9 September 2017

Twilight of Favorites

Round two of the World Cup in the review of Eteri Kublashvili

Day one


Round two has not dispensed with surprises as many rating-favorites are about to start packing their bags to leave home.

It was a pleasure to see several games opened to the Sicilian defense. Thus, in game one Viswanathan Anand decided to plunge into complications as White in the Najdorf middlegame and sacrificed a minor piece to Anton Kovalyov. As further events have shown, an error crept someplace into the ex-world champion’s calculations and he failed not get enough compensation for the knight. Meanwhile, his young Canadian opponent shared about being in for some serious university studies in Texas, which does not lend itself to combining with chess easily; therefore, he does not see himself as a professional player.


Anand – Kovalyov


The white knight performed an act of self-immolation in front of an amazed public: 23. Nc5? dxc5 24. d6+ Kf6 25. Bf3 Kf526. Bd5 e4 27. Re1 Bf6 28. Bxe4+ Kg5. The black king is safe and sound and with extra material at that.

Magnus Carlsen defeated Alexey Dreev as Black in the Ragozin defense. The world champion’s subtle play improved the position of his pieces, while weakening the white pawns and pushing his own passer as far as b3. Following the trade of queens, the game gradually transposed into a rook endgame lost for White.

In one of the numerous Russian derbies Kramnik - Demchenko, the ex-world champion achieved a very pleasant and promising position, having handled the opening into a double fianchetto. Black was outplayed by all canons of strategical play, having never come up with own counterplay.

In yet another Russian duel, Vladimir Fedoseev defeated Ernesto Inarkiev. The opening was a Dragon Variation. Fedoseev launched a kingside pawn assault in a swashbuckling manner without even castling himself, and on move 14 Inarkiev lost a pawn, upon which he was unable to keep his position together.

Maxim Vachier-Lagrave was superior to Boris Grachev. In the sharp and rare line of the Sicilian defense, Black gave up two pawns, but failed not get full compensation. The endgame was obviously difficult for him, which he failed to bail out of.

David Navara launched a large-scale operation against Ivan Cheparinov. The Czech grandmaster did not cling to material, which paid off in the end.

Navara – Cheparinov


30. g5! Ba4?

Instead, Black should have opted for 30…Bxg5 31. Bxg5 hxg5 32. Rd1 Rf8, with rough equality.

31. Re7 Bxf2+ 32. Kh1, and Black resigns. 

And, finally, Vidit Santosh has defeated Le Quang Liem. One of India's hopes has outwitted his rival in the middlegame, won a pawn and capitalized on his extra material in a rook ending.

The games Motylev - Giri, Hou Yifan - Aronian, Bacrot - Bu Xiangzhi, Duda - Ivanchuk, Harikrishna - Sethuraman, Karjakin - Dubov, Lenic - Caruana, Mamedyarov - Kuzubov, Matlakov - Andreikin, Sevian - Li Chao, Tari - Lenderman, Wei Yi - Rapport, Yu Yangyi - Jobava, Adhiban - Nepomniachtchi, Svidler - Erdos, Rodshtein - Adams, Bruzon - Nakamura, Tomashevsky - Vallejo, Onischuk - Wojtaszek, Cori - Grischuk, So - Bluebaum, Kravtsiv - Ding Liren, Artemiev - Radjabov, Wang Hao - Gelfand and Vitiugov - Najer ended in draws.

Out of above-mentioned draws, surging with bright colors was the Adhiban – Nepomniachtchi encounter.

Adhiban – Nepomniachtchi



White comes up with one of the Najdorf typical sacrifices: 9. Bxe6 fxe6 10. Nxe6 Qb6 11. Nd5 Nxd5 12. Qxd5 Nb8!



According to Adhiban, Black's last move came as a surprise to him and marked the end of his home preparation.

13. Nxf8 Rxf8 14. Qxa8 Bb7 15. Qxb8+ Kf7 16. Qxf8+ Kxf8, and yet, this game’s queen versus two rooks confrontation ended up balancing each other out. A draw was agreed on move 28.

Full of events, but fairly short, was a duel of Hou Yifan and Levon Aronian. It is a pleasure to see a rapid progress of the Chinese player!

The last to come out of the playhall were Nikita Vitiugov and Evgeny Najer, who battled until bare kings.

Day two


A very quick draw was made by Vladimir Kramnik and Anton Demchenko, which allowed the 14th world champion to immediately go through into round three. Kramnik was very surprised with Demchenko’s decision to sign peace so quickly:

-- I do not know what the reason may be. Perhaps, he was not feeling well, maybe he was that much impressed with me (laughing). Of course, I did not expect this. Not that I was much worried about this game, but I was sure that Anton would try to bounce back, acting aggressively. Therefore, a draw offer was a big surprise to me. It is a gift, because I got an extra day off. With this tournament format, no amount of free time goes wasted.

As for game one, I performed well. Demchenko is a very dangerous adversary; I have come to this conclusion by looking into his games. He is aggressive and plays the King’s Indian Defense; therefore, you have to be on the alert all the time. I managed to stop Black’s counterplay and gradually outplay the opponent. I am very pleased with the first game.

As it became known later, Anton Demchenko really offered a draw due to not feeling well.

Day two has ejected as many as three heavyweights, Sergey Karjakin, Viswanathan Anand and Michael Adams, out of the tournament.

Daniel Dubov has defeated the vice-world champion after employing a novelty on move 12 in one of the popular English Opening lines, employed by Sergey on more than one occasion.

Daniil Dubov, "I do not think that White is objectivity better, but Black needs to bring to memory a lot of lines at that...

Dubov – Karjakin


…after 18. a5! Black needs to recapture with the rook, but Sergey played 18…Ba7. The only think I recall now is that the engine gives a plus to White.”

19. Qc1 Qd8 20. Qf4 h6 21. Ne4 Qe7 22. Nc3 g5 23. Qc1 Ng4 24. Nd5 Qxe2 25. Qxc7


Dubov considered this move as almost a key mistake, but no better options suggest themselves here for Black.

26. Qd8+ Qe8 27. Qxe8+ Kxe8 28. d4 Kd8 29. h3 Nf6 30. Nb6 Rc2 31. Nxc8. Black resigns.

A no lesser sensation was Viswanathan Anand’s going down to Anton Kovalyov. In the second game the Canadian also had winning chances and made a draw from the position of strength, knocking out the Madras Tiger from the Tbilisi knockout.

An experienced fighter Michael Adams went down to Maxim Rodshtein, whose knockout performance is the best at the moment.

Adams – Rodshtein

The pawn break towards time trouble period proved extremely unpleasant for White: after 36...e4! White failed to simultaneously defend his weaknesses and deal with the far advanced black pawn.

Magnus Carlsen defeated Alexey Dreev with a clean score. Also coming through into 1/16 from the classical stage were Maxim Vachier-Lagrave, Alexander Lenderman, Santosh Vidit, Vladimir Fedoseev and Francisco Vallejo, who outplayed Evgeny Tomashevsky.

Following the loss in game one, Ivan Cheparinov managed to come back in the match with David Navara.

The tie-breaker matches were again 22, as in round one.



The second tie-break turned out fantastic for its emotionally charged atmosphere and a number of "scoring" opportunities - both capitalized upon and not.

Ian Nepomniachtchi was perhaps one of the luckiest as he was on the verge of defeat more than once in his match versus Adhiban, but still outperformed the Indian grandmaster in the rapid chess.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, "The matchup turned out to be exhaustive. In general, it is clear that I have not had enough time to recover after St. Louis. I guess I was in hopeless positions in three out of four games. I was more or less OK in game one only, while in the remainder part they were other than good, and, well, in a word, it was a swing: I could both lose and win.

In the first classical game I walked into a known trap, which I was aware of, but forgot. However, that endgame was not hopeless for Black, that is, I performed as good as it gets in that situation. In the second game he played c5 at some point, and I completely lost my mind to such a strange and weak move (I have not seen anything of the kind for a long time). Here I had some good opportunities, and I preferred to bulldoze my way through. He pondered for a long time and made a move that gave a plus over minus, only not in my favor, but in his. As a result, I had to hunker down into not the most pleasant of defenses, in which my performance was anything but convincing. Still, I was very lucky in the end.

In the first rapid game I caught him on a variation, but played as if I was the victim, not him. I wanted to resign, just was very lucky again. However, with my win in the second game, the loss of the first one would, perhaps, not have killed a match intrigue."

Indeed, game two had Baskaran missing a computer-like, teeth-shattering blow.


Adhiban – Nepomniachtchi

An artificial brain advises 25. Nd8! here. But, fortunately for the Russian fans, Baskaran is a man of flesh and blood, so he played 25. Qd4, and the trade of queens contributed to Black’s escape.

A sensation happened in the Mamedyarov – Kuzubov encounter. Following a fatal mistake and defeat in game one, Mamedyarov failed to come back and dropped out of the event.


Mamedyarov – Kuzubov

After 38…Rb5?? White could have won a rook via 39.Qc8!+, followed by 40.Qa6. Instead, Shakh erred with: 39. Rc5? He was likely aware and upset by this blunder and went on to lose an equal endgame.

Harikrishna’s defeat from his compatriot Sethuraman and that of the top-favorite Radoslaw Wojtaszek from Alexander Onischuk can also be classified as yet another big upsets.

At the stage of rapid chess, their matches were also won by Ding Liren, David Navara, Wang Hao (from Boris Gelfand), Alexander Grischuk, Hikaru Nakamura, Evgeny Najer (who defeated Nikita Vitiugov), Peter Svidler, Richard Rapport, Li Chao and Bu Xiangzhi. The latter is now to face Carlsen.

A beautiful checkmate with under promotion into a knight was delivered by Ding Liren in the first rapid game.


Kravtsiv – Ding Liren




In the Navara - Cheparinov match, the Bulgarian grandmaster, as was mentioned above, managed to come back in the classical chess, but lost 2:0 in the rapid. His opponent shared the intricacies of the struggle:

- The match was not an easy one. In my opinion, I was lucky, especially in the first classical game, in which both of us were not in our element. I blundered something there, but this blunder proved to be not fatal, and Ivan ended up the last to err in the encounter. Ivan’s second game performance was very strong, except for one moment, but he won deservedly to equalize the score. In the first tie-break game I played more or less decent rapid chess and managed to come out victorious. The second game was a large-scale home preparation in action, and Ivan had something messed up there: he should have taken the exchange, after which insane complications would be underway. However, I did my homework, and was ready for this line.

A nice stalemate was engineered by Jan-Krzysztof Duda against Vassily Ivanchuk:


Duda – Ivanchuk


74. Qh1+ Kd4 75. Qe4+ Kxe4. Draw.

Following two draws, Duda and Ivanchuk went on to sort things out in a 10-minute section. Ivanchuk ended up winning. It's funny that Vassily lost track of time and showed up almost five minutes later for a '10 +10 ' game, but this did not stop him from taking the match with a minimum score.

Also winning their games in this time format were Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Vassily Ivanchuk, Baadur Jobava, Anish Giri and Fabiano Caruana. 

Levon Aronian, paired against Hou Yifan, admitted that the match was not an easy one. "Hou Yifan plays very solid chess, and it becomes ever harder to challenge her. She was well prepared here, and I was up against serious problems on certain occasions. The main thing, however, is that this stage is successfully over for me (laughing)," as was summed up by Levon.

The hope of Georgia defeated Yu Yangyi in his bright trademark style. In the first game with '10 +10' control Jobava sacrificed a piece and went on to torture his opponent almost to the point of checkmate.


Jobava – Yu Yangyi



28. Nxf6! Kxf6 29. dxe5+ Kf7 30. e6+ Kxe6 31. e4 Ng7 32. Qa2+ Kd6 33. Rc1 Bxe4? 34. Qd2+, and the black king was gradually done away with.

In the second encounter the Chinese was outplayed in a more tranquil manner.

The most drama-filled events took place between Radjabov - Artemiev and Matlakov - Andreikin.

Prior to the start of blitz section, Teimour Radjabov and Vladislav Artemiev would trade blows in all duels, with White winning in each game. In the rapid battles Artemiev won the first game as White, and seized the initiative in the second to make a draw from the position of strength while down a pawn. This is yet another sensation.

Meanwhile, the Russian derby was no lesser dramatic. Dmitry had a good chance to take the first blitz game, but let the advantage go and lost, upon which he could not come back in the second, which he also lost. Maxim went through into the next round.

It has become very hot at the World Cup, what will come next?

Round 3 pairings:

Carlsen - Bu Xiangzhi, Svidler - Onischuk, Vachier-Lagrave - Lenderman, Grischuk - Navara, Kramnik - Ivanchuk, Giri - Sethuraman, Aronian - Matlakov, Dubov - Artemiev, So - Vallejo, Nepomiachtchi - Jobava, Nakamura - Fedoseev, Kovalyov - Rodshtein, Caruana - Najer, Rapport - Li Chao, Kuzubov - Wang Hao, Ding Liren - Vidit.