Reports Sep 19, 2019 | 12:28 PMby Colin McGourty

Khanty World Cup R3 TB: Xiong knocks out Giri

18-year-old Jeffery Xiong knocked 2nd seed Anish Giri out of the 2019 FIDE World Cup after his tiebreak strategy “to make a mess out of every game” produced a spectacular show. 3rd seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave lost the first rapid game to Dmitry Jakovenko but came back and won in blitz, along with Ian Nepomniachtchi (vs. Tomashevsky) and Leinier Dominguez (vs. Wang Hao). Ding Liren (Firouzja), Peter Svidler (Nisipeanu) and Yu Yangyi (Wei Yi) advanced in two games, while 11th seed Vladislav Artemiev is out after an amazing blunder against Le Quang Liem.

US rising chess star Jeffery Xiong knocked out 2nd seed Anish Giri | 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 live commentary on the tiebreaks, for which Jan Gustafsson and Laurent Fressinet were joined first by World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, and then, when Magnus left, Peter Svidler phoned in from Khanty-Mansiysk after winning his match. If you’re unsure what to do on today’s rest day watching at least some of the commentary might be a good option!

As Magnus commented of the World Cup:

As a fan it's a great joy to watch. I feel it reaches its apex of enjoyability around Rounds 3 or 4, because you've still got a lot of games, the likelihood of a lot of tiebreaks, and the matches are of a very high quality already.

Round 3 tiebreak day was certainly a lot of fun, so let’s take a look at the matches in the order in which they were decided:

25-minute games: Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi and Svidler advance

Alireza Firouzja put up a great fight, but Ding Liren didn't give an inch | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

16-year-old Alireza Firouzja had matched no. 1 seed and world no. 3 Ding Liren blow for blow in the first two classical games, showing no fear or signs of weakness. That pattern continued into Wednesday’s tiebreak, but although Firouzja played the opening of the first rapid game well, he allowed himself to fall 10 minutes behind on the clock by move 20. That was all the encouragement Ding Liren needed to continue in an almost symmetrical position:

Today the first game I was very lucky to win the equal-looking ending since I have an advantage on the clock and I want to press for a win. The resulting rook endgame is slightly better for me and a little bit difficult to play for Black.

Even when Ding achieved a winning position he went astray a few times, until the final mistake came on move 62:

62…Kd5! is the one move to draw, but 62…Rd7, played with 3 seconds on the clock, allowed Ding to go on to win after 63.Rc6 (though 8 other moves were also winning). That left Alireza needing to beat the Chinese no. 1 on demand, and he made a valiant attempt when he went for 10.c5!?

10…bxc5 may have been inaccurate, but Alireza was never able to get an attack going despite throwing his kingside pawns up the board. Ding felt he took over on move 22:

Computers suggest 22…Nxe5! 23.fxe5 Rd4! here, but Ding also considered himself much better after he found the less risky idea of 22…c4! – suddenly the white queen is restricted and Black is ready to play Qb6+, Nc5-d3, Ba6 and Rd4, all moves which went on to happen in the game as Ding Liren powerfully converted his advantage.

It’s sad to see 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja leave the event, but he’s only enhanced his reputation yet further. Up next for Ding Liren, meanwhile, is Kirill Alekseenko, a 22-year-old Russian who Ding confessed he was “not too familiar with”:

Ding Liren is joined in Round 4 by the Chinese no. 2 Yu Yangyi, but that came at the expense of another Chinese star, 20-year-old Wei Yi. In the first rapid game the youngster played a very early f5, but the advantage it gave him fizzled out fast. 

A chance for Wei Yi to get back on his early "future World Champion" path has gone | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website 

The second game was an example of how quickly a World Cup campaign can end. Wei Yi was doing fine with White until his response to 32…g4:

It’s easy to see why 33.hxg4 hxg4 34.Qxg4+ Rg7, with the white king and queen exposed and the d4-pawn weak, was unappealing, but it turns out White can hold comfortably there. Instead in the game after 33.Rg2?! Bg5! 33.Qf2? (33.hxg4!! and the queen sac 33…Re3 35.gxh5! was the only way to stay in the game) 33…Re3! Yu Yangyi went through to the next round.

Peter Svidler appeared everywhere (this interview was in Russian), including on the chess24 live show, after making it through to Round 4 | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website 

The other player to get the job done quickly was Peter Svidler. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu got nothing with White in the first game and was then smoothly outplayed in the second, later telling his opponent that he gets little practice with rapid chess nowadays. There was one last trap at the very end:

42.Rxc7?? would run into 42…Re1+! and White could resign. That might have worked in a time scramble, but with five minutes on his clock Peter calmly sidestepped the threat with 42.Kh2! and Nisipeanu resigned, since there’s no longer any way to defend the pieces on c7 and e7.

10-minute games: Giri and Artemiev are knocked out

A serious handshake during an intense match | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

The two major tiebreak day upsets were both completed in the “fast-rapid” games, where all the focus was on Anish Giri and his match against 18-year-old Jeffery Xiong. That wasn’t just because Magnus Carlsen wanted to see how “his boy” was doing – there was also Xiong’s approach:

That was my match strategy coming in – just try to make a mess out of every game and play some unusual openings to avoid his preparation.

That didn’t so much apply to the first game of the day, when Xiong ended up pressing hard in an ending and seemed one clever zugzwang away from success, but the second was extraordinary. Jeffery’s 16…f5!? looked risky, but Giri’s 19.f5?! a few moves later was giving up a pawn:

After 19…Rxf5! all hell broke loose! 20.b4 Rh5 21.h3 Rf8 22.Red1 Rxh3!?

Jeffery spent 6 minutes on this move, and it took Anish 5 minutes to reply with what the computer claims is the only move 23.Bxg7! The madness (Carlsen wondered at some point if the players were trolling the commentators!) went on with 23…Rh2?! 24.Qg5! Rf5!

Magnus had foreseen a few moves earlier that Giri might “blunder this trick” again (the rook is immune due to the mating threats against g2), but White is still on top. The last absolutely critical moment occurred after 25.Qg4 Kf7 26.Bb2 Bf4 27.b5 Qc7:

Magnus had seen 28.Rd5 but wondered what happened after 28…Bxd5, though it seems that when the dust settles after 29.cxd5! White is simply material up. In the game some kind of sanity was restored after 28.Qg7+ and ultimately we got an opposite-coloured bishop ending where Xiong was pressing but the draw that followed was always the most likely result.

The first 10-minute game saw Jeffery take a few more liberties than even his match strategy could justify with White, but when Giri spoiled a close-to-winning advantage Xiong got chances of his own. The Dutchman nevertheless defended well with little time on his clock and the players went into the final game on the back of five draws. 

Former World Junior Champion Jeffery Xiong has already crossed 2700 and has now made his mark on the highest of stages | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

Once again Giri was objectively doing well out of the opening, but it was highly complex and the watching World Champion predicted that Anish would take the easy way out and head for a draw by repetition. He perhaps tried that in the end with 22.Kb2?! (22.Qe3!), inviting 22…Nc4+ 23.Ka1 Na3, but it was already late, with storm clouds gathering over the white king. The last chance to escape came on move 25:

Strictly the only move is 25.Qh3!, where what happened in the game would have been interrupted by the saving resource Qe6, forcing a draw by perpetual check. Instead 25.f5? allowed Jeffery to unleash 25…Rxc3!! 26.Nxc3 Rxc3!, with the point that 27.Qxc3 is met by 27…Nc4+ and the white queen is lost. After 27.Qe2 Nc4+ 28.Ka1 Ne5 Black was totally dominant, with Xiong finishing with maximum brutality.

Magnus seemed genuinely upset not to have someone left to root against for in the tournament, though he commented of Xiong, “He was simply better today - there's no question about that”. English Grandmaster David Howell was another admirer:

Xiong himself admitted to being “shocked” to get so far, but he was keeping his feet firmly on the ground as he noted there was room for improvement in his classical games. Next up is 21-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda, in the one Round 4 pairing where neither player was seeded to make it this far. They’ve never met, but Xiong described his opponent as, “a very ambitious, exciting player, so I expect many thrilling games there”.

It was a tough loss for Giri (who will now hope Ding Liren makes the final to give him a chance of qualifying for the Candidates on rating), and his fan club:

In the other, much milder, upset 22nd seed Le Quang Liem knocked out 11th seed, and some people’s dark horse for the event, Vladislav Artemiev. For four games it was a well-played match, with Le Quang Liem commenting:

I think we played really good games in the classical and the first two rapid games. We didn’t make any mistakes, and logically the games ended in draws.

They had some backup in that opinion from none other than World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who admired the first rapid game:

The match turned, however, on the day’s most inexplicable blunder:

After Le Quang Liem played 35.g4 Artemiev had 35 seconds on his clock to play the only move 35...Qg6, but instead he went for 35…Rxc8??. After the gift was accepted with 36.gxh5 the 15 remaining moves of the game were superfluous.

Vladislav needed to win at all costs in the second game and did everything he could to complicate matters, but although he briefly had a chance the majority of the game was dictated by the Vietnamese player, who could have won at the end if he didn’t decide to force a draw instead.

5-minute games: MVL, Nepomniachtchi & Dominguez scrape through

Continuing the theme of top seeds struggling, 3rd seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 5th seed Ian Nepomniachtchi and 8th seed Leinier Dominguez only finally triumphed in blitz.

Some of Maxime's tricks eventually worked out | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

The day began with the shock of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave losing to Dmitry Jakovenko, though shock is perhaps the wrong word given their lifetime score: Dmitry has 5 wins and 0 losses in classical chess against Maxime! Jakovenko got a dangerous passed d-pawn, though Magnus believed in the French no. 1:

It's the usual stuff. He plays quickly and confidently… and for tricks! He'll find a way to wriggle out of it...

40…Rg5? was a trick too far, however:

If White had to defend the g2-square with 41.Rg1 it turns out the game is completely equal after 41…Rc5!, but 41.Qc8+! Kg7 42.Qb7+ Kf8 and only now 43.Rg1! left Maxime busted. It was only at around this point that a “mightily impressed” Magnus commented:

I have a feeling this is the first moment Maxime is taking this game seriously! Before he was just playing for tricks.

In the return game Maxime went for an interesting opening, but the outcome of the match might have been sealed if Dmitry had chosen differently on move 22:

22…Bxa2 seems not to be Fischeresque madness but simply a free pawn, as after 23.b3 a5! the bishop won’t be trapped. Dmitry thought for over a minute before playing 22…Ng6 instead, and although that should also have been enough for a draw things began to go the Frenchman’s way:

In the end Dmitry got too optimistic when he captured on a5:

44.Bd5! and the threat of mate-in-1 left the trick 44…Rxf2+ as the last try for Jakovenko. If 45.Kxf2 then 45…Bb6+! would save the game and win the match, but after 45.Kg1! e4 46.Ra6+! that fork was removed from the equation and Jakovenko, about to lose a lot of material, resigned.

The players took a breather with quiet draws in the 10-minute games, until Maxime finally took the lead in the first 5-minute game, even if his performance wasn’t entirely convincing:

Jakovenko later stumbled into a mating net and never came close to winning on demand in the second game.

Wang Hao was still able to smile at the end despite twice leading the match before losing to Leinier Dominguez | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

The other matches were even wilder, with white winning five times in a row in Dominguez-Wang Hao, where Leinier twice found himself in a must-win situation. In the fifth game, however, he had White and managed to squeeze a victory out of nothing in a 3 vs. 2 pawn rook ending. It was an impressive feat:

The sequence was broken in the last game where Dominguez came close to winning with Black before forcing the draw he needed.

Nepomniachtchi was fairly relieved to have won the match | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

5th seed Ian Nepomniachtchi seemed set to ease his way into the next round when he won the first 10-minute game against Evgeny Tomashevsky and reached an equal ending in the second, but somehow Nepo allowed a knight to get lost behind enemy lines and he was on the wrong side of a positional crush. He didn’t let that get him down, however, and perhaps listened to some music in the break, since he was bopping away as he scored a crushing win in the first 5-minute game:

The 2nd ended up being even more impressive, with perhaps the move of the day:

28…Qg4!! Ok, it’s not hard to realise that 29.Bxg4? Nxg4# ends the game on the spot, but you first need to see the move, and then calculate the consequences after other tries by White. Nepo had it all under control, and a few moves later Evgeny lost on time in what was in any case a hopeless position.

That means that all the pairings are now known for the Last 16:

  • Ding Liren (no. 1 seed) vs. Alekseenko (no. 49)
  • Dominguez (no. 8) vs. Grischuk (no. 9)
  • So (no. 4) vs. Vitiugov (no. 20)
  • Nepomniachtchi (no. 5) vs. Yu Yangyi (no. 12)
  • Xiong (no. 31) vs. Duda (no. 18)
  • Mamedyarov (no. 7) vs. Radjabov (no. 10)
  • MVL (no. 3) vs. Svidler (no. 19)
  • Aronian (no. 6) vs. Le Quang Liem (no. 22)

Among those pairings only Dominguez-Grischuk, Nepomniachtchi-Yu Yangyi and Mamedyarov-Radjabov were expected before the event began, but despite Giri’s loss 9 of the top 10 seeds have made it through. 6 of the remaining 16 players also made it to Round 4 two years ago – Svidler, MVL, Grischuk, Aronian, So and Ding Liren – with all of them in fact winning in Round 4, except Grischuk, who lost to MVL. MVL-Svidler is a repeat of the Tbilisi World Cup quarterfinal, when Maxime went through in tiebreaks.

We're approaching the time in the World Cup when the arbiters and officials begin to outnumber the players | photo: Kirill Merkuryev, official website

The players now have the luxury of a rest day before the second half of the World Cup begins, with the event now identical to the FIDE Grand Prix series events we’ve seen this year, except that the final and 3rd place matches will last four classical games rather than two.

Round 3 begins at 12:00 CEST on Friday, and Lawrence Trent will be back to join Jan Gustafsson in the commentary booth. Who knows, perhaps some decent kibitzers will also phone into the shows again! Don’t miss the action live here on chess24 from 12:00 CEST.

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