Magnus Carlsen’s World Championship challengers, Vishy Anand and Sergey Karjakin, have been knocked out of the 2017 FIDE World Cup in Round 2. Vishy was unable to beat Anton Kovalyov on demand, while Sergey forgot a move in a sharp opening line and was ruthlessly put to the sword by Daniil Dubov. Mickey Adams was another casualty. Carlsen is through with the only perfect 4/4 score, where he’s joined by Vladimir Kramnik, who was stunned when Anton Demchenko offered a draw on move 10 of a must-win game. No less than 22 matches again go to tiebreaks on Friday.
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We were braced for a lot of quick draws as Game 2 of Round 2 got underway on Thursday, with many players in knockout events choosing to take the fastest route to tiebreaks. We weren’t disappointed. For instance, Richard Rapport and Wei Yi agreed a draw as early as move 8, with Magnus Carlsen later smiling as he commented:
It’s like this match Wei Yi-Rapport – the two most exciting players and they make two quick draws! I think Richard has a strategy today and he went for it. I’m not going to criticise that, especially as tiebreaks are fun. It’s not like spectators are missing out because people are making quick draws.
One draw, however, was a complete shocker. Anton Demchenko was playing a must-win game against Vladimir Kramnik, but after 10.Bxe6 he offered a draw:
A bewildered Kramnik of course accepted the offer:
I guess maybe he didn’t feel well, maybe he was just very impressed by me, I don’t know! (laughs) But of course I didn’t expect it. Not that I was so much worried about the result of this game today, but still, I was definitely expecting him to give it a try, to play very aggressive and of course this draw offer came very unexpected to me. But ok, it’s a gift in the sense that it just gives me another rest day, which is quite nice in this format of the tournament. If I want to go far of course any rest day is fine, and today I qualified, so there was no reason to refuse.
Demchenko would later complain of exhaustion and that at the board, “I felt ill again and I realized it was impossible to play any good chess, so I offered a draw”. Kramnik talked about how his first round opponent had also surprised him by not playing for a win in the “must-win” second game, and felt it was a general trend at the tournament:
There are some advantages of being old! They probably studied my games. It’s very possible they studied my games, my books and then there is too much respect, probably, but frankly it’s a bit of a strange approach to me, because it’s a knockout, so since you come here you have to try and win against anyone – Carlsen, Kasparov, whoever is playing. It’s kind of unexpected, and I saw in quite a few other matches as well the same approach, that players just come and are happy to make one draw, to lose the match and to leave, which is to me quite strange… It’s clear that starting with the third round it’s not going to be the case!
You can watch that whole interview with Kramnik below:
As you can see, while unconvincingly claiming not to know which half of the draw he was in (he's seeded to play Carlsen in the semi-final), Vladimir also made a valid criticism of the way the pairings were structured, given that both Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin have no need of qualifying for the 2018 Candidates Tournament:
I think that it’s actually completely unequal in the sense of qualifying for the Candidates that we have Karjakin and Carlsen in our group. Basically it means that in the other half reaching the semifinal might be enough to qualify and here not only that you have to beat Carlsen on the way to the final but you definitely have to be in the final. This was actually not a very bright decision.
Kramnik did note, however, that it would only be unfair if both Carlsen and Karjakin got to the semifinal. It soon wasn’t an issue!
21-year-old Daniil Dubov played an opening idea (10.b4) that had memorably been played last month first by Boris Gelfand against Ernesto Inarkiev in their match in the distant Russian Republic of Ingushetia (he surprised him and won) and then later that same day by Hikaru Nakamura against Sergey Karjakin in the Sinquefield Cup (Sergey was ready, played a novelty and drew). The line looks weird in general, and Dubov’s novelty, 12.Ba3, looks even weirder:
It didn’t surprise Sergey, though, and both players were in their preparation as they blitzed out 12…e3 13.b5 exf2+ 14.Kh1 Ne5 15.Bxf8 Kxf8 16.a4 a5 17.bxa6 Rxa6 18.a5:
Dubov explained why he’d chosen the line:
I don’t think White is better, objectively, but at least Black has to remember a lot of stuff. So he managed to remember a few correct moves… When I played 18.a5 he had to play 18…Rxa5, but he decided to go 18…Ba7 and the only thing I remembered is that the computer gives there an edge, although I didn’t remember how exactly, so we started to play by ourselves.
Karjakin confirmed he’d gone astray, despite looking at the position in the morning:
What followed wasn’t trivial - “Against Sergey getting a nice edge is never enough - I knew it was just the beginning of the game!” – but with an extra half hour on the clock Dubov managed easily to refute Karjakin’s attempts to play actively. White was simply an exchange up when Sergey decided to resign on move 31 and the defending champion was out of the 2017 World Cup.
The consolation for Sergey was that he’s already qualified for the 2018 Candidates Tournament, so all that was at stake was money, rating points and pride. For Vishy Anand, meanwhile, getting knocked out in Round 2 means his chances of reaching the Candidates Tournament are all but gone (only Indian or other organisers giving him a wild card could save the day). If he was to reach another World Championship match it would be in 2020, when he’s about to turn 50, so we may have witnessed a changing of the guard…
Vishy went into the second game in the toughest of spots,
having lost his first game with the white pieces. Dubov commented:
I’m not so sure the rating of your opponent makes a real difference here. I didn’t think that my chances are much worse against Karjakin or Carlsen than against Fridman in the first round. Everybody’s able to make a quick draw with White, so you have only one classical game with White which you can easily spoil and then you go to a tiebreak, which is mostly about your physical condition, your mood and so on.
All Anton Kovalyov needed in the return game with White was to force a draw, and while Vishy managed to prevent that he did so at the cost of sacrificing a pawn, with a win for White always looking more likely than the win Vishy needed with Black. In the end he conceded his tournament was over by offering a draw on move 31. The damage had all been done in that first game, where a rush of blood to the head had persuaded the former World Champion to go for a wild piece sacrifice.
Anton’s opponent in Round 3 will be Maxim Rodshtein, since instead of the classic Anand-Adams we have a matchup only 2 of 1416 people predicted!
When Maxim played the Berlin he was no doubt hoping to reach tiebreaks, but at some point knockout specialist Mickey Adams unexpectedly began to drift in an Anti-Berlin. Eventually he went astray in a difficult position and his queen found itself in the unedifying role of blockading a pawn:
Mickey attempted to gain some chances with 52.b4, allowing checks from a2 as well as a1, but with White almost completely tied down all it required was some care from Rodshtein. He proved up to the task and pulled off a famous victory.
For English sports fans, meanwhile, it was a familiar World Cup scenario!
Elsewhere all but one of the Game 1 losers failed to mount a
comeback, with draws being enough for Vladimir Fedoseev to knock out Ernesto Inarkiev,
Vidit to knock out Le Quang Liem and MVL to knock out Boris Grachev.
MVL’s opponent in Round 3 will be Aleksandr Lenderman, who won the battle of the Round 1 giant killers against Aryan Tari:
The endgame was already tricky for Black and it seems Aryan decided if he was going to suffer he might as well do it for a pawn after 18…bxa5?!, but it just weakened his structure. After 19.Bb5 Bxb5 20.Nxb5 the white king was able to wander with impunity to a4 and White had complete control when Tari resigned on move 39.
Spanish fans had something to cheer as Paco Vallejo managed to strategically outplay the formidable Evgeny Tomashevsky in a classical Ruy Lopez, with the game ending after 38.Qc7:
Black is completely paralysed and can only wait for the white queenside pawns to march up the board and decide the game.
The only player in the round to manage to mount a comeback was Ivan Cheparinov, who could be grateful to David Navara for being given a second chance to find the winning plan:
35.Qc3! forced a winning pawn ending, with the key point being that when the white king goes to clear a path for the c-pawn and the black king grabs the pawn on h3 the white pawn queens on c8 with check! It’s been an enjoyable match so far and now goes to tiebreaks.
We had 22 tiebreaks after two days of the 64 matches in Round 1 and now have 22 again after two days of only 32 matches in Round 2! Of course draws are more likely as the players become more evenly matched, but for 21 of the 32 matches to start with two draws would have been hard to predict.
Once again the excitement was limited, though for instance Adhiban came close to knocking out Ian Nepomniachtchi, while the most memorable draw was arguably the last to finish – Yuriy Kuzubov’s encounter with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. White had the advantage of the bishop pair in the ending, but objective winning chances seemed to have gone by about move 55. At first Yuriy was absolutely justified in playing on, but it seems he eventually made at least a couple of dozen moves too many for Shak’s liking! Then, when a piece was exchanged for an opposite-coloured bishop position where Mamedyarov was nominally better, the Azeri player decided to play on – and to take some 2-minute breaks away from the board. Russian commentator Sergey Shipov described it as “kindergarten”, and it was only on move 130 that the psychological warfare was over. That grudge match also goes to tiebreaks.
Among the top players facing tiebreaks are more Top 10 stars such as Aronian, Caruana, Grischuk, So, Nakamura and Giri, with the cautious approach encouraged by the knockout format having led to widespread rating deflation!
The one player that doesn’t apply to yet is Magnus Carlsen, who was alone in winning both his classical games in Round 2 and now has the only 100% record.
He agreed with Anastasia Karlovic that he’d actually found things easier against Aleksey Dreev, rated 400 points higher than his Round 1 opponent:
That’s definitely true, but it was also easier in the sense that in these games I got to play more tactically and more forcingly, and I didn’t manoeuvre so well in the first couple of games, or at least he manoeuvred just as well as I did. These were definitely more pleasant games to play.
The crucial moment of a tense and exciting game came after 23.Nhf3:
After 23…Rxd4 Dreev could at least claim some compensation for the pawn, but he thought for almost 20 minutes before meekly going for 23…Nxf3+ 24.Nxf3 Rd3 when Magnus was able to blow open the kingside position with 25.h4!
It was odd. Obviously he didn’t find any winning chances after 23…Rxd4. That’s why he just decided to do something else, but what he does just loses trivially, so it was a very poor choice.
Magnus wasn’t complaining, though, and now has another day when he can watch his rivals suffer before he takes on Etienne Bacrot or Bu Xiangzhi in Round 3. He noted:
I wouldn’t say I’m particularly nervous – I don’t have to qualify for anything! I’m just here to play an interesting tournament and play as well as possible against whoever is in front of me.
Meanwhile our Spanish colleagues spotted an “almost uncanny” resemblance between Magnus and Spanish GM Pepe Cuenca. Their meme competition included the following!
“The girl you like | her father | her coach | her brother | her boyfriend | you”
The tiebreaks start at the same time as always on Friday, and you can watch all the action, with the option of 5 commentary streams in 4 languages, here on chess24 from 15:00 CEST onwards! You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps:
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