Reports Sep 6, 2017 | 7:24 AMby Colin McGourty

Tbilisi World Cup R1 TB: Stars show no mercy

18-year-old Aryan Tari beating 40th seed David Howell was the biggest “shock” of the FIDE World Cup Round 1 tiebreaks, and while there were also upset losses for Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu and Bassem Amin the real story was that the favourites asserted their dominance to reach Round 2. Wei Yi and Vladimir Fedoseev are flying after their Day 1 mishaps, while wins for big guns such as Sergey Karjakin, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Dmitry Andreikin mean fantastic match-ups wherever you look in Round 2.

Karjakin finally showed 16-year-old Smirnov why he's the defending champion | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

The 128 players who started the 2017 FIDE World Cup have been cut to 64 after Round 1 in Tbilisi. You can replay all the action below - simply click on a result to open the game with computer analysis, or hover over it to see the final position:

Why not go Premium during the World Cup? If you take out a 1-year subscription during Round 2 you can still pick a "World Cup hero" and gain up to 6 months free depending on how he or she does! For full details, see here

The World Cup has no rest days until after the quarterfinals, with each third day instead set aside for tiebreaks. The format is always the same – two 25-minute rapid games with a 10-second increment. If those fail to produce a winner we have two 10+10 games, then if necessary two 5+3 games and then, if all else has failed, a last Armageddon game, where White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4 but a draw sees the player with Black go through to the next round.

Let’s take Tuesday’s action one stage at a time:

25-minutes games: Where dreams go to die

13 of the 22 matches were completed after the two rapid games, with the favourites winning in all but one of those. They were laying down the law…

The tone was set by Wei Yi achieving a won position by move 10 of the first tiebreak game against Bator Sambuev. 

Bator Sambuev won a miniature against Wei Yi on Day 1, but he had to suffer afterwards | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

As a rule of thumb, when the Chinese prodigy takes a long think in a razor-sharp opening position, as he did for 10.Ne4, you can assume he has something in mind, but Bator quickly responded with almost the worst move in the position, 10…Nd7?

You don’t need to be a potential World Champion to spot that Nd6+ would be a big move if the b4-bishop was eliminated, and 11.Bd2!, aiming to do just that, was already the simple winning move. Bator found nothing better than 11…Bxd2 12.Nd6+ Kf8 13.Nexf7 Qc7 14.Qxd2, when his last lingering hopes were connected with a knight getting stranded on h8. As it happened, though, that just allowed Wei Yi to demonstrate a sadistic streak with moves such as the exquisite 30.Re7!

Take the rook and Ra8+ would be a pretty mate-in-2. There was no respite as Wei Yi went on to convert his advantage and then held with ease in the second game to make it through to a mouth-watering Round 2 clash with Richard Rapport. Sambuev’s shock win on Day 1 was a distant memory, with official commentator Ivan Sokolov noting:

How does Sambuev look? He looks like a man who survived a World War...

The end of the road for Yusnel Bacallao | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Fellow Day 1 casualty Vladimir Fedoseev completed an even more resounding comeback after winning his next three games against Cuba’s Yusnel Bacallao, while other Krakens also awoke from their slumbers. Murtas Kazhgaleyev had drawn his first two games against Vassily Ivanchuk, but it’s fair to say his “kingside attack” with the white pieces could have worked out better…

How far can Vassily Ivanchuk go? | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Vassily duly won 2:0, as did Dmitry Andreikin against Aleksey Goganov and Yu Yangyi against Iran’s Amirreza Pourramezanali. For a while it seemed, however, that defending champion Sergey Karjakin might be in real trouble against the youngest player in the event, 16-year-old Anton Smirnov. 

The massacre of the innocents? | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

After two draws in the classical games Anton blitzed out a pawn sacrifice with the black pieces that had Sergey deep in thought and 15 minutes behind on the clock. When Black won back the pawn and demolished the cover of the white king it might have seemed as though he was the one playing for a win:

From there on out, though, Sergey Karjakin played simply flawless chess, starting with 25.d5 and soon posing too many problems for his young opponent to handle.

In the second must-win game with White Anton played a theoretical line where queens were exchanged on move 9, with Sokolov commenting that it was the kind of position in which only a deep novelty would give you chances of beating a player like Karjakin – “wrong choice against the wrong guy”. Sure enough, not only did Anton get no advantage, he was eventually ground down to a loss.

Fier, Vallejo and Salgado | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Class told in many of the other encounters as well, with Mickey Adams weaving his familiar webs until he suddenly got the chance to grab a piece against Tsegmed Batchuluun, Etienne Bacrot conjuring something out of nothing in an ending to a game where he’d been on the back foot against Alexandr Fier, and Paco Vallejo getting a decisive win over Murali Karthikeyan with a simple but elegant finish:

30.a6!, and if Black takes the rook the pawn can’t be stopped.

Sam Sevian is the youngest player left in the event | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

We will still have one 16-year-old in Round 2, since US star Sam Sevian continued his recent good form to score a convincing victory over 64-point higher rated Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. The kid didn’t let a missed win the day before get him down and after 27.g6! he never looked back:

10-minute games – chess karma

A fun day was had by all! | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

8 of the remaining 9 matches ended at the 10-minute stage, which got off to a very strange start. English Grandmaster Matthew Sadler was glued to the Howell-Tari encounter, but experienced a watching experience no doubt shared by many:

What occurred in between was puzzling, to put it mildly:

It seemed to be contagious, since Daniel Fridman took a 16-move draw with White against Daniil Dubov and Mladen Palac drew in 9 moves and mere seconds with White against Ian Nepomniachtchi. What was going on?

Whatever it was, what those matches had in common was that after five draws the sixth game proved decisive, and all the players who had taken the quick draw with White lost. Talk about karma!

18-year-old Aryan Tari had been on the ropes in the second 25-minute game, but won the final 10-minute game in style:

Black would like nothing more than to take en passant on b3, but after 12.axb3 the black queen’s career would be over. In big strategic trouble David Howell tried to muddy the waters with 11…Rd8 12.Qc2 g5!?, but ultimately that just hastened the end. Tari had knocked out a player rated 113 points above him and ensured that the whole focus of Norwegian fans won’t be on Magnus. He even claimed to have had fun!

It’s curious that Tari’s opponent in Round 2 is the only person to have pulled off a bigger upset in Round 1 – Aleksandr Lenderman:

They both have a great chance to reach the third round, where Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will likely lie in wait.

The pattern of matches ending with five draws and one win in 10-minute chess was also seen elsewhere, with India’s Adhiban executing a nice finish to his game against Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen from Vietnam:

Black is clearly better, but it’s a shock how soon it’s over, and completely by force: 28…Ng4+ 29.Kf3 Rd3+ 30.Kf4 f6! and White resigned, since stopping mate with g5+ will cost a whole rook.

One win was enough for Adhiban to make it through | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Viktor Erdos from Hungary also grabbed a convincing win after four draws against 80-point higher rated Bassem Amin. Their final encounter was dramatic:

Here Erdos said that in the excitement of being able to simplify with 37…d1=Q+ (actually the computer claims 37…Bd6! is better) he forgot the proper procedure for queening the pawn and ended up doing it with two hands. His opponent was given an additional two minutes, but had to concede a draw and the match on move 60.

Erdos ended Amin's tournament | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

It must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Bassem Amin, who was one careful move away from Round 2 before he blundered into a stalemate trick in their second classical game. Viktor, who admitted he’d had to fight the instinct to resign in that game, now plays Peter Svidler in Round 2.

Lenic-Fressinet almost followed the five draws and a win pattern, except Luka Lenic pulled off a small surprise (their ratings differ by only 11 points) by convincingly winning both 10-minute games against Laurent Fressinet. The big outlier, though, was the clash between Russia’s Anton Demchenko and Ukraine’s Alexander Areshchenko, where all games were decisive, and won by White, before the final encounter:

In fact Areshchenko had been winning with White after some clever play, but one slip and Demchenko seized his chance.

Who's up next for Russian GM Anton Demchenko? Former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik! | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Harikrishna of course lost on the first day in Tbilisi and had been staring defeat in the face in his 2nd 25-minute game against Yuri Gonzalez…

…but he managed to escape and score an impressive win in the final game.

5-minute games – Jobava!

Georgian no. 1 Baadur Jobava ensured his fans were kept captivated to the end as his match against Ivan Salgado was the only one to go to blitz games:

That was a surprise, since it seemed that after a thumping win in the first 10-minute game it was going to be another match ending in 1 win and 5 draws. 

The last men standings (well, sitting) | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Commentator Ivan Sokolov became increasingly surprised at how Baadur handled it, though, wondering if he’d forgotten that he won the first game. Suddenly Salgado was able to turn the tables:

30.Bxc6! bxc6 (the computer recommends the inhuman 30…Qe2) 31.Qa6+ Kc7 32.Qa7+ Kd6? (32…Kc8! was needed, to stop what happened in the game) 33.Qxb6 Rd7 (33…Ke7 34.Qc7+ and the h2-rook drops) 34.Qb8+ Rc7 35.Rxf7! and the match went to blitz. Sokolov summed up, hilariously if also unfairly:

In the first blitz game Jobava blundered a pawn, but Salgado failed to convert before then collapsing in a complex middlegame in the second. To the relief of local supporters and his many fans worldwide, Jobava was through to Round 2, where he faces Yu Yangyi.

In our predictions contest “Vai dar bom” is the new sole leader, getting 60 out of 64 first round results correct. From here on, though, the points available per correct prediction double each round.

Round 2 starts immediately on Wednesday, with the remaining 64 players paired up in some intriguing clashes. For instance, we have: Carlsen-Dreev, Ivanchuk-Duda, Aronian-Hou Yifan, Radjabov-Artemiev, So-Bluebaum, Vallejo-Tomashevsky, Nepomniachtchi-Adhiban, Yu Yangyi-Jobava, Wei Yi-Rapport and Gelfand-Wang Hao.

Watch all the action, with the option of watching 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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