Vassily Ivanchuk now has the scalp of Anish Giri to hang alongside that of Vladimir Kramnik after a topsy-turvy encounter suddenly crystallised into a simple endgame win for the maverick Ukrainian. Vladimir Fedoseev was the other player to get off to a winning start, executing a beautiful win after Maxim Rodshtein lost his way in time trouble. There could easily have been more bloodshed, with MVL-Grischuk and Dubov-Aronian in particular so complex that even the world’s best players were groping in the dark.
You can play through all the games from the World Cup using the selector below – click on a result to open the game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his results in Tbilisi:
Although only two games were decisive as Round 4 started on Tuesday, there were only three draws that never really sparked into life: Wang Hao-Ding Liren, So-Jobava and Svidler-Bu Xiangzhi.
Everywhere else lives were at stake. A seemingly closed position in Rapport-Najer suddenly went off like a box of fireworks:
23…Nxd4 24.Nxd4 Bxd4 25.Bxf5 Bxf2+ 26.Rxf2 gxf5 27.Nxd5 Qxh4 Finally, after 9 captures in a row, Richard Rapport had to accept there was nothing left to capture. Black had an extra pawn and Evgeniy Najer managed to defuse his opponent’s initiative and hang on to the material for almost all the way until a draw was reached on move 80.
The best description of that game, and indeed the whole round, came from GM Jonathan Tisdall:
Not everyone survived the apocalypse…
Chess players usually talk about calculation, but after Tuesday's game Vladimir Fedoseev had more to say about belief. He believed in his position and, which made it doubly interesting, his opponent, Maxim Rodshtein, also believed in his. As Fedoseev put it:
It was a battle of conceptions, probably, because he played very optimistically.
A key moment came after 22.f4:
Here Vladimir felt he would be much worse if he didn’t play the pawn sacrifice 22…e5!? The computer’s verdict on that could be summed up as “a pawn is a pawn”, but in the game things worked out wonderfully for Black. The a1-bishop was shut out of the game by its own e-pawn, Black was able to blockade that pawn with a piece on e6, and when White failed to follow up h3 with h4 – instead allowing Black to push a pawn to h4 – the white structure was dangerously weak.
All it took for the guillotine to fall was one mistake made in serious time trouble. Fedoseev had brought his bishop back to d8 and it seems Rodshtein simply decided to stop it coming to b6 with 35.Nc4? (35.e3! would have saved him a world of hurt)
35…e3!! was a brilliant winning move. If White captures on e3 then Black plays 36…Bb6 anyway and it’s game over. What about the bishop on d5, though? Well, Maxim tried that route with 36.Bxd5 and was hit by 36…Qf2+ 37.Kh1 Qf1+ 38.Kh2
White is threatening to capture on e6 with check and e.g. 38…Qxe2+ is good for nothing more than a draw, but Fedoseev had foreseen a final triumphant role for his bishop: 38…Bg5! 39.Bxe6+ Kg7 and there was nothing to do about the threat of Bf4+ and mate. Maxim gave up his queen with 40.Qxe3 but resigned a move later.
For Fedoseev it’s the continuation both of a wonderful year and a near perfect performance after losing on Day 1 of the World Cup:
He talked about the game to Anastasia Karlovich, adding the undeniable comment, “It’s always good to have the white pieces when you’re one point up!”
For Rodshtein, needing to win on demand with Black is a tough ask, but two things may work in his favour. Firstly, he should be rested after getting a three-day break due to the forfeit loss of his opponent Anton Kovalyov in Round 3. Secondly, Fedoseev isn’t renowned for his pragmatic closing out of tournaments or matches. As Ben Finegold said in relation to the Winter Classic in St. Louis earlier this year:
Fedoseev doesn’t really know how to play for a draw in an important game – he just plays like a lunatic in every game! That gets lots of wins… and losses.
The other decisive game was a Petroff that saw Vassily Ivanchuk think 38 minutes on move 9, when instead of 9.Nc3, that had twice been played against Anish Giri before, he went for 9.Be3. That worked in so far as it got Giri to sink into a 34-minute think of his own, before he took the provocative decision to castle queenside, in the process offering a pawn sac that our silicon friends wouldn’t hesitate to accept. Vassily refrained from doing so, and later got hit by 17…g4!
It seems the position was as good as it looked for Black, but after 18.hxg4 Bxg4 19.Qxf6 Ivanchuk was keeping the pressure on – yes, Black was dynamically better, but in the back of Giri’s mind must have been the thought that if he didn’t prove that advantage he might find himself in the same miserable situation a pawn down as Kramnik the round before.
Sure enough, Chucky did turn things around, but Giri had a gilt-edged chance to at least draw the game on move 33:
This was the moment to play 33…Qf4+ and after 34.Qg3 the black queen can infiltrate with 34…Qd2!, ready to pick off pawns. Instead after 33…a4 34.Rh7 Giri played the right idea one move too late, since after 34…Qf4+ 35.Qg3 this time Black can’t move the queen due to Qxc7+ and a quick mate. When queens were exchanged it suddenly became apparent that White’s kingside passed pawns were unstoppable and Anish had nothing to do but resign.
That means Giri now must win with the white pieces on
Wednesday to stay in the tournament.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave described his game against Alexander Grischuk as “a really good fight”, but added, “and such fights end in draws!” It was the 9th classical encounter between the two players, with no decisive result to date.
On this occasion Grischuk came well prepared with a subtle novelty in the opening, but MVL was happy when he found a caveman regrouping with Re1-e3-g3 and Qf3. While that operation was underway Grischuk grabbed a pawn and played 24…Nc2:
MVL was worried, commenting:
I have to give up a rook, and well, there’s no clear perpetual, so it could just be lost. I didn’t find a clear way for him, but many options were already on the edge and I felt like I could have missed something, so I didn’t see a clear win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it exists.
In fact Maxime was completely right to go for 25.Rxg7+! Kxg7 26.Nc6! (not just attacking f6 but blocking the queen from protecting that square) 26…Nd4 27.Nxd4 Bxc4:
Maxime quickly pushed 28.e5 here, and after 28…Rg8 he even went on to have the better of a 56-move draw. It’s not a position a human player is likely to be able to fathom in time trouble, but the computer claims that 28…Nh7! would have given Black a significant edge, with e6 always met simply with f6. Instead 28.Nf5+ was apparently the salvation Maxime was looking for, with 28…Kh7 met by either 29.Ne7 or the flashier 29.Nxh6! If 29…Kxh6 then 30.Bxf6! is winning – the black king is alone and powerless.
Eventually that game fizzled out to nothing, as did Dubov-Aronian, though Daniil’s compensation for losing an exchange was never entirely convincing. Things ended curiously:
Aronian could simply have grabbed the b-pawn with 34…Rxb2, but instead he played 34…Qf6 first, allowing 35.Rd2, when after 35…Rxb2 White could simply have recaptured the rook, but instead Daniil went for the pretty finish 36.Ne8!
36…Qe5 is the only way to keep the connection with the b2-rook, but after 37.Rxb2 Qxb2 38.Qxe6+ White easily forces a draw by perpetual check. Levon had seen enough and took the draw on move 36.
That means that 12 of the players are under no obligation to push for a win on Wednesday, 2 players know they need only a draw to progress (Ivanchuk and Fedoseev) and 2 players must win to reach tiebreaks (Giri and Rodshtein). With the tension building and a place in the quarterfinals at stake you won't want to miss all the action here on chess24 from 13:00 CEST onwards! You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps:
After tomorrow’s games, at 18:00 CEST, there's a special treat, as Loek van Wely will be back to stream his blitz games live in another session of Banter Blitz.
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