Radjabov wins World Cup

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

FIDE World Cup 2019
Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
Sept. 9–Oct. 4, 2019

Results of Semis (winners in bold)

Ding Liren CHN 2811 vs. Yu Yangyi CHN 2763 2.5-1.5

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2774 vs. Teimour Radjabov AZE 2758 0.5-1.5

Result of Finals

Teimour Radjabov AZE 2758 vs. Ding Liren CHN 2811 6-4

Result of Match for 3rd place

Yu Yangyi CHN 2763 vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2774 2-4

7-round 128 player Knockout event

Time Control: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes play-to-finish with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move, starting move 1

GM Teimour Radjabov

Teimour Radjabov, a 32-year-old Azeri Grandmaster, scored the biggest win of his life by beating top seed Ding Liren in tiebreaks to win the 2019 FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk and bring home the top prize of $110,000 (P5.6 million). This was a surprise on several levels, first because Radjabov is semi-retired, second because at the beginning of this event he had revealed his plan to completely give up chess, and third because in previous tournaments he had shown a disinclination to fight, frequently agreeing to draws without any real chess being played.

But everything was different here in Khanty-Mansiysk, all his old magic returned and we got to see a lot of power chess — small advantages derived from excellent opening preparation, tactical sharpness in the middlegame, and then ruthless endgame technique to grind home the win.

Radjabov’s road to the title of World Cup 2019 champion.

Round 1. Defeated GM Helgi Dam Ziska, rated 2533, the first and only GM ever from the Faroe Islands 1.5-0.5;

Round 2. Won over GM Sanan Sjugirov (RUS 2662) after tiebreaks 2.5-1.5;

Round 3. Beat the “Amazing People” Daniil Yuffa (RUS 2577) 1.5-0.5. This is the guy I told you earlier who gave an exhibition in front of live TV playing three blindfold simultaneous games while performing classical music pieces on the piano;

Round 4. Eliminated compatriot Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE 2767) in tie-breaks 3.5-2.5

Quarterfinals. Defeated tournament sensation Jefferey Xiong (USA 2707) 1.5-0.5;

Semifinals. Broke the heart of France by eliminating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA 2774) 1.5-0.5;

Finals. Prevailed over Ding Liren (CHN 2811) by winning both blitz tiebreak games 6-4.

Radjabov had inherited the title of the “Beast of Baku” from the original “Beast,” Garry Kasparov himself, and the decisive game from his semifinal match with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is a great illustration of why he deserves the title.

The Azeri’s comments after the game were very interesting: “it’s this stage of exhaustion that you want to attack, sacrifice everything and just finish the tournament. If you win it’s nice, but if you lose you say OK, fine, I don’t have to be tortured anymore!”

Radjabov, Teimour (2758) — Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime (2774) [A34]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk (6.2), 27.09.2019

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Qc7 7.e4 e6

Wesley So had used this Anti-Gruenfeld line twice against MVL, so the Frenchman is familiar with this position. In the Norway Stavanger tournament earlier this year Wesley had now played Be3 followed by Nd2 and Qg3 trying to stir up an attack, but MVL countered effectively and their game ended in a draw.


Surprisingly, this natural move is a novelty. White’s idea is that Black’s usual knight in the kingside is missing, so he will try to stir up an attack with Bd3, Qe2, e4–e5, Qe4, etc etc.

8…Be7 9.Qe2 Bd7 10.0–0 0–0? <D>


Would you believe that Black is now lost? He should have paid more attention to White’s attacking potential and continued with 10…Bc6! followed by Nd7.

11.e5 Bc6 12.Ng5! h6

[12…g6? 13.Nxh7! Kxh7 14.Qh5+ Kg7 15.Qh6+ Kg8 16.Bxg6 fxg6 17.Qxg6+ Kh8 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Bh6 with very dire threats]

13.Bh7+! Kh8 14.Bc2

Radjabov move thought this was a very clever move, threatening Qd3, but after the game he said that Bb1 might be better so that the queen has the option of going to either d3 or c2.


Preventing 15.Qd3 g6 16.Nxe6! Other moves:

14…Bxg5? 15.Bxg5 hxg5 16.Qh5+ Kg8 17.Qh7#;

14…g6 15.Nh3! Kg7 16.Nf4 Nd7 17.Re1 White has a strong attack. Take note that Bxg6 is currently being threatened.

15.Re1 Qd8 16.Nh3 Qd5!

Vachier-Lagrave is defending with all his might. Take note that 16…b5? would have fallen to 17.Bxh6! gxh6 18.Qh5 Kg7 19.Rad1 Nd7 20.Rd4 Black’s king is a goner.

17.Nf4 Qc5 18.Bb1! Bg5

White’s threats are real. If for example 18…Nd7? then 19.Qc2 g6 20.Be3! (careful with the defense of the f2 square! If immediately 20.Nxg6+? fxg6 21.Qxg6?? then 21…Qxf2+ followed by mate) 20…Qa5 21.Nxg6+ fxg6 22.Qxg6 there is no defense to this.

19.Nxe6 fxe6 20.Bxg5 Qd5!

Not 20…hxg5 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Bh7+ Kh8 23.Bg6+ Kg8 24.Qh7#

21.Qg4 Nd7?

MVL has managed to survive this far but here he should have exchanged down to an inferior but playable endgame with 21…Qxg2+ 22.Qxg2 Bxg2 23.Bxh6 gxh6 24.Kxg2 White ends up with an extra pawn so he should still be winning here, but this is the best that Black can do.

22.Be4 Nxe5 23.Qh5 Qb5 24.Bxh6 Bxe4 25.Bf4+

[25.Rxe4?? Nf3+ forces White to give up his queen for the knight]

25…Kg8 26.Qxe5

[26.Bxe5 Rf5]

26…Bd5 27.Re2 Rf5 28.Qe3 Qe8 29.f3!

Radjabov prepares for kingside attack part 2. First he takes away Black’s long diagonal.

29…Qg6 30.h4 Raf8 31.Bg5 a6 32.Rd1 Qe8 33.Rd4 Qc6 34.Rg4 Kh7

[34…e5 35.Qd2 and then to e1]

35.Bf4! R8f7 36.Be5 b5 37.Qf2 Qd7 38.Qg3 Rh5 39.Bd4 Qc7 40.Re5!

Radjabov made move 40 with only 3 seconds to spare.

40…Rhf5 41.Rg5 Kg8 42.h5 Rxg5 43.Qxg5 Qe7 44.Qg4 Rf5

A blunder but anyway Black is losing because he has no good defense to h5–h6.

45.Qxf5 1–0

In the Finals Teimour Radjabov fought the rating favorite Ding Liren to a 2-2 draw in the 4-game standard match. In the tie-breaks there were draws in all four rapid games and then Radjabov won both blitz games to win the title.

Radjabov’s best game was in game 3 of the standard match. After the game Ding Liren confessed that he still did not know where he went wrong!

Radjabov, Teimour (2758) — Ding, Liren (2811) [C89]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk (7.3), 02.10.2019

There is a ton of theory here in the Marshall Attack. We will just point out the highlights.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3

Ding had won the previous game and Radjabov is in a must-win situation. His choice to allow the Marshall Attack was a surprise — this counter-attack has been analyzed to death, most lines ending in a draw. It turns out that Radjabov has something new planned.

8…d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d3

Some White players prefer this move because, by comparison with the mainline 12.d4, when the white rook gets an opportunity to go to e4 later it would be defended, unlike in the 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Re4 line when Black has some tactical opportunities based on the looseness of the e4–rook.

12…Bd6 13.Re1 Bf5 14.Qf3 Qh4 15.g3 Qh3 16.Be3 Bxd3 17.Nd2 Qf5 18.Bd4 Rfd8 19.a4 h6 20.h4 Rac8 21.Qxf5

This was Radjabov’s novelty. He exchanges queens and goes to the endgame where he will try to make something of Black’s vulnerable pawns on the queenside.

21…Bxf5 22.Ne4 Bf8 23.Nc5 Nb4 24.Re5 g6 25.axb5 cxb5 26.Ne6!!

Radjabov’s prepared idea.


Inferior is 26…fxe6 loses to: 27.Rxf5! gxf5 28.Bxe6+ Kh7 29.Bxf5+! The point. 29…Kg8 30.Bxc8 Rxc8 31.cxb4 White is two pawns up in the endgame.

27.Rxe6 fxe6 28.Bxe6+ Kh7 29.Bxc8 Rxc8

Radjabov revealed that up to here this was all preparation!

30.cxb4 Rc4 31.Bf6! Bg7 32.Be7 Rc6 33.Ra2 Kg8 34.Bc5 Kf7 35.Kg2 Ke6 36.b3 h5 37.Kf3 Kf5 38.Rd2 Be5 39.Rd5 Ke6 40.Ke4 Bf6 41.f4! Bc3 42.f5+ Kf7 43.Rd7+ Kg8 44.Bd6! gxf5+ 45.Kxf5 Bg7 46.Kg5 1–0

On Thursday we will try to fire out how Radjabov was able to keep performing at a high level even though he has not been playing much in the past few years.


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.