World Cup madness

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

A total of 128 players and their coaches and seconds gathered in Khanty-Mansiysk (Siberia, Russia) last Monday to participate in the 2019 World Cup. These include:

The four 2017 World Cup semi-finalists: Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So and Levon Aronian

World Junior Champion in 2017 (Aryan Tari) and 2018 (Parham Maghsoodloo)

Qualifiers from the European Championships in 2018 and 2019, 46 players

Qualifiers from the American Continental Championship 2018 and 2019, 8 players

Qualifiers from the Asian Chess Championships in 2018 and 2019, 10 players

Top 2 from the African Chess Championship 2019

Zonal Champions and Qualifiers: 26

Highest rated players not otherwise qualified: 18

Others (seeded players, invitees, etc)

The tournament is a 77-round Knock-Out (KO) event. The matches from round 1 to 6 consist of two classical games with time control of 90 minutes per 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1. The finals and the match for the third place consist of four classical games.

If the score is tied after the classical games tie breaks are played the next day. The tiebreaks start with two games of 25+10, meaning 25 minutes per game per player with 10 seconds added to your clock after every move. In the case of another tie, two more games follow with time control of 10+10. If the score is still tied, two blitz games follow (5+3). Finally, if all else fails then an armageddon game is played. The player who wins the drawing of lots may choose the color. White has 5 minutes per game and Black has 4 minutes, with an increment of two seconds per move starting from move 61. White needs a win to advance to the next round.

In round 1 half of the participants were eliminated and had to go home. Don’t feel too bad for them though as they each get $6,000 just for being there. There were too many interesting games and match-ups to cover here so let me just touch on some matches which interested me.

Wesley So defeated Sergio Duran Vega, a 26-year-old International Master from Costa Rica who qualified through the 2019 American Continental Championship. He won a pawn with a small combination in the first game and quickly and efficiently brought the game to a close:

So, Wesley (2767) — Duran Vega, Sergio (2387) [A29]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (1.1), 10.09.2019

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nc3 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0–0 Be7 8.d3 0–0 9.Be3 Re8 10.Rc1 Bf8 11.Bg5 f6 12.Be3 Be6 13.Nd2 Rb8 14.Nb3 Qc8 15.Bc5 Bh3 16.Bxh3 Qxh3 17.Nb5 Qc8? <D>


18.Nxa7! Nxa7 19.Bxb6 Nc6 20.Bc5 Qh3 21.Bxf8 Rxf8 22.Nc5 Kh8 23.e3 Ne7 24.Rc4 c6 25.Qg4 Qxg4 26.Rxg4 Rfd8 27.Rd1 Rd5 28.Rc4 Ra8 29.Ra4 Rb8 30.Nb3 Rbd8 31.Kf1! Kg8 [31…Rxd3 32.Rxd3 Rxd3 33.Ra7 Rd7 34.Nc5 wins back the pawn with a winning endgame] 32.Ke2 Kf7 33.d4 Nf5 34.f3 exd4 35.e4 Re5 36.Kf2 Ne7 37.Rdxd4 Rxd4 38.Nxd4 f5 39.Ra7 fxe4 40.Rxb7 Kf6 41.Rb6 exf3 42.Nxc6 Re2+ [42…Re6? 43.Nxe7 Rxb6 44.Nd5+] 43.Kxf3 Rxh2 44.Nxe7+ Kxe7 45.a4 [With two distant passed pawns on the queenside to contend with Black throws in the towel] 1–0

In the second game Wesley settled matters with a direct attack to finish the mini-match at 2-0.

As expected Russia had the biggest delegation with 28 players and 21 of them topped their opponents in the first round to qualify for the second. In rating order they are: Ian Nepomniachtchi 2776, Sergey Karjakin 2760, Alexander Grischuk 2759, Valdislav Artemiev 2746, Dmitry Andreikin 2741, Nikita Vitiugov 2732, Peter Svidler 2729, Evgeny Tomashevsky 2718, Maxim Matlakov 2716, Daniil Dubov 2699, Ernesto Inarkiev 2693, Dmitry Jakovenko 2681, Kirill Alekseenko 2671, Vladimir Fedoseev 2664, Sanan Sjugirov 2662, Alexandr Predke 2657, Anton Demchenko 2655, Evgeniy Najer 2635, Andrey Esipenko 2624, Aleksandr Rakhmanov 2606, Daniel Yuffa 2577. Quite an imposing line-up. Even their lowest rated player, Daniel Yuffa, is an amazing talent — in September 2017 he appeared on the Russia-1 talent show “Amazing People,” playing three blindfold simultaneous games while performing classical music pieces on the piano!

Yuffa’s chess is not too shabby either as he eliminated one of the big fish, the Czech GM David Navara, with some very precise calculation.

Navara, David (2724) — Yuffa, Daniil (2577) [B12]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (1.2), 12.09.2019

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nd2 e6 5.Nb3 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Nxc5 Qa5+ 8.c3 Qxc5 9.Be3 Qc7 10.f4 Nc6 11.Nf3 Nge7 12.Be2 0–0 13.0–0 h6 14.Kh1 Be4 15.Nd2 Bh7 16.Nb3 Na5 17.Bc5 Rfe8 18.Bd6 Qb6 19.Nxa5 Qxa5 20.b4 Qd8 21.a4 Be4 22.Bb5 Nf5! 23.Bc5 [23.Bxe8 Bxg2+! 24.Kg1 (24.Kxg2 Ne3+) 24…Bxf1 25.Bxf7+ Kxf7 26.Qxf1 Rc8 material is even but Black is clearly better because of his powerful knight] 23…b6 24.Bf2 Rf8 25.a5? d4! 26.Bxd4?! Bxg2+! 27.Kxg2 Qd5+ 28.Rf3 Qxb5 29.Qd3 Qc6 30.b5 Qb7 31.Bf2 Rfd8 32.a6 Qe7 33.Qe2 Qd7 34.c4 Rac8 35.Raa3 Qe7 36.Rad3 Re8 37.Rb3 Rc7 38.c5 bxc5 39.b6 axb6 40.Rxb6 c4 41.Rc3 Rec8 42.Rb2 Qd7 43.Kh3 Ne7 44.a7 Nd5 45.Rf3 c3 46.Rc2 Qa4 47.Ra2 Qe8 48.Ra1 c2 49.Be3 Rxa7 50.Bxa7 c1Q 51.Rxc1 Rxc1 52.Bf2 f5 53.exf6 Qh5+ 54.Kg3 [54.Kg2? Nxf4+] 54…Qg6+ 55.Kh3 Qf5+ 56.Kg3 [56.Kg2 Qg4+ 57.Bg3 Nxf4+]

56…Nxf6 57.Kg2 Rc2 58.Qd1 Ng4 59.Qe1 Qg6 60.Kh3 [60.Rg3 e5! opening up the long diagonal 61.fxe5 Qc6+ 62.Kg1 Nxf2 63.Qxf2 Rc1+] 60…h5 61.Bg3 Ne3 [with unstoppable mate on g4] 0–1

This round was also a big triumph for the players from St. Petersburg, as all of their native sons won: Kirill Alekseenko, Vladimir Fedoseev, Nikita Vitiugov, Peter Svidler and Maxim Matlakov.

Matlakov eliminated the youngest player in the field, Uzbekistan’s 14-year old GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

Matlakov, Maxim (2716) — Abdusattorov, Nodirbek (2608) [B91]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (1.4), 12.09.2019

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.g3 e5 7.Nde2 Be7 8.Bg2 b5 9.Nd5 Nbd7 10.Nec3 Bb7 11.0–0 0–0 12.Be3 Nxd5 13.Nxd5 Nf6 14.a4 Nxd5 15.exd5 f5 16.axb5 axb5 17.Qd3 Qd7 18.Rfd1 Rxa1 19.Rxa1 Ra8 20.Rxa8+ Bxa8 21.Qb3 [threat: Bf1] 21…Qb7 22.h4 Kf7 23.h5 Bf6 24.Qb4 Ke7 25.g4 e4 26.g5 Be5 27.f4 exf3 28.Bxf3 Qa6? [Black underestimates the danger. He should have played 28…Qc7 so that after 29.Bd4 he has the counter 29…Kf7 30.Bxe5 dxe5 31.Qxb5 e4!] 29.Bd4! Kf7 30.Bxe5 dxe5 31.Qc5 Qb7 32.Qd6 Qa7+ 33.Kg2 Qe3 34.Qd7+ Kf8 35.Qxf5+ Ke8 36.Qc8+ Ke7 [and now, instead of the “obvious” 37.Qxa8, Matlakov sank into deep thought and after 90 seconds (remember this is a rapid game) blitzed out all of his remaining moves] 37.d6+ Kxd6 38.Qf8+ Kc7 39.Qxg7+ Kb6 40.Qf6+ Ka5 41.Qd8+ Kb4 42.Qf8+ Kc4 43.Qc8+ [43.Qc8+ Kd4 (43…Kb4 44.Qc3+ Qxc3 45.bxc3+ Kxc3 46.Bxa8) 44.Qd8+ Kc4 45.Qc7+ Kd4 (45…Kb4 still cannot be played for the same reason: 46.Qc3+) 46.Qa7+ wins the queen] 1–0

The leader of the St. Petersburg School of Chess Peter Svidler came through with his own brilliancy.

Svidler, Peter (2729) — Albornoz Cabrera, Carlos Daniel (2581) [B51]
Khanty-Mansiysk FIDE World Cup (2.19), 11.09.2019

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.0–0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Bf1 Bg4 8.d4 Bxf3 9.gxf3 cxd4 10.cxd4 d5 11.e5 Nh5 12.e6! g6 13.Nc3 f5? [After the game Svidler said that this was a very bad move and Black should have continued 13…Bg7 14.exf7+ Kxf7 15.Bh3 Nxd4 16.Be3 Nf5 17.Nxd5 e6 and Black is not doing so badly] 14.Qb3 Nxd4 15.Qxb7 Rb8 16.Qxa6 Nxf3+ 17.Kh1 Qc7 [17…Nxe1? 18.Qc6+ Qd7 19.Qxd7#] 18.Qa4+! Kd8 19.Bf4! Nxf4 [19…Qxf4 20.Qd7#] 20.Nb5 Qb6 21.Nd4! [21.Nd4 threatens mate on d7. Now if 21…Qc7 (Or: 21…Qb7 22.Nc6+ Kc7 23.Qxf4+ Kxc6 24.Rac1+ Kb6 25.Qb4+ Ka7 26.Qa5+ Qa6 27.Qxa6#; 21…Rb7 22.Nc6+ Kc7 23.Qxf4+ Kxc6 24.Rac1+) 22.Nc6+ Kc8 23.Ba6+ Rb7 24.Bxb7+ Qxb7 25.Na5 followed by Qe8+] 1–0

India had 10 players in the World Cup and fortunately none of them were matched against each other. The delegation was immediately halved after the first round. 20-year-old GM Chithambaran Aravindh (Aravindh is his given name, Chithambaran his father’s) scored a huge success by eliminating one of the chess greats Michael Adams (England). The other prodigy, 15-year old Nihal Sarin (Nihal is his given name) was also successful, defeating the tough Peruvian GM Jorge Cori 2-0. Other successful Indian GMs were Penteala Harikrishna (2-0 versus Cuban Yuri Gonzalez Vidal), Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (1.5-0.5 against Alan Pichot of Argentina), and Baskaran Adhiban (1.5-0.5 against the very strong GM from Venezuela Iturrizaga).

The five who lost were Surya Shekhar Ganguly versus Vladimir Fedoseev (2-4), Muraily Karthikeyan to Ernesto Inarkiev (0.5-1.5), Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan against the Spaniard Anton Guijarro (1.5-2.5), SP Sethuraman in a thriller against the Israeili GM Tamir Nabaty 3-1, and Abhijeet Gupta to Anton Korobov (2-4).

The Nabaty versus Sethuraman match was one of the most exciting of the 1st round, as both are fierce tacticians with great fighting spirit. Nabaty won the first game after a slugfest but Sethuraman came back to win the second.

Nabaty, Tamir (2658) — Sethuraman, S.P. (2624) [B22]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (1.2), 12.09.2019

1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nf3 g6 5.Na3 Bg7 6.Bc4 Qd8 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qb3 e6 9.Bg5 Nf6 10.Nxd4 0–0 11.0–0–0 Qe7 12.Rhe1 Na6 13.Bf4 Nc5 14.Qb4 Nh5 15.Be3 b6 16.Nc6 Qc7 17.Bxc5 bxc5 18.Qxc5 Qxh2 19.g3 Bb7 20.Ne7+ Kh8 21.Nb5 Nf6 22.Nd6 Bf3 23.Be2 Ne4 24.Qc6 [the idea is to play 24.Bxf3 Nxf2 25.Nxf7+ Rxf7 26.Qxa8+] 24…Bh6+! 25.Kc2 Qxf2 26.Nxf7+ Rxf7 27.Qxa8+ Rf8 28.Rd8 Bxe2 29.Rxf8+ Bxf8 30.Qd8 Bc4+ 31.Kd1 Bd5 32.Nxg6+ [32.Nxd5 Qd2#] 32…hxg6 33.Qh4+ Kg7 34.Rxe4 Bxe4 35.Qxe4 Kf6 36.Qa8 Qf1+ 37.Kc2 Qf5+ 38.Kd2 Qd5+ 0–1

In the tie-breaks GM Tamir won the first rapid game and then sewed up the match with a beautiful finish in the next game:

Nabaty, Tamir (2658) — Sethuraman, S.P. (2624) [A48]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (1.4), 12.09.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nbd2 g6 4.e4 Bg7 5.c3 0–0 6.a4 c5 7.dxc5 dxc5 8.Be2 Nc6 9.0–0 Qc7 10.Qc2 b6 11.Nc4 Bb7 12.Bg5 Rad8 13.Rfd1 h6 14.Bh4 Nh5 15.Ne3 g5 16.Nd5 Qc8 17.Bg3 Nxg3 18.hxg3 e6 19.Ne3 Ne7 20.Rxd8 Rxd8 21.Rd1 Rxd1+ 22.Bxd1 Qc6 23.Qd3 Qxe4 24.Qd8+ Bf8 25.Bc2 Qc6 26.Ng4 Kg7 27.Nf6 Qc8 28.Nh5+ Kh8 29.Ne5 f5 30.Qd6! Bd5 31.c4 Bc6? 32.Nf7+! Kh7 33.Nd8 Kg6 [33…Bd7 34.Nf6+ Kh8 35.Qxd7] 34.Nxe6 Kxh5 35.Ng7+! Bxg7 36.g4+ fxg4 [36…Kxg4 37.Bd1+ Kh4 38.Qg3#] 37.Qh2# checkmate! 1–0

Percentage-wise the best performing delegation was from Azerbaijan as all four of their representatives (Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Teimour Radjabov, Eltaj Safarli and Nijat Abasov) won their matches and qualified for the second round.

All in all there were only a few surprises in the first round of the World Cup. The top 15 seeds won and the few upsets are:

Johan-Sebastian Christiansen (NOR 2558) beat Radoslaw Wojtaszek (POL 2739). Johan-Sebastian was in excellent form and dominated the match 2-0. His opponent, the Polish no. 1, is known as the long-time second of Vishy Anand and assisted him during most of his world championship matches.

Daniel Yuffa (RUS 2577) beat David Navara (CZE 2724).

Xu Xiangyu (CHN 2576) beat Bu Xiangzhi (CHN 2721) — the hardest match-up to pronounce! You will recall, by the way, that Bu Xiangzhi was the one who eliminated Magnus Carlsen in the previous World Cup.

Eltaj Safarli (AZE 2593) beat Samuel Shankland (USA 2705). The former US Champion did not seem to be in his best shape but he can be forgiven for he was playing with a heavily bandaged left hand. As explained in the website he hurt it last month while trying to catch a falling glass container. He severed the flexor tendon just below his left pinky and needed surgery to reattach it.

So, onwards to the second round!


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.