Reports Sep 13, 2019 | 8:56 AMby Colin McGourty

Khanty World Cup R1 TB: Shankland & Adams out

Hikaru Nakamura, Yu Yangyi, Boris Gelfand and Dmitry Andreikin were among the star names to make it through tiebreaks intact and reach Round 2 of the 2019 FIDE World Cup, but others weren’t so lucky. Sam Shankland’s difficult year continued as he was knocked out by Eltaj Safarli, while Mickey Adams’ match against Aravindh looked destined to reach Armageddon with all games drawn until the 20-year-old Indian forced a winning pawn endgame in the final blitz game.

Mickey Adams was finally beaten by Aravindh, an Indian talent less than half his age | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

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

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent, who were joined for 40 minutes (from about 1:21:09) by Peter Svidler, enjoying a rest day after already winning his Round 1 match in Khanty-Mansiysk:

World Cup fortunes were made and destroyed by the slightest of margins as 23 tiebreak matches took place on Thursday, but when the dust had settled we could see that the top seeds had largely made it through Round 1 of the event unscathed. 

The playing hall was packed for the 23 Round 1 tiebreak matches | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

The top 15 seeds all won, as did 29 of the top 33. In total there were 15 cases of lower-seeded players winning their first round matches, though at the bottom of the list you wouldn’t really describe them as upsets. Here they all are, with seeding numbers in brackets and matches decided in tiebreaks shown in bold:  

  1. Christiansen (113) beat Wojtaszek (16)
  2. Yuffa (106) beat Navara (23)
  3. Xu Xiangyu (105) beat Bu Xiangzhi (24)
  4. Safarli (103) beat Shankland (26)
  5. Tabatabaei (95) beat Amin (34)
  6. Rakhmanov (93) beat Grandelius (36)
  7. Aravindh (92) beat Adams (37)
  8. Sarin (90) beat Cori (39)
  9. Huschenbeth (84) beat Naiditsch (45)
  10. Esipenko (83) beat Ponomariov (46)
  11. Jumabayev (79) beat Berkes (50)
  12. Bok (73) beat Saric (56)
  13. Abasov (72) beat Piorun (57)
  14. Predke (69) beat Sarana (60)
  15. Najer (66) beat Gledura (63)

Let’s now take a look at the tiebreak games, starting with the 25-minute games:

2 x 25-minute games: 14 matches decided

Hikaru Nakamura’s 16-move draw against Algeria’s Bilel Bellahcene the day before had raised eyebrows, but his decision not to take any risks with the black pieces paid off as he went on to win the first rapid game after playing the Berlin Wall. Nakamura, who is trying to recover after flying straight from St. Louis, felt his opponent had played too passively:

I thought trying to just be solid and make a draw from an even or slightly worse position was way too tentative, and because of this he got low on time and eventually he couldn’t defend the position.

Winning on demand with Black against Nakamura in the second game was a lot to ask, and Hikaru ended up winning both games.

Not this time for 14-year-old Abdusattorov, who made Maxim Matlakov work hard | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Dmitry Andreikin, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, Le Quang Liem and Maxim Matlakov were other top players to progress relatively smoothly at this stage, with Maxim ousting 14-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov with a fine positional squeeze in the second game. Hilarity ensued…

The fastest knockout of the 25-minute stage was also a small upset, as Dutchman Benjamin Bok ousted the higher-rated Ivan Saric. Svidler pointed out that Alejandro Ramirez is working as Bok’s second in Khanty-Mansiysk, but though 19.Rd6! in the first game was a nice sharp idea it has to be mentioned it had all been played before, by Sam Shankland against Vinay Bhat back in 2012. They kept following that game, with 19…Bxf3? (19…Nc5! seems to be the way to go) 20.gxf3 Ne5? (the losing blunder) 21.Qc3!:


Black is completely busted, and after 21…Qc7 22.Rxd8+ Qxd8 23.Nxg7 Kxg7 24.Qxe5+ White was up a piece for a pawn before Bok had had to start thinking. For the record, only Saric’s 25th move was a novelty, and he resigned 3 moves later. Although Saric played to bare kings in the next game there was no coming back, and it’s Bok who will play Alexander Grischuk in Round 2.

There were some truly wild games at this stage. India’s Narayanan had come storming back the day before to beat David Anton on demand and force tiebreaks, and in the first rapid game he was as close as you could get to another win:


The computer evaluation here is around +12, with 29.Re1!, threatening a quick mate after Qh6+, perhaps best. 29.Bg7+!? was still winning, but when Black was able to give up his queen with 29…Ke7 30.Qf7+ Kd6 31.Rd1 Qxd1 it was far from trivial with under 3 minutes on your clock. David went on to construct a perpetual check and then win a complicated endgame in the next game to reach a Round 2 clash against Wei Yi. Our Spanish commentary team, who included David’s coach David Martinez, kept scrupulously neutral during the game!

The biggest upset at this stage was actually Iran’s 18-year-old Amin Tabatabaei beating Egyptian no. 1 and the first African ever to have a 2700+ rating, Bassem Amin. Tabatabaei won a nice-attacking game with White, but then with Black seemed to blunder a knight to 24.g4:


The curiosity here is that computers actually prefer Black after 24…Nd5!, but after 24…Qf6 25.gxf5 in the game Bassem was soon much better, then totally winning, but in the wild complications he was also totally lost at some stage before a draw followed. Tabatabaei goes on to play the one year younger Jeffery Xiong from the USA in Round 2.

19-year-old Tabatabaei knocked out 34th seed Bassem Amin | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

2 x 10-minute games: 7 matches decided

The match that reached 10-minute games quickest was Gelfand-Lu Shanglei, where Boris had pressed with the white pieces while his Chinese opponent forced the quickest draws he could manage when he had White. Lu Shanglei’s first brush with fame was perhaps winning a blitz game against Magnus Carlsen and he must have liked his chances in blitz, but would the strategy backfire?

The answer, in the end, was yes, but only because of a bad blunder in the first 10-minute game. With 29…Rc5? Lu had missed one of the points of his opponent’s 29.e4 the previous move:


30.Rd1! and Black had to resign, since he can no longer block with Rd5 and the coming 31.Rd8+ will cost Black his queen. Boris was soon better before going on to win the next game, and afterwards talked about “a strange match”:

There were also relatively smooth wins at this stage for Vladimir Fedoseev over Ganguly and Anton Korobov over Gupta, meaning that all three of the Indian players who had so heroically won on demand in the second classical game were out. Yu Yangyi was the highest seed to make it through the tiebreaks, with a win in the second 10-minute game, but he came perilously close to an exit in the second 25-minute clash with Ehsan Ghaem Maghami:

19…f6! was winning, but what Ghaem afterwards explained he’d missed was that 20.Rh3 g6 21.Rxh7 can be met by the only move 21…Qf5!, and White is lost.

41st seed Bu Xiangzhi, the man who knocked Magnus Carlsen out in Round 3 in 2017, lost to his 19-year-old compatriot Xu Xiangyu in a match that got utterly wild in the 10-minute portion. Xu struck first, though Bu could have hit back if he’d been able to navigate the madness of this position where half the pieces are en prise:


The computer says 21…Nf4! is winning for Black, but after 21…Bxa1 Xu Xiangyu got the draw he needed and plays Ernesto Inarkiev next.

That brings us to Safarli-Shankland where, after defending an endgame a pawn down with Black for two games in a row, Sam Shankland finally cracked and allowed Azerbaijan’s Eltaj Safarli to take the lead. Sam had to win the last 10-minute game, but 27.a4? had a minor drawback which Eltaj failed to spot in the 4 minutes he thought about his reply!


27…Rxd6! wins on the spot, with the only thing you need to check being that after 28.exd6 Bxa1 29.d7 Black is safely stopping the pawn with 29…Bf6. Amazingly, though, Eltaj played 27…Ra6?, after which you can see Sam’s shock that his tournament wasn't yet over:

The problem is he needed a win, which he wouldn’t get if he gave up the a-pawn, so he bit the bullet and played 28.a5?!! Again Eltaj missed the same tactic and played 28…Rc6, at which point both Anish Giri and Carlsen's coach Peter Heine-Nielsen independently pointed out that 29.a6! would have been worth a try!

That would once more allow the tactic, but if Eltaj still missed it White would be on top. Instead after a minute’s thought (after that delay it would be a real gamble to trust Eltaj not to find the win!) Sam went for 29.Bc5, and though he got some slight chances the game ended in a draw that means it’s Eltaj Safarli who will now play the youngest remaining player in the event, Nihal Sarin.

2 x 5-minute blitz games: 2 matches decided


The final two matches couldn’t have been more different, with Abasov-Piorun an impossible to summarise slugfest in which 24-year-old Azerbaijan player Nijat Abasov finally emerged victorious over Poland's Kacper Piorun

Meanwhile in the other match 20-year-old Aravindh from India would never allow his 47-year-old opponent to break clear. Mickey Adams, twice a finalist and twice a semi-finalist of these huge knockouts, came close in the last 10-minute game and then was pressing hard in a 4 vs. 3 ending in the first 5-minute game. The moment he went for decisive action, however, Aravindh pounced:


49…Rxe5! 50.Rxe5 f6! 51.Kf4 fxe5+ 52.Kxe5 gxf5 53.Kxf5 and Mickey decided they might as well play out the ending to stalemate:

In the second blitz game the clock situation – Aravindh was down to 5 seconds while Adams had almost 2 minutes – created the illusion that it was Black who was pressing, but suddenly it all fell apart for Mickey:


46.Ng5+! Nxg5 47.Rxg5 and when rooks were later exchanged it turned out the pawn ending was extremely unpleasant for Black. The young star went on to win in 69 moves, meaning a tough day for Indian chess fans ended on a high! The hopes of English fans now lie in Luke McShane (playing Daniil Yuffa) and Gawain Jones (playing Dmitry Jakovenko).

Aravindh marches on | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Round 2 of the 2019 World Cup starts immediately on Friday, and features some mouth-watering clashes, including Firouzja-Dubov, Harikrishna-Fedoseev, Karjakin-Sevian, Svidler-Esipenko and Aronian-Maghsoodloo. 

Don’t miss all the action, with Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent again providing an alternative to the official English stream with Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Alex Yermolinsky. Watch the games live here on chess24 from 12:00 CEST!

See also:


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