Reports Sep 15, 2019 | 9:37 AMby Colin McGourty

Khanty World Cup 2.2: Naka out as Firouzja stars

Hikaru Nakamura is out of the 2019 FIDE World Cup after Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu not only held on for a draw but was close to a second win. The day’s comebacks were instead for Wei Yi, who defeated David Anton, and Eltaj Safarli, who was rewarded for playing the Evans Gambit when 15-year-old Nihal Sarin blundered in time pressure. Only Nisipeanu and Xu Xiangyu (who beat Ernesto Inarkiev) are surprises among the 17 players already through to Round 3, but top seed Ding Liren and 2nd seed Anish Giri are among the 30 players facing tiebreaks today.

Alireza Firouzja scored a brilliant win over Daniil Dubov to reach Round 3 | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

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

And here’s the live commentary on Game 2 of Round 2 (there are two parts because of technical issues in Khanty-Mansiysk in the middle of the round):

Winning on demand

Hikaru Nakaura couldn't find a way back against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

11 players went into the second game of Round 2 needing to win on demand to force tiebreaks, but only two of them pulled it off. 14th seed Hikamura Nakamura wasn’t one of those, since he came up against some wily play from 43-year-old Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. The German no. 1 avoided his usual sharp openings with Black and played the Petroff, and then with the rare 8…c5 he already got his opponent thinking. He avoided the mistake of playing too passively and instead pushed in the centre, and when Nakamura became too focused on the kingside Nisipeanu pounced on the queenside:

18…c4! was a blockbuster move, blowing open the white king position. After 19.Rxd4 (19.b4 d3! doesn't help) 19…Qa5 20.Bxc4 Bxc4 21.bxc4?! Bxa3+ 22.Kd1 Hikaru was a pawn up, but it went without saying that the tripled isolated c-pawns were unlikely to be the harbingers of victory. White was dead lost when he played 30.Re1:

The computer suggests simply 30…Kh8, unpinning the knight on c4, leaves Black with a crushing position, but as the players had reached the required 30 moves 30…Re8+, with a draw offer, also got the job done for Nisipeanu.

The two players who did succeed in winning on demand both showed a willingness to gamble in the opening:

Wei Yi’s use of the 3…h5 line championed by Ian Nepomniachtchi eventually gave him exactly the kind of messy, double-edged position he needed in which to outplay David Anton. Magnus Carlsen’s half-sung “he’s going home” the day before may prove to be premature!

Despite Nihal Sarin's crushing win the day before his match against Eltaj Safarli has now gone to tiebreaks | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Eltaj Safarli meanwhile warmed the hearts of chess romantics everywhere by playing the famous Evans Gambit, which immediately succeeded in getting 15-year-old Nihal Sarin to spend 9 minutes before deciding to accept it. We’ve noted in previous reports that although Nihal has been playing brilliantly in Khanty-Mansiysk the smoothness of his moves isn’t matched by his time handling, that often seems to invite disaster. This time it was more extreme than before, with Nihal down to a minute on his clock by move 20. His opponent was also struggling, and the young Indian’s position was good-to-winning, but disaster did indeed strike on move 32:

32…Raf8 would have been one good option here for Black, but without playing that move Nihal went for the immediate 32…Rg6??, simply dropping a piece to 33.Rxf2. A few more moves were played by inertia, but there was no way back. That means that after Eltaj Safarli’s dramatic tiebreak victory over Sam Shankland he’ll get the chance to knock out another higher-rated fan favourite in tiebreaks.

Sometimes life is tough, even for prodigies | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Harikrishna, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Sergey Karjakin, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian, Vladislav Artemiev and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov all got the draw (or better) they required to reach Round 3 after winning the first game of Round 2, with two of those players interviewed afterwards:

In Mamedyarov’s case, he got through by the very finest of margins. Rustam Kasimdzhanov’s choice of line in the Italian proved not just objectively strong, but perhaps psychologically cunning as well:

This position was reached with Mamedyarov playing White vs. Karjakin in a controversial game from last year’s Norway Chess. Magnus Carlsen later suggested it might have been a pre-arranged draw:

That game featured spectacular complications with 16.Re1 Kh7 17.Qf3 d5 18.exd5 Bxd5 19.Qf5+ g6 20.Nxg6!, but this time a sacrifice came sooner as Rustam followed the novelty 16.Nhf5 with 16…d5 17.Nxh6+ gxh6 18.Bxh6:

The game was relatively fast-moving until this point, but here Mamedyarov sank into 33 minutes of thought before playing 18…dxe4?!, which while the computer’s first choice at a low depth appears to be a losing move the deeper you search. 

Rustam Kasimdzhanov caught Mamedyarov in the opening but couldn't quite get the win he needed | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Kasim’s 19.Rxe4! was the correct reply (again after 33 minutes!), but it’s all but impossible to describe what followed with any certainty, since it’s a treacherous position where evaluations change the further you go down the rabbit hole – it’s certainly the kind of game you’d have preferred to pre-arrange! The feeling is that Rustam’s regular stand-in Fabiano Caruana would have found a way to bring the game to victory, but instead Mamedyarov went on to have a close escape and move into the next round.

Xu Xiangyu marches on

As with many Nepomniachtchi games, this required a "don't try this at home" warning | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

It wasn’t a day for upsets in Khanty-Mansiysk, though 5th seed Ian Nepomniachtchi 13…a5?! novelty in the Grünfeld is unlikely to get any followers. Fellow Russian Alexandr Predke was soon two pawns up, and made it three on move 21:

21.Qxf7+!? Kh8 (21…Kxf7 22.Ng5+) 22.Qc4 and if White could consolidate his chances were good, but it was no great surprise that Nepomniachtchi applied too much pressure on the clock and on the board and eventually White collapsed – after all, we’ve seen Nepo do that consistently against the world’s very best players.

So in the end the only real surprise, other than Nisipeanu’s ousting of Nakamura, was that 19-year-old 2576-rated Xu Xiangyu followed up his win over Bu Xiangzhi by beating Ernesto Inarkiev. The Chinese player missed some earlier tactical shots, but the one that decided the game was worth the wait!

23.Rxg7!! Kxg7 24.Bxe4!, exploited the fact the f6-knight is now pinned. After 24…Nxe4 25.Qxe4 White would have a nice edge, while after 24…Nd7?! 25.Ne5! in the game Black was completely busted, though Ernesto played on until move 46.

Alireza Firouzja turns on the style

There were some impressive victories on Saturday, including a smooth position crush by Wesley So against Anton Demchenko, but the most memorable came from 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja. Since he outrated Daniil Dubov (he was the 32nd seed and Daniil the 33rd!) it wasn’t formally an upset, but knocking out an experienced player like Dubov, who has starred in previous World Cups, was an impressive achievement. And then there’s the way he did it: down to just over a minute on his clock no-one would have criticised Firouzja for taking a draw by repetition here, but instead…

37.exd6!! was a brilliant piece sacrifice, that was followed up by the precise 37…Rxb8 38.Re1! Kf8 39.Re7! Rd8 40.a6! Rxd6 41.a7!

Dubov should probably still have been able to defend this position, but in the end the a-pawn cost Black his rook and Firouzja went on to win a fantastic game.

15 tiebreak matches

Ding Liren isn’t yet confirmed in Round 3, since he didn’t object to a quick draw with the black pieces against Sergei Movsesian

Movsesian has taken his match with Ding Liren to tiebreaks | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

In total 13 matches started with two draws, with many of them seeing little fight – in fact the equally fast Christiansen-Alekseenko followed Movsesian-Ding for the first 21 moves. Other top players in the tiebreaks include no. 2 seed Anish Giri, as well as Alexander Grischuk, Leinier Dominguez, Yu Yangyi, Peter Svidler and Teimour Radjabov.

Those clashes will all be decided on Sunday, while we already know four of the match-ups for Monday’s Round 3: So-Vidit, Nepomniachtchi-Tomashevsky, Andreikin-Duda and Artemiev-Le Quang Liem. That’s going to be fantastic, with Jan Gustafsson back to commentate alongside Laurent Fressinet, but first don’t miss the tiebreak matches from the usual time on Sunday. Follow all the action live here on chess24 from 12:00 CEST!

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