Reports Sep 12, 2019 | 9:52 AMby Colin McGourty

Khanty World Cup 1.2: A Svidler masterpiece

David Navara and Nils Grandelius lost their second games in Khanty-Mansiysk to join Radek Wojtaszek, Jorge Cori, Arkadij Naiditsch and Ruslan Ponomariov as big name players who are already out of the 2019 World Cup. In all only five of the 33 players who needed to win on demand on Wednesday managed, with Iran’s Ehsan Ghaem Maghami standing out for a 132-move win over world no. 10 Yu Yangyi. 23 matches have gone to tiebreaks, including Nakamura-Bellahcene, after Hikaru took a 16-move draw with the black pieces.

Eteri Kublashvili interviews Peter Svidler, who won a beautiful miniature | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

You can replay all the games from the 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk World Cup using the selector below:

And here’s the day’s live commentary:

The siren call of tiebreaks: 18 matches begin with 2 draws

One feature we’re used to seeing in World Cups is that a healthy percentage of players, and one that tends to increase as the event goes on, are happy to take their matches to tiebreaks. You could see that on Day 2, when the following pairs made a second draw in their classical games. Although there are some exceptions (Andreikin, Matlakov and Korobov all pushed hard to win with White), most of the games were fast, and it won’t surprise you to learn that the anti-draw regulations in Khanty-Mansiysk forbid draw offers only before move 30:  

  • Piorun-Abasov, 31 moves
  • Wang Hao-Pridorozhni, 32 moves
  • Bok-Saric, 30 moves
  • Xu-Bu, 35 moves
  • Predke-Sarana, 23 moves
  • Petrov-Tomashevsky, 27 moves
  • Adams-Aravindh, 31 moves
  • Tabatabaei-Amin, 31 moves
  • Andreikin-Mekhitarian, 47 moves
  • Safarli-Shankland, 33 moves
  • Sjugirov-Mareco, 34 moves
  • Delgado-McShane, 31 moves
  • Bellahcene-Nakamura, 16 moves
  • Nisipeanu-Parligras, 41 moves
  • Matlakov-Abdusattorov, 34 moves
  • Lu Shanglei-Gelfand, 26 moves
  • Aleksandrov-Le Quang Liem, 36 moves
  • Korobov-Gupta, 62 moves

It may be a surprise, however, to see that as combative a player as Boris Gelfand made the quickest draw of the day, while Hikaru Nakamura’s 16-move draw was the fastest in terms of moves played (both games were drawn by repetition). 

No-one has ever accused Boris Gelfand of a lack of fighting spirit, but he was fine with taking his match to tiebreaks | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

It’s not new to see Hikaru put his faith in his rapid skills, a tactic we’ve seen none other than World Champion Magnus Carlsen apply in World Championship matches. Why risk everything on one game, especially with Black, when you can play at least a couple of faster games instead? The weaker players are often happy to accept that bargain, since there’s a perceived increase in randomness in faster games, as well as the prestige, and rating points, involved in scoring draws against a higher-rated opponent. Magnus, talking to Jan Gustafsson during the Moscow Grand Prix, nevertheless thought that the underdogs are often harming their chances:

There’s this thing called ‘sudden death aversion’, that I think affects a lot of people. You make decisions that give you a lesser chance of winning overall, but decisions that at least extend the game or the match, because you feel like, “as long as I’m in it I have a chance, and losing it right now because I did something risky would be very unpleasant”. I very much understand that, but you’re not always going to maximise your chances this way.  


Comeback kids: 5 matches feature a win for each player

In total we’re going to have 23 tiebreak matches on Thursday, since five of the 33 players trailing after Day 1 managed to win on demand and level their matches. It was impressive from the Indian contingent in Khanty-Mansiysk, as Ganguly and Narayanan applied a long squeeze to beat Vladimir Fedoseev and David Anton, while Sethuraman, who had blundered in the first round, won a totally crazy game against Israel’s Tamir Nabaty. 24.Qc6? turned out to be a mistake:


24…Bh6+! 25.Kc2 Qxf2! and now 26.Nxe4 runs into 26…Qg2!, so Nabaty went for more madness with 26.Nxf7+, though the complications were never working in his favour.

Constantin Lupulescu made up for losing a won position in Game 1 with an impressive attacking win over Igor Kovalenko, but the hero of the day was Iran’s Ehsam Ghaem Maghami, who pulled off what seemed a mission impossible by beating world no. 10 Yu Yangyi on demand. 

Ehsam Ghaem Maghami beat Yu Yangyi in 132 moves! | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website  

A slow squeeze had worked brilliantly and he could have finished things off on move 55:


If he’d played 55.Rf1! now, with Bb3+ to follow, the king would be stranded on the h8-square with the mating threats leaving Black totally paralysed – the e-pawn could waltz down the board and win the game. Instead 55.Bb3+ allowed the king to flee into the centre of the board and it took another 77 moves for Ehsam finally to break through and win!

At least his opponent should be just as tired as he is for the tiebreaks!

15 matches end 2:0, including heroics by Christiansen and Huschenbeth

Ian Nepomniachtchi was among the players to win both their games | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Many of the usual suspects successfully won both games against weaker opposition, with Ding Liren taking full advantage of the 400-point rule (that a rating difference of greater than 400 points is treated as if it was only 400 points) to overtake Fabiano Caruana and become the world no. 2 on the live rating list, at least until Friday!

Other top players such as Alexander Grischuk, Wesley So, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Anish Giri and Harikrishna made easy work of their games. Daniel Anwuli put up good resistance for much of the game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but couldn’t stop the Frenchman’s passed pawn – the players parted on good terms!

Fy Antenaina Rakotomahoro from Madagascar may briefly have got optimistic when he forked Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s knights, but they were soon gone, as was the game!

Leinier Dominguez also briefly seemed to have lost control against Alder Escobar from Colombia, but he had a trick up his sleeve:


39…Qh6+!, and whatever White does it’s mate next move.

The 2:0 winners included some young stars, with 18-year-old US Grandmaster Jeffery Xiong needing just 17 moves before his experienced opponent Igor Lysyj waved the white flag. He gave an interview to Eteri Kublashvili afterwards:

So did 15-year-old Indian Nihal Sarin, who completed the elimination of 39th seed Jorge Cori after an impressive game where despite pressure on the clock he was always better with the black pieces before crashing through at the end. Asked if he wanted to be World Champion he replied, “yes, one day, maybe!”

The biggest hero of the day, however, was 21-year-old Norwegian Johan-Sebastian Christiansen. He only needed a draw with White to complete the upset of 16th seed Radek Wojtaszek, but commented, “I chose to play some crazy variation, because to play boring is not my style really!” It was a clever choice in the Sicilian of a line where objectively the best option for Black would have been to accept a forced draw. Since that meant elimination Radek had to fight on with dubious moves, but in the end it was Johan who avoided a repetition to go on and score an amazing victory:

He was also interviewed afterwards:

If you were wondering how much World Cup victories can mean to the players you have to look no further than 27-year-old German Grandmaster Niclas Huschenbeth’s reaction on completing a 2:0 win over former German no. 1 Arkadij Naiditsch:

Niclas had never beaten Arkadij before in classical games and the end of the game had also been incredibly tense, with both players down to seconds. On move 40 Niclas could have sealed a draw by repetition, but instead went for the kill, with Naiditsch resigning on the spot.

A win followed by a draw: 13 matches

Following a win with a draw, as the likes of Sergey Karjakin and Teimour Radjabov did, is the “professional” match approach, though such outcomes aren’t always so smooth!

18-year-old Sam Sevian completed his victory over Aryan Tari like this, while 17-year-old Andrey Esipenko also gave no chances as he knocked out 2002 World Chess Champion Ruslan Ponomariov. Esipenko confessed that his pre-match strategy had been based on rapid chess, since he wasn’t expecting to get much in classical against as solid a player as Ruslan. The Ukrainian gave details of how he lost the first game, and of an unpleasant incident between the games:

Rusada, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, is currently suspended from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) due to the scandal that resulted in Russian athletes being banned from the 2016 Summer Olympics, and you might also wonder if anti-doping is really required in chess, where the obvious cheating threat is instead from computer (or human) assistance during games. The most common reason given for anti-doping checks is that organisers are still dreaming of getting chess included in the Olympics, where such checks are obligatory. 

A draw followed by a win: 13 matches

If a game has ever been worth analysing afterwards it's this one! | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

That brings us to the last category, which produced the game of the round and two more surprises. Peter Svidler said he’d been like a zombie in the first game against Carlos Albornoz of Cuba, and the second was, “a brief reminder to myself that it might make sense to know some openings". Peter played 12.e6!?, a known theoretical line, without knowing the theory…

…but it would work out perfectly. He described 12…g6 13.Nc3 f5?! as “a gift”, but from there on it was all about the 8-time Russian Champion’s tactical brilliance.


19.Bf4!!, stopping mate on h2 just long enough for White to crash through, will be hard to beat as the move of the event, even if Peter himself was regretful afterwards about not playing the other move he’d looked at, 19.Re5!!? That’s also brilliant, but not quite as decisive, while the game ended after 19…Nxf4 20.Nb5! Qb6 21.Nd4!! and the board was, we hope, showered with gold coins:

Don’t miss Peter going through that game:

Inarkiev, Vidit, Vitiugov, Wei Yi and Artemiev were among the other players to win after drawing their first game, while Levon Aronian stuck true to his plan of sacrificing an exchange against Essam El Gindy, the oldest player in the event. This time it worked!

Persistance paid off for Levon Aronian | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

There were also some real surprises, however, with 23rd seed David Navara having a second tough day at the office against 106th seed Daniil Yuffa. David’s 25…a5!? allowed the young Russian to exploit the suddenly loose piece on b5:


25…d4! 26.Bxd4 Bxg2+! 27.Kxg2 Qd5+ 28.Rf3 Qxb5 left material equal, but it was White who had to defend accurately to survive. That was something Navara, a World Cup quarterfinalist in Khanty-Mansiysk in 2011, couldn’t manage, and his king was eventually caught in a mating net.

The other major upset was 36th seed Nils Grandelius losing to Russia’s Aleksandr Rakhmanov after doing unspeakable things in the opening and never quite recovering.

Firouzja-Dubov is one of the confirmed clashes for Round 2 | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

When the dust had settled we knew the participants of 13 of the Round 2 matches:

  • Ding Liren-Movsesian
  • Firouzja-Dubov
  • Christiansen-Alekseenko
  • So-Demchenko
  • Vidit-Rakhmanov
  • Karjakin-Sevian
  • Vitiugov-Huschenbeth
  • Giri-Najer
  • Mamedyarov-Kasimdzhanov
  • Jakovenko-Jones
  • Svidler-Esipenko
  • Aronian-Maghsoodloo
  • Artemiev-Cheparinov

As you can see, there are already some mouth-watering clashes, but we still have the small business of 23 tiebreak matches to be completed before we know the pairings for the remaining 19 matches.

The old dream team of Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent will be reunited (click the British flag under the video)…


…and we hope to see you following all the action live here on chess24 from 12:00 CEST!

See also:


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