks was 18-year-old Velimir Ivic knocking out Dmitry Andreikin, while Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler put on impressive shows. In the women’s section three of the four quarterfinals starting Sunday are exactly as seeded, while Kosteniuk-Gunina is a surprise only on paper — both players have been rated around 2550 in the past.
And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Laurent Fressinet.
We’re down to just 16 players in the FIDE World Cup, with victory in the next match already guaranteeing a place in next year’s FIDE Grand Prix series, while a place in the final — or 3rd place as well if Magnus makes the final — will mean an automatic spot in the 2022 FIDE Candidates Tournament.
Let’s look at the tie break action starting with how it qualified players for those matches:
Both Magnus Carlsen and Andrey Esipenko needed tiebreaks to reach the Last 16 after tough matches against Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Daniil Dubov. Magnus admitted that he’d been pushed hard by Wojtaszek, and revealed what he’d missed in the classical game the day before when playing 25.Bc2?!
Magnus confirmed that as guessed at in our report (with some help from Laurent Fressinet's live commentary!) he had been dreaming of the checkmate after 25…Rf2? 26.Rxh7 Rxg2 27.Nf6+!! He hadn’t missed 25…Qf2 completely, however — he simply didn’t think it was possible, since he’d overlooked that the queen also attacks the h4-rook!
I thought I’d calculated everything and I was winning a brilliant game and then when he played Qf2 I immediately realised that my rook was hanging and then I was very happy to escape with a draw and to get to the tiebreak.
Magnus praised Radek’s decision to play aggressively to try and maximise his chances:
He calculates very well and I make more mistakes there. Obviously the risks of him losing are much, much higher, but they’re also better for winning, so I think he did well in that sense. Unfortunately in the second game I was able to get one of those positions where there’s no danger, and then I won quite fast.
After a quiet first tiebreak game, the 2nd game turned on the position after 18.a3.
The move you want to play is 18…Nc6!, but at first glance it just loses a pawn to 19.Qxb7. There, however, it turns out Black has the trick 19…Nxd4! 20.Bxd4 Rfb8 and White has to give back the piece with e.g. 21.Be5!, to save the queen.
Instead after 18…Na6?! Magnus felt it was already “very, very hard to hold” and he went about limiting the knight immediately with 19.Rbc1 Qd7 20.Bf4 Rac8 21.Qg3. It summed up the game that the moment the knight finally left a6 was when Magnus could start collecting.
32.Bxh6! Qg4! gave Radek at least some activity, but Magnus timed trading down into a queen and then a pawn ending perfectly. It was just the kind of game he plays better than anyone else in the world.
In the final position the white king will come to b3 and Magnus will play a4 to create a passed pawn.
Magnus will now face 19-year-old Andrey Esipenko, who ended the FIDE World Cup of his compatriot Daniil Dubov, of whom he said, “He’s probably the worst opponent for me, and I’m very happy today!”
The first two 25-minute games were drawn, before Esipenko scored the crucial win in the first 10-minute game. 28…Nxb4?!, regaining a pawn, is hard to resist, but the pawn turned out to be poisoned:
29.Nf5! Rxd1 30.Rxd1 Nd5 31.Nd6! saw White post an “octopus” knight on d6, and Esipenko went on to win convincingly, if not flawlessly. 43.Qe7! was a nice final touch.
There was no way back for Daniil in the second 10-minute game, though Andrey admitted it had been nerve-wracking. Some might feel the same about facing Magnus Carlsen.
It’s very difficult, we played once, but it was only one game, and I’m really looking forward to the match.
What Andrey didn’t mention directly is that he won that one game against Magnus, in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year!
Duda qualified in classical games, while no. 5 seed Alexander Grischuk needed tiebreaks against Anton Korobov after two draws. Anton can be a beast in rapid chess, but on this occasion it was all essentially over after the blunder 21…Qb7? in the first game.
22.Bxf6! Bxf6 23.e5! and there was nothing better than 23…Be7 24.exd6 Bd8, when White had both won a pawn and gained a massive passed pawn on d6. You could argue with Grischuk’s decision to give up the exchange with 25.Re7!?, but it simplified the position and he went on to win smoothly, so that it seems more a case of Alexander drawing on his World Cup experience — in 2011 he reached the final only to fall to Peter Svidler.
Grischuk went on to hold the draw he needed in the next game with no trouble whatsoever.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the first player through to the Last 16, but Sergey Karjakin had to do things the hard way against Vladislav Artemiev. He summed up:
Of course I’m very happy that I won this crazy match — it was one of the most difficult matches in my life.
Sergey explained he’d been close to lost in the second classical game before he went on to lose the first rapid game after getting into “huge time trouble”. Only 24…Qc7? (24…Bf6!) was a losing mistake, however.
Vladislav, who had 5 minutes to his opponent’s 10 seconds, quickly spotted 25.Bxe7! Qxe7 26.Rxc8!, with the point that 26…Rxc8 runs into 27.Qg4+, picking up the rook.
We haven’t seen so much from Sergey Karjakin in the years since he won the 2015 World Cup to qualify for the 2016 Candidates, before pushing Magnus Carlsen all the way in the World Championship match, but what followed was the old Karjakin. He began to play fast and demonstrate nerves of steel and fantastic technique, with both the next two games minor masterpieces.
Sergey then made a draw from a position of strength in the final 10-minute game to set up the match against Maxime.
The only other top 16 seed to make it to the Top 16 was 13th seed Vidit, who overcame Jeffery Xiong in classical games. His opponent will not be 4th seed Anish Giri, as predicted by the bracket, but 93rd seed Vasif Durarbayli, who has battled through from Round 1, knocking out David Navara in Round 3 before facing 16-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov in Round 4. Vasif won the first classical game before Nodirbek hit back in the second.
Vasif said he wasn’t motivated after the loss, but he found motivation in a badly-worded chess24 tweet he took to imply that he was a big underdog in the match against the only slightly higher-rated Nodirbek Abdusattorov.
The motivation worked, and you could say Vasif, who as he points out was a World and European Youth Champion, dominated the tiebreaks… with one slip. He was much better in the first game until he played 31…f5?, allowing 32.Nd6+!
From there everything flowed for Nodirbek until he was able to execute a cute checkmate at the end.
43.Ra8+! and Black resigned. The game could have ended 43…Bxa8 44.Nc8+ Ka6 45.Rb6#.
Vasif had to hit back in the next game, but got a boost when his opponent went for exactly what he’d been looking at before the game. It all turned on the position after 12.a3.
The computer suggests 12…Nd8! and the black queen will survive its adventure, but 12…Bxa3? got Nodirbek into deep trouble after 13.Ne1!, threatening Nd3. The position was soon hopeless for Black, though Abdusattorov played on until move 53. The youngster then seemed almost on tilt for the two 10-minute games that followed, picking up another poisoned pawn on move 16 in the first, before finding himself essentially lost on move 9 in the must-win second game.
On paper 18th seed Peter Svidler was not supposed to be in the Last 16, but of course no-one treats his beating his St. Petersburg colleague Nikita Vitiugov as an upset — instead it was an intense match between two formidable and evenly-matched opponents.
Peter does the best post-game interviews, and began this one with:
I need to talk to Magnus, figure out who told him to play this yesterday, and send a bottle of booze to that person, because that was the extent of my preparation for the white game today. I noticed Magnus did this, and I spent like 10 minutes checking why Black cannot take on e4 — which they can, in a number of ways, but I thought as a kind of semi-bluff this works quite well — and I don’t know if I was even better, but I got a position. With White these days I very often don’t get to play a game because my opening preparation with White is lacklustre, let’s put it like this, and today I got a position which I could actually play, which is for me already a huge success.
He was referring to repeating the 8.c4!? pawn sacrifice that Magnus Carlsen had played against Radek Wojtaszek the day before, but the curious detail was that despite following the same line as Magnus, Peter hardly blitzed out his moves, delaying 15.g4 for 7 minutes!
Here Nikita varied, however, playing 15…d5!? instead of Wojtaszek’s 15…exf4. It turned out that was the start of the sacrifice of a full piece: 16.cxd5 Nfxd5 17.Bxd5 Nxd5 18.Nxd5. The computer claims Black has close to full compensation, but it did set Peter a very clear task — consolidate and win! With some twists along the way, that’s how it went, with the game also featuring a nice finish.
40.Bxg7! Kxg7 41.f6+ was mate-in-8, as Peter began to demonstrate until Nikita threw in the towel.
The second game was evidence that Peter doesn’t always have as bad opening preparation as he claims. He’d had everything up to 18…e5! in a Grünfeld on his screen at home.
“You have to check that the endgame after 19.dxe6 is not lost, but it’s not”, explained Peter, and the rest after 19.Qxa7 Bc4 was relatively straightforward.
Peter now plays 31st seed Sam Shankland, who overcame no. 2 seed Fabiano Caruana’s conqueror Rinat Jumabayev in the classical games.
This was predicted to be Andreikin-Aronian, but Levon never pushed a pawn in anger and 30th seed Vladimir Fedoseev has been moving very smoothly through the bracket, including beating Vladislav Kovalev 2:0 in classical games in Round 4.
18-year-old 110th seed Velimir Ivic, meanwhile, has had a sensational run, knocking out Paco Vallejo, then Matthias Bluebaum and now 2014 World Cup finalist Dmitry Andreikin. The Serbian is the youngest player remaining in the tournament, and he’s there fully on merit. Other players might have been upset after missing a win in the 2nd classical game, but he came straight back to win the first 25-minute game. What’s the secret?
I’m really happy, I never expected to play this well, but I’m just playing and not thinking too much, so it’s going really good.
In the first tiebreak game Andreikin went to c6 with his queen, but missed the chance to evacuate it in time, so that he was forced into one of the saddest moves you’ll see on a chessboard.
28…Ra6 is threatened to win the white queen, so Dmitry here played the best move in the position 28.Nc4!, simply giving up the piece so his queen can escape on the a8-h1 diagonal (26.Ne3-g2, 27.Ne3 had certainly not been the best manoeuvre in the position!).
That should have been that, but the calm way Dmitry gave up material was followed by a ferocious fight. He managed to fully equalise, before 70.Kg4? should, again, have been game over.
Velimir instantly took the chance to get behind his passed pawn with 70…Rb4+ 71.Kh5 Ra4 and when he queened it next move he admitted he was just waiting for his opponent to resign. That never happened, with Dmitry trying every last trick before Velimir finally found checkmate.
The second game was must-win with Black for Andreikin, but this time Ivic dominated from start to finish to become the only <2600 player to reach the Last 16.
This match-up was expected to be Firouzja-Dominguez, but Polish 89th seed Kacper Piorun hasn’t needed tiebreaks as he’s knocked out Markus Ragger, Jorden van Foreest and Javokhir Sindarov. He’ll now face French 41st seed Etienne Bacrot, who has needed tiebreaks in all three of his matches so far, but has also won them all 1.5:0.5 in the 25-minute games.
Etienne dominated the Round 4 tiebreaks against Pavel Ponkratov, missing winning chances with Black in the first game before having a crushing position by move 13 with White in the second.
The 8th and final Last 16 match-up in the Open sees 59th seed Haik Martirosyan take on 86th seed Amin Tabatabaei, with neither player needing tiebreaks.
Once again the story was the exact opposite in the women’s event, with the favourites winning all four Round 4 tiebreaks and the quarterfinal pairings Goryachkina-Saduakassova, Anna Muzychuk-Dzagnidze and Lagno-Tan Zhongyi exactly as predicted before the tournament began.
Both players are a surprise on paper in Kosteniuk-Gunina, but not a major one, since both Alexandra Kosteniuk and Valentina Gunina have been rated at around the 2550 level before. Alexandra is already back above 2500 on the live rating list.
That doesn’t mean things have always been easy, however, even for the top two seeds. Aleksandra Goryachkina won a 9th game with White in a row but then was losing in the second tiebreak game.
Antoaneta Stefanova, with White, has two extra passed pawns and could win here with 45.Kb6!, with the point that 45…f3 can be met by 46.c6! and 46…Nxc6 47.Bb5 wins the piece, with the bishop still in time to stop the f-pawn. Of course that wasn’t the only option, but after 45.h4, and a few more imprecise moves, Goryachkina’s central passed pawns actually went on to win the day.
Kateryna Lagno knocked out 17-year-old Bibisara Assaubayeva, but only after a first tiebreak game that could have been a blow it was tough to come back from. She was winning by move 30 and could give mate in a dozen moves by move 60, but instead it was nail-biting. As late as move 105 Bibisara had a draw.
It turns out 105.Rg3+! Kh5 (105…Kxg3 is stalemate!) 106.Rxh3+! (the same trick) is just a drawn Rook vs. Rook + Bishop endgame, though it should be said that the ending is very often won by the side with the bishop.
Instead after 105.Rf1 Kh4 106.Rf7 Re1+ 107.Kh2 Bg1+ Bibisara resigned, with mate-in-2 to follow.
Kateryna said that her husband Alexander Grischuk pointed out how she could have broken down the fortress afterwards.
The other two tiebreak matches went to 10-minute games, with Dinara Saduakassova easing to a 2:0 win over Alina Kashlinskaya, while Nana Dzagnidze completed her comeback against Polina Shuvalova.
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