Reports Sep 18, 2019 | 8:39 AMby Colin McGourty

Khanty World Cup 3.2: No way back

None of the seven players who had to win on demand on Tuesday managed, meaning that Sergey Karjakin (who lost to Nikita Vitiugov), Harikrishna (Kirill Alekseenko), Vidit (Wesley So), Dmitry Andreikin (Jan-Krzysztof Duda), Eltaj Safarli (Shakhriyar Mamedyarov), Daniil Yuffa (Teimour Radjabov) and Xu Xiangyu (Alexander Grischuk) are all out of the 2019 FIDE World Cup. They were joined by Maxim Matlakov, who lost with the white pieces to Levon Aronian. The remaining 8 matches will be decided in tiebreaks on Wednesday.

Levon Aronian was the one player to win after drawing the first game | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

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

And here’s the day’s commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Laurent Fressinet:

No heroic comebacks

The second games of Round 3 in Khanty-Mansiysk were a brutal illustration of why it’s so important not to go behind in knockout matches. None of the seven players who lost the first game managed to level the scores and force tiebreaks, and in truth none of them even came close. Let’s take the matches in order of the seeding numbers of those who were knocked out, starting with 13th seed, and 2015 World Cup winner, Sergey Karjakin.

The gang of Karjakin, Giri and Radjabov has been broken up as Sergey is now set to leave Khanty-Mansiysk | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Getting an extremely double-edged Giuoco Piano position wasn’t necessarily the worst outcome of the opening for Sergey in a must-win situation, and his risky pawn grab might have given long-term winning chances… but alas, there was to be no long-term in the game. Nikita Vitiugov didn’t make the mistake of avoiding complications and here finished things off fast:


22…Bxf2+! 23.Kxf2 Qg3+ 24.Kg1 (other moves lose) 24…Nf4! 25.Nf1 Nxh3+ 26.Kh1 Nf2+ and the game ended in a draw by repetition.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda hasn't needed tiebreaks yet and his draw against Dmitry Andreikin was enough to see him climb another two places to world no. 18 on the live rating list | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

15th seed Dmitry Andreikin faced Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and might have taken some comfort from the way the young Polish player had approached some previous situations when he only needed a draw – most memorably playing the Sicilian and sacrificing an exchange by move 15 against Wesley So in the Moscow Grand Prix. That didn’t end well, but there was to be no repeat, with Duda playing pragmatic chess, particularly when he exchanged off queens on move 20 rather than fighting for more. The game fizzled out into a 41 move draw.

Knockouts are tough | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

It was another bad day for India, who started the World Cup second only to Russia (28) with 10 players, but now have no representatives left. 17th seed Harikrishna did everything he could to complicate matters against 22-year-old wild card Kirill Alekseenko from Russia:


Kirill later criticised the exchange sacrifice 26.Nxe5!, but it seems it was only later in the complications that Harikrishna went astray. Best play would most likely have led to a draw and elimination in any case, but as it was Kirill went on to win a second game and has now climbed 21 places to enter the Top 50 with a 2687.4 rating.

Vidit is also out | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Indian no. 3 and 29th seed Vidit faced the even tougher task of beating Wesley So on demand and never came close, with Wesley saying afterwards that his first 21 moves were home preparation. The US player has now scored 5/6 and moved up to world no. 7, a welcome relief after he ended the Sinquefield Cup in joint last place. He talked about knockouts:

I like them – ever since I was a young boy. 10 years ago I was here also in the World Cup and I played really well. I reached Round 4 and I beat Guseinov, I beat Ivanchuk and I also made him retire [Vassily made an emotional outburst after getting knocked out, though he almost immediately reversed his decision], and I also beat Gata Kamsky. Ever since I was a young boy I’ve always liked knockouts because the thing is, if you don’t lose a game, other than the Armageddon, then you won’t ever go home.

Wesley mentioned that the FIDE Grand Prix knockouts haven’t gone well for him, but he still believes his solid style is perfect for the event. He hasn’t played one yet this year, but he’s not afraid of tiebreaks:

I don’t mind tiebreaks against anyone except Magnus, and he’s not here, so I’m good!  

Shakh contemplating a 2-day trip from Siberia to Baku for his son's birthday | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

No-one was surprised by 103rd seed Eltaj Safarli losing to Azerbaijan no. 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but the manner of the loss raised some questions. Observers had wondered if Eltaj resigned prematurely in the first game, and Mamedyarov agreed he had when he was interviewed in Russian after the second:

You could also question whether in the second game Safarli shouldn’t have at least tried playing on:


Of course the position after 17…Bxd4 18.Qxd4 Rg8 is miserable, but all Eltaj had to lose were a couple of rating points. Instead it was Shakhriyar who was justifying repeating the position rather than playing on for a win:

I don’t see the point in playing just for rating. If I was 20 years old I’d no doubt play, but nowadays it’s not worth fighting for rating, you just need to get into the next round and think about the next round.

When asked afterwards if Safarli will now stay on to help him, as he did for instance in Norway Chess this year, Mamedyarov said that nothing had been arranged yet – “it would have been improper to ask earlier because it might be me staying on to help him!” Mamedyarov was very happy to get two rest days after saying he spent 72 days in a row at tournaments earlier this year. He even joked that he might have time to hop back to Baku to celebrate his son’s birthday!

Daniil Yuffa's giant-killing is over | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Mamedyarov was less happy with his opponent in Round 4 – his friend and compatriot Teimour Radjabov, who easily rebuffed an exchange sacrifice by 106th seed Daniil Yuffa and could have won before instead forcing a draw by repetition.

"Everything hurts" but Grischuk is still in the running | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

The sub-2600 players are all out of the 2019 World Cup after 105th seed Xu Xiangyu was given no chance to display his tactical prowess by Alexander Grischuk. 24.Rd6! made it clear it was only going to be White’s day:


Of course 24…Nxd6 is unplayable since 25.exd6 attacks the black queen and unleashes the white bishop and queen battery on the long diagonal. 24…Qe7 was in fact the only move to prolong the game, and after 25.Qxe7 the remaining question was whether Black would scrape a draw. He didn’t, and Grischuk goes through to play the winner of Dominguez-Wang Hao.

Grischuk was in playful mood in the Russian interview afterwards, explaining there shouldn’t be a rest day on Thursday (since he wants rest days every two not three rounds!) and then responding to a question on whether he has music he listens to in order to get in the mood for a game:

No. How can I put it, I’m already at such an age that everything hurts, I just hope my spine doesn’t hurt, my stomach, my throat, I’m no longer up for music!


8 draws and 1 Levon Aronian

Le Quang Liem vs. Artemiev is one of the tiebreak matches we can look forward to | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

There was little additional bloodshed on Tuesday as all but one of the matches that began with a draw ended with two draws and will be decided in Wednesday’s tiebreaks. The opening of choice was the Berlin, and there wasn’t too much to report, though Ding Liren-Firouzja was another sharp struggle that suggests excitement ahead in the rapid and blitz. Xiong-Giri was the longest game, but less than a thriller.

That leaves Levon Aronian, who followed up his pink trousers the day before with a shirt that was loud even by his exalted standards (the dress code in Khanty-Mansiysk bans, for instance, T-shirts and jeans):

On the chessboard both Levon and Maxim Matlakov went for bold chess, with 17.Nh5!? perhaps unfairly described as a blunder by the Armenian no. 1. The critical moment came after 17…g6:


What Levon felt Maxim had blundered was that after 18.d5! Nb8 19.Rxe5 the black knight returns to the action with 19…N8d7, though the computer suggests 20.Rxe7! Qxe7 21.Nxf4 g5 22.Qe2! is still good for White. 18.dxe5!? gxh5 19.Qxh5 in the game was brave and playable, but after 19…Qd3! Black had everything under control. Levon summed up:

After that it seemed that I have many ways to improve my position, but I wanted to be practical and play the safest way, and then it was a difficult position for him to defend with little time, so I’m generally very satisfied with today’s game.

The game ended with a fork, but this wasn’t the result of a one-move blunder – it had already become a case of White choosing his poison:

So 8 players are through to Round 4, where we already know that the matches So-Vitiugov and Mamedyarov-Rajdabov will determine two places in the quarterfinals.

Tomashevsky-Nepo also goes to tiebreaks | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Everything else is still to be decided with 8 tiebreak matches on Wednesday:

Don’t miss the action live here on chess24 from 12:00 CEST.

See also:


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