Reports Sep 14, 2019 | 10:27 AMby Colin McGourty

Khanty World Cup 2.1: Nakamura & Wei Yi lose

Hikaru Nakamura must win his second classical game or he’s out of the 2019 World Cup after blitzing out a blunder on move 14 of his game against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. David Anton beating Wei Yi was the only other upset win, but there was nearly a true sensation as top seed Ding Liren found himself dead lost for one move against Sergei Movsesian. World Champion Magnus Carlsen joined Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent for two hours of their live commentary on the round.

Something went badly wrong in the opening as Hikaru Nakamura must now win on Saturday to avoid an early World Cup exit | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Replay all the games from the 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk FIDE World Cup using the selector below:

Magnus Carlsen on the World Cup

World Champion Magnus Carlsen this year chose not to play in the FIDE World Cup, though he will play in the FIDE Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man that follows next month. He doesn’t feel he should be eligible for either event:

Magnus: For the life of me I cannot figure out why I’m allowed to play in it!

Jan: Do you feel you shouldn’t be allowed in the World Cup and the Isle of Man and tournaments where you can qualify for playing you?

Magnus: Yeah, I think it’s pretty obvious that I shouldn’t, but I don’t have any morals, so it’s ok!

He was asked by Jan if he watches the World Cup with an eye on the future Candidates Tournament, perhaps hoping that weaker players will qualify:

I think it depends on me, to be honest. If I play the way I played in the Sinquefield Cup then anybody can be dangerous – otherwise, I think I’m fine. So no, I’m interested in this event mostly as a chess fan, because it’s fun to watch, and then also trying to pick up any new ideas, but in terms of who qualifies then no, it doesn’t make much of a difference.

The good thing for chess fans about Magnus not playing is that we’ll get the chance to listen to him commentate from time to time, and on Friday he was live for almost two hours (as a disembodied voice, as he once again had webcam issues while connecting from an undisclosed location). You can rewatch his appearance below:

As you’ll see, the interaction with Lawrence Trent is one of the highlights of the appearance, with the first “compliment” Magnus paid Lawrence arguably a little double-edged!

But more were to follow!

Magnus: I heard a lot of things you said yesterday, Lawrence, and I’ve got to say the wisest things you said were the ones about chess. This was a genuine compliment. I listened to a lot of things you said about chess and I found myself thinking, that’s actually not too bad, that might be true.

Lawrence: You’re saying, for the thousands of people listening, that I have uttered words of chess wisdom?

Magnus: Exactly.

Lawrence: Clip it!

Magnus: And it amazes me that you can actually some talk some sense about chess and play so badly. Your play sort of screams out that you don’t know anything!   

Ok, so that compliment was a little backhanded as well! Now let’s get to the games, with quotes from the World Champion included where they’re relevant.

Nakamura, Wei Yi (and almost Ding Liren) go down

It’s hard not still to think of Hikaru Nakamura as a Top 10 player, but he currently finds himself the world no. 23 with a 2733.6 rating, after a couple of years when he’s completely failed to impress in classical chess. Days like this Friday the 13th won’t do anything to improve that impression.

Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu was the man of the hour after beating Hikaru Nakamura | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Nakamura had Black against German no. 1 Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu and looked to be in complete control as he blitzed out his moves while Nisipeanu took a 28-minute think before giving up his queen on move 12. Liviu-Dieter later commented, “I remember that I looked at it, but I couldn’t remember the conclusions”. “Of course it’s not a pleasant feeling when you sacrifice something and your opponent continues to play quickly,” he added, with Nakamura responding to the sacrifice almost instantly. A move later, however, and Hikaru also blitzed out what may have been the losing move:


Here Hikaru went for 14…e5?, when 15.Bxe5 or 15.Nxd6, as Nisipeanu played in the game, both look crushing. There was no immediate explanation for what went wrong, but one possibility is that Hikaru had prepared 14…c3!? (14…Qa5 is the other engine choice, though there White can immediately force a draw with 15.Bd2 Qb6 16.Be3 and so on) 15.bxc3 e5!, which looks to be playable.

In the game 15…cxd6? ended any hopes of Black surviving, though White was also doing very well in what Nisipeanu called the “completely insane” position after 15…exf4! Two-time French Champion Laurent Fressinet analyses the game:

And here’s Nisipeanu afterwards, commenting “I expect to face a beast!” when asked about the next game which Nakamura will have to go all-out to win with the white pieces:

20-year-old Chinese star Wei Yi had a tough day at the office and was the subject of some tough words from our commentary team. Lawrence Trent asked if 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja (who played out a thrilling draw against Daniil Dubov) was the one who could challenge for the World Championship title:

Magnus: That’s impossible to say. Like wouldn’t you have bet your house on Wei Yi a few days ago?

Lawrence: Well I did, that’s why I’m back at chess24. That didn’t work out!

Later in the day the dialogue continued:

Jan: Poor Wei Yi, I still believe!

Lawrence: What, in this position?

Jan: No, just in Wei Yi in general. I still have a condo on Wei Yi Island.

Magnus: To paraphrase an English song, I’m gonna say, “we still believe, we still believe, he’s going home!”

David Anton took down Wei Yi with the black pieces | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

What had happened in the meantime? Well, 24-year-old David Anton from Spain, buoyed up by his tiebreak success the day before, had managed to build a devastating attack with the black pieces from what at first seemed an innocent position.


27…Nh8! was the start of a powerful regrouping, and soon Black was in total control, until 45.Qd1 was met by a nice final move:


45…Rd7! and Wei Yi resigned, meaning he now faces the tough task of winning on demand with Black on Saturday.

Things nearly got worse for China as Ding Liren was close to a shock defeat | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Those upsets were almost overshadowed by another one, though everything had started out very smoothly for top seed Ding Liren against Armenia’s Sergei Movsesian. Magnus was asked about who he saw as the favourite in Khanty-Mansiysk and responded:

How can you even start? Obviously nobody has even close to even money against the field. It’s hard to bet against Ding being the best player here, but it depends whether he has anything left in the tank after months and months of non-stop chess. Apart from that, there are plenty of good players but none of them I feel really stand out, at least if you’re going to make assumptions based on recent form.

But then something went wrong for Ding, as his kingside attack ran out of steam and he was left a pawn down. As Sergei began to take over, Magnus commented, “this is experience – 25 years of playing this style for Movsesian”, and then elaborated:

He also gets these positions in the Taimanov with Black which look really awful, he cannot castle, but he sort of wriggles out of it. He’s used to it! He’s a bit of a lazy guy, so he’s used to bad positions… He plays them very well because he’s extremely talented.

The game came down to one critical moment when Ding Liren played 37.Qf6?:


White is preparing to force a draw by sacrificing on g6, but it wouldn't have worked if Movsesian had gone for 37…Qe2!, since at the end the e3-bishop is hanging. If Ding didn’t go for the sacrifice then the Rh2 follow-up seems to be lethal. In the end, however, the tension only lasted slightly over 5 minutes, since after 37…Na5? Ding’s 38.Bxg6! was indeed forcing a draw. “It looks like Ding lived to see another day”, said Carlsen.

Stars, including 15-year-old Nihal Sarin, grab wins

There were 11 wins in total in the first game of Round 2, with many star players flexing their muscles. Sergey Karjakin, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Evgeny Tomashevsky scored slow but impressive positional wins over Sam Sevian, Igor Kovalenko and Aravindh, Harikrishna punished Vladimir Fedoseev repeatedly for misplacing a rook, while youngsters Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Vladislav Artemiev overpowered Ivan Cheparinov and Tamir Nabaty

MVL overcame resistance from the "very, very slippery" (Carlsen) Igor Kovalenko | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Levon Aronian finally won a slugfest against the “very, very resourceful” (Magnus) Parham Maghsoodloo, while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov scored a stylish win over Rustam Kasimdzhanov. “Gotta castle, folks!” said the World Champion, after Shakhriyar kept the black king in the centre and wasn’t afraid to sacrifice material:


23.Bxf7!? “I couldn’t calculate it to the end, but I felt I should make it, and he had very low time”, said the Azerbaijan no. 1. After 23…Kxf7 24.Ne2 Qf5 25.Ng3 Qf4 26.Ne5+ Ke6 27.Qa2+! White was winning in beautiful style, and although the computer says 26…Kg7! was still more or less equal Shakh didn’t believe it was the kind of thing Black could survive in a practical game.

Perhaps the best win of the day, however, was for 15-year-old Nihal Sarin, who slowly seized total control in the Breyer Variation of the Ruy Lopez:

After 30…Red8 Nihal followed up with the idea Magnus had suggested of 31.Ngf5! gxf5 32.Nxf5 and it was time for the young Indian to reap the rewards of his careful setup. Eltaj Safarli, who came into the match as a slight underdog after ousting Sam Shankland the day before, resigned on move 37, with all his pieces helpless bystanders on the wrong side of the board:


"A crushing win", said Magnus.

21 draws, but plenty of drama

There were quiet draws on Friday, but not as many as you might have expected, and there was plenty of drama. Some of it began even before the round, with the almost 7 minutes Johan-Sebastian Christiansen spent on replying to 1.e4 with 1...e6 later explained by the fact he thought he was going to have the white pieces!

The way the colour is decided for knockouts is complex (it turns out Christiansen is now representing the player he knocked out, 16th seed Radek Wojtaszek, in the draw) and looks to have been poorly communicated.

Kirill Alekseenko came close to taking advantage | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Whether Kirill Alekseenko realised his opponent was totally unprepared for the game or not, he applied maximum pressure by blitzing out his moves, only thinking for as much as five minutes on move 36 when he was already a pawn up. It was a deeply unpleasant ending for Johan to defend, with his compatriot Magnus Carlsen commenting:

If he manages to hold this I will be more impressed than by his games so far. That’s how you go far in these tournaments – not that I know anything about it!

Johan did indeed survive in 66 moves, and at least has the consolation of already being prepared for his game with the white pieces.

Jeffery Xiong was in real trouble at one point against Tabatabaei | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Elsewhere we already mentioned that Dubov-Firouzja was a thriller, while Magnus called Xiong-Tabatabaei “really a rollercoaster ride”. Tabatabaei was winning for a while and then had to defend a queen ending material down, in a clash between two 18-year-olds. Magnus was impressed by the young Iranian:

He’s a good player. He can play very well dynamically as well, but he’s maybe a bit more positionally inclined than Alireza and Maghsoodloo. The guy’s like 18 and 2650 almost, so what’s not to like?

Some things never change, and Alexander Grischuk spent 25 minutes on move 6 in a position seen 1000 times, before suffering somewhat in his draw against Benjamin Bok. Carlsen was asked about the eternal topic of Grischuk and time trouble:

I think a lot of times in life we spend lots of time on very marginal decisions and it doesn’t generally pay off. Sometimes it does and then you look brilliant, but most of the time it doesn’t, and you look foolish. It certainly helps that he’s very good at playing with very little time, otherwise it wouldn’t work at all, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

The days of the clean-shaven Alexander Grishcuk are over! | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

The day also featured some real curiosities, with Anton Korobov underpromoting a pawn to a knight on move 60 since any other piece would have been lost immediately to a fork. What made it amazing, however, is that the other knights had also survived to move 60, so we got something you don’t see every day!

The longest game of the day, meanwhile, was Daniil Yuffa’s clash with Luke McShane. At first Luke was on top with Black, but then his opponent took over and was an accurate move or two away from clinching victory. Instead he allowed Luke to escape to a position where he had a knight against two bishops:


Theoretically White can win the knight and give mate, but not within the 50 moves without a capture or pawn push allowed by the rules. Of course that’s with perfect play and humans can blunder, but Luke held on and finally claimed a draw on move 132.

That all means that in Saturday’s second games 11 players, including Hikaru Nakamura and Wei Yi, must play for a win to force tiebreaks on Sunday. This time we won’t have Jan, Lawrence or Magnus commentating, but you can tune in to Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Alex Yermolinsky and of course broadcasts in Spanish and Russian as well. Follow all the action live here on chess24 from 12:00 CEST!

See also:


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