Reports Sep 9, 2017 | 10:43 AMby Colin McGourty

Tbilisi World Cup R2: Tiebreak highlights

World no. 6 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost both 25-minute tiebreaks against unheralded Yuriy Kuzubov to join Vishy Anand and Sergey Karjakin in suffering an early Round 2 exit from the 2017 FIDE World Cup. The tiebreak carnage also engulfed Teimour Radjabov, Hou Yifan, Harikrishna, Dmitry Andreikin, Etienne Bacrot, Yu Yangyi, Boris Gelfand, Nikita Vitiugov and young stars Wei Yi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Sam Sevian. Nevertheless, 11 of the world’s Top 14 are among the 32 players who start Round 3 on Saturday, with 8 of them coming through tiebreaks unscathed.

Peter Svidler, here representing the England cricket team, played one of the games of the day | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

From here on out the 2017 World Cup will be a smaller, more intense affair – easier to follow and write about – but if 22 tiebreaks were manic they were also a lot of fun! You can play through all the games using the selector below. Click on a result to open that game with computer analysis, or hover over a player’s name to see all his or her results:

In case you missed it, Sopiko Guramishvili has recapped all the Round 2 action!

This time round we’re simply going to pick out some highlights of the tiebreak games, but first let’s look at the statistics of how the day unfolded – higher rated opponents who lost are shown in bold:

25-minute games – 14 matches end, 7 in upsets

Three players won 2:0: Navara (vs. Cheparinov), Najer (Vitiugov) and Kuzubov (Mamedyarov).

The remaining 11 matches were won 1.5:0.5 by: Bu Xiangzhi (Bacrot), Svidler (Erdos), Onischuk (Wojtaszek), Grischuk (Cori), Sethuraman (Harikrishna), Nepomniachtchi (Adhiban), Nakamura (Bruzon), Rapport (Wei Yi), Li Chao (Sevian), Wang Hao (Gelfand) and Ding Liren (Kravtsiv).

Boris Gelfand is often inspired when he gets a glimpse of a chance to progress in the World Championship cycle, but he met his match in Wang Hao this time round - the 28-year-old Chinese player said afterwards he's just finished university | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

10-minute games – 6 matches end, just 1 in an upset

We were down to 8 games (Ivanchuk arrived 3 minutes 20 seconds late), which was perfect for our multiboard view. To see that, as a Premium Member, go to the “Match History” tab under the board, click “Customise”, select e.g. “live games only” and click “Ok”. If you go Premium during Round 3 you can still win an extra 5 months free!

After all four games in their matches had been drawn so far five players won both their games at 10-minute chess (some of the tournament favourites finally woke up!): Giri (vs. Motylev), Aronian (Hou Yifan), So (Bluebaum), Caruana (Lenic), Jobava (Yu Yangyi)

The remaining match saw five draws before Ivanchuk beat Duda in the final 10-minute.

5-minute games – 2 matches end, 1 in an upset

The final two matches ended without the need for Armageddon, with Matlakov beating Andreikin and 19-year-old Artemiev beating Radjabov.

Let’s now take a look at some highlights of the day’s action!

Best attacking move

Viktor Erdos didn't know what was about to hit him! | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Viktor Erdos has just player 32…Qd7, hitting both the a4-rook and the h3-pawn, with that latter threat not something to be taken lightly – if Black captures it the threat of mate on g2 will spell doom for the h5-knight. Peter of course had to have something in mind…

33.e6!!, giving up the rook, was a beautiful concept for a rapid game, and White crashed through with 33…Qxa4 34.e7 (the spoilsport computer recommends 34.Nd6!!, since Black could have played better after the move in the game) 34…Qd7 (34…Qc6!) 35.Qe4! Kh8 36.exf8=Q+ What followed was a massacre, but a slightly delayed one, since Svidler followed the recent trend of queening illegally and getting penalised with 2 minutes being added to his opponent’s clock!

We've no idea what the following tweet means, but it seems it was a good day all round for Peter:

Best defending move

Despite the brilliancy, Vassily Ivanchuk went on to knock out his young opponent and now faces his old rival Vladimir Kramnik | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website 

We saw Erdos play a beautiful but well-known stalemate trick in Round 1 to knock out Bassem Amin, but 19-year-old Polish star Jan-Krzysztof Duda may have created a new classic. It’s true there were other ways to draw a tough first tiebreak game against Vassily Ivanchuk, but for style this one couldn’t be beaten:

74.Qh1+!! was followed by 74…Kd4 75.Qe4+!! Kxe4 Stalemate  

Best attack

Baadur Jobava’s match with Yu Yangyi was another of those encounters which had been surprisingly quiet with four draws in a row, but it suddenly exploded into life in the first 10-minute game. The Georgian no. 1 gave the local fans something to cheer about:

Admittedly we stole that new verb from GM Jonathan Tisdall 

Most beautiful mate

Yuriy Kuzubov ended Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s World Cup dreams in brutal fashion with 63.e6+:

Shak’s thoughts were probably far from aesthetics, but 63…Ke8 64.Qxf8+ Kxf8 65.Rd8# would have been a fine finish. Nikita Vitiugov did allow Evgeniy Najer to complete a 2:0 tiebreak drubbing by giving mate on the board, but the hands-down winner of this prize is Ding Liren. 

He managed to outplay Martyn Kravtsiv in what seems to have been a theoretically drawn ending, and then, in a hopeless position, the Ukrainian player tried the tricky 110.Kb3!

That would be a wonderful move in internet blitz, since autoqueening with 110…a1=Q is a draw after 111.Ra8+, and in fact all other moves also draw, except one… 110…a1=N#! A beautiful underpromotion with mate.  

Most inexplicable move

It seemed as though Motylev wasn't so keen to beat Giri | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

It was the second 25-minute game between Anish Giri and Alexander Motylev, and after three draws one of the favourites was suddenly in danger of going out. Motylev is up an exchange and Giri has just played 34.f4. What would the Russian Grandmaster play?

34…Rxb6?!, handing back the exchange. He did get a pawn for it after the other rook followed from e6 to b6, but in that time the white king made it to the centre of the board and a draw was soon agreed. To add insult to injury Motylev’s loss in the next game involved him sacrificing an exchange again, though on that occasion it was probably the best move in the position.

Strangest case of déjà vu – Sethuraman-Harikrishna

Sethuraman is again Hari's nemesis | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

In the 2015 World Cup in Baku Harikrishna met his 97-point lower-rated compatriot Sethuraman in Round 2 and was brutally knocked out of the event:

Two years later and they meet again, again in Round 2, and with Hari’s rating lead having grown. The result? Of course exactly the same, with Sethuraman comprehensively outplaying Hari in the tiebreaks:

Most painful blunder

Etienne Bacrot and Bu Xiangzhi playing for the honour of facing Magnus Carlsen | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

In rapid and blitz chess there are of course a lot of blunders, but often in the tiebreaks there was another game to try and put things right. That wasn’t the case for Etienne Bacrot, though, whose chance to play Magnus Carlsen in the next round went up in smoke in the following position in the second 25-minute game:

All White needs to do is eliminate the black pawns and 65.Nf6, threatening Nxg4, is one of various ways to try and do it. Instead the Frenchman played 65.Ng7? and after 65…Ke4! 66.Nh5 (66.Nxf5  Nxf5 67.Kg5 Ne3) 66…Kf3 67.Kf6 Ne2! Bu Xiangzhi was through to meet Carlsen.

Li Chao was another Chinese success on a mixed day for the team | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

If that was the kind of tricky variation you might miscalculate, 16-year-old Sam Sevian’s end – also with White and also at exactly the same stage - was simple but cruel. In a drawn position he blundered with 68.Kc3??

68…Nd5+! 69.Kc4 (alas, the only square!) 69...Nb6+ and the young US star was going home, while China’s Li Chao was through to Round 3, where he plays Richard Rapport. Speaking of whom…

Best example of why it pays to know your endings

Wei Yi’s clash with Richard Rapport was far from the classic we’d all hoped for. Two rapid draws in classical and one win in the 25-minute games was all we got, but at least Richard Rapport’s conversion of a better endgame had one memorable moment:

Usually the Database tab under our live boards is worth checking in the openings, but sometimes it can be useful in the ending as well! When 59.g4! was played you could instantly see:

The database treats mirror positions as hits, so the wins for Black are after playing g5 in the reverse position, and only one player failed to convert the win after playing the move. The earliest game there is Radev-Pribyl, which was singled out by the late, great Mark Dvoretsky in his Endgame Manual.

Note where the game was played! | source: Google Books

Most traumatic loss: Mamedyarov vs. Kuzubov

Although Yuriy Kuzubov has been on a wonderful run of late and is approaching 2700, it’s fair to say his defeating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the biggest upset of the tiebreaks. As we reported a day earlier, there was a bitter end to their classical games, as a refusal of both players to take a draw saw the game drag on to a completely unnecessary 130 moves. Then came the first 25-minute tiebreak game… 

Not a day Mamedyarov will remember fondly... | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Mamedyarov reached a heavy piece ending a pawn up, and although his pawns were scattered the one thing you could seemingly say was that he wasn’t going to lose. Then to add insult to injury they reached this position:

It was understandable that Mamedyarov threatened mate-in-1 with 39.Rc5, meeting 39…Rb8 with 40.d5, though barely conceivable that he went on to lose from there! Instead, though, he had the cute geometrical motif 39.Qc8+! Kh7 39.Qa6!, pinning and winning on the spot. It turned out there was no road back for Mamedyarov from that gut-wrenching start to the day.

Most entertaining match

This was almost called “most ridiculous match” and there was quite some competition, even just from the first Adhiban-Nepomniachtchi tiebreak game alone! 

Adhiban was winning, then losing, then finally drew this game | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

Artemiev-Radjabov featured five decisive games in a row at one point, and was definitely emotional:

The prize, however, must go to Matlakov-Andreikin, which was full of too many curious moments to mention. You could tell it was going to be memorable in the first tiebreak game, when Maxim Matlakov took a draw by repetition in a won position, with almost 8 minutes on his clock:

The computer suggests simply playing 23.Qf4 and asking Black what his plans for the future are (it’s fun to play through some of the lines by simply making moves in our broadcast).

Dmitry Andreikin kept us entertained with some astonishing escapes in Tbilisi | photo: Anastasia Karlovich, official website

The second rapid game was a more explicable draw by repetition before in the first 10-minute game Matlakov crushed Andreikin with Black and seemed to be on the verge of victory. Maxim was a little too clever for his own good, though, when in the 2nd 10-minute game he pushed his c-pawn and left a bishop en-prise and his king all alone. The pawn was queening, but his king's days were going to end first.

Things only became more surreal in blitz, when Andreikin managed to lose the following position two pawns up (pushing the c-pawn would later again be a losing move!):

There had, of course, to be one final twist. Needing to win with Black to force Armageddon, Andreikin reached what looks to be a winning position:

If he plays 27…dxe5! now he opens up the d-file so his queen can capture the d7-bishop next move - the threat of back-rank mate prevents any better options for White. Instead, though, Andreikin once again showed that he wasn't his usual solid self in Tbilisi by playing 27…Bxe5?, when after 28.Rf8+ Ka7 29.Bxg4 it was White on top, and sure enough Matlakov went on to win and end the madness. He plays Levon Aronian next.

For Round 3 we’re down to 32 players and 16 matches, with top-quality chess guaranteed!

Round 3 starts on Saturday, 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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