4 November 2015

The Botvinnik-Karjakin Rule

Dmitry Kryakvin presents the second part of his World Chess Cup tragedies list.

Fifth Place. Recreation of the Battle of Issus on the Chess Board

The encounter between the former World Champion, the current holder of the World Cup Vladimir Kramnik and the finalist of the last awesome knockout Dmitry Andreikin was being looked forward to with special interest. Back then in Tromso Vladimir Borisovich performed brilliantly and won the final match against his younger opponent pretty confidently (2.5:1.5). However, Kramnik, who at the time was rated over 2800, was inflicted three wounds in the 2013 tournament games against Dima. In fact, the Ryazan grandmaster "had his hand" in removing the last national World Champion from the top three, and Vladimir, no doubt, was keeping it in his mind.

The latest couple of duels between Kramnik and Andreikin took place in the 2014 Candidates Tournament and ended in two quick draws. It was clear that given the present circumstances no altruism was to be anticipated of the Russian players as blood had to be shed in any case. Dmitry was the first to start the classical games with white pieces and soon had to resign himself to a drawish outcome when his older colleague not only applied the Andreikin’s own favourite weapon, i.e. the Carlsbad variation, but handled it in an offbeat manner at that.  In his turn Vladimir the Fourteenth, having the first-mover advantage, was applying pressure against his opponent, but in an action movie-like ending both sides played accurately and with a lot of imagination despite being in time trouble, so that the result box in the scoresheets registered half points yet another time.  

As the tension was escalating, Kramnik again opted for the inverted strategy in the rapid chess by employing his favourite King's Indian Opening (1.Nf3, 2.g3).

Kramnik (2777) – Andreikin (2720)
Round 3, Game 3 

The pieces of both armies have been deployed to non-standard locations and what we see in front of us is an "inverted" modern-Benoni with the queens exchanged. Black features a bishop pair, excellent statics, but the turn to move belongs to Vladimir Borisovich, who immediately "stalemates" the a7-rook on his next move and deprives the enemy's army of its main advantage.

27.Nb6 Bc7 28.Bd5! Kg7 29.Bxe6 Rxe6 30.Nd4 

The second knight is not averse to treating himself to a delicious rook, therefore Andreikin needed to maintain the balance via 30...Re5! 31.Nb5 (or 31.Nb3 Bxb6 32.axb6 Ra8 33.Rd7 Rxe3 34.Rxb7 Rxb3 35.Ra7 Rxa7 36.bxa7 Nc7 37.Rd7 Na8 38.Rd8 Ra3 39.Rxa8 b3 40.Rb8 Rxa7 41.Rxb3 Ra2 42.Rc3 Kf6 with a draw) 31...Bxb6 32.axb6 Ra8 33.Nc7 (33.Rd7 Nc5 yields nothing) 33...Nxc7 34.bxc7 Rc8 35.Rd7 b3 followed by total mutual elimination of pawns. However, Dmitry decided to simply pin the knight, forgetting that the blow can be delivered by his other colleague also!

30…Rd6?? 31.Nc8! Ra8 32.Nxd6 Bxd6 

Black is down a whole exchange. I believe that Vassily Ivanchuk would have resigned immediately after the knight’s landing on c8, but the former Russian Champion continued fighting and was rewarded for his will power. 


This is a small inaccuracy; after 33.Nf5+! gxf5 34.Rxd6 Nc5 35.Rb6 Rxa5 36.Rxb4 the resulting position would have had the same configuration as in the game, but already with the compromised pawn structure for Black. 

33...fxe6 34.Rxd6 Nc5 35.Rb6 Rxa5 36.Rxb4 Ra2 37.Rb5 Ne4 38.Rxb7+ Kf6 

Although Black has to part with his b7-pawn, he has taken control over the penultimate rank and pins his hopes on activating the rook and knight perpettuum mobile mechanism leading to the perpetual check.

39.Rf1+ Ke5 40.Rb5+ Kd6 41.Rb6+ Ke5 42.Rb5+ Kd6 43.Rd1+ Ke7 44.Rb7+ Kf6 45.Rb8 

With a number of precise rook moves Kramnik displaced his opponent’s king from the center so that very bad for Black now is 45...Ke5 46.Rb5+ Kf6 47.Rf1+ Ke7 48.c5, therefore the next Black’s move is forced. 

45…Kg5 46.Rf8! 

"Cutting off or cutting down?" as Vassily Smyslov and Grigory Levenfish used to be joking when preparing their famous endgame textbook. Meanwhile, Black is not in a playful mood as he lacks the exchange and a pawn, which is about to be pushed for promotion. And what is there in return? I feel very uncomfortable in front of Dima, but I must confess that at this very moment stopped commenting online, mentally awarding a win to Vladimir Borisovich…

46…Re2 47.Rc1?! 

More precise is 47.Ra1! (or 47.Rb1) 47…Kh5 (47...h5 48.Rf4 is going to change nothing) 48.Rf4 Nd2 49.Ra5+ g5 50.Re5 with an easy win. Now Andreikin finds his only chance in using the e-pawn as a shelter for his king, the pawn which White so inappropriately generated by his 33rd move. 

47...Nc5 48.Ra1 e5! 49.Re8? 

Discovering the pawn “discarding” idea 49.Ra5! Nd3 50.c5 Rc2 51.c6 Rxc6 52.Rd5 Rc3 53.Kg2 Rc2+ followed by a very subtle and precise move 54.Kf1! is an extremely hard nut to crack with so little time on your clock. White’s king is out of the cage, but it is only human to try not to give away any material, and how on earth is the idea of just dumping such a passed pawn supposed to cross somebody’s mind at all? 

49...Nd3 50.c5 Kg4! 

The outlines of the famous Battle of Issus for the Central Asia between Alexander the Great and King Darius III start to take shape on the board. The Persians had a numerical superiority, and in the first half of the battle one of their commanders Nabarzan literally annihilated the left flank of the Macedonians with his chariots. Alexander's army was on the verge of destruction, but a great strategist and a brave man suddenly gathered quite a small detachment of his loyal bodyguards and rushed towards ...the Darius’ headquarters! Not expecting such a turn of events the ruler of the Persians took to his heels, followed by a huge army deprived of his commander.

However, unlike Darius III Vladimir Kramnik met the "counterattack of Alexander the Great" face to face and fought to the last bullet, but this march changed the course of the great battle nonetheless. 

51.Rd1 e4? 

Being in terrible time trouble there was no opportunity to evaluate that after 51...Kf3! 52.Rf8+ Kxe3 53.c6 Rc2 54.Rc8 e4 55.c7 g5 White is difficult to make any progress and that the resulting position should be a drawish one after all. 


This is a return blunder that lets the victory slip away once and for all! White should have deflected the black rook via 52.c6! Rc2 (or 52...Kf3 53.Rf8+) 53.c7 Rxc7 54.Rxe4+ Kf3 55.Re6 winning. 

52...Kf3 53.Rf4+ 

After 53.Rd4 Rg2+ 54.Kf1 Rf2+ the game ends in a perpetual check, although Kramnik might have considered that he still featured some winning chances due to the black king being cut off.

53...Nxf4 54.Rf1+ 

It goes without saying that 54.exf4 Rg2+ 55.Kh1 Rc2 leads to a draw. 

54...Kxe3 55.Rxf4 Rc2 56.Rf6 

Black profits nothing from 56...Rxc5 57.Rxg6 h5 (57...Kf3 58.Rf6+) 58.Kg2, but it is still possible to continue keeping the white king in captivity.

56…g5! 57.Rxh6 

The passed pawn will not be kept alive: 57.c6 g4 58.Rxh6 Rc1+ 59.Kg2 Rc2+ with the perpetual check to follow.

57...g4 58.Re6+ Kf3 59.Rf6+ Ke3 60.Re6+ Kf3 61.Rf6+ Ke3 62.h3 

White throws in his last reserve, but the pawn material runs out in a short while. 

62…gxh3 63.Kh1 Rxc5 64.Kh2 Rh5 65.g4 Rh4 66.g5 Rg4 67.g6 Ke4 68.Kxh3 Rg1 69.Kh4 Ke5 70.Ra6. A draw was agreed in view of 70…Kf5.

Failing to capitalize on being a whole exchange and a pawn up is a huge disappointment! In the return game Dmitry Andreikin resorted to a trick that he produced three times during 2013 by opting for a rare sideline, not allowing Kramnik using his extraordinary opening preparation, and he went on to win the game with a surprising ease!

A new image of Vladimir Kramnik

Andreikin (2720) – Kramnik (2777)
Round 3, Game 4 

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Qe2!? 

This tricky queen maneuver was engineered in the 90s by young Konstantin Chernyshov – the point being that Whites strives to avoid the main lines of the Scottish Game and carry out the e4-e5 advance in the most appropriate moment. Chernyshov is very creative grandmaster who tried the 1.e4 e5 2.Bb5!? line also, but the real life into development of this line was breathed after it was successfully employed by one of the leading chess players of Surgut, the famous native of Ugra Nikolay Kabanov and a decent Spanish player Francisco Vallejo.


In 2012 Kramnik defeated Nakamura at the Super Tournament in London after 6... d6 7.g3 Be7 8.Bg2 0-0 9.0-0 Re8 10.c4 Nd7! 11.Be3 Bf6 12.Qc2?! Ne5, with the resulting position being nothing short of an ideal setup for a King’s Indian proponent!

At the 2013 World Blitz Championship Dmitry Jakovenko tested the following line against Vallejo: 6...Be7 7.e5 Nd5 8.Qg4 g6 (8...0–0 9.Bh6!)  9.c4 Nb6 10.Bh6 d5 11.Qf3 Bg5 12.Bg7 Rg8 13.Bf6 Bxf6 14.exf6, and here 14…Bf5! would have granted Black an excellent position.

The Ragger’s opening concept has recently justified itself in the game against Swiercz: 6...a5!? 7.e5 Nd5 8.c4 Bb4+ 9.Nd2 Nf4 10.Qe3 Ne6 11.Bd3 d5. Further improvement of white’s play in these areas will be demonstrated in future games as it is yet difficult at this moment to comprehend when and how it can be achieved. 

Instead of that Vladimir Kramnik, who was looking forward to a complex type of struggle with kings castled into opposite sides of the board, trusted the recipe of Alexander Predke and ended up bumping into a potent novelty.

7.Nc3 Qe6 8.a3! 

At the Moscow Open 2014 Amonatov played against Alexander 8.Bd2 Rb8 9.0-0-0 Bb4 (9... Bc5 10.f3 0-0) 10.a3 Bc5 11.Be3 Bb6 12.Bxb6 axb6 13.e5 Nd5 14.Qd2 Nxc3 15.Qxc3, and Farrukh Hukumatovich got a stable "plus". I suspect Kramnik knew how to increase pressure for Black along the b-file, but was forestalled by a proactive improvement.


Black is understandably unwilling to go for 8...Bc5 9.Be3 because White is up a tempo if compared to the Amonatov-Predke game.  In the case of 8...Rb8 he needs to reckon with the poisonous 9.Qe3!?, therefore it made sense to return to the Indian motifs via 8...Be7 9.Bf4 d6 so as to carry out the middle game regrouping of pieces as in the game against Nakamura.

At first sight the march of the rook pawn should promise rich game to Black; in reality, however, he starts experiencing problems with his c7-pawn.


As Dmitry subtly underlines the shortcomings of Kramnik’s last move, the fight of characters breaks out and the former World Champion leaves the pawn en prise.

9…Bc5 10.0–0–0! 

Although 10.Bxc7 Ba6 11.Qf3 Bxf1 12.Rxf1 d5!? should be subjected to the detailed analysis also, the decision adopted by the Ryazan grandmaster is more clear-cut from the practical point of view. 


Black also stands worse after 10...d6 11.e5; however, being determined to stick to his principled approach lands Vladimir Borisovich straight into a lost ending.

11.Bxc7 Re8 12.e5 Ng4 13.Ne4 


13...Bf8!? with the idea of 14.f4 d5 15.Nd6 Bхd6 16.Bхd6 f6!? was the last hope, though Black’s position here is not a cup of tea at all. How, how on earth Dmitry Andreikin succeeds in getting completely winning positions against Kramnik prior to moves 15-20 or so time and again? How does he do it? With the help of 6.Qe2 type of moves... This is just fantastic!


The computer recommends the cruel 14.h3! Nxe5 15.Nd6! Re7 16.Kb1! – Black is simply out of any moves while the white bishop lunge on d8 is in the air! Andreikin had it all calculated until the winning rook and opposite colored bishops ending and confidently headed for it.

14...d5 15.exd6! Qxe4 16.Qxe4 Rxe4 17.f3 Nf2 18.fxe4 Nxd1 


You will never go for the line which ends with such a nice rejoinder unless you notice it in your advanced calculations. Black will have to part with one of his bishops in return for the powerful passed pawn, and once the rooks are exchanged off the board the a5-pawn, which Kramnik so carelessly moved forward with his overly optimistic eighth move, is going to perish. 

19…Bxa6 20.Rxd1 Bc5 21.a4 Be2 22.Rd2 Bf1 23.g3 f6 24.d7 Be7 25.d8Q+ Bxd8 26.Rxd8+ Rxd8 27.Bxd8 Kf7

Activating his king is the last chance that Black can give a try to; however, preventing White from creating connected passed pawns on the queenside is not up to him any longer. 

28.Bxa5 Ke6 29.Bb6 Ke5 30.b3 Kxe4 31.c4 Kd3 

The passive setup is going to lose quite simply: 31...Ke5 32.Bc5 Ke6 33.Kb2 Kd7 34.Kc3. Vladimir Kramnik uses his king to dominate over the white monarch, but now the fate of the game is sealed by the remote passed pawn. 

32.a5! Bh3 33.a6 Bc8 34.a7 Bb7 

Alas, the setup with the bishop on b7 is doomed, and it was up to White to find a couple of relatively simple moves to finish off the game.

35.Kb2 f5 36.Ka3 g5 37.Kb4 f4 38.gxf4 gxf4 39.Bg1 Ba8 40.Kc5 Kc3 41.b4 f3 42.b5 cxb5 43.cxb5 Kb3 44.b6 Ka4 45.Kd6 Kb5 46.Kc7 Black resigns.

This time it was Dmitry Andreikin’s turn to be the boss

For the first time since 1998 Vladimir Kramnik has found himself outside the playoff cycle of the World crown contest (unless the tournament happens to take place in Russia, however). Meanwhile, the former World Champion’s attitude towards this defeat was philosophical as he recalled a famous phrase, “if you fail to score, you get scored on!”

So, Dmitri Andreikin took revenge for the World Cup 2013, but in the next stage of Final 16, he was faced off against Sergey Karjakin, and it was already Sergey’s turn to take revenge for Tromso...

Fourth place. Battle of the Jedi

It is no secret that Ian Nepomniachtchi is one of the most talented Russian grandmasters. A child prodigy, a versatile player, a genius of the rapid chess, a nemesis of the World Champion, whom Ian defeated more than once beginning with his childhood years, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, it is very well known that while someone imaginary like Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was devoting as many as 10 hours a day to studying chess at a certain period of his career, Nepomniachtchi was giving the same amount of attention to one of the top online eSports games, a real twenty-first century plague that was steadily plunging the young generation into the dimension of a virtual reality, i.e. a game called DotA. There Ian has become an elite player, no less famous than in chess.

Furthermore, it was at the knockout tournaments that a Muscovite from the Bryansk region used to be haunted by annoying setbacks that prevented him from living up to his potential to the full extent. Ian already became the European individual champion, won the Team World Championship as a member of the Russian team, but has so far failed to get it going in the World Chess Cup. And here in Baku we were saluted by a very different Nepomniachtchi: wise, seasoned, and in full control of his emotions. Ian defeated the Chinese athlete in the rapid chess, and then went on to win a very difficult tie-break against Laurent Fressinet: the outcome of the blitz game was sealed by a direct mating attack against the king of the French player.

In short, Nepomniachtchi came very well prepared to fight Hikaru Nakamura, having been hardened by two previous additional tiebreaks. Already the classic games displayed Ian’s serious attitude towards overcoming the ambitious eight hundred rated American: the Russian confidently fought back as Black in his beloved Grunfeld and played a good old exchange line as White in the Queen's Gambit Accepted with d4xc5 in which Vladimir Kramnik and his second Evgeny Bareev used to put so much trouble to Garry Kasparov in the course of the London match. Nakamura (who studied exactly the Garry Kimovich’s analytical lines of the Queen's Gambit Accepted) had to work himself out as well, but the game ended in a draw. The winner’s name was determined during the long rapid games neither.

A real slaughter began somewhat later.

Nakamura (2814) – Nepomniachtchi (2705)
Round 3, Game 5 

Although in the second half of the game the initiative belonged to Ian, the position became equal after he demonstrated an indecisive play. Now 46...Rd1 47.Qe4 (losing is 47.Bxh4 Rd4?) 47...g5 deserved paying attention to, though Black features very few winning chances, objectively speaking. 

46… Rd2?! 47.Qf4! 

This is an unpleasant surprise. The queen has become active, the battery along the f-file has started operating, and Nepomniachtchi needs to be on the lookout. With little time on your clock it is unsafe to calculate such lines as 47...Qd8 48.Qf3 Rd5 because all your pieces are hanging, that’s why the Russian player seeks more clarity.

47…Kg7 48.Bxh4 Qd4+ 49.Qxd4 Bxd4+ 50.Kf1 Rb2 

The queens have been exchanged off the board and Black intends to win back the b4-pawn. Nakamura sets his last trap, which Black so inappropriately steps into. 

51.Re4 Rxb4?? 

51...Rb1+ 52.Ke2 Bc3 53.Re7 Rxb4 54.Kd3 Bf6 was leading to a draw.

52.Be1! Rc4 53.Rxd4!, when it turns out that the recapture by rook is answered by a deadly shot of bishop on с3.

The return rapid game saw a hectic type of struggle. At first Nepomniachtchi obtained a comfortable edge but then failed to prevent his opponent from deploying his pieces to active positions and thus ran into difficulties. Both opponents had just seconds on their clocks, but being in time turmoil Ian still managed to come up with a deadly strike. 

Nepomniachtchi (2705) – Nakamura (2814)
Round 3, Game 6

Both kings are in mortal danger: the white king is on the line of the enemy pieces’ fire despite being defended by his faithful warriors, whereas his black counterpart is harassed by the X-ray along the c-file. The c4-knight is hanging and cannot retreat because of the weak c7-pawn. Taking with the rook on d1 is not good in view of 41.dxc4!

In short, Black is up against a choice between placing the c8-knight either on b6 (now allowing the b5-b6 advance) or on d6, and the pawn stab 40…e5-e4. Choosing the first option would have guaranteed Nakamura’s qualification into Adams: 40...N8b6! 41.Rd2 Rxd1! 42.Rxd1 Rf2+ 43.Kc1 Rxb2 44.Rxc4 (losing is 44.dxc4 Rb1+ 45.Kxb1 Qxd1+ 46.Ka2 Na4) 44...Nxc4 45.e4 Qd4 46.dxc4 Rb1+ 47.Kxb1 Qxd1+ 48.Kb2 Qd2+ 49.Kb3 g4, and White features drawing rather than winning chances. But who is capable of calculating this much with just a few seconds on his clock? It could be repeated time and again that getting all your pieces involved into the play would always be a sound plan and that redeployment of the knight should therefore be a good idea. However, the American lashed out with the pawn move and fell into difficulty.

40…e4?? 41.Rd2!! 

How beautiful! There is no escaping the destructive fire of the heavy pieces any longer. 

41…Rxd1 42.Rxd1 Nxe3+ 43.Kb1 Qd6 

43...Nxd1 44.Rxc7+ leads to a mate. Nakamura played differently, but following a brief agony had to start tuning himself in for the upcoming blitz games. 

44.Rdc1 Nd5 45.Rc6 Qh2 46.R6c2 Qf4 47.dxe4 Qxe4 48.Ka1 Nce7 49.Qb7 Re3 50.b6 Re1 51.bxc7 Rxc1+ 52.Rxc1 Nc8 53.Rd1 Black resigns.

In the ending of the first of the lightning games Ian ended up being down an exchange, but with a strong bishop and a pawn. The Russian was not obliged to lose, but Nakamura wanted to win so much that he got carried away and squandered all of his pawns. In the attempt number two the opening part of the game did not go well for the American and Nepomniachtchi could have easily finished the fight then and there.

Nakamura (2814) – Nepomniachtchi (2705)
Round 3, game 8 


Black lingers in the realms of superiority for no more than just a moment! A simple 21...Bxc2! 22.Qxc2 c3! 23.exf6 (23.Nf1 Ne4) 23...cxd2 24.Qxd2 Nxf6 would have left Black with a healthy extra pawn. In the heat of the blitz melee Ian gave the pawn back and was very soon down a pawn himself already.

22.Bxd3 cxd3 23.Nxe4 dxe4 24.Rxe4 Nc5? 

This is yet another mistake; correct was 24...Bc5 with the idea of 25.Qxd3 Nxe5!, keeping the d3-infantryman still alive.

25.Rd4 Qc7 26.e6 Qb7 27.Rb1 Qa8 28.exf7+ Kxf7 29.Ne5+, and despite the fierce resistance Nakamura finally took the upper hand in a technical manner. 

With the current score being 4-4 the outcome of the match between two young opponents was to be decided in the Armageddon, in which Nepomniachtchi was in charge of the white pieces.  Though Ian must have deserved an overall match victory slightly more than his opponent because he created more scoring chances and was squeezing his opponent here and there more than onece, he still under-squeezed him somewhat. However, this first impression has already become the subject of an aftermath detailed computer analysis, whereas during the battle it seemed that the fighting scene staged two great and equally strong Jedi whose acrobatic falls and jumps were received and sent back via countless blows delivered with the help of laser swords.

Nepomniachtchi (2705) – Nakamura (2814)
Round 3, Armageddon

Hikaru was striving to immediately win back from Ian the time deficit of one minute that he was down to by default from the start of the game so that in such a hurry he handled the opening part in a rather poor manner, having meanwhile made that ill-fated castling with both his hands upon having clutched his rook a tiny bit earlier than his king.

Now an unsophisticated 21.Bxc5! dxc5 22.a5 would have allowed Ian to get to the weakness on b6, whereas the Black’s problems with his famous old King’s Indian g7-bishop would have remained permanent. A sense of danger abandoned Nepomniachtchi and the Russian player removed his rook from f1, where it was defending his king against potential build-up of threats along the f-file.

21.Rfd1 f5! 

Black must either go for it or give it up; however, Hikaru has never had to be begged twice. 

22.Bxc5 dxc5 23.a5 

Although 23.Qxc6 Nxc6 24.exf5 Rxf5 25.Nd2 would have been a more tranquil continuation, White still failed to have the а4-а5 advance carried out and was therefore exposing himself to risk of not winning the game in the final run.  

23...Qf6 24.Ne1 

White could return the fugitive rook back via 24.Nd2 f4 25.Rf1, though the retreat to е1 spoils nothing yet.

24...f4 25.Rd2 Nc6 26.Nd5 Qd6 27.axb6 axb6 

While taking the pawn is unsound now: 28.Nxb6 Ra7 29.Nd5 Rb8; 28.Qxb6 Rab8 all the pluses of the position were maintained by 28.Qb3, followed by the queen retreat to d1 in order to prevent the offensive of the black pieces. The Russian player would have retained all the advantages of his position such as pressure against the b6-pawn and his good knight versus bad bishop.

28.Qb2?! Rab8 29.f3 h5 30.Nc2?! g4!, and Black went on to win the game.

What a shameful horror! White could have converted his huge positional advantage into something more tangible more than once and with more time on his clock could have brought the victory home. As for the Armageddon conflict that broke out after the game and that was debated at the meeting of the Appeals Committee, it gave rise to an incredible amount of feedback featuring a great variety of views and definitions both in the press and on the chess forums. Someone was of an opinion that Ian was to blame for the loss himself and there is no use waving your fists after a fight. Others turned against Nakamura, recalling specific examples of his misconduct in the match games against Ian beginning with constant readjustment of pieces on the board during his opponent's thinking time, violations of the touch-move rule and ending with the events of ten years ago, when Hikaru used to play round-the-clock online blitz games and, when losing the game, could easily indulge in badmouthing his more successful opponent with all kinds of dirty words.

In any case, the aspect of refereeing in critical competitions leaves much to be desired. I read with a smile through a discussion on the Facebook page of the ACP President Emil Sutovsky featuring the comment by Ignatius Leong that the latter had during his career been allegedly sending back home entire packs of incompetent referees. And who was it then who froze in horror and did not know what to do when a clock broke down in the Kramnik – Radjabov game in Kazan? All right then, although it might well be that Geurt Giessen counts well up to three only every other time, but he is a very good and sincere man nonetheless...

The issue has increased to include a million similar cases other than just the Nepomniachtchi - Nakamura tie-break, where the referees ignored the violations by the American, whereas quite a blatant case with the incorrect declaration of a threefold repetition in one of the most important games Karjakin against Caruana in the last FIDE Grand Prix is still fresh in our memory. What is going on? As of lately the world has witnessed quite a great deal of revival in the process of training of referees, whereas the rigidity of their requalification has stepped up. It seems to me that it was Sutovsky who has been proven closer to the truth as he spoke in terms of the attitude towards refereeing having remained as if it was some sort of a soft job, an easy way of making money, where all one needs is walking about with an air of importance, smiling to everyone and commanding: "Let’s start the round!" And then you are free to go to the buffet for your cup of tea... and still reap good returns. As a matter of fact, in real life of increased competition in chess it is indeed hard work that requires knowledge and skill.

As for Ian, he was absolutely right to have filed the protest. Absolutely right! Of course, from the very first second it was obvious that neither the respected Zurab Alekseevich Azmaiparashvili, who came down from his hotel room to administer justice while wearing his house shoes, nor his colleagues would allow themselves to be over-persuaded by Ian. Nevertheless, the story has received a great deal of public attention, reached the ears of thousands of fans and dozens of journalists. How many more critical competitions will see their referees nominated through good connections? And still, what is the name of the referee, whose task was to monitor the actions of both players at the Armageddon anyway?

Well, you can see him on the photo 

Nevertheless, Hikaru has qualified into round four and the pairings of Final 16 have been defined: Topalov - Svidler, Giri - Wojtaszek, So - Vachier-Lagrave, Nakamura - Adams, Karjakin - Andreikin, Caruana - Mamedyarov, Eljanov - Jakovenko and Ding Liren – Wei Yi, out of which the last pair went on to demonstrate the most striking and principled confrontation.

Third Place. Chinese Rumble

In the recent years the Chinese men's chess school had advanced to the forefront of the world chess. The chess team of China did prevail not only at the Chess Olympiad but at the World Cup as well! The attitude of Chinese towards the study of inner workings of the black-and-white game on 64 cells has been reshaped. In the past the Chinese envoys were regarded as tremendous tacticians who were not particularly familiar with the theory and would just resort to all sorts of solid, but passive Slav formations and would usually sit patiently in the defense waiting for the right moment to muddy the waters. However, the younger generation of Chinese has not only pushed aside the former leaders such as Wang Hao, Wang Yue, Ni Hua and Bu Xiangzhi, but has also made an incredible breakthrough in the study of chess openings. Who could have imagined some few years ago that Ding Liren would start eliminating the world giants in his hallmark King’s Indian Defence, whereas Wei Yi would stamp novelties and original setups in the trendy "anti-Berlin"?

Ding was the first to enter the world's top ten rated players, but the main prodigy of modern times Wei Yi in his 16-year-old age has accomplished a breakthrough unprecedented even in terms of achievement standards of Carlsen and Karjakin! The third rated warrior of the Chinese land Li Chao did not play in Baku, whereas the rest of the China representatives have been eliminated from the action so that it was not just a mere battle for supremacy in China, but for the national record as well! No Chinese player has ever qualified into the quarterfinal. 

A battle for respect

In the first classical game Ding Liren’s win resembled some typically phantasmagoric Chinese action film, but in the second game he quickly found himself down a pawn, which, however, was rather difficult to convert. Following Wei Yi’s error a draw was already knocking at the door! Ding could have made it as simple as ABC, but overlooked a spectacular zigzag of the white rook and had to allow the younger Chinese to queen his pawn, upon which a very interesting ending for the chess theory has arisen.

Wei Yi (2734) – Ding Liren (2782)
Final 16, Game 2

Sooner or later the queen will need to occupy the b1-square, therefore the fate of the game depends on whether White is capable of squeezing the rook out of the b-file or capture the runaway pawn via giving checks to the black king.

72… Kh4? 

This is not the queen ending and retreating the monarch into a "drawish corner" loses! The ChessPro commentators have correctly indicated the only path:

72...Kf4! 73.Qb1 

73.Qf6+ Ke3 only urges the king into a desired direction, whereas 73.Qh6+ Kg4 leads to no progress at all.

73...Rb7! Now the rook takes shelter behind the mighty back of the white king, which prevents his queen from inflicting a decisive blow. The position on the board is a draw: 74.Kc4 (74.Qf1+ Ke3 or 74.Kc6 Rb3!) 74...Rc7+ 75.Kb5 (75.Kd3 Rd7+ 76.Ke2 Re7+ 77.Kf1 Rb7 promises no progress) 75...Rb7+ 76.Kc6 Rb3, and Wei Yi is once again out of any useful checks.

73.Qb1 Kg5 

Now 73...Rb7 makes no sense in view of 74.Kc5, therefore having preliminary placed his king on c4 out of the queen’s way the younger Chinese went off to execute dekulakization over his older colleague.

74.Kc4 Rb8 75.Qg1+ Kf5 76.Qc5+ Kg4 77.Qd4+ Kf3 78.Qf6+ Ke4 79.Qe6+ Kf3 80.Qf5+, and Black resigns in view of an imminent loss of his rook.

The child prodigy was already much closer to the victory in the long rapid as Ding made a mess in the opening of the second game and was forced to give up two pieces for a rook, but escaped in a whirlwind of time trouble. In the first trial game of a short rapid a draw was reached again, this time a beautiful one. Both sides were struggling for victory with all might and main and in the following game one of them overdid it.

Ding Liren (2782) – Wei Yi (2734)
Final 16, Game 6 

The pin along the big diagonal is so terrific that Wei Yi was at risk of failing as early as the opening of the game. 20.f3! Qb6 21.fxe4 Rfe8 22.Rf2 Bxe4 (22...Re6 23.Nd4 doesn’t save either) 23.Raf1 Bxg2 24.Rxf6 Qxe3+ 25.R6f2+ simply ending up with an extra piece. The reason of Ding Liren not going for it remains far from the last mystery of this fierce battle. 

20.Rfd1? Qb6 21.Rd4 Rad8 22.Rad1 Kg8 

Total simplifications are inevitable, and it was up to the goodwill of the older Chinese to send the match immediately into the stage of blitz games, but Ding Liren persists in his quest.

23.Nc3 Rxd4 24.Rxd4 Rd8 25.Qd2 Rxd4 26.exd4 Qe6 27.Qf4 Qc6 28.h3 Kg7 29.Nd1 Qc2 30.Ne3 Qxa2 31.Qc7?! 

A hunt for the bishop is fully underway; therefore 31.Nf5+ gxf5 32.Qg5+ Kf8 33.Qxf6 Qxb3 34.Qd8+ with a perpetual check was rejected.

31...Ba8 32.Qb8 


This is an error after which Wei Yi was at a real risk losing his favorite pet with tusks. Following 32...Bc6 33.Qe5 Qxb3! 34.d5 Bd7 Black would have safely tucked his minor pieces away out of harm’s way and could go on playing for a win.


This is an automatic move, while the accurate 33.Bf1! Bc6 34.Qe5! Qc3 35.g4 h6 36.h4 was winning the knight and the game with it. Now Black starts hooking up to the undefended f2-pawn.

33...Qe1! 34.Qf4?! 

The bishop can be taken only if at the end of the 34.Qxa8 Qxf2 35.Ng4 Nxg4+ 36.hxg4 e3 37.Qf3 Qe1 line you discover a nice pirouette 38.Qf1 Qc3 (or, which is very critical, 38...Qd2 39.Qf4!) 39.Qf4! and the е3-pawn doesn’t make it to е2. Now the black queen is in time to come to the rescue into her camp.

34...Qc3 35.Nf5+ gxf5 36.Qg5+ Kf8 37.Qxf6 Bc6 38.Qd6+ Kg7 39.d5 Be8 40.b4 Qf6

Black managed to block the way of the passed pawn and even kept an extra doubled pawn that Wei Yi prefers to return in favour of uncovering the position of Ding Liren’s king.

41.Qc7 h6 42.h4 f4 43.Bxe4 fxg3+ 44.Kxg3 Kf8 45.Qc5+ Kg8 46.d6 

Rejecting a repetition of moves after 46.Qc8 Kf8 yet another time.

46...Bd7 47.f3 Qg7+ 48.Kf2 Qf6 49.h5 Qf4! 

White has no longer any prerequisites for playing the game for a win as his passed pawn is securely blocked and the black queen is ready to counterattack the white pawns. It was worth defending the passed pawn via 50.Qd5 with equality, but Ding Liren did what looked more like a game of hot-tempered grandfathers at the park. This victory was apparently so important for him... But the opposite happened.

50.Qd4?! Qh2+ 51.Ke1 Qxh5 

White is down a pawn.

52.Qf6 Qg5 53.Qe7?

The salvation was yet promised by 53.Qxg5+ hxg5 54.Ke2 Kg7 55.Kd3 and the king marches to b6 or с7. However, in addition to the ill-fated h5 pawn Ding Liren went on to give away the pride of his position as well.

53...Qxe7 54.dxe7 Kg7 55.Bf5 Bc6! 

The bishop ending is won with the help of any continuation to Black’s liking. Whereas Wei Yi was moving his pieces with a gentle smile, Ding Liren was already in a state of complete prostration, failing to grasp the essence of what was going on!

56.Be4 Be8 57.Bb7 Kf6 58.Bxa6 Kxe7 59.Bb7 Kd6 60.Kf2 Bc6 61.Bc8 Kd5 62.f4 Kc4 63.f5 Kxb4 64.f6 Bd5 and Black resigned after all.

How could I lose?

However, the Eastern prodigy failed to become the "Full Cavalier of the Chinese Fame". Next in his way was Peter Svidler, a much more seasoned puncher if compared to the young Vovk and Ding. Of course, Wei Yi went on to extricate himself from trouble, repeatedly saving the precarious positions, but he failed to get away from Peter nonetheless!

In other quarterfinal pairs Giri taught a lesson to Vachier-Lagrave, who had been provoking him in his Twitter page, Eljanov won an instructive match against Nakamura, and Karjakin knocked the last representative of the home team Mamedyarov out of the fight. The decisive semifinal games for qualification into the Candidates Tournament began.

Second Place. Bartitsu over the Reichenbach Falls

As there were two semi-finalists representing our country, it infused hope for an ultimate success. To my mind the Karjakin’s task was much more complex as he was playing against Pavel Eljanov whose performance at the World Cup was nothing short of being great and whose play looked stronger than that of the other members of top four. It was impossible to disregard the current tense political relations between Russia and the Ukraine, the subject which was kept being discussed on various websites. It should be noted though that Sergey and Pavel have always conducted themselves as real gentlemen before / during / after the game. We all have a lot to learn from them!

Anish Giri, unlike Eljanov, Karjakin and Svidler, was probably celebrating his qualification into the Candidates Tournament already. The representative of the country of tulips knocked out his main competitor in the rating marathon Vachier-Lagrave, and did it in the classical time, having thus secured himself a certain reserve in time. As Ding Liren and Levon Aronian were playing the role of spectators already, Anish turned out to be the second rated player in the list of world’s leading players after Topalov. Giri was literally beaming at the press conference following the end of quarter-finals, and then went on to tweet something in the nature of him remaining the last elite player in Baku. He did it, however, not to offend anyone, but to underline this very moral victory. A moment's relaxation proved costly to the student of Vladimir Tukmakov as he later fell victim to Svidler. In the other semi-final Karjakin was teetering on the brink of abyss.

As for Eljanov, he continued playing so extremely well that already in the first game Sergey managed to escape miraculously, to say the least of it.

Eljanov (2717) – Karjakin (2762)
Semifinal, Game One

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 7.Bg2 c6 8.Bc3 d5 9.Ne5 Nfd7 10.Nxd7 Nxd7 11.Nd2 0–0 12.0–0 Rc8 13.Re1 

This is an old move introduced by Korchnoi instead of 13.e4, which has been analysed up to a forced draw.


A more dramatic 13...f5 was played here as well, and although the immediate center undermining has been seen less frequently, but occurred in the games of stronger players in the majority of cases.

14.cxd5 exd5 15.Rc1 cxd4 

The game Aronian – Leko, 2006 saw 15...Nf6 16.e3 Bb7 17.Rc2 cxd4 18.Bxd4 Qd7 19.Rxc8 Rxc8 20.Qb1 h5 21.Rd1 Qe6 and White stands an inch more pleasant, but you will never outplay Peter in such a position and the game naturally ended in a draw.

16.Bxd4 Nc5 17.Bb2 


This is an error! Karjakin must have overlooked something in his calculations. In the case of 17...Qd7 18.Nf1 Rfd8 19.Ne3 Bb7 a position similar to the Aronian-Leko game would have arisen, where Black should equalize with accurate play. 

18.Nf3! d3 

Bad is 18...Ne6 19.Rxc8 Qxc8 in view of the typical 20.Qa1! idea, whereas now Black runs the risk of being capable of maintaining the material balance for a limited period of time only, when after mutual exchanges his a7-pawn falls inevitably prey to the white rook.

19.exd3 Nxd3 20.Rxc8 Qxc8 

20...Bxc8 21.Rxe7 Nxb2 22.Qxd8 Rxd8 23.Rxa7 fails to help either, although even after the queen recapture Karjakin’s position was still placed faith in only by the staunchest of optimists, headed by Kirill Zangalis.

21.Rxe7 Nxb2


The queen’s invasion on d7 would have been the most reliable path to the goal, had Paul not blundered the mutual geometrical motive by his opponent. Alas, eliminating the a7-pawn same time with the exchange of queens is impossible, therefore the clumsy-looking 22.Qd2! Nd3 (22...Qd8 23.Rxa7) 23.Rxa7 Rd8 24.Qe3 was correct and Eljanov would have ended being an extra healthy pawn up.

22...Qc1+! 23.Re1 Qc8! 

Having displaced the rook to the first rank, the black queen returns to her initial location. Now 24.Qxa7 is met by 24…Nd3! 25.Rf1 (or 25.Ra1 Qc3; 25.Rd1 Qc2) 25...Nb4 26.Rd1 Qc2 with the excellent counter chances. Pavel didn’t’t want to play 24.Qd2 because even though after 24…Nd3 25.Re7 Rd8 26.Rxa7 Nc1 27.Qe1 Re8 White is up a pawn, but the opponent’s pieces have become highly active and are capable of creating vicious threats. 

24.Qxc8 Rxc8 25.Bh3! Rd8 26.Ne5 

Making a draw is anything but simple as long as the knight cannot go on d3 because of a deadly pin along the d-file. Because a computer is made of iron he is afraid of nothing and, therefore, feels free to offer 26...Rd1 27.Rxd1 Nxd1 28.Bg2 Nc3 29.a3 or 26...Rd2 27.Bf1 Bxf1 28.Nf3 Re2 29.Kxf1 Rxe1+ 30.Nxe1 Nd1 31.Nc2 Nc3, thought even the resulting positions must be run through by a human player in order to establish if White is fast enough to gobble up the a7-pawn or will be the first to transfer his king to the queenside. To be out of harm’s way Sergey made up his mind to create a bolthole for his king.

26…g6 27.Bf1! Bxf1 28.Kxf1 a5?! 

The pawns hastens to the prisoner’s rescue, but it is at this moment that the advantage passes over to the Ukrainian player. It is high time that the rook be launched forward: 28...Rd2! 29.Nf3 (29.Re2 Rd1+ 30.Kg2 Nd3) 29...Rd1 30.Ke2 Rd6, and the cavalry scout escapes, having successfully completed his assignment.

29.Re3 f6 30.Ng4 Kf7 31.Rc3, and it turned out that the toughest of defenses was in store for Karjakin in this position. However, at that moment Sergey managed to pull himself together and went on to defend phenomenally in the style of Karpov and Smyslov in their best years. The opponents, having made a few dozen moves by the first line, agreed to a draw in a deep endgame.

In the return game the native of Moscow gave up his first-mover advantage without any fight so as to save firepower for the upcoming tie-break, but next day he found himself in a situation a lot more desperate than the one after the poorly handled Queen’s Indian Defence. 

Eljanov (2717) – Karjakin (2762)
Semifinal, Game Three

Eljanov has prepared and carried out the transfer of his dark-squared bishop to the fighting position, therefore Black had better prepare himself for the defensive measures: 25...Rd6 26.Bh4 Nd7. An attempt to stock up a pawn for future use is refuted by Pavel with a mathematical precision.

25…Qxa4? 26.Bh4 Rd6 

After 26...Be7 there becomes vulnerable the g7-square, which is in close proximity to the king: 27.Qg3! Rd6 (27...Nh5 28.Qh3 Bxh4 29.Qxh4 Nf6 30.Rg1) 28.Ra1 Qb5 29.Rg1 Bf8 30.c4! Qb4 31.Bxf6 Rxf6 32.Bd5 Re7 33.Ng6, winning.

27.Ra1 Qb5 28.c4! Qa6 

Losing is 28...Qb6 29.Bxf6 Rxf6 30.Nd7, but now the following shot crushes the flimsy defences of Black. 

29.d4! Rxd4 

Even worse is 29...cxd4 30.b4, although after the text move the knight drops anyway. 

30.Qc3 Ne4 

30...b6 is impossible due to 31.Bxf6 gxf6 32.Qg3+ Bg7 33.Rg1, and the struggle is actually over. 

31.Qxa5 Qxa5 32.Rxa5 Nd2 33.Rd1 Bd6 34.Bf2 Bxe5 35.fxe5 Nxc4 36.Bxd4 Nxa5 37.Bc3 Nc4 38.e6 Rxe6 39.Rd8+ Kh7 40.Bd5 Black resigns.

Being on the verge of departure from the tournament, which would mean the end of all hopes, Sergey Karjakin resorted to the same recipe as in the second round match against Onischuk. Then the Russian player transited the game right from the opening into a little better ending and took advantage of inaccuracies committed by his former countryman to crush his resistance in a cold-blooded manner. This earned him the praise of the World Champion, "This is the way to come back!" I must say that already the sixth World Chess Champion used to write about the benefits of the pre-intended exchange of queens in a key situation. And I believe that it was thanks to this that he managed to defend his crown against Bronstein.

At the critical moment of the return rapid battle with Pavel Sergey, too, did not hesitate long in favor of sweeping the heavy pieces off the board and continued operating with a jeweler's precision. No matter the drawish lines found later for Eljanov by analysts, the clock of the native of Kharkiv displayed his last seconds running away… The score became equal – 2-2. 

Somebody else in his shoes, annoyed by failure, would have lost his bearings, but the two-time Olympic champion didn’t quit offencing and pressing his opponent. 

Eljanov (2717) – Karjakin (2762)
Semifinal, Game Five

White is better and, as we already know, according to the "Botvinnik-Karjakin" rule it is essential that the strongest pieces be traded.

42.Qc6!, and Black lacks any reasonable answer: 42…Qxc6 43.dxc6 d5 44.Rb7 Bf8 45.Bc2 Rc8 46.Ba4 leads to a grim ending, whereas the queen retreat 42...Qb2 43.Rxf7! Kxf7 44.Qc7+ Ke8 45.Bxg6+, 42...Qb8 43.Rb7 Qc8 44.c4, 42...Qa5 43.Qb7! Qa8 (43...Rf8 44.Bxg6) 44.Bxg6! Qxb7 45.Bxf7+ Kf8 46.Rxb7 e4 47.c4 promises nothing particularly pleasant either.

Eljanov opts for a no less reasonable plan of creating a second weakness on the kingside, but forgets about the dormant King’s Indian bishop…

42.h4? Bf6! 43.h5? 

White still could have extricated himself from trouble via 43.Rc6 Qb2 44.Qb4!, whereas now he is losing his base pawn inevitably.

43...Bh4 44.Kh3 Qxf2, and the game didn’t last long after that. 

We must give proper respect to the great rival of Karjakin as he refused to give in to this tragedy. Eljanov completely outplayed his partner as Black in the second short rapid game and transited the game into an opposite-colored bishop ending with two extra pawns for himself, but instead of going for decisive action he decided to gain more time via maneuvering of his pieces (refer to the Adams - Dominguez tiebreak).

Karjakin (2762) – Eljanov (2717)
Semifinal, Game 6

Black’s passed pawns should seal the fate of the game as the stronger side additionally features the h5-h4 breakthrough resource. 65...Bb3! 66.Kxd3 suggests itself.

In the case of 66.Bc3 Bxa4 67.Bd4 Bb5 68.Bxb6 a4 69.Bc5 h4 the setup on the board features the pants of classic cut.

66...Bxa4 67.Bf2 

67.Bc3 Bc6 68.Bd4 b5 69.Bb6 a4 70.Bc5 h4! 71.gxh4 Kxf4 is losing after all as soon as Black captures the h4-pawn.

67...Bb5+!, and now all retreats of the white king are awkward: 68.Kd4 Be8 and b6-b5 or 68.Kd2 Ke4, breaking with the king to f3. However, Pavel made up this mind to gain more time on his clock so as to calculate everything precisely…

65… Ke6 66.Bc3 Kf5 67.Be1 Kf6 68.Bd2 Kg6 69.Bc3 Kf5 After what had happened at the FIDE Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk, Sergey could no longer fail to declare the threefold repetition! The referee checked his statement, and Karjakin was immediately landed into the final, which only a few moves ago seemed like something incredible. Eljanov withstood the stroke of fate with an incredible stamina, describing his opponent as a worthy finalist. I hope that Pavel is going to have a bit more luck in the following qualification cycle!

Sergey Karjakin declares the threefold repetition  

What is the secret of such determination and stamina displayed by Karjakin? After the end of the final the secret was revealed by his coach Yuri Dokhoian, "I have been coaching him for a year now, and prior to the match between Russia and China, I had him dared a little." And then he played quite well in the rapid chess in the Russian championship. On the other hand, he did not need to go all out for otherwise he would not have enough firepower for Baku. Sergey is on the rise since the beginning of the year, but it was the World Cup that witnessed the surge in his fighting spirit manifestation."

First Place. A Thriller with a Trivial Outcome

It is already the third World Cup in a row that has seen both Russian players in its final. I think the decisive battle in Baku was much more in the nature of confrontation of four years ago between Grischuk and Svidler than in the way of dispute between Kramnik and Andreikin in Tromso. Back then, two years ago, the nervous fight was there for all to see, whereas here it was an encounter of teammates, or friends even, to say the least. These friends walked about, smiling at each other. It is next to impossible not to get along with such a positive person as Peter Svidler.

The first two games did not look much in the way of promising such an intrigue, such an excitement as was seen on the tiebreak. In the opening game the native of St. Petersburg defeated the Muscovite, while after the return game the score rose to as high as 2-0 as a result of Karjakin’s rude blunder. The third game turned out to be a real mystery as Peter Svidler lost a position that, by and large, was impossible to lose for a chess player of a grandmaster caliber. In the final duel of a classical confrontation Sergey profited from a sluggish play of his counterpart and skillfully won the rook ending - 2-2 (the Botvinnik rule applies once again!).

Karjakin (2762) – Svidler (2727)
Final, Game Two

As White is not happy with the drawish outcome, there followed therefore...

35.Nxf7!? Rxf7 36.Rb2 

36.Bxf7+ Kxf7 37.Qc4+ Kg6 38.Qc2+ Kf7 39.Qc4+ leads to a repetition of moves, but the rook lift, carried out by Sergey, resulted in a collapse.

36...Qc6 37.Rb5?? Kh8! 

Oh my God! The lost piece is to be regained no longer. Further fight could still be maintained via 38.Qd5 Qxd5 39.Bxd5, with the resulting position subjected to a detailed analysis in one of the books of Mark Dvoretzky. The h1-square is not the color of the dark-squared bishop, so that the stronger side is in need of a good technique, whereas in the case of exchanges of rooks and minor pieces they run the risk of not winning in certain cases.

38.Rd5?? Nb6 White resigns.

Svidler (2727) – Karjakin (2762)
Final, Game three


Taking into account that winning the match for White demands anything but losing, finding the Cup-winning move becomes anything but simple. Winning is 27.Rfe1 Qxe3 (27...exd5 28.Qxf2 or 27...Qf5 28.d6) 28.Rxe3, a huge advantage is obtained after 27.Qc3 e5 28.Nd7 Rf5 29.Nc5, and even a dull-looking 27.Qxe4 Nxe4 28.Rbc1 leads to an endgame that Black will never be able to win for sure. In principle, the move chosen by Peter Veniaminovich is no worse than any other move.


Losing is 27...Ref8 28.Qxe4 Nxe4 29.Rxf6 Nxf6 30.dxe6, and Sergey is after his last chance that works out in the most incredible way.


This is a blunder, whereas 28.Qc3 or 28.Qd2 was an easy win. 

28...Qh4! 29.Qd2?? 

Although a rescue counterattack is not that easy to figure out: 29.Qxe8 Qxf2+ 30.Kh2 Qxb6 31.Re7+ Kh6 32.Rd7 Qxb4 33.Qg8, taking on е8 was a must. Why give up immediately? 

29...Rxf2 30.Qc3+ d4 White resigns. After this game one may be inclined to believe that the opposition of queens was something of a ritual dance indeed.

Peter Svidler and Sergey Makarichev

These very four games have given birth to numerous conspiracy theories among chess fans. Some believed that Karjakin and Svidler were playing right into Kremlin’s hands and started drawing parallels with the Botvinnik - Flor match. Some argued that being friends Peter and Sergey just decided to play off the World Cup title for real in the Armageddon only so that they are not castigated for short draws, and that the 5-5 score was a prearranged result. There were even those who perceived what was happening through the prism of the Valery Borisovich Salov’s theory and were calculating something against the Babylonian calendars.

Both long and short rapid games featured struggle not devoid of errors and overlooks, but two very cute endgame positions did happen along the way. 

Karjakin (2762) – Svidler (2727)
Final, Game Five

Is it a dead draw that we see on the board? No, the other way around. Karjakin, despite being low on time, uncovered the study-like win and demonstrated it to his partner! Later in his interview to Vladimir Barskij Sergey would share that Black was obliged to sacrifice his pawn by f5-f4 a move earlier (until this square is occupied by the bishop) after which the arising position is indeed a clear draw despite the lack of two pawns! So much for those opposite-colored bishops. Please do read the books by Dvoretsky, my dear young readers! 

80.d5+!! Bxd5 

80...Kxd5 81.Kc7 Kc5 82.Kd8 loses immediately, therefore the bishop is better off removed from being attacked with a tempo. 

81.Kc8 Bb3 82.Kd8 Bc4 

Konstantin Landa, while commenting the game for ChessPro, noted that 82...Kd5!? 83.Ke7 Kc4 84.e6 Kxc3 85.Kf6 b4 86.e7 Ba4 87.Kxg6 Be8+ 88.Kxf5 (or 88.Kg7 b3 89.Kf8 Ba4 90.Be5+ Kd3) 88...b3 89.g4 hxg4 90.Kxg4 Kc4! 91.Bc1 Kd5 92.h5 Ke6 93.h6 Kf7 resulted in a draw, but White can proceed in a more subtle manner: 84.Kf6! Kd5 (84...Kxc3 85.Kxg6 b4 86.Kxh5 loses easily as the black bishop is unable to cope with both passed pawns) 85.Bg5 Kc6 86.e6 Bc4 87.e7 Kd7 88.Kxg6 Ke8 89.Kxh5 Kf7, and now 90.Bf6!! Be6 91.Kg5 Bd7 92.h5 Kg8 93.h6 Be8 94.Bd4 Kh7 95.Be3, winning. 

However, it was a chance for Svidler nonetheless, a chance which could have become decisive, as was proved by the later course of the final. Now White goes on to win in a relatively trouble-free manner. 

83.Ke7 Bb3 84.e6 Bc4 85.Kf6 Bb3 86.Bc1 Bc4 87.Ba3 Bb3 88.e7 Kd7 89.Kxg6 Black resigns.

This aggressive young man won’t let you make a draw even in a pure opposite-colored bishop ending
Svidler (2727) – Karjakin (2762)
Final, Game 6

The d3-pawn is en prise, whereas 41.Nf2 is followed by 41... f6, which although does not alleviate the Black’s position, but at least allows him to develop his pieces from the ultimate rank. Peter reacts in the strongest way possible.

41.Rb8! Rxd3+ 42.Kf2 g6 43.Nc5?! 

This inaccuracy could have supplied Karjakin with a good chance of bailing out. We were following on the game with Roman Ovechkin when Roma, almost without thinking, suggested 43.Nf6+! Kg7 44.hxg6 with the idea of g3-g4 and the subsequent knight check on h5, whereas taking the pawn by 44…fхg6 is impossible because of the check along the seventh rank. My online colleague was sure that this solution is exactly true to the style of Svidler, but the native of St. Petersburg went immediately after the piece.

43...Rd2+ 44.Ke1 Rb2? 

Surprisingly enough, 44...Rg2 did allow to put up the fight: 45.Nd7 Kg7 46.Rxf8 (worse is 46.Nxf8 gxh5) 46...Rxg3 47.hxg6 Re3+ 48.Kf2 Kxg6 49.Nc5 h5 50.Rd8 Rh3 51.Rxd4 Kf5 and while there was little material remaining on the board the knight had yet to find his way into his camp. Sergey tried to build up a bishop versus rook fortress, but with three pawns rather than two on the same flank his idea failed to pan out. 

45.Rxb2 Bxc5 46.hxg6 fxg6 47.Ke2 d3+ 48.Kxd3 h5 49.Kc4 Be3 50.Rb3 Bf2 51.Rf3 Bg1 52.Kb5 Kf7 53.Kc6 Ke7 54.Rb3 

The black king is displaced, while the fall of the e6-pawn means that the last defensive line is crushed through.

54…Bh2 55.Rb7+ Kf8 56.Kd6 Bxg3 57.Kxe6 Bxf4 58.Rf7+ If it were not for winning the bishop,  58.Kf6 would be a good move also. Black resigns.

Two spectacular endings were the last products of incredible efforts of both partners. It was then followed up by mere excitement, nerves and reflexes, while the Russians resembled boxers prior to the final gong, who were completely exhausted by the preceding 12 ultra-combative rounds. By the way, in short rapid games both Sergei and Peter failed to emerge out of the opening as White.

Finally, when the score became 4-4, the match entered the blitz stage, which finally refuted the theory of the "decisive Armageddon.” It was simply a duel of two tired fighters, exhausted by the multi-day struggle, of whom the older was more weary than the younger. 

Karjakin (2762) – Svidler (2727)
Final, Game 9

The question of whether or not Black is capable of converting his being up an exchange has forever remained open.

42… Kg8?? 43.Qxb8+ Black resigns. 

The revenge that would have resulted in the much looked forward to by everybody "Armageddon" could have taken place, but Caissa went on to keep Sergey Karjakin safe even at this stage of the match.

Svidler (2727) – Karjakin (2762)
Final, Game 10

In this position good chances of carrying out a lightning-fast and decisive assault are given by 21.Re3 Nf4 22.Rf3 or 21…d5 22.Qd1! dхe4 23.Qg4!

21.g3?! d5! 22.Qxd5 Qxd5 23.exd5 Rad8 24.Kg2 Rxd5 25.f4 f6 26.Ne4 Rdd8 27.fxe5 fxe5, and later White pushed it too far and Karjakin took the upper hand in the match, the most dramatic in the history of chess according to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Well, we have once again received confirmation that chess is a tough game. And if you play it for very long and very hard, it becomes twice as tough. I join in the overall congratulations to Sergey and Peter yet another time! Good luck in the Candidates Tournament!