Vassily Ivanchuk and Levon Aronian meet in a mouth-watering quarterfinal on Friday after knocking out Anish Giri and Daniil Dubov respectively in Round 4 of the FIDE World Cup in Tbilisi. The only other player to make it through so far is Ding Liren, who overcame his Chinese compatriot Wang Hao and will now play the winner of Rapport-Najer. The remaining five matches all go to tiebreaks, with Maxim Rodshtein deserving the plaudits for winning on demand with the black pieces to level his match with Vladimir Fedoseev.
You can play through all the games from Tbilisi 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 or her results:
Two players had to win on demand on Thursday to take their matches to tiebreaks – Anish Giri and Maxim Rodshtein – but while Anish had the advantage of the white pieces, he faced the daunting obstacle of an in-form Vassily Ivanchuk.
Queens were traded off on move 19, but hope remained until move 23:
Ivanchuk said he was concerned about 23.b4! here, undermining the knight and allowing White to invade on the queenside. Instead Giri began operations on the other side of the board with 23.f4?!, but that allowed Vassily to shut down the queenside break with 23…a5!. With a monster knight on d4 it soon became a question of whether Ivanchuk would win or his young opponent would manage to scrape a draw and save some rating points. To Anish’s credit, though, he hung on in there, and eventually had the Ukrainian genius a little concerned:
My position was very good, maybe close to a win, but he defended by an interesting way and in the final I was happy to find perpetual check!
47.Rxd4 R6b5+! 48.Kc6 Rb6+ 49.Kc5 (the king can’t escape from checks, since if it moves away from the rook Black can simply take on d4 and win the position an exchange up) 49…R6b5+ Draw
That meant that Vassily has now come through two matches in a row against Giri and Vladimir Kramnik without the need for tiebreaks. Check out his interview with Anastasia Karlovich below:
Maxim Rodshtein had the black pieces for his must-win game, but while his opponent Vladimir Fedoseev has been in great form in Tbilisi he isn’t, as we noted in our previous report, renowned for his ability to “draw on demand”. Most notably this year he lost with White to Sam Shankland in the final round of the St. Louis Winter Classic when a draw would have guaranteed him at least a place in a playoff.
In Tbilisi Maxim did all you could ask of him, playing a complex opening and then castling on the opposite wing just when it seemed the game might fizzle out into a draw. Despite pieces being traded off the position retained its venom, and it seems Fedoseev lost the thread on move 31:
It looks ugly, but 31.Rf3! was the best bet, when after the forced 31…cxd4 White has 32.Qh7+ and then taking on g8 next move. Although Black gets to play Qxf3+ with check Fedoseev should have been able to force a perpetual check without too much difficulty. In any case, the game would have been a long, tense battle, whereas instead after 31.Qf3?! cxd4 32.Qxc6+ Kxc6 33.Rg1 Re8 34.b4 b5! it was already objectively lost. Fedoseev had nothing better than to play 35.c5 and the black king could invade and support the d-pawn’s promotion. The tiebreak between these two should be a lot of fun!
The two other players who have so far joined Ivanchuk in the quarterfinals did it in very different ways. Chinese no. 1 Ding Liren demonstrated some wonderful endgame technique against his compatriot Wang Hao. First he achieved a position where he had a bishop against a knight and could target an isolated pawn, forcing all Black’s pieces to defend passively:
It was still a tough technical task, though, until Ding Liren felt a critical moment came after 36…Re2:
Here he played 37.Re4!, explaining afterwards:
A difficult game, but I was pressing throughout the game, so I felt a little bit more relaxed than him. I think I played very well. I’m very satisfied with my performance, and I thought that 37.Re4 is an important move to exchange the rooks. I saw the other variations, but it’s not enough to win. So I think I found the best move and it’s very important. After that the endgame I think is lost for Black.
The end was hastened when Wang Hao’s knight wandered too far into enemy territory and was trapped, with the pawn ending easily winning for White:
The other player to make it through was Levon Aronian, whose game against Daniil Dubov was a huge amount of fun, though perhaps not for the players!
Dubov chose the Grünfeld Defence and, with the rare 9…b6 (played after 28 seconds), he managed to provoke Aronian into an adventure, as the Armenian no. 1 commented:
First of all my opponent played a very suspicious line in the opening and then, instead of just playing very solidly, maybe instead of 10.Qd2 just 10.Rc1 and I think White should have had a very easy advantage, I decided for some reason to play for mate, and I blundered a couple of things. First of all I forgot that he is threatening to exchange the queens and then, as if it wasn’t enough, I also blundered his move 17…f6, after which I thought I’m in grave danger.
Here’s the picturesque position after Aronian had first pushed his h-pawn to h6 and then followed up with 17.e6!?
As Levon mentioned, 17…f6! came as a cold shower, and he entered damage control mode. A draw offer was rejected and he felt that he would have been in trouble if Dubov had played 19…Rac8 instead of 19…Nxd4.
The game then turned on 23…g5?!
After 24.f4 Bxh6 25.fxg5 Bg7 26.Bd4 fxg5 27.Bxg7 Kxg7 28.Rf7+ the e-pawn was suddenly a real menace, with Aronian commenting:
After g5 I’m the one who’s pressing. Here he also offered a draw, but at that moment I felt the momentum was with me and then I kind of managed to get this endgame, which for some reason I remembered should be winning, which I’d analysed a long time ago, but I couldn’t find the win – it was so embarrassing!
The ending was taxing for all who saw it, with Ivan Sokolov bringing in Vassily Ivanchuk for his expert opinion:
He was referring to Eugene Nalimov, or rather his tablebases, that tell us how God would play chess, or at least the mathematically certain outcome of any position with a limited number of pieces (6 or 7, depending on the tablebases) and perfect play. For instance, take the position when the ending first arose when Aronian played 47.Rxb5, click the “Analysis” tab under our broadcast board and “Copy” to get the FEN of the position, paste it into the “Input FEN” field here and you get:
So Black is lost, but if he played 47…Kg6 and both sides continued to play perfectly it would take 72 moves until Black was mated. Dubov played 47…Kf6 (humans!) and then the tragi-comedy began, as Levon was unable to stumble on the right plan, while Daniil continually failed to spot how to draw when the chance arose. The position to aim for wasn’t so tricky, at least after you’d seen it…
It required the pawn to be on g4, but Levon only reluctantly put his pawn on g3 on move 73 and then finally pushed it one square further to g4 on move 90. He commented:
Probably people are sitting there with tablebases and laughing at me!
Despite Anastasia’s denials it’s fair to say there was some of that, though to see the world’s best players stumbling in the dark said more about chess:
And Egyptian GM Bassem Amin pointed out:
A last irony is that after “finding” g4 that wasn’t the end of the story, since 92.Rb2 was a last lifeline for Dubov. Aronian saw what he’d done, explaining, “I was just trying not to lose on time at that moment!”
After 92…Ke5! Black could pick up the white g-pawn and save the game, but after 92…Bd3 93.Rb6+ Ke5 Black was too late - 94.Kg7 Kf4 95.Rb4+ Be4 96.Rxe4+! forced a simple winning pawn endgame.
Levon summed up:
In this tournament I think players do not generally show their best play, because there is so much at stake, especially for me, trying to qualify. It’s very stressful!
Watch his interview below (it starts at about 6:03):
He now has a day to recover before facing none other than Vassily Ivanchuk in the quarterfinals!
Four of the matches went to tiebreaks after both games were drawn, with only Bu Xiangzhi-Svidler seeing a genuinely fast draw after queens were exchanged on move 17. Grischuk-MVL actually ended on move 13, but in a 6.a4 Najdorf Sicilian Grischuk had managed to spend over an hour on his last three moves.
Will Maxime's chess be more on target than his darts?
Najer-Rapport ended in perpetual check on move 47 of a game full of inventive play and tactical danger, while Jobava-So was an uncomfortable experience for the top remaining seed, Wesley So:
Baadur Jobava was completely in control, but after 42.Ng6 here the Georgian no. 1 could find no way to break down his opponent’s defences.
When you add Fedoseev-Rodshtein we have a total of five tiebreak matches on Thursday to determine Friday’s quarterfinal line-up. The stakes are high and it should be a lot of fun to watch here on chess24 from 13:00 CEST onwards! You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps: