The battle for Candidates qualification goes to quarterfinal tiebreaks on Monday after the MVL-Andreikin and So-Nepomniachtchi matches began with quick draws in classical chess. Karjakin-Wei Yi was drawn in only 8 moves on Saturday, but they made up for that with an entertaining exchange of unusual tactics in the return game. Only David Navara managed to finish off his opponent in classical chess and reach the semifinal after dominating the second game against Dmitry Jakovenko from start to finish.
You can replay all the games from Jerusalem using the selector below:
And here’s the commentary on the second day of the quarterfinals in Jerusalem:
“For this one event I cannot be entertaining, at least not if it diminishes my chances,” said Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is firmly focused on qualifying for the Candidates. Wild card Dmitry Andreikin admitted his own thoughts are turning to the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Moscow from 26-30 December, something he shares with a Dutch grandmaster:
The first quarterfinal game was an entirely forgettable 20-move Exchange French draw. The second game wasn’t much better, but Maxime noted that the line of the English played had become a French-Russian speciality! Dmitry said he had an idea to improve after the 11…f6 Maxime had used to beat Ian Nepomniachtchi in the recent Sinquefield Cup, but Maxime switched to 11…e6. The way the game went followed a famous game by another French Grandmaster, Joël Lautier, against another Russian, Garry Kasparov, from 1997. FM Joachim Iglesias featured that game in his recent Ultimate blunder article, where it was an example of making a draw in a won position:
All French players, at least of a certain age, know that Joël Lautier has a positive score in classical games against Garry Kasparov (+2, -1, =7). The score could have been equal if in this position after 20.Rc7? Garry had, instead of taking a draw, played 20…c5!, winning the b4-pawn by force since 21.bxc5?? Rb8 loses the bishop. The lesser evil would have been 21.b5 Rb8 with an extra pawn for Black.
History wasn’t repeated in Jerusalem, since instead of 20.Rc7? Dmitry played 20.Kf1 Rb8 21.Rc7 (only now!) 21…Bxb4 23.Rxc6 Bxc3 24.Rxc3 and a draw was agreed. Taking the match to tiebreaks did no harm to Maxime’s Candidates chances since no-one picked up a bonus point for winning in classical chess in the other key match either:
It tells you most of what you need to know about these two games that Wesley So finished them with 1 hour and 37 minutes on his clock after starting with 1 hour and 30 minutes. Just two of his total of 40 moves required over 30 seconds of thought. Ian Nepomniachtchi did have to do some thinking at the board, but was never in danger.
In a day’s play notorious for short draws the 8-move first game of this match still managed to stand out!
It’s perhaps unfair to single it out for special criticism, however, since Wei Yi’s 6…g5! looks to be a worthy addition to chess theory:
Karjakin thought for 11 minutes before playing 7.f3 Rg8 (7…g4 is also still possible) 8.Nc4, and his draw offer was agreed. He later explained:
There were more or less two reasons why it finished so fast. First of all, I had a difficult match yesterday, but also my opponent was very well-prepared for the sideline which is not popular at all.
Karjakin had seen 6…g5 before (it is, after all, suggested by the computer!), but says a “friend” told him, “don’t worry, this will not happen!”
Sergey made it 11 draws in a row in Jerusalem by also drawing the return game, but there could be no complaints about that one. In a Nimzo-India Sergey played not 12…Nxg4, as Anish Giri had against Hikaru Nakamura in the 2019 Sinquefield Cup, but 12…Nd7!? Sergey was aiming to play f5 or h5, but after 35 minutes’ thought Wei Yi decided to punish his opponent for not eliminating the knight:
13.Nh6+! Play continued 13…gxh6 14.Qg4+ Kh8 15.Qf5 Nf6 16.Nxd5!
The looming threat of mate on h7 means the f6-knight is pinned, which would be fatal if not for 16…Nxd4!.
The mayhem continued with 17.Qxf6+ Qxf6 18.Nxf6 Nf3+! 19.gxf3 Rg8+:
Sergey had seen all this in advance and thought he was simply winning, since White quickly gets mated if he takes on g8. What he was shocked to discover was that the Chinese player had 20.Ng4!, with the huge threat of Bc3+ next. Karjakin was happy to find there was the defence 20…Be5! and after 21.Be2 Bxb2 it might seem, with h5 about to win back the piece, that things were finally quieting down. Instead, another bolt from the blue!
22.Rxc5! bxc5 23.Rb1! and that attack on both bishops gave Wei Yi a position where his bishop pair and pawns gave him some hopes of defeating Black’s rook and bishop. In the end, however, Sergey gave back the exchange as the game fizzled out into a draw on move 40.
The one player already through to the semi-finals is David Navara, though his match against Dmitry Jakovenko also got off to a quiet start with an 18-move draw in the Giuoco Piano. Queens were exchanged on move 14 in the second, but it turned out that with a huge space advantage and well-placed pieces Navara was close to winning. Jakovenko attempted to create dynamic counterplay in a difficult position with 24…g5?!, but it backfired:
25.d6! cost David 15 minutes, but it was a move as strong as it was natural, and a later decision by Dmitry not to exchange off a pair of rooks left him helplessly boxed in and pinned:
Rather than wait for a (relatively) slow death, Jakovenko opted for 33…Rxc7?! 34.dxc7 Rxd1 35.c8=Q Bxb4, but, after confirming this wasn’t one of those positions where a rook and bishop can match a queen, he resigned just two moves later.
That means it’s Navara who will play the winner of Karjakin-Wei Yi, though all the focus in the tiebreaks will be on the other half of the draw. The chance of qualifying for the Candidates will have gone for the player who loses the So-Nepomniachtchi clash (and if Wesley wins he needs MVL to lose), while MVL will still have a chance even if he loses to Dmitry Andreikin (the chance is much bigger if Wesley wins). Of course his Plan A will be to beat Dmitry and then qualify for the Candidates by beating Nepomniachtchi in the semifinals, if required.
Tune in to the crucial quarterfinal tiebreak action live here on chess24 from 14:00 CET!
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