18 September 2017

Without Russians from now on

The World Cup quarterfinals. Report by Eteri Kublashvili

The quarterfinals turned into a sad event for the Russian fans as Peter Svidler and Vladimir Fedoseev have dropped out at its different stages. It is a long time since the World Cup finals have dispensed with the Russian players. However, this round’s outcome proved the most natural and devoid of any upsets as winning all matchups were the rating favorites.

Day one

Levon Aronian scored a swift victory over Vassily Ivanchuk: the game ended on move 24. That is not to say that Black was utterly lost yet, but he certainly did not feel like seeing more of this position.

Aronian - Ivanchuk


It took Vassily 42 minutes to come up with 10…c5.

Levon Aronian shared his insights about the crucial game position for the official broadcast as follows:

- I think Vassily must have realized by that moment that the opening was not taking the desired shaping. Had he not played 10…c5, White would have simply planted his knight on Ne5 to give Black a highly unpleasant position. From the practical point of view, Black should have probably stuck to a more passive strategy, which, however, gives White a very comfortable play after Rd1, Bg5. Then Black would have had hard time carrying out c5 afterwards. Nevertheless, 10…c5 seems somewhat suicidal. The problem is that Black’s previous play was geared entirely towards this breakthrough, but results in problems exactly in this setup.

11. d5 exd5 12. Nh4 Ndf6 13. Rd1 g6 14. Nxd5 Nxd5 15. e4 Bg7 16. exd5 Nf6



17. Qe2+ Kf8 18. a4 b4 19. Be3 Qd6 20. Rac1 Nd7 21. Nf3 h6 22. Nd2 Kg8 23. Ne4 Qf8 24. d6 Black resigns.

Peter Svidler and Maxim Vachier-Lagrave opted for the English opening, in which White chooses to leave his king uncastled, whereas Black castles only following the trade of queens. In general, a small but stable positional plus was with White, whose play was built around the black queenside pawn weaknesses. Nevertheless, as the Frenchman demonstrated his defensive skills once again, peace was signed in the rook ending.

Short grandmaster draws were agreed between Vladimir Fedoseev and Wesley So, as well as between Richard Rapport and Ding Liren.


Day two


The day of return games witnessed the playhall floor alarm activating and lights going out from time to time, as if to add to overall drama.

The classical section defined as many as three semi-finalists: Levon Aronian, Ding Liren and Wesley So.

In a sharp struggle, Levon Aronian kept his position as Black against Vassily Ivanchuk to take the match with a 1.5:0.5 score.

Answering Anastasia Karlovich’s question for the official broadcast about who he prefers to see as his semifinal opponent, Peter Svidler or Maxim Vachier-Lagrave, the Armenian grandmaster joked, "I hate them both."

Ding Liren, playing White against Richard Rapport, was well versed in the opening and succeeded in carrying out a spectacular central pawn assault.


Ding Liren - Rapport



17. e5!? exd5 18. exd6 cxd6 19. Qxe7 d4 20. Qe4

As confirmed by the Chinese grandmaster, he overlooked 20…Qc6 in this position; however, after almost a forced trade of all pieces, White retained his edge in the rook ending, which he converted successfully into a full point.

It looked as though Wesley So and Vladimir Fedoseev’s Petroff Defense would be a quick draw, but the reality was quite the opposite: their game was the last to finish. In an approximately equal position, the Russian started pushing his kingside pawns, which his rival capitalized upon. Having fixed the opponent’s weaknesses, So managed to profit from the pluses of his position, first in a rook-bishop ending, then in same-colored bishop ending with rooks off the board.

A draw in the Vachier-Lagrave - Svidler game was agreed in the middlegame with an extra pawn for Black. Meanwhile, as White had certain compensation, the players preferred not to lock horns and define the strongest in the upcoming tiebreak.




The quarter-final tiebreaker was difficult on Peter Svidler: he spent quite a while thinking, and if in game one the native of St. Petersburg managed to make a draw, in game two he did not.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave later admitted that he was not especially happy about his performance in the classical section, but managed to pull together for the tie-break.

This is what the fourth semi-finalist of the World Cup shared, "I had a significant edge in game one, but I could not materialize it. In general, I was pressing, but Peter defended with only moves. In game two, I was surprised by his repetition of the English opening line seen before. I got a good position.


Svidler - Vachier-Lagrave


I did not see 21…Kc7 beforehand, but I am lucky that it turned up. Now White is not in time with his counterplay: I take on f5 and get a very pleasant endgame”.

22. Bxf7 gxf5 23. Qxd6+

Probably tougher was 23. Rc1+ Bc6 24. Qxd6+ Rxd6 25. Ke1 Rf8 26. Bb3 (ed.).

23…Kxd6 24. exf5 Nxf5 25. Ne4+ Ke7 26. Bb3 Ne3+


“I had a feeling that he could put up a tougher defense in the endgame, which was not an easy thing to do, however, since he faces threats coming from all directions. The e3-knight is my cornerstone of success.

27. Ke2 Bc6 28. Rac1

Peter burned a lot of his clock time during the game, and I seem to have had more energy over my opponent, who was on the edge of his resources from time to time. Being in a critical time deficit, White’s position fell apart at a certain moment”.

The engine points to 28. g4, keeping the pawn alive, because after 28…Rhf8 29. Rh3 Nxg2 White ended up down material.


30. Rxc6 bxc6 31. Rg3 Nf4+ 32. Ke1 Rb8 33. Rg7+ Kd8 34. Bf7 Rb7 White resigns.

As for Aronian's joke, the Frenchman replied, "I am friends with Levon and know him to be fond of similar humor. He has no reason to fear anyone. Neither do I."

The second semifinal match pits Wesley So against Ding Liren.