Reports Sep 16, 2019 | 10:01 AMby Colin McGourty

Khanty World Cup R2 TB: Giri survives Armageddon

Anish Giri is through to play US teenager Jeffery Xiong in Round 3 of the FIDE World Cup after the number 2 seed’s match with Evgeniy Najer went all the way to a final sudden death game. Elsewhere in the Round 2 tiebreaks the favourites did the job fast, with 13 of the 15 matches ending after two rapid games – only the heartbreaking loss of 15-year-old Nihal Sarin to Eltaj Safarli was a small upset. The biggest upset was 22-year-old Daniil Yuffa beating Luke McShane in an incredible match that came within one move of Armageddon.

The longest match of the day saw Anish Giri and Evgeniy Najer battle it out in an Armageddon game | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

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

And here’s the live commentary on the tiebreak games:

Day of the favourites

Top seed Ding Liren is through to play Alireza Firouzja | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Rating and experience mattered on the second tiebreaks day at this year’s World Cup, with 12 of the match favourites finishing off their opponents in only two 25+10 minute games. Top seed Ding Liren led the way, after Sergei Movsesian went for an unsound combination in the first game of the day:


White has to give up his queen or get mated – so has he miscalculated something? No! After 30.Qxe2! Qxe2 31.c6! Movsesian resigned rather than wait for the knight to slalom up the board and support the pawn queening on c8. The second game lasted 79 moves, but there was to be no comeback, with Ding now going on to play 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja.

Some of the great giant-killing stories of this World Cup came to an end. Naiditsch-conqueror Niclas Huschenbeth was convincingly beaten by Nikita Vitiugov, while Kirill Alekseenko also smoothly eliminated the Radek Wojtaszek-beating Johan-Sebastian Christiansen:

A great journey few wanted to see end was by 15-year-old Indian Nihal Sarin, who had already played some masterpieces in Khanty-Mansiysk. Alas, the blunder in the second classical game when he only needed a draw would cost Nihal dearly. Eltaj Safarli, a player with a peak rating of almost 2700 and experience of playing in high-pressure situations for the Azerbaijan national team, played a fine game in the first rapid clash to take the lead.

Eltaj Safarli has now crushed the dreams of both Sam Shankland and Nihal Sarin | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

The must-win situation in the second game saw the youngster collapse after Safarli’s 15…Nxc4:


White has a slight edge after the simple recapture on c4, but Nihal tried for more with the zwischenzug 16.dxc6?. Alas, after 16…Qh4! the knight survives, with 17.g3 met by 17…Qh5! After 17.cxb7 Rab8 Nihal simply took a draw by repetition rather than fight on a piece down. A sad end to a performance that had lit up the World Cup:

Safarli will now go on to play his compatriot Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in Round 3.

Things didn't go to plan for Adhiban | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

One of the consolations for Nihal Sarin is that he was far from alone in his suffering. Indian compatriot Adhiban showed that anyone can blunder when he played 25.R1c2?:


You can’t afford simply to give up a pawn against a player as good as Yu Yangyi, and that’s what Adhiban had done, since 25…Qxd4! took advantage of the weak back rank (26.exd5 is of course met by 26…Re1#).

There will be future World Cups for Andrey Esipenko, who stayed in the playing hall afterwards to watch Daniil Yuffa | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Another youngster to struggle was 17-year-old Andrey Esipenko, who miscalculated a combination and lost a piece in the first game against his compatriot Peter Svidler. It would get worse in the second game: although Esipenko looked to have few chances of getting the win on demand he needed there was no need to go down quite so fast!

39.Qd8+! was of course game-over, with mate to follow next move. 43-year-old Peter had faced another teenager, 18-year-old Cuban GM Carlos Daniel Albornoz Cabrera, in Round 1:

In Round 3 he also faces a younger opponent, but in the case of Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu it’s only by a couple of months!

Jeffery Xiong won the battle of the 18-year-olds | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

One youngster who did impress, however, was Jeffery Xiong, whose 2:0 tiebreak win over 18-year-old Tabatabaei was one of the most convincing of the day. Other players matched that score, but if you looked a bit deeper things weren’t as smooth as they seemed. For instance, Leinier Dominguez won both games against Nijat Abasov, but he was dead lost in the first:


27…Ne2+! and 28…Nd4 would shut down all White’s threats and leave Black a healthy piece up, but instead the game ended 27…Nh5? 28.hxg4 Qxg4 29.Ne6 Rf6 (29…Qd1+! was a last chance to draw) 30.Qe5! and Abasov had to resign.

Alexander Grischuk is also through to Round 3 | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

There was a similar story for Alexander Grischuk, who went for a wild sacrificial attack against Benjamin Bok in the first rapid game and afterwards admitted he was simply losing, though the game ended in a draw. The second game saw the unusual situation of Grischuk having a big advantage on the clock, and he eventually brought home the win with some nice chess geometry:


This unusual standoff ended 35.Rxa2 Rxa2 36.Qe1 Ra1! White resigns. 37.Rc1 would be no defence due to 37…Qxe1+ and mate next move.

Grischuk was in top form afterwards as he explained why he doesn’t like to know his next opponent in advance (don’t tell him, but it’s Xu Xiangyu!):

I think when you prepare you should prepare overall to chess. Let’s say if you want to play e4 you should be prepared for the Petroff, various Ruy Lopezes, the Sicilian, the French, Scandinavian, Alekhine, Pirc and so on and so on, and if you play d4 it’s the same, but with other names of the openings. So I think you should just be prepared for everything, and if you’re not, you’re not going to prepare much at the last moment, and the less you know the better you sleep, as we say in Russia!

Grischuk’s campaign about rest days in the FIDE Grand Prix series seems to have borne fruit with an extra rest day after Round 3 in this World Cup, but as you can see, that’s only made him more ambitious!

The only way I want them to change the format is to make rest days every two rounds and not every three rounds. I will say it in every interview.

Chess writers and commentators everywhere agree, but why stop at every two rounds! 

In other 25-minute action there were convincing wins for Dmitry Jakovenko over Gawain Jones (2:0) and Teimour Radjabov over Sanan Sjugirov (1.5:0.5), while Wei Yi’s clash with David Anton continued to be a fierce battle from which the Chinese player emerged a deserving 1.5:0.5 victor. He’s not going home just yet!

Dmitry Jakovenko knocked out Gawain Jones | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Another heavyweight clash, Matlakov-Gelfand, was decided in the first rapid game, with Maxim Matlakov afterwards revealing that he’d been lucky in the opening, since they followed a long line of analysis he’d repeated on the morning of the game. It was a draw with correct play, but it was tough for Boris Gelfand to find that path in a rapid game. Maxim also confessed afterwards that in his first match against 14-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov he’d wanted to offer a draw in the game he won but then realised he couldn’t because they hadn’t reached move 30.

Boris Gelfand is famous for finding a way to do well in World Championship qualifying events, but he met his match in Matlakov | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Next up for Matlakov is Levon Aronian, in an exact repeat of their Round 3 clash in Tbilisi in 2017. Back then Levon eventually won, but only after the players had traded some brilliant wins in both classical and 10-minute games.

Giri and Yuffa outlast their opponents

Yuffa-McShane was an epic struggle | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

After the 25-minute games it seemed we were going to have a short day in the office, but in the end nothing could have been further from the truth. Yuffa-McShane wasn’t quite the longest encounter in terms of games, but with 630 moves in total it could easily have broken the record for the most moves in a World Cup match!


That began with a 132-move game in the first classical encounter, where Daniil Yuffa was unable to win the 2 bishops vs. a knight ending, and though the second classical game was short, in the rapids we got back down to endgame action. Yuffa ground out a 90-move win with Black only for McShane to hit back with a 97-move win that featured an under-promotion at the end. The 10-minute games began with another crazy ending, though this time Yuffa did manage to win, in 82 moves:

Luke wouldn’t back down, however, and responded with a positional crush to take the match to blitz. In the first blitz game there was an unusual “queen blunder”:


The threat is Be7, trapping the queen, but in fact right now that wouldn’t work due to the reply Bxg6! Unfortunately after Luke’s 47.Kf1? it was all change, since after 47…Be7! 48.Bxg6 the black queen was able to escape with check: 48…Qh3+ and White resigned.

Knockout tournaments are tough! | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

In what proved to be the final game, Luke McShane had no real chances of a comeback for most of the 89 moves, but the one moment he did have would have won on the spot!


81…Ba7! buries the knight, and the black king can simply waltz over and take it. Luke had clearly seen that plan when he played 81…Kf7?, but after 82.Nb8! there was no way of stopping the knight escaping.

That meant the 2577-rated 106th seed had beaten not only the 23rd seed David Navara but 42nd seed Luke Mcshane as well, with the 22-year-old Russian describing it as the “match of his life”. He says he’s now focussing on chess after completing his studies:

That leaves Giri-Najer, which gave us our first Armageddon of this year’s World Cup:


You might be tempted to make jokes about draws when looking at the first six games, and while there was some cautious chess (Giri was clearly aware that Evgeniy Najer is a very dangerous tactical player) you couldn’t say it was all a quiet stroll in the park! This was from the first 10-minute game:

23…g5+! was strong here, but not so obvious since the idea behind it seems more about getting the e3-square for the knight and eliminating the g2-bishop rather than weaving a mating net. Instead after 23…c5 the game fizzled out into a quick repetition.

Taking notes | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

It was in blitz where lift-off was achieved as Najer’s offbeat opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 and a unique position by move 6) eventually led him to take one liberty too many with 25.b4?


25…Nxb4!! was a queen sacrifice leading to mate – what’s not to like? The game ended 26.Qxd7 (other moves also lose, but less picturesquely) 26…Nxd3+ 27.Ka2 Rb2+ 28.Ka1 Rxc2+ 29.Kb1 Rb2+ 30.Ka1 Rd2+ 31.Kb1 Rb8+:

Najer decided to skip putting any pieces on the b-file and simply resigned. With Giri now playing White and only needing to draw you might have expected him to wrap up the match there and then, but no – Najer dug deep and managed to convert a 2-pawn, then 1-pawn advantage in a 4-rook ending in an epic 105 moves.

Anish had Black in the Armageddon game and therefore only needed a draw, but this time it was impossible to fault his approach. He played fast, catching up on the clock (he started with 4 minutes to White’s 5) in the first ten moves, and also boldly – although he missed an earlier sacrificial chance to force a draw he went all-in here:


28…Nxh2! 29.Kxh2 Qh6+ 30.Kg1 Qh1+ 31.Kf2 Qg2+ 32.Ke1 Qxg3+ 33.Bf2 Qxa3 and although objectively White was still ok Najer cracked under the pressure until it was soon all over:

There’s no rest for Giri, who now plays Jeffery Xiong in Monday’s Round 3. That’s just one of the many fascinating encounters that include Firouzja-Ding Liren, So-Vidit, Yu Yangyi-Wei Yi, Duda-Andreikin, Nisipeanu-Svidler, Aronian-Matlakov and Artemiev-Le Quang Liem. You won’t want to miss it on Monday, with Jan Gustafsson joined by Laurent Fressinet for English commentary!

Follow all the action live here on chess24 from 12:00 CEST.

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