The Baku World Cup starts

Chess Piece
Bobby Ang

Posted on September 17, 2015

The World Cup started last Friday (Sept. 11) and will end on Oct. 5. This event is part of the 2016 World Championship cycle and is a 128-player single elimination match-tournament. Matches consist of two games (except for the final, which consists of four). Players have 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds added to your time after every move from the start of the game. If a match is tied after the regular games, tie breaks are to be on the next day. The format for the tie breaks was as follows:

Two rapid games (25 minutes plus 10 seconds increment).

If the score is tied after two rapid games, two more rapid games (10 minutes plus 10 seconds increment).

If the score is still tied, the opponents play two blitz games (five minutes plus three seconds increment).

If the score is tied after a pair of blitz games, an Armageddon game (in which a draw counts as a win for Black) is to be played. White has five minutes and Black has four minutes, with an increment of three seconds/move starting from move 61.

The last two remaining after six rounds of matches (in other words the finalists) will both qualify for the 2016 Candidates Matches, the winner of which will challenge for the world title.

The World Cup is a much awaited event, not only for the chance to qualify for the Candidates’ but also for the cash prizes, which are the best of any tournament. First-round losers, for example, go home with $6,000, and the purse goes up with every round. Second-round losers get $10,000, then $16,000 for the third round, $25,000 fourth round, $35,000 fifth round and $50,000 for the sixth. After the sixth round there will be two players left who will then play a four-game match. Loser gets 80,000 while winner gets $120,000. Not bad at all.

The first round just ended last Sunday (Sept. 13) night.

All of the players from the FIDE Top 10 list went through (except of course for Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand who are not playing). These are Topalov, Nakamura, Caruana, Giri, Ding Liren, Kramnik, Wesley So and Grischuk.

Boris Gelfand was eliminated in the first round. This is a big shock as he is a six-time world championship candidate, has nerves of steel, and has always done well in the KO matches of the World Cup: in fact he went all the way and won the 2009 World Cup. Gelfand’s opponent, IM Cristobal Henrique Villagra of Chile, should pat himself in the back for this great accomplishment.

The World Cup is being held in Baku, Azerbaijan. They will be hosting next year’s Olympiad as well so their chessplayers are being given full support in their training and practice. They have six players participating in this event and Mamedyarov, Radjabov, Guseinov and Rauf Mamedov all survived the first round. The Vietnamese Le Quang Liem (who had travel problems due to the Lufthansa strike and arrived in Baku without his luggage) managed to keep his composure and defeated Durarbayli, while GM Eltaj Safarli lost to the Hungarian Csaba Balogh in the tie-breaks.

On the other hand Azerbaijan does not have diplomatic relations with its neighbor Armenia, and so for a while there were rumors that Armenia, a two-time Chess Olympiad winner, would not send any players. However in a nice gesture the top Armenian players came to compete. Some special precautions were taken (for example, the Armenian players’ tables were situated as far as possible from the audience) but aside from developments over the chessboard there were no incidents. Of the four-man Armenian team only GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan lost in the 1st round. Aronian, Melkumyan and Sargissian all went through.

The Americans saw Robson, Kamsky, Samuel Sevian and Akobian (unfortunately his opponent was not scribbling any notes on his scoresheet and so no free points for Akobian here) eliminated. Their big 3 (Nakamura, Caruana and Wesley) all won together with GMs Onischuk and Shankland.

Wesley’s opponent is IM Parham Maghsoodloo of Iran. He is only 15 years old and was in fact untitled when he finished sixth at the recent Asian Continental Championship. Although only the top 5 were supposed to qualify for this World Cup two of the players that finished ahead of him had previously qualified so a window opened up for the next two finishers. His previous claim to fame was being part of the Iranian team which took 3rd place in the 2014 World Youth Under-16 Chess Olympiad (India came 1st and Russia 2nd).

* * *
So, Wesley (2773) -- Maghsoodloo, Parham (2447) [A35]
FIDE World Cup 2015 Baku (1.5), 11.09.2015

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e3 Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Nxc3 9.Bc4 Nd5 10.Bxd5 e6 11.Bxc6+ bxc6 12.0 -- 0 f6 13.Be3 Qd5 14.Rfc1 Bd6

A bit of an inaccuracy as the bishop is much too previous to exchange off and after White’s Nf3 -- d2 -- c4 the bishop would be forcedf to retreat. More accurate is 14...Be7.

15.Nd2 Bd7 16.Nc4 Be7 17.Bf4 0 -- 0

The pawn is poisoned: 17...Qxd4 18.Rd1! Qxf4 19.Rxd7!

18.Qg3 Be8

The Iranian player took his bishop out of striking range first before taking with his queen on d4. If 18...Qxd4 19.Rd1 Qxc4 20.Rxd7.

19.Bd6 Bxd6 20.Nxd6 Qxd4 21.Qa3 Rb8 22.Rd1 Qxb2 23.Qxa7 Bf7 24.Qe7 f5 25.h4!?

Wesley did not give up a pawn just in order to win it back with 25.Nxf7 Rxf7 26.Qxe6 Qf6 and his edge is only very slight. White has to continue to put pressure on his opponent.


Maghsoodloo’s idea is to activate his bishop. This cannot be wrong, however Wesley manages to advance his h-pawn to h6 and create mating threats.

26.h5 e4 27.h6 e3 28.Qxe3

[28.fxe3? Bd5 Black already has his own threats against g2]

28...Bd5 29.Rab1 Qf6 30.Rxb8 Rxb8 31.Ne8 Qf8 32.Re1 Be4 33.Nc7 Qf7 34.Na6 Ra8 35.Nc5 Rxa2 36.f3 Bd5 37.Qg5 Qc7

[37...Qa7 38.Qf6!]


[38.Re7? Ra1+ 39.Kf2 Ra2+ (White has to agree to the perpetual check with 40.Kg1 Ra1+. He can even lose if he tries too hard to win, for example: 40.Ke3 Qb8! 41.Qf6 f4+! 42.Kd3 Qb5+ 43.Kd4 Qb2+ 44.Kd3 Qd2#]

38...Ra8 <D>



The idea of the text is to get the queen away from c7 where it covers the escape square h2. Wesley didn’t like the more obvious 39.Re7 as his opponent gets too many checks after 39...Ra1+ 40.Kf2 Ra2+ 41.Ke3 Ra3+ 42.Nd3 Qb6+ although White ultimately stops all the checks there is a certain degree of uncertainty here.

39...Qxd7 40.Re7

Do you see? 40...Ra1+ is now met by 41.Kh2.


On the Chessbase Web site GM Alejandro Ramirez points out the incredible defense 40...Qa7+!! 41.Rxa7 Rxa7 42.Qe5 Rf7 and GM Ramirez could not see how White can break through Black’s defenses, but there is a way. Put his King on d6 and then zugzwang Black! Let’s see ... 43.Kf2 Kf8 44.Kg3 Kg8 45.Qb8+ Rf8 46.Qd6 1.96/0 Rf7 47.Kf4 The problem is that Black’s king and bishop are immobile and he is left with rook moves. 47...Rf8 48.Qe5 Rf7 49.Qb8+ Rf8 50.Qb7 Rf7 51.Qa8+ Rf8 52.Qa1 Rf7 53.Ke5 Re7+ 54.Kd6 See? The rook’s options are very limited now 54...Rf7 55.Qb2 f4 56.Qb8+ Rf8 57.Qc7 Rf7 58.Qd8+ Rf8 59.Qe7 Rf7 60.Qe8+ Rf8 61.Qe5 Rf7 62.Qb2! Black loses the crucial c6 -- pawn, and further zugzwangs will cost him his bishop. This is still a long process but the win is clear: 62...Bc4 63.Kxc6 Ba6 64.Qb8+ Rf8 65.Qe5 Rf7 66.Kd6 Bf1 67.Qe8+ Rf8 68.Qe6+ Rf7 69.Qc8+ Rf8 70.Qb7 Rf7 71.Qa8+ Rf8 72.Qa1 etc etc]

41.Qxe7 Bf7 42.Qf6 Kf8 43.Qh8+ 1 -- 0

* * *
The game of the round:
Robson, Ray (2680) -- Vovk, Yuri (2628) [C11]
FIDE World Chess Cup 2015 Baku (1.1), 11.09.2015

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 0 -- 0 10.0 -- 0 -- 0 a6 11.Nb3 Bb4 12.Bd3 b5 13.Nd4

A surprise. The text move is a bit of a rarity while 13.g4 is doing very well in practice. Here is an example: 13...Bb7 14.Rhg1 Nb6 15.Qf2 Nc4 16.Bc5 Bxc5 17.Nxc5 Rb8 18.Rg3 Nb4 19.Bxh7+ Kxh7 20.Rh3+ Kg8 21.g5 Re8 22.Qh4 Kf8 23.a3 Nc6 24.f5 exf5 25.Nxd5 1 -- 0 (25) Nijboer, F (2562)-Bitalzadeh, A (2417) Hilversum 2009.

13...Bb7 14.Nxc6 Bxc6 15.Bd4 Nc5 16.Qf2 Nxd3+ 17.Rxd3 Be7 18.Nd1 b4 19.Rh3 Rc8 20.Ne3

Already threatening f4 -- f5, which is why Black beats him to the punch.

20...f5 21.g4?!

The most obvious move on the board, but actually he should have prefaced it with 21.Rg1.

21...fxg4 22.Nxg4

The deadly threat is 23.Nf6+! gxf6 24.Qg3+ Kf7 25.Rxh7+ Ke8 26.exf6 and Black cannot reply 26...Bxf6 because of Qg6 followed by mate.

22...Be8! 23.Nf6+ Bxf6 24.exf6 Bg6! 25.fxg7 Rf7

Black has a very strong threat against c2 and 26.c3 won’t work because of 26...Qa5!

26.Be5 Qg5!

Intending to put the queen on f5. By the way, in case you didn’t notice, Vovk is also threatening ...Qxe5.

27.Re3 Bxc2! 28.Kd2 Bg6 29.Rc1 Rxc1 30.Kxc1 Qf5 31.Qe2 d4! 32.Rb3

[32.Bxd4 Qb1+ 33.Kd2 Rc7 wins]

32...Qb1+ 33.Kd2 Qc2+ 34.Ke1 d3! 35.Qd1 Rd7 36.Rxb4 d2+ 37.Ke2 Qxd1+ 0 -- 1


Wesley So’s second-round opponent is the 28-year old Hungarian GM Csaba Balogh. Rated 2659, he is a mainstay of the Hungarian national team and was board 2 when they earned the silver medal in last year’s Tromso Chess Olympiad. He himself won a silver medal for his six win, two draw a loss output, a performance rating of 2839 (!). GM Balogh is one tough customer.

Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.