5 October 2015

Overcoming a Temptation to Quit

Game Three of the World Cup Final in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

“Have you entered into a secret deal?” the Tournament Director Mahir Mamedov said with a smile while addressing Sergey Karjakin, who had just scored a victory in game three. “Do you intend it to be the most brilliant World Cup ever?”

“ No-oo!”, Sergey answered, laughing. “But it starts to seem like a good idea to me!”

Sergey Karjakin and Sergei Shipov


Grandmaster started off his story about the encounter with a confession:

“It is only in the nature of things that I'm madly tired, but there remains only one classical game and I can give it an all-or-nothing try. Today we have had an absolutely crazy game. I had to play for a win and, therefore, tried to get as much complex a position as possible.”

Svidler – Karjakin

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 

Suprise suprise! The anti-Najdorf 3.Bb5+ was to be rather expected from Svidler, but the latter opted for another sideline. Karjakin plunged into thinking, although not for a very considerable duration of time.


A more straightforward and forced type of game results after 4... Nc6 5.Bb5 Bd7 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 7.Nc3. Sergey is on the lookout for a more complex type of positions, which are unlikely to have been subjected to an extensive home analysis.

5.c4 Nc6 6.Qe3 Nf6 7.h3 

This is a reliable, although a little slow continuation. As a result, White falls behind in development, but then goes on to successfully overcome his slight difficulties.

7…g6 8.Nc3 Bg7 9.Be2 Nd7 10.Rb1 Nde5 11.0–0 0–0 12.Rd1 Nxf3+ 13.Bxf3 f5 14.exf5 Bxf5 15.Be4 Qd7 16.Nd5 Qe6 17.Bxf5 Qxf5 18.Bd2 Rae8

18...Bd4 fails to 19.Qxd4 Nxd4 20.Nxe7+,  and thanks to this little tactical detail white can enter his last undeveloped piece into the game. 

19.Bc3 e6 


In the case of 20.Nb4 Bxc3 21.Nxc6 Bf6 (bad is 21...Bxb2? 22.Rxb2 bxc6 23.Rxd6) 22.Nd4 Qc5 23.b3 d5 Black gets a bishop-versus-knight middlegame. Although the position remains approximately equal, slight initiative is on the Black’s side already. 

20...d5 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.Qc5 

Karjakin: "After this move the position should be equal, and, given the natural course of events, would have ended in a draw. However, I tried to think something up for this occasion and carried out the Ne5-d3 maneuver. I think White is better here, but the position is of a complex nature."


Karjakin: “I was perfectly well aware of the fact that 22…Rf6 is a strange-looking move, but what else was left for me to do? The normal move 22…d4 would have failed to raise up to my tournament situation. I believed the position to be equal and that I was not in the risk of losing. Therefore I opted for an “all-in” approach. 

“Here is a showcase scenario of the normal course of events: 22...d4 23.Qxf5 Rxf5 (23...gxf5 is met by 24.f4) 24.b4 e5 25.a4 or 25.f3 with equal chances.”

23.b4 Ne5 24.cxd5 Nd3 25.Qe3 

This is a reliable continuation. Stockfish recommends 25.Qc7+ Kh6 26.Qc2, with more complex lines for a human player to follow, though: 26…Nxf2 27.Qxf5 exf5 (or 27...Rxf5 28.Re1 Nd3 29.Rxe6) 28.Kxf2 Rxb6 29.d6 Kg7, etc.


“My original intention was to play the move 25…Nf4, but here strong is 26.d6, in order to answer 26…Qg5 with 27.Qf3” (Karjakin). 

The move made by Black is objectively bad. This move, however, resulted in his winning the game! In the case of a logical continuation 25...Qxf2+ 26.Qxf2 Nxf2 27.Rdc1 the game would have ended in a draw without having to pass through a great deal of commotion. 

26.Rf1 Qe4 

"After 26... Qe4 I put my opponent in front of a difficult choice to make. On the one hand, White does want to trade queens, but the resulting endgame could become a challenge for him as the black king appears in the center "(Karjakin).


According to the computer stronger is 27.Rfe1 exd5 28.Qxf2 Rxf2 29.Rxe4, although the move in the game is good enough for a win. 


“White has undoubtedly a great number of moves to choose from, but Svidler featured little time on his clock at the moment and my hope was that he might get confused” (Karjakin).


My hope was justified. Let’s review some of the other possibilities available to White.

1) Bad is 28.Nxd5 in view of 28…Nxh3+ 29.gxh3 Rxf1+ 30.Kxf1 Qh1+.

2) In the immediate aftermath Karjakin believed 28.Qd2 to be the strongest move and thought that Black could get no more than a draw after 28…Nxh3+ 29.gxh3 Rxf1+ 30.Rxf1 Re5. However, at the end of this line there appears 31.Nd7, and Black faces a huge amount of problems.

3) In response to 28.Qc3 Sergey demonstrated the following line: 28…Qf4 29.Rxe8 Nxh3+ 30.Qxh3 Qxf1+ 31.Kh2 Qf4+, and Black can go on playing for a win with a draw in his pocket. However, instead of 29.Rxe8 much stronger is 29.Nxd5!, winning.

The conclusion is that after 28.Qc3! White was winning, whereas after 28.Qd2 he was in no risk of losing, as a minimum. 


This move was overlooked by Svidler, who must have obviously relied on 28...Qxe3 29.Rxe3 Rxe3 30.Rxf6 Kxf6 31.Nxd5+, and White emerges up a piece. 


White is in a fog. After 29.Qxe8 Qxf2+ 30.Kh2 White would have retained excellent chances to bail out. E.g.: 30…Qxb6 31.Re7+ Kh6 32.Rd7! Qxb4 33.Qg8 Qd4 (33...Qf4+ 34.Kh1) 34.Rxh7+ Kg5 35.Qd8, etc. 

29...Rxf2 30.Qc3+ d4 White resigns. 

Speaking about the "exchange of blunders" in the second and third games, Karjakin highlighted: 

“We both feel a lot of pressure, and, in addition to that, we are both very tired because it has turned out to be a very challenging tournament. Well, tomorrow will see a decisive game and I feel happy that I am still in the action!”

Karjakin – Svidler 

Coming back to the second game Sergei Shipov wondered how the 37.Rb5  move came into existence. 

Karjakin: “I saw no way to improve my position and was in the belief that I succeeded in setting up a smart trap: 37...Bc5 38.Rxc5 Nxc5 39.Qd8+, and White is winning. It turned out, in fact, that I lost the game in a one-move blunder.” 

Let us recall how this encounter came to its end: 37..Kh8! 38.Rd5 (?) 38...Nb6, and White resigned. 

Basically, White could have prolonged resistance after 38.Qd5 Qxd5 39.Bxd5. "Although I could chose to suffer, I no longer believed that this game could be saved. I think that his chances of winning this ending are equal to 90 percent." (Karjakin).

“Following the end of game two you tweeted that you had run out of luck…”

“Perhaps yesterday I still managed to make a difference!”

On the eve of a decisive game Sergey characterized the match situation in the following words: "Peter is a favorite, because is in the lead, but I will do everything to come back." And he published his new tweet with a reference to the Chinese sages, "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before the victory."

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili