2015 World Chess Cup (Baku, Azerbaijan)

The opening ceremony of the 2015 World Chess Cup officially opened the championship qualifier. One-hundred and twenty eight players have arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan carrying their flags to compete for a chance and glory… and perhaps a chance at competing in the World Candidate’s tournament in March 2016. According to fide.com,

The players, official and guests were greeted by Dr. Elman Rustamov, Governor of Azerbaijan Central Bank and President of Azerbaijan Chess Federation, Mr. Intigam Babayev, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan, and Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of FIDE. The programme also included beautiful promotional videos, a chess-themed ballet dance, and a song by Azerbaijani Eurovision contestant.

There was of course a drawing of lots resulting in Veselin Topalov starting with the white pieces. A number of the top players were on hand including eight of the players from the recently-ended Sinquefield Cup. Vladimir Kramnik won the 2013 World Chess Cup in Tromso, Norway and will be on hand to vie for another chance at the the world crown. Viswanathan Anand is has automatic seeding in the Candidates and is the only top player not competing in the event. It should be an exciting!

The total prize fund is $1,600,000 (about €1,400,000) and the winner and runner up will qualify to the 2016 Candidates tournament to determine who will compete in the World Cup. Each of the matches will comprise of two game matches, plus tiebreaks, if necessary. The last standing after the previous rounds will enter a seventh round of four games, plus tiebreaks if necessary. Players receive 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game plus 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

Video by Big in Baku

Official Website: https://www.bakuworldcup2015.com/
All PGN Games (TWIC): https://www.theweekinchess.com/
Rules and Regulations: https://www.fide.com/

48 Comments

  1. PARTICIPANTS of the WORLD CUP 2015

    a) World Cup 2013 semi-finalists

    01. Vladimir Kramnik (RUS)
    02. Dmitri Andreikin (RUS)
    03. Maxmine Vachier-Lagrave (FRA)
    04. Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS)

    b) Women’s World Champion 2014:

    05. Mariya Muzychuk (UKR)

    c) Junior World Champions 2013 & 2014:

    06. Yu Yangyi (CHN)
    07. Lu Shanglei (CHN)

    d) From FIDE Rating List, average 2/2014 up to 1/2015:

    08. Levon Aronian (ARM) 2808.00
    09. Fabiano Caruana (USA) 2803.66
    10. Alexander Grischuk (RUS) 2792.16
    11. Veselin Topalov (BUL) 2784.50
    12. Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2775.41
    13. Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2772.00
    14. Anish Giri (NED) 2756.91
    15. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) 2755.33
    16. Boris Gelfand (ISR) 2752.00
    17. Leinier Dominguez (CUB) 2750.25
    18. Wesley So (USA) 2748.66
    19. Michael Adams (ENG) 2747.66
    20. Peter Svidler (RUS) 2747.41
    21. Nikola Vitiugov (RUS) 2740.83
    22. Vasil Ivanchuk (UKR) 2735.25
    23. Peter Leko (HUN) 2731.08
    24. Ding Liren (CHN) 2726.50
    25. Wang Hao (CHN) 2724.83
    26. Pentala Harikrishna (IND) 2723.50

    e) 46 players from European Championships 2014 & 2015

    27. Alexander Motylev (RUS) 2014
    28. David Anton Guijarro (ESP) 2014
    29. Vladimir Fedoseev (RUS) 2014
    30. Dragan Solak (TUR) 2014
    31. Pavel Eljanov (UKR) 2014
    32. Constantin Lupulescu (ROU) 2014
    33. David Navara (CZE) 2014
    34. Ivan Saric (CRO) 2014
    35. Igor Lysyj (RUS) 2014
    36. Hrant Melkumyan (ARM) 2014
    37. Radoslaw Wojtaszek (POL) 2014
    38. Dmitri Jakovenko (RUS) 2014
    39. Vladislav Artemiev (RUS) 2014
    40. Ilya Smirin (ISR) 2014
    41. Laurent Fressinet (FRA) 2014
    42. Gabriel Sargissian (ARM) 2014
    43. Alexander Areshchenko (UKR) 2014
    44. Miodrag Perunovic (SRB) 2014
    45. Ivan Cheparinov (BUL) 2014
    46. Viorel Iordachescu (MDA) 2014
    47. Sergei Zhigalko (BLR) 2014
    48. Samvel Ter-Sahakyan (ARM) 2014
    49. Csaba Balogh (HUN) 2014
    50. Evgeny Najer (RUS) 2015
    51. Mateusz Bartel (POL) 2015
    52. Denis Khismatullin (RUS) 2015
    53. Andriy Vovk (UKR) 2015
    54. Anton Korobov (UKR) 2015
    55. Alexander Ipatov (TUR) 2015
    56. Andrei Volokitin (UKR) 2015
    57. Maxim Matlakov (RUS) 2015
    58. Sanan Sjugirov (RUS) 2015
    59. Alexander Moiseenko (UKR) 2015
    60. Ilia Iljiushenok (RUS) 2015
    61. Robert Kempinski (POL) 2015
    62. Ivan Popov (RUS) 2015
    63. Viktor Laznicka (CZE) 2015
    64. Maxim Rodshtein (ISR) 2015
    65. Ante Brkic (CRO) 2015
    66. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu (GER) 2015
    67. Boris Grachev (RUS) 2015
    68. Tamir Nabaty (ISR) 2015
    69. Emre Can (TUR) 2015
    70. Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS) 2015
    71. Aleksey Goganov (RUS) 2015
    72. Ivan Bukavshin (RUS) 2015

    f) 20 players from Americas

    73. Alexandr Fier (BRA) Zonal 2.4
    74. Deysi Cori (PER) Zonal 2.4
    75. Lazaro Bruzon (CUB) Zonal 2.3
    76. Ermes Espinosa Veloz (CUB) Zonal 2.3
    77. Ray Robson (USA) Zonal 2.1
    78. Alexander Onischuk (USA) Zonal 2.1
    79. Gata Kamsky (USA) Zonal 2.1
    80. Varuzhan Akobian (USA) Zonal 2.1
    81. Samuel Sevian (USA) Zonal 2.1
    82. Tomas Krnan (CAN) Zonal 2.2
    83. Julio Granda Zuniga (PER) Continental 2014
    84. Samuel Shankland (USA) Continental 2014
    85. Isan Ortiz Suarez (CUB) Continental 2014
    86. R. Leitao (BRA) Continental 2014
    87. Rafael Quesada Perez (CUB) Continental 2015
    88. Eduardo Iturrizaga Bonelli (VEN) Continental 2015
    89. Federico Perez Ponsa (ARG) Continental 2015
    90. Anton Kovalyov (CAN) Continental 2015
    91. Sandro Mareco (ARG) Zonal 2.5
    92. Cristobal Villarga (CHI) Zonal 2.5

    g) 20 players from Asia/Oceania

    93. Ganguly Surya Shekhar (IND) Continental 2015
    94. Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (IND) Continental 2015
    95. Zhou Jianchao (CHN) Continental 2015
    96. Maghsoodloo Parham (IRI) Continental 2015
    97. Lalith Babu M.R. (IND) Continental 2015
    98. Le Quang Liem (VIE) Zonal 3.3
    99. Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (VIE) Zonal 3.3
    100. Sethuraman S.P. (IND) Zonal 3.7
    101. Ziaur Rahman (BAN) Zonal 3.2
    102. Wei Yi (CHN) Zonal 3.5
    103. Zhao Jun (CHN) Zonal 3.5
    104. Baskiran Adhiban (IND) Continental 2014
    105. Ni Hua (CHN) Continental 2014
    106. Rustum Kasimdzhanov (UZB) Continental 2014
    107. Wen Yang (CHN) Continental 2014
    108. Salem A.R. Saleh (UAE) Continental 2014
    109. Max Illingworth (AUS) Zonal 3.6
    110. Idani Pouya (IRI) Zonal 3.1
    111. Rinat Jumabayev (KAZ) Zonal 3.4
    112. Maksat Atabayev (TKM) Zonal 3.4

    h) 6 players from Africa

    113. Amin Bassem (EGY) Egypt
    114. Ahmed Adly (EGY) Egypt
    115. Amir Zaibi (TUN) Tunisia
    116. Arthur Ssegwanyi (UGA) Uganda
    117. Richmond Phiri (ZAM) Zambia
    118. Adu Oladapo (NGR) Nigeria

    i) 5 nominees of the FIDE President

    119. Hou Yifan (CHN)
    120. Gadir Guseinov (AZE)
    121. Igor Kovalenko (LAT)
    122. Michael Wiedenkeller (LUX)
    123. Ernesto Inarkiev (RUS)

    j) 4 nominees of the local Organising Committee

    124. Rauf Mamedov (AZE)
    125. Eltaj Safarli (AZE)
    126. Vasif Durarbayli (AZE)
    127. Teimour Radjabov (AZE)

    k) 1 ACP Tour Qualifier

    128. Romain Edouard (FRA)

    Total = 128 players

  2. 2015 World Chess Cup
    September 10th-October 4th, 2015 (Baku, Azerbaijan)
    Match Scores (Round #1)
    Bracket 1
    1 Topalov, V
    BUL
    2-0
    Adu, O
    NGR
    2 Zhigalko, S
    BLR
    3-1
    Bukavshin, I
    RUS
    3 Wang Hao
    CHN
    2½-1½
    Perunovic, M
    SRB
    4 Lu Shanglei
    CHN
    2½-1½
    Moiseenko, A
    UKR
    5 Radjabov, T
    AZE
    3-1
    Sevian, S
    USA
    6 Edouard, R
    FRA
    ½-1½
    Smirin, I
    ISR
    7 Nisipeanu, L
    ROM
    1½-½
    Guijarro, D
    ESP
    8 Can, E
    TUR
    ½-1½
    Svidler, P
    RUS
    Bracket 2
    9 Aronian, L
    ARM
    2-0
    Wiedenkeller, M
    LUX
    10 Khismatullin, D
    RUS
    ½-1½
    Areshchenko, A
    UKR
    11 Robson, R
    USA
    ½-1½
    Vovk, Y
    UKR
    12 Saleh, S
    UAE
    ½-1½
    Wei Yi
    CHN
    13 Navara, D
    CZE
    3-1
    Nabaty, T
    ISR
    14 Guseinov, G
    AZE
    3-1
    Matlakov, M
    RUS
    15 Inarkiev, E
    RUS
    3-1
    Quezada, Y
    CUB
    16 Krnon, T
    CAN
    ½-1½
    Ding Liren
    CHN
    Bracket 3
    17 So, W
    USA
    2-0
    Maghsoodloo, P
    IRI
    18 Safarli, E
    AZE
    2½-3½
    Balogh, C
    HUN
    19 Le Quang Liem
    VIE
    1½-½
    Durarbayli, V
    AZE
    20 Ter-Sahakyan, S
    ISR
    1-3
    Vitiugov, N
    RUS
    21 Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    1½-½
    Suarez, I
    CUB
    22 Bartel, M
    POL
    4-5
    Sarigissian, G
    ARM
    23 Nguyen Ngoc Truongson
    VIE
    1½-½
    Kempinski, R
    POL
    24 Rahman, Z
    BAN
    1-3
    Tomashevsky, E
    RUS
    Bracket 4
    25 Gelfand, B
    ISR
    1½-2½
    Villagra, C
    CHI
    26 Fier, A
    BRA
    ½-1½
    Granda, J
    PER
    27 Armentiev, V
    RUS
    1½-½
    Ganguly, S
    IND
    28 Babu, L
    IND
    ½-1½
    Wojaszek, R
    POL
    29 Leko, P
    HUN
    1½-½
    Goganov, A
    RUS
    30 Wen Yang
    CHN
    1½-½
    Kovalenko I
    LAT
    31 Motylev, A
    RUS
    4½-3½
    Grachev, B
    RUS
    32 Ssegwanyi, A
    UGA
    ½-1½
    Giri, A
    NED
    Bracket 5
    33 Caruana, F
    USA
    2-0
    Zaibi, A
    TUN
    34 Mamedov, R
    AZE
    1½-½
    Najer, E
    RUS
    35 Kasimdzhnov, R
    UZB
    3½-4½
    Kovalyov, A
    CAN
    36 Mareco, S
    ARG
    1½-½
    Ni Hua
    CHN
    37 Mamedyarov, S
    AZE
    1½-½
    Idani, P
    IRI
    38 Leitao, R
    BRA
    1½-2½
    Hou Yifan
    CHN
    39 Sjugirov, S
    RUS
    0-2
    Sethuraman, SP
    IND
    40 Illingworth, M
    AUS
    0-2
    Harikrishna, P
    IND
    Bracket 6
    41 Karjakin, S
    RUS
    2-0
    Espinoza Veloz, E
    CUB
    42 Volokitin, A
    UKR
    1½-2½
    Onischuk, A
    USA
    43 Lysyj, I
    RUS
    4-2
    Lupulescu, C
    ROM
    44 Iordachescu, V
    MDA
    0-2
    Yu Yangyi
    CHN
    45 Andreikin, D
    RUS
    1½-½
    Zhou Jianchao
    CHN
    46 Solak, D
    TUR
    ½-1½
    Korobov, A
    UKR
    47 Bruzon, L
    CUB
    3-1
    Santosh, V
    IND
    48 Cori, D
    HUNPER
    0-2
    Kramnik, V
    RUS
    Bracket 7
    49 Grischuk, A
    RUS
    5-3
    Atabayev, Y
    TKM
    50 Baskaran, A
    IND
    1½-2½
    Fedoseev, V
    RUS
    51 Cheparinov, I
    BUL
    ½-1½
    Ipatov, A
    TUR
    52 Jumabayev, R
    KAZ
    0-2
    Eljanov, P
    UKR
    53 Ivanchuk, Vassily
    UKR
    1½-½
    Adly, A
    EGY
    54 Iturrizaga, E
    VEN
    ½-1½
    Rodshtein, M
    ISR
    55 Saric, I
    CRO
    0-2
    Amin, B
    EGY
    56 Iljiushenok, I
    UKR
    3-5
    Jakovenko, D
    RUS
    Bracket 8
    57 Adams, M
    ENG
    1½-½
    Muzychuk, M
    UKR
    58 Akobian, V
    USA
    ½-1½
    Laznicka, V
    CZE
    59 Kamsky, G
    USA
    ½-1½
    Melkumyan, H
    ARM
    60 Ponsa, F
    ARG
    1½-2½
    Dominguez, L
    CUB
    61 Fressinet, L
    FRA
    3-1
    Brkic, A
    CRO
    62 Zhao Jun
    CHN
    1-3
    Nepomniachtchi, I
    RUS
    63 Shankland, S
    USA
    1½-½
    Popov, I
    RUS
    64 Nakamura, H
    USA
    2-0
    Phiri, R
    ZAM
    Drum Coverage
    | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 |
    | Semifinals | Finals |

    Official Website: https://www.bakuworldcup2015.com/
    All PGN Games (TWIC): https://www.theweekinchess.com/
    Rules and Regulations: https://www.fide.com/FIDE/handbook/WorldCup2015Regulations.pdf

  3. Impressive effort from Adu vs this guy topy so i would like to say congratulations to a very talented chess player! perhaps you will win next time! and as an ULTRAMODERNIST my hope is you will LEARN from this brief encounter!!!

  4. Round #1 – Game #1
    Friday, 11 September 2015

    Uganda’s Ssegwanyi holds Anish Giri!

    Arthur Ssegwanyi of Uganda.

    There were a number of rating upsets, but the one that was notable was the draw between Arthur Ssegwanyi and world #6 player Anish Giri of the Netherlands. This got almost no attention on chess websites, but it is certainly big news on the continent of Africa. The ChessBase story did not mention the Ugandan player.

    Obviously, it is not the biggest result in the World Cup for an African player, but for Uganda it is an important event… even as significant as the three Ugandans who have beaten Grandmasters. However, Giri is an elite player and stands as the strongest player a Ugandan has ever faced. Zambia’s Richmond Phiri was playing Hikaru Nakamura and on board #1 was Nigeria’s Oladapo Adu facing Veselin Topalov.

    In this game, Giri played the flexible Paulsen variation and assumed the hedgehog position with the nice Ra7-c7 maneuver. Black was able to get the thematic 17…d5! in wresting the initiative. Giri won a pawn and seemed to be coasting to victory when he started to make some strategic errors.

    Arthur Ssegwangyi has just played 53.Kxd4. He would battle 105 more moves with Anish Giri holding the draw. Although the game was most likely draw at this point, Giri wanted to test the Ugandan’s endgame knowledge. Ssegwangyi passed the test.

    The Ugandan was able to get the queens off and played 158 moves in a rook ending to earn the draw. He stated that the game was drawn 50 moves ago, but probably more like 100! Nevertheless, the game went to king versus king in the last game to finish and the upset of the round! Most may have assumed the Ugandan would somehow blunder in the trivial ending, but this result shows that chess knowledge has spread.

    China, Russia and the Americans brought sizable contingents to Baku. India has some promising players along with veterans. One such veteran got a rude awakening as Surya Shekhar Ganguly was crushed by 17-year old Russian Vladimir Armentiev in a raging kingside attack. Cuba’s Leinier Dominguez got mated by Argentina’s Federico Ponsa in a Najdorf, but Robson-Vovk was perhaps the game of the round. GM Jan Gustafsson gave the analysis.

    SELECTED PHOTOS

    China comes with five 2700s, Hou Yifan and two junior champions in Yu Yangyi and Lu Shanglei… a 14-year old Wei Yi. Powerful!

    Ceremonial move made at the board of IM Oladapo Adu (Nigeria) and
    GM Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria).

    Women’s World Champion, GM Mariya Muzychuk (Ukraine)
    Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

  5. Round #1 – Game #2
    Saturday, 12 September 2015

    Several favorites through, but massive tiebreaks loom

    The personable Deysi Cori of Peru had the unenviable task of facing Vladimir Kramnik. No upset, but it was good to see her battle. Deysi is one who plays against the strongest competition available to her and has earned 6-7 IM norms. She has qualified for the World Cup twice being the only woman since Judit Polgar to do so in a qualifying tournament. She’s certainly all grown up now from the girl we saw at the 2004 Olympiad!

    “Knockout” tournaments are known as the most exciting because of the tension and excitement. The style of chess is combative since won games can most certainly clinch a match. It is also a tournament where there are bound to be a few upsets. There were a few, but for the most part, it was business as usual and the heavy favorites basically gave lessons.

    While most of the favorites were able to get past their clients, there were a few who ended up leaving the tournament early. Those leaving are Ni Hua (China), Gata Kamsky (USA) and Surya Ganguly (India). S.P. Sethuraman crushed Sanan Sjugirov in an unexpected romp. Leinier Dominguez was nearly sent packing by Argentina’s Federico Ponsa who brutally mated him in the first game and was probably drawing in the second.

    Cuba’s Leinier Dominguez has a second lease on life after an instructive win in second game.

    Arthur Ssegwanyi got his 15 minutes of fame after the draw yesterday and also got words of support from the Uganda Chess Federation in a press release…

    Ssegwanyi has over the years developed a fighting spirit following his exploits at the last two World Chess Olympiads in Istanbul, Turkey and Tromso, Norway, and at the 2012 World Cities Chess Championship in Al Ain, UAE. The experience meant that prior to the World Cup, Ssegwanyi had battled against at least eight Grandmasters. This must have given him confidence to take on Giri without fear.

    Indeed the Ugandan had no fear and had another tense battle with Anish Giri. It appeared the African would be able to hold the position in the middlegame but decided to give up both rooks for a queen. Despite the queen’s mobility, Giri’s two white rooks dominated the black queen and Ssegwanyi was unable to untangle his king from mating patterns. He resigned and enjoyed a lively post-mortem with the world #6 player. It was a good showing for the Ugandan. He was interviewed shortly after his game. Here is what he has to say…

    Perhaps there will be more to come from African players. While the others bowed out with straight losses, Bassem Amin became the first player from the African continent of Africa to advance to the second round in a FIDE World Cup. Of course he is the African champion and a proper Grandmaster at over 2600 and will perhaps make his breakthrough for Egypt.

    Egyptian Grandmaster Bassem Amin advances!
    Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

    Michael Adams has played 43…e3 setting a vicious trap. Muzychuk has a resource of 44.Bc1! and after 44…Bf3+ 45.Kxf3 Rxf2+ 46.Ke4 the e3-pawn will fall while white begins pushing passed pawns Easy draw. Muzychuk blundered with 44.Rf4 Bc4+ 45.Rg4 Rf2! and got her king and rook tangled into a net.

    There were a number of other interesting games resulting in tragic endings. The woman’s champion Mariya Muzychuk seemed to be heading toward another draw with Michael Adams when she lost the thread on the position, lost track of the tactics and dropped a heart-breaking game.

    Certainly the three women who participated gave their best and Hou Yifan still has a chance to advance against Brazil’s Rafael Leitao, but it may take awhile before women make a deep impact as long as they are content with playing primarily in the women’s cycle. Hopefully, women players will find a way to support playing more competitive environments to improve their standard. It is good to see Deysi Cori compete against the strongest competition in Latin America (with 6-7 IM norms) and perhaps these experiences will find her among the elite in the region, men or women!

      1. Well at least Naka played a half-way decent game vs Richmond and wasnt tryin to be disrespectful like i noticed in the Adu Games.

  6. Round #1 – Tiebreaks
    Sunday, 14 September 2015

    Gelfand out… other favorites run the tables

    A couple of scares in the first round and one major upset. Boris Gelfand of Israel was upset by 19-year old IM Cristobal Villarga, national champion of Chile. In the post-game interview the young Chilean biggest victory was beating 2500-level players, but this is by far his biggest scalp. Rustam Kasimdzahnov also lost his match to Canada’s Anton Kovalyov who had confessed to booking his flight to travel the next day.

    Canada’s GM Anton Kovalyov

    Kovalyov has an interesting story. He was born in 1992 in the Ukraine and migrated with his parents to Argentina in 2000 where he learned to play. He rose quickly and by 2008, he became a Grandmaster and later country’s highest-rated player. Totally raised in chess in South America, he took his talents to North America in 2013 where he settled in Montreal. He has since changed federations and become a citizen of Canada. This is the biggest victory in his career.

    As for Kasimdzhanov, there is no telling of how being Fabiano Caruana’s trainer affects his own play, but he is certainly very knowledgeable and has worked with Viswanathan Anand during his championship run. Other veterans such as Alexander Grischuk and Dmitry Jakovenko are showing shaky form but both advanced to the next round. Kasimdzhanov almost flagged in the second rapid making a move with one second left in a completely drawn position. Totally unnecessary.

    Is Lu Shanglei the dark horse?
    Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

    Some of the heavyweight matches to watch in round two are: Wang Hao vs. Lu Shanglei, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs. Hou Yifan, Vachier-Lagrave vs. Gabriel Sargissian. Nguyen Ngoc Truongson may be poised for an upset against Evgeny Tomashevsky. The American derby of Hikaru Nakamura vs. Sam Shankland will be interesting as well.

    Replay of Round #1, Tiebreaks

  7. 2015 World Chess Cup
    September 10th-October 4th, 2015 (Baku, Azerbaijan)
    Match Scores (Round #2)
    Bracket 1
    1 Topalov, V
    BUL
    1½-½
    Zhigalko, S
    BLR
    2 Wang Hao
    CHN
    ½-1½
    Lu Shanglei
    CHN
    3 Radjabov, T
    AZE
    3-1
    Smirin, I
    ISR
    4 Nisipeanu, L
    ROM
    1½-2½
    Svidler, P
    RUS
    Bracket 2
    5 Aronian, L
    ARM
    1-3
    Areshchenko, A
    UKR
    6 Vovk, Y
    UKR
    3½-4½
    Wei Yi
    CHN
    7 Navara, D
    CZE
    ½-1½
    Guseinov, G
    AZE
    8 Inarkiev, E
    RUS
    ½-1½
    Ding Liren
    CHN
    Bracket 3
    9 So, W
    USA
    2-0
    Balogh, C
    HUN
    10 Le Quang Liem
    VIE
    2½-1½
    Vitiugov, N
    RUS
    11 Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    1½-½
    Sarigissian, G
    ARM
    12 Nguyen Ngoc Truongson
    VIE
    2½-3½
    Tomashevsky, E
    RUS
    Bracket 4
    13 Villagra, C
    CHI
    0-2
    Granda, J
    PER
    14 Armentiev, V
    RUS
    ½-1½
    Wojaszek, R
    POL
    15 Leko, P
    HUN
    1½-½
    Wen Yang
    CHN
    16 Motylev, A
    RUS 1-3 Giri, A
    NED
    Bracket 5
    17 Caruana, F
    USA
    1½-½
    Mamedov, R
    AZE
    18 Kovalyov, A
    CAN
    1½-½
    Mareco, S
    ARG
    19 Mamedyarov, S
    AZE
    2½-1½
    Hou Yifan
    CHN
    20 Sethuraman, SP
    IND 1½-½ Harikrishna, P
    IND
    Bracket 6
    21 Karjakin, S
    RUS
    4-2
    Onischuk, A
    USA
    22 Lysyj, I
    RUS
    2½-3½
    Yu Yangyi
    CHN
    23 Andreikin, D
    RUS
    1½-½
    Korobov, A
    UKR
    24 Bruzon, L
    CUB
    ½-1½
    Kramnik, V
    RUS
    Bracket 7
    25 Grischuk, A
    RUS
    3½-2½
    Fedoseev, V
    RUS
    26 Ipatov, A
    TUR
    0-2
    Eljanov, P
    UKR
    27 Ivanchuk, Vassily
    UKR
    1½-½
    Rodshtein, M
    ISR
    28 Amin, B
    EGY
    1½-2½
    Jakovenko, D
    RUS
    Bracket 8
    29 Adams, M
    ENG
    5-4
    Laznicka, V
    CZE
    30 Melkumyan, H
    ARM
    ½-1½
    Dominguez, L
    CUB
    31 Fressinet, L
    FRA
    3½-4½
    Nepomniachtchi, I
    RUS
    32 Shankland, S
    USA
    1½-2½
    Nakamura, H
    USA
    Drum Coverage
    | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 |
    | Semifinals | Finals |

    Official Website: https://www.bakuworldcup2015.com/
    All PGN Games (TWIC): https://www.theweekinchess.com/
    Rules and Regulations: https://www.fide.com/FIDE/handbook/WorldCup2015Regulations.pdf

  8. Round #2 – Game #1
    Monday, 14 September 2015

    Great Wall of China continues!

    Ding Liren is leading a strong Chinese effort.

    If it was not clear that the Chinese are coming after Olympiad gold, then nothing else will prove it. I wrote several articles about this pending stampede starting back in 2001. The Chinese national team won their first Olympiad gold without three 2700 players and Wei Yi playing alternate! After the Chinese women had dominated the Olympiad for more than a decade. Now Chinese boast seven players over 2700, the strongest woman, several talented juniors including the last two junior champions and the youngest Grandmaster. Can you spell “dynasty”?

    In this position after 29…Ne7, Ding uncorked 30.Bc2! Qxc2 31.Nd3 closing the line and forcing black to donate his queen after 31…Kg8 32. Qxh7+ Kf7 33. Ne5+ Ke6 34. Qxc2.

    Today was a good day for the Chinese as Ding Liren, Wei Yi and Lu Shanglei won. Only Wang Hao lost… to Lu Shanglei! Ding Liren uncorked a combination that will make all the instructional books on tactics. In this position on the right, Ding got a novel combination with a deflection sacrifice and then a “line closer”. Instructive and unusual finish!

    Lu Shanglei beat his compatriot Wang Hao in a slashing attack after closing the kingside and pouncing with 22.b5! It was too late for black to close off the queenside after 22…c5 23. a5 Qd6 24. a6 b6 25. Bg2! exploiting the h1-a8 diagonal. After 25…Bxe3 26.Qf3! black would be forced to trade queens with a position in total shambles.

    The third Chinese to win was junior sensation Wei Yi who dismantled Yuri Vovk’s French. The game went along the lines of the Vovk-Robson game, but Wei found improvements. White’s attack appeared a bit crude with Nh5, Qg3 battery, but 19.Bb5! revealed the true strength of white’s plan. Wei Yi eventually pried open the kingside and launched with the beautiful retreat and attack move of 37.Nd4-f3! clearing the line for 38.Be3-d4. These Chinese are good!

    Two decisive games…
    Caruana beat Mamedov and Onischuk took down Karjakin.

    The Cubans has also improved on the strength of their dynamic duo. Leinier Dominguez rebounded nicely for his abysmal match against Federick Ponsa. The Cuban ace powered to an impressive victory against the Berlin Defense. Unfortunately, his compatriot Lazaro Bruzon had a heart-breaking loss against Vladimir Kramnik.

    In this position, after 115.Ra7+, black can still draw. What should he play, 115…Kb8 or 115…Kc8?

    Battling with his lone rook against the Russian’s bishop and rook, Bruzon had seemingly found the defense. However, the defending side has to remain alert not to fall into a mating net. Bruzon accomplished that until a moment of inattention allowed Kramnik to snatch the full point. After 115.Ra7+ (diagram left), the Cuban maestro erred with 115…Kb8?? allowed a mating net after 116.Kc6 Rh3 117.Ra1! Now black faces mortality with the devastating 118.Bd6+. Bruzon resigned and stared into space after the game. He was only 10 moves away from claiming the 50-move draw rule.

    There were some short, anti-competitive draws including Zhigalko-Topalov 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. dxc5 Qxc5 7. h3 Bh5 8. Na3 a6 9. Be3 Qc7 10. Qa4+ Nbd7 11. Bf4 1/2-1/2 and Radjabov-Smirin 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. Nf3 Nc6 8. Bd3 Ne5 9. Be4 Nxf3+ 10. Qxf3 Qxf3 11. Bxf3 Rb8 12. a4 1/2-1/2. Not very edifying. Perhaps many are conserving energy to go for the faster time controls.

    Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Alexander Onischuk won their games for the North American contingent while Julio Granda won for the South American region. Good day for the Americans!

    SELECTED PHOTOS

    What’s Hikaru Nakamura thinking? His opponent Sam Shankland lurks in the background.

    GM Veselin Topalov took the day off.

    Replay of Round #2, Game #1

  9. Round #2 – Game #2
    Tuesday, 15 September 2015

    Topalov, Caruana, Kramnik, MVL through…
    several big guns go to tiebreaks.

    Wesley So has won all of his games thus far. Perhaps he has returned to his excellent form.

    Apart from a couple of big names like Boris Gelfand and Rustam Kasimdzhanov, the brackets have gone as expected. Veselin Topalov punched his ticket to the third round with a clean win ending in a textbook rook ending. The Bulgarian had to arrive at the Lucena position and “build the bridge” but it was always completely winning. Wesley So, Pavel Eljanov and Julio Granda win both of their games handily to advance. Other players such as Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, Vassily Ivanchuk and Leinier Dominguez drew out their matches to advance.

    Chinese Ding Liren and Lu Shanglei also drew to advance to the third round with the latter result being considered an “upset”. However, Lu seems to have a lot of confidence at this point and shows how deep the talent pool is in China. In fact Wang Hao, a former #1 player, may be fighting to make the Olympiad team next year. Along with Li Chao and Bu Xiangzhi, he was one of the three 2700s missing from last year’s gold medal team. The young talent keeps coming!

    There will be a total of 15 tiebreak matches tomorrow with some heavyweights trying to advance in the rapid segment. There are certainly upsets bound to happen as players battle in the quickened format. There are some key matches and those who finish their matches already are rewarded with some exciting chess and a rest day. Wesley So of the USA is the only player to have won all four games that he played.

    SELECTED PHOTOS

    Vladimir Kramnik had a vision to defend his title! So far, so good.

    Does this look like confidence to you? Lu Shanglei closed the deal.

    The Grand Chess Tour participants Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri,
    Fabiano Caruana and Veselin Topalov talking before the round.
    Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

    Replay of Round #2, Game #2

  10. Round #2 – Tiebreaks
    Wednesday, 16 September 2015

    32 players, 16 nations remaining! Aronian out.

    A sad ending for the normally cherubic Levon Aronian. After having held the #2 position for many years, he seems to have lost his way. Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

    The second round is complete. After tense tiebreaks with blunders, swindles and missed opportunities, most of the favorites went through. Levon Aronian, who is not only a rating favorite, but also a favorite of many fans, exited the tournament after losing to Alexander Areshchenko. This would be the only major upset of a top player.

    The tiebreak games were all hotly-contested and Wilder-Laznicka match went to the Armageddon game. However, the most thrilling match award would have to go to Wei Yi versus Yuri Vovk encounter. The rapid games were relatively equal, but the 10’+10″ heated up. They repeated the a sharp line in the French, but in this case Wei Yi sacrificed an exchange for what seemed like adequate compensation. Perhaps there were better continuations missed, but as time pressure became a factor the Chinese prodigy began to falter and fell on the sword to a vicious counterattack. There were a couple of occasions when Wei Yi made a move with one second left on the clock.

    Video by Jan Gustafsson.

    In the second 10-minute encounter, Vovk played a very unambitious London System with the idea of securing a draw to advance, but quickly allowed black to equalize. Perhaps Vovk missed his chance after 23…Qg5?! 24.Rxf8? (24.h4!) Rxf8 when black’s attack is too strong. In time pressure, white collapsed after 25.Nb6?? Nxb6?? (25…Bxd4+) 26. cxb6 (26.h4! again) Nxc1 27. Rxc1 Bxd4 28.Bxa6? f4 29.exd4 f3 threatening mate and the rook. In the final chance for Vovk, he stayed with the French Defense, but Wei Yi played the Exchange Variation and held, but not before some scary moments. Wei Yi will face Areshschenko next!

    GM Emil Sutovsky seemed confused at various points in the tiebreak fast-moving games. In the Vitiugov-Le Quang Liem second rapid game, Sutovsky kept stating that Vitiugov was winning and that he was poised to advance when in fact black was fine.

    Nikita Vitiugov played 39.Qxg7+ in a wild position. Le Quang Liem held the position together and in the end, snared the point and the match.

    In the complicated position on the left, there are serious complications with the heavy pieces. Sutovsky became excited at 39.Qxg7+ when after Qxg7 40. Rxb7+ Ke6 (40…Kf8 loses) 41. Rxg7 Rh2+ 42. Kg3 Rxf3+ 43. Kxf3 Rxb2 when black is better. The Vietnamese player ultimately picked off all of white’s weak pawns and took the match.

    Nguyen-Tomashevsky was also a thrilling encounter as the knight ending was filled with thrills and spills as the Vietnamese player held on despite the Russian misses several winning opportunities.

    Hikaru Nakamura defeated his compatriot Samuel Shankland.
    Photo by Paul Truong.

    In Nakamura-Shankland, there was a bit of inspiration after the world’s #3 player won a technical rook ending in the rapid tiebreak match. It’s always very tough to face a friend or teammate in a knockout competition. Nakamura’s reflective Facebook post.

    Michael Adams, at age 43, continues to plod on after a tense victory over Laznicka in the Armageddon match. He is the elder statesman in the tournament and showed his blitz experience in the final game. Onto round three!

    Replay of Round #2, Tiebreaks

  11. 2015 World Chess Cup
    September 10th-October 4th, 2015 (Baku, Azerbaijan)
    Match Scores (Round #3)
    Bracket 1
    1 Topalov, V
    BUL
    2½-1½
    Lu Shanglei
    CHN
    2 Radjabov, T
    AZE
    1½-2½
    Svidler, P
    RUS
    Bracket 2
    3 Areshchenko, A
    UKR
    ½-1½
    Wei Yi
    CHN
    4 Guseinov, G
    AZE
    ½-1½
    Ding Liren
    CHN
    Bracket 3
    5 So, W
    USA
    2½-1½
    Le Quang Liem
    VIE
    6 Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    4-2
    Tomashevsky, E
    RUS
    Bracket 4
    7 Granda, J
    PER
    ½-1½
    Wojaszek, R
    POL
    8 Leko, P
    HUN
    ½-1½
    Giri, A
    NED
    Bracket 5
    9 Caruana, F
    USA
    1½-½
    Kovalyov, A
    CAN
    10 Mamedyarov, S
    AZE
    1½-½
    Sethuraman, SP
    IND
    Bracket 6
    11 Karjakin, S
    RUS
    1½-½
    Yu Yangyi
    CHN
    12 Andreikin, D
    RUS
    2½-1½
    Kramnik, V
    RUS
    Bracket 7
    13 Grischuk, A
    RUS
    0-2
    Eljanov, P
    UKR
    14 Ivanchuk, Vassily
    UKR
    ½-1½
    Jakovenko, D
    RUS
    Bracket 8
    15 Adams, M
    ENG
    5-3
    Dominguez, L
    CUB
    16 Nepomniachtchi, I
    RUS
    4-5
    Nakamura, H
    USA
    Drum Coverage
    | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 |
    | Semifinals | Finals |

    Official Website: https://www.bakuworldcup2015.com/
    All PGN Games (TWIC): https://www.theweekinchess.com/
    Rules and Regulations: https://www.fide.com/FIDE/handbook/WorldCup2015Regulations.pdf

  12. Round #3 – Game #1
    Thursday, 17 September 2015

    75% of games drawn… Grischuk on the brink of elimination!

    Sasha Grischuk had a rough day today.

    Alexander Grischuk has been inconsistent in the last year. Less than a year ago, he had reached a career-high Elo of 2810 and #3 in the world. However, after lackluster results followed in the FIDE Grand Prix series, a winless World Team Championship and poor results in both Grand Chess Tour events, he is sitting on a “live” rating of 2757. Losing to Pavel Eljanov is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Russian actually missed a clear win after his perpetual zeitnot problems haunted him again.

    It is easy to point out where someone missed a win and 100% of the time if you gave this position to Grischuk as a puzzle, he would see the winning move in half a second. However, when the clock is ticking loudly, nerves make the mind miss easy wins and even a mate-in-one (see Santosh-Bruzon game). In the position on the right, Grischuk was in severe time pressure in a tense struggle. The a-pawn commands black’s attention, so he must deliver a checkmate if he decides to remove the blockade. After Eljanov’s 37…Rg6, Grischuk played 38.Kh4? (38.a7!+-) Qb4? 39.Kh3? (39.Qf5!+-) and Eljanov played 39…Rg5 but still had no more than a draw. After 52.Ra5 white has a fortress draw, but moves later executed a self-mate problem with 55.Kd4?? Qd5+ 56.Ke3 Ke5… mate next move.

    With three players remaining for USA, Fabiano Caruana was the first to get on the board with a smooth with over an overmatched Anton Kovalyov. While this game lasted 61 moves, Caruana held a positional grip for most of the game until he decided the time was right to seize the initiative with the f4 idea. However, Kovalyov decided to go first, but 42…f5 immediately exploded in his face. Caruana temporarily sacked the exchange for a pawn, won it back and pocketed the pawn. Black’s position in total shambles and it turned into a rout.

    Sergey Karjkin has been in good form,
    but formidable figures lurk in his shadows.

    Sergey Karjakin seems to be on form. In yet another Sicilian, the Russian faced a Tamainov in a very unorthodox way with 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Nf6 6. Nxc6 bxc6 7. e5 Nd5 8. Ne4 Qc7 9. f4 Qb6 10. c4 Bb4+ 11. Ke2. What??? Is this Wilhelm Steinitz? Nevertheless, Karjakin was all over Yu Yangyi and ended up with a growing positional advantage. He kept slowly squeezing his prey like a boa constrictor, then hit with the killer blow 38.Rxd7! It ended the matter.

    While 75% of the games were drawn, there were few short ones, but there were several interesting encounters. Check on So-Le, Radjabov-Svidler and Topalov-Lu. In the latter game, Topalov had arrived at a completely winning position, but the Chinese player slipped away. After Lu played 30…Nf3, he peered at Topalov as he thought. He must’ve had a feeling the Bulgarian was losing his way. If you want a nice laugh, got over the Granda-Wojtaszek game!

    SELECTED PHOTOS

    Who ordered these? 🙂

    Wei Yi lost to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in 2013 World Chess Cup.
    He’s the favorite to advance this time.

    Lu Shanglei trying to be the coolest player amongst the 32.
    Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

    Replay of Round #3, Game #1

  13. Round #3 – Game #2
    Friday, 18 September 2015

    Eljanov crushes Grischuk… seven exciting tiebreaks on tap!

    The Ukraine’s Pavel Eljanov is on 6/6 in three matches!

    Pavel Eljanov showed why you have to be in top condition in these knockout tournaments. Apparently, Alexander Grischuk is still suffering from bouts of time pressure and is having problems with consistent results. In today’s game, Grischuk had to win in order to stay alive and chose a very solid and flexible hedgehog setup. This defense allows black to adapt to white’s intentions and rely on a powerful counterattack with a timely pawn thrust.

    Grischuk is totally paralyzed after 40.c6. Dreadful showing by the Russian.

    It appeared that 24…e5 was a mistake as it rendered black’s a8-bishop impotent after 25.d5 and later 40.c6 (diagram right). That bishop never moved again after 18…Ba8. Ultimately ALL of black’s pieces got pushed back and there was no possible counterplay. Meanwhile white froze the queenside and quickly opened up an attack on the kingside and black was defenseless to stop it. Grischuk went out with a whimper (see game here).

    Two Chinese on a collision course won their games and are poised to face each other in round four. Unfortunately, both are close friends and in the latest New in Chess, Ding Liren talked about his relationship with Wei Yi and says he is the best hope to bring the World Championship to China. Wei Yi showed excellent form today in a clinching victory over Alexander Areschchenko.

    Hopefully, Areschchenko likes Chinese food because he got some home cooking from Wei Yi. His 19.Nxe6! was a powerful blow.

    The Ukrainian ventured into a main line Sicilian Poisoned Pawn variation wherein the Chinese prodigy had ideas of his own. First, on 15…Nd7, white eschewed 16.Kh1 ignoring the danger on the a7-g1 diagonal and played 16.Rbd1!? instead. After 16…h3 17.g3 Bb4 18.Qe3!?, black decided to allow 18…Bxc3 19. Nxe6! After the way Wei Yi brilliantly defeated Lazaro Bruzon a couple of months ago it is unfathomable why Areschchenko allowed this. Actually, the scary 19…fxe6 was actually the best try, but after 19…Qe5 20.Nc7+ white won the exchange and played forcefully to convert a nice win. Wei Yi will advance to play his compatriot Ding Liren in a Chinese derby.

    In Ding-Guseinov, it is not certain whether black’s queenside play was a new idea, but he got absolutely nothing for the sacrificed pawn. Ding simply collected the pawn and said, “xie-xie”. The rest of the game was a brutal dissection where black was flailing away at white targets, but had to keep an eye on the d-pawn sprinting up the board. White ended nicely with 41.Nc7! deflection since 41…Nd8 loses to 42.Ne8+ winning a piece. Of course, 41…Nxd7 there is the intermezzo of 42.Nxe6+ and then 43.Nxd7 also netting a piece.

    In Jakovenko-Ivanchuk, the Ukrainian veteran sacrificed his queen for what turned out to be dubious compensation. Black did have two rooks for the queen, but pieces were a bit stifled and the white queen was running amok causing all kinds of devastation. There was some surprise that Ivanchuk resigned so abruptly.

    Poland’s Radoslaw Wojtazek ended the run of Julio Granda Zuniga of Peru. Black had a very solid position and perhaps could have held a draw even after white launched a vicious attack. The move 14…g6 certainly did not help secure the kingside and the weakness would soon be felt.

    After 18. h4 h5 19. Ne5 Be8 20. Qf3 Bf8 21. g4 hxg4 22. Nxg4 Bg7 23.h5. This was the key position. Unfortunately, Granda ran low on time trying to figure out the complications. After 23. h5 gxh5 24. Ne5 Nf6 white kept coming with 25. f5 but black was holding. Jon Ludwig Hammer pointed out that after 25…Rxd4, Wojtazek played 26. Rxd4?! and missed 26.fxe6!

    The point is that 26…Rg4+ is met by 27.Qxg4! hxg4 28.exf7+ with a minor piece mate after 28…Bxf7 29.Bxf7+ Kh8 (or 29…Kf8) 30.Ng6 MATE! Instead of defense, Granda tried to complicate matters with 31…Qe2? Finally, 33…Qb1+? instead of 33…Qc1+ ended resistance after 34. Kg2 c5 35. Rxf5. No mas!

    Julio Granda, whose fascinating story is well-known,
    will always be hailed as a hero.

    Sergey Karjakin advanced after beating Yu Yangyi in a dominant performance. In the final position, he was indeed much better, but offered the draw and took the match. It is good to save energy for the tough matches ahead. TWIC’s Mark Crowther made an observation that Karjakin is becoming adept at beating Chinese players. At quick look would show that this is correct. In the China-Russia match, Karjakin had a huge score beating Wei Yi, Ding Liren, Ni Hua and beating Yu Yangyi in the final.

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has already advanced. He is hoping Teimour Radjabov will join him.

    There were some short draws, but there were some interesting encounter such as Kramnik-Andreikin and Tomashevsky-MVL… both ending in minor piece endings. Lu-Topalov was another strange game starting out with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3!? d5 4. Bb5 dxe4 5. Nxe5 Qd5 6. Qa4. Lu sacrificed a pawn and then an exchange, but it yielded nothing but equality as Topalov returned the material and they shook hands.

    Seven tiebreaks tomorrow with some big games. Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So both hope to join Caruana to potentially have three USA players in the final 16. Chinese could potentially have three. Russia has two players advancing with another five trying to advance. It will be a tough road however. Lu Shanglei could be a tricky opponent for Veselin Topalov. Be careful!

    SELECTED PHOTOS

    Two legendary national heroes…
    Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Julio Granda Zuniga (Peru).

    Two former Webster University roommates battling…
    Wesley So and Le Quang Liem.
    Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

    Replay of Round #3, Game #2

  14. Round #3 – Tiebreaks
    Saturday, 19 September 2015

    Favorites through….
    Nakamura wins Armageddon thriller…
    Nepomniachtchi files a complaint over two-handed castle!

    Hikaru Nakamura won a thrilling match, but was embroiled in a controversy concerning a FIDE rule.

    What was perhaps the most thrilling match of the entire tournament went down to an Armageddon game. Hikaru Nakamura had won the first 10-minute encounter against Ian Nepomniachtchi and was poised to win the second when he blundered horribly and lost. He then lost the first blitz 5-minute game, his second in a row and putting him at the brink of elimination.

    Nakamura could be seen after the game pacing the floor trying to collect his composure. Nepomniachtchi seemed posed to advance and join the other four Russians. In the second blitz game, Nakamura won a Sicilian Rossolimo in nice style and gave a fist-pump in celebration. This forced a final Armageddon game. Tension was already high. What ensued was an unlikely controversy.

    Nepomniachtchi would be playing white with 5:4 time advantage on the clock and needing a win to advance. The game started with 1.c4 and Nakamura trotted out the a King’s Indian. The game appeared to be level throughout until white gained a bit of space. Needing a win, Nakamura lashed out with 21…f5 and got his kingside rolling. Nepomniachtchi seemed to be defending, but then panicked and his position soon collapsed. Thus, Nepomniachtchi had just lost the Armageddon game with Nakamura thereby losing the match 5-4 and being eliminated.

    Ian Nepomniachtchi with arbiters after his heart-breaking loss. After being told of a rule infraction, he filed a protest that was later denied.

    Less than an hour after the match, there were tweets about a comment made by GM Sergey Shipov during the broadcast that Nakamura had violated rules by castling two-handed. After news circulated about this, Nepomniachtchi posted some angry tweets on his Twitter account. In these two tweets, he leveled blame on both Nakamura and the arbiters who failed to intervene.

    Then after this, he decided to file an appeal on the infraction.

    The apparent infraction of FIDE Article 4.1 occurred seconds into the game on Nakamura’s 5…0-0 where the American player used a two-handed method commonly seen in off-hand blitz games. There were a team of arbiters observing the game and there was no objection made. Nepomniachtchi also made no objection and continued the game normally despite seeing the move clearly. The game was highly intense and the infraction did not tragically decided the game. After Nakamura’s 56…f2+, Nepomniachtchi extended his hand in resignation.

    While this story has unfolding, The Chess Drum was chatting with Nakamura who looked in the FIDE handbook and invoked Article 4.8 “The act of moving the pieces” which states,

    Article 4.8 – A player forfeits his right to claim against his opponent’s violation of Articles 4.1 – 4.7 once the player touches a piece with the intention of moving or capturing it. (See Article 4)

    Nakamura has not denied committing the infraction and most certainly would have agreed to any penalty during the game. However, once Nepomniachtchi took to Twitter, the situation became a bit more contentious. It may be Nakamura’s view that if Article 4.8 is in effect, then you forfeit a claim on Article 4.1. Certainly this has not been the first time this has occurred, but one wonders if the appeal will be granted since Nepomniachtchi signed the scoresheets before filing the appeal.

    It is hard to know what could be done after the result was completed. There is certainly no grounds for replaying the game. At most, there may have been a time addition for Nepomniachtchi which could have been crucial, but such a claim was not made. What will perhaps occur is that Nakamura will receive a warning from the arbiters before he plays Michael Adams tomorrow. (Update: Official Ruling was that Nepomniachtchi’s appeal was denied… https://www.bakuworldcup2015.com/news/8/141.)

    Vladimir Kramnik did not successfully defend his 2013 title.

    Peter Svidler eliminated local Azeri favorite, Teimour Radjabov. Only Shakhriyar Mamedyarov remains as the flag bearer for Azerbaijan. Four Russians are through.

    Vladimir Kramnik was the next pre-tournament favorite to be eliminated after he was impressively outplayed by his compatriot Dmitri Andreikin in the second rapid encounter. His compatriot Evgeny Tomshevsky was also eliminated after losing both 10-minute games by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Mixed day for the Russians. However, Peter Svidler upended Teimour Radjabov leaving only one Azeri player in the competition.

    Meanwhile Lu Shanglei was trying to join Ding Liren and Wei Yi, but he had to get past Veselin Topalov. Shanglei had a decent position, but then got hit by some tactics after 21…Rab8 22.c4 Nf6 23.Qe5! Black ended up losing the exchange by force and resigned on the spot. The second game was WILD!

    Shanglei played 1.Nc3!? which many found amusing, but he threw his pieces forward. In reality, there was no attack and black seized the initiative. After the queens came off, white complicated matters and as they went into a fierce time scramble, Shanglei’s R+N could not work magic over Topalov B+N and the Bulgarian would move on.

    Leinier Dominguez missed a chance in the first five-minute game.

    In Dominguez-Adams, the match will not win an award for the most exciting ever played, but Adams came from the dead after being in a totally lost position in the first five-minute blitz game. The Cuban had won the exchange and appeared poised to go up +1, but then his time was ticking dangerous low, reaching 0:01 a couple of times!! Adams came back won the exchange and the game. In the second game, Dominguez was never able to get anything going, played risky and dropped the second game.

    Round #4 Pairings

    Svidler-Topalov
    Ding-Wei
    Giri-Wojtaszek
    So-Vachier
    Nakamura-Adams
    Eljanov-Jakovenko
    Caruana-Memdyarov
    Karjakin-Andreikin

    Replay of Round #3, Tiebreaks

  15. There was an interesting precedent that occurred during the 2008 Olympiad in the match between Finland and Jamaica. In this controversy Tomi Nyback of Finland was in time pressure against Jamaica’s Shane Matthews when he picked up his king to move to f4. Seeing that this would have been losing, he returned the piece and moved his bishop. Matthews immediately protested.

    The arbiters were summoned and Nyback stated that he was adjusting the king. Arbiters discounted witness testimony disputing Nyback’s version, accepted Nyback’s explanation and allowed the game to continue. Matthews pitifully allowed his time to run out. Jamaica filed an appeal (the match was drawn), but it was determined that the result would be upheld because Matthews signed the scoresheet approving the result.

    1. If Nepo did not notice the infraction and the arbiters did not point out the infraction, it is like football… play goes on. To try to go back after the result was accepted (scoresheets signed) is rather dubious.

  16. 2015 World Chess Cup
    September 10th-October 4th, 2015 (Baku, Azerbaijan)
    Match Scores (Round #4)
    1 Topalov, V
    BUL
    ½-1½
    Svidler, P
    RUS
    2 Wei Yi
    CHN
    3½-2½
    Ding Liren
    CHN
    3 So, W
    USA
    ½-1½
    Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    4 Wojaszek, R
    POL
    1-3
    Giri, A
    NED
    5 Caruana, F
    USA
    ½-1½
    Mamedyarov, S
    AZE
    6 Karjakin, S
    RUS
    2½-1½
    Andreikin, D
    RUS
    7 Eljanov, P
    UKR
    2½-1½
    Jakovenko, D
    RUS
    8 Adams, M
    ENG
    ½-1½
    Nakamura, H
    USA
    Drum Coverage
    | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 |
    | Semifinals | Finals |

    Official Website: https://www.bakuworldcup2015.com/
    All PGN Games (TWIC): https://www.theweekinchess.com/
    Rules and Regulations: https://www.fide.com/FIDE/handbook/WorldCup2015Regulations.pdf

  17. Round #4 – Game #1
    Sunday, 20 September 2015

    Mamedyarov wows home crowd… Svidler makes hedgehog roadkill

    Audience watching “Shakh” polish off Fabiano Caruana.

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is certainly a hometown favorite in this tournament. As the only Azeri remaining in the competition, he was motivated against American Fabiano Caruana. “Shakh” proceeded to create a sensation with a scintillating victory after a brutal kingside mating attack. After Caruana resigned, the crowd in the viewing let out roar and excited Azeris came and whisked him off to an excited press conference. This may have been a proud moment given the pressure of playing in front of fans as a national hero. Meanwhile, Caruana falls behind, yet knowing that he has already qualified for the Candidates, pressure will not be great.

    Mamedyarov sent Caruana home with a scintillating attack beginning with 28.Nh5!

    In Mamedyarov-Caruana, white tried a pseudo-Trompowsky Attack creating a weird structure. Caruana’s kingside was already weakened before he played 13…Nh5!? Those who remember when Bobby Fischer played this against Boris Spassky in a Modern Benoni will recall the horror the spectators felt after realizing that Bxh5 would shred the kingside. However, more is known about this plan today and black has been able to get good compensation including that brilliant Fischer win.

    After 13…Nh5, white did follow with 14.Bg5 Qd8?! 15.Bxh5! The difference here is black does not have f7-pawn which normally protect e6 and g6 squares. Caruana tried to close the position with 20…e5, but it didn’t help. Shakh was able to probe the light squares after 26.g3! hxg3+ 27.Nxg3 Rg8 28.Nh5! (diagram above). The attack was swift, but with no less pain for Caruana whose was probably saying a prayer for his king. Too late. Death was imminent.

    All of white’s pieces were barreling down the kingside while the black army could do nothing but watch the white pieces encircle the black king. The white queen slid up with 39.Qh5 and delivered the coup de grace. Thunderous applause could be heard in the viewing room and Shakh was whisked away from the playing room.

    Does 17…h5 work in this hedgehog structure? Maybe the “Fischer Attack” with Kh8, Bc7, Rg8, g5 idea was better.

    Another interesting game was Svidler-Topalov and Sicilian Rossolimo that turned into a type of Maroczy Bind. Topalov assumed the flexible and solid hedgehog setup which is incredibly hard to squash and black has all types of ideas centering around dangerous pawn breaks. However, Topalov played 17…h5?! which can’t be that good in this position. The idea is …h4-h3 softening up the a8-h1 diagonal. This idea fizzled and white soon won that pawn.

    The game carried on with each side nursing passed pawns with two rooks and a queen guarding their advance. In a complicated finale, white was able to blast open the kingside after 55. h5! Svidler stated that he was surprised Topalov took the pawns so fast. Sure enough… black’s king was soon being assailed from all sides. In an unlikely ending Topalov allowed mate on the board.

    Instructive lesson in Topalov’s hedgehog, but quills not sharp enough against Russian bear. Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

    Ding-Wei was absolutely crazy… a theoretical, tactical anti-Grunfeld that was difficult to evaluate. In the post-mortem, Ding gave an impressive display of analysis showing lines at dizzying speed. The complexity of the game was mind-blowing! It would remind one of computer chess. Word is that Chinese are incredibly tactical and if you can understand the positions below you’ll get an idea of how complicated the game was.

    Position 18.Rh4!

    In Ding Liren-Wei Yi, positions after 12.Qa4!? and 18.Rh4!
    Did someone drop the pieces on the chessboard? 😐

    18.Rh4! was another computer-like move which saved the initiative white. Both sides were walking a tightrope in the position and after the stunning 29.Nd6+!! cxd6 30.Rxh7 white has created a dangerous h-pawn that would decide the game. Powerful game by the Chinese #1! Below is the post-mortem. Get your aspirin ready!

    Hikaru Nakamura bolted ahead of Michael Adams 1-0 after the American powered to victory. Something went wrong in the opening for Adams as Nakamura seized tremendous initiative. In the double rook ending, black’s pawns were scattered and king unsafe as white hit at every target with reckless abandon. After winning material, Nakamura pushed his pawn majority through on the kingside and wrapped up the win.

    Replay of Round #4, Game #1

    Interview with Vladimir Kramnik

  18. Round #4 – Game #2
    Monday, 21 September 2015

    Topalov, Caruana, So and Adams sent home… Wei Yi equalizes!

    Wei Yi wins a clutch battle… Chinese derby will go to tiebreaks tomorrow.

    When interviewed after his win, Ding Liren was asked if it was uncomfortable playing against his compatriot. He stated that he did not feel pressure because there would be a Chinese moving to the next round. Interesting collectivist mentality. Well… Wei Yi is trying to be the Chinese to move on after he saved the match with an improbably win today. It appeared as if Ding Liren would slip away, but missed a chance at a computer-like draw. Wei Yi equalized and the match will go to rapid tiebreaks.

    Wei played the sharp 67.Rb3! which looks to be winning, but there is no way to win black’s rook after 67…Rxb3 68.d8(Q)+. Ding later missed his chance to hold and the young prodigy leveled the match score.

    In their Ruy Lopez encounter, it was another sharp battle that unwound in the middle game. White was up a pawn, but black was attempting a blockade. Just as white was making progress, Ding sacrifice another pawn with 54…h4! to devalue white’s king safety and get the queens off the board. After 55.gxh4 Qe5+ 56.Qg3+ Qxg3 57.Kxg3 Rxe4 black would be able to complicate things and fight to draw, but white played 55.Kh3? and gave black a path to clinch the match with a draw.

    However, rook endings being so complicated, Ding Liren erred with 61.Rc8? and the white king was no longer cut off. Fascinating play developed and Ding Liren missed a chance to hold on 72…Kf3 and clinch the match. He played 72…Kh4?? and the queen was eventually able to skewer the rook. It will be a tough match tomorrow, but guarantees that one Chinese will advance.

    Wesley So has been having uneven results in the past several months. After an abysmal debut at the U.S. Championship, he rebounded with a strong outing at the Shakmir Memorial. At the World Cup he was having another solid result, but against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave got lost in the complications.

    So erred with 22.Bxd5? and fell into hot water after 22…Ne5! White was faced with losing a piece, so he sacrificed a bishop for a couple of pawns. However, MVL forced a trade of rooks and it was a knight versus two pawns. So set a couple of traps for MVL, but in the end white simply would run out of moves and run out of time in this tournament.

    What’s next for Wesley So?

    Karjakin-Andreikin, Wojtaszek-Giri were comfortably drawn games as was Eljanov-Jakovenko. Topalov-Svidler was combative, but perhaps the Bulgarian lost his fighting spirit or motivation. In the final position he was actually dead lost, but Svidler offered a draw to advance.

    Adams-Nakamura went down to minimal material out of a Berlin Defense. Unfortunately, there were no imbalances in the positions for Adams to strive for an advantage and neither side was in any danger. Of course, that meant that Adams’ run would end. We will not soon forget his thrilling battle will Leinier Dominguez in the previous round!

    Nakamura is happy to advance and will be the lone American.
    Photos by Eteri Kublashvili (for FIDE).

    Replay of Round #4, Game #2

    Interview with Hikaru Nakamura

    Videos by chess24.com.

  19. Round #4 – Tiebreaks
    Tuesday, 22 September 2015

    Quarterfinals are set…
    Wei Yi moves on, Giri, Karjakin, Eljanov also advance

    The crowd is thinning out. Now only eight remain.

    The stage is set. A total of 120 players have been eliminated! What remains resembles an elite tournament of some of the world’s top players with Hikaru Nakamura being the top seed. However, it is a knock-out format which increases the chances that each person in the field has a chance to win. Peter Svidler is the lowest-rated player at 2733 (live) in the last eight and 16-year old Wei Yi being the youngest.c

    Anish Giri moves on.

    In today’s four tiebreaks, there is a lot at stake with the $10,000 extra for advancing and two seats in the Candidate’s tournament in March. Nakamura has already qualified and Anish Giri will qualify by rating. For players like Peter Svidler, this would be the only chance and the Russian is looking to repeat his 2011 World Cup win.

    In today’s tiebreaks, the Ding-Wei match would be the attraction. There were a lot of superlatives used to describe the talent of the two Chinese and their style of play. After Giri won both of his tiebreak games against Radaslow Wojtaszek, he mentioned that he had analyzed games from the Chinese league and found the games fascinating. That would be the consensus of the classical games. The two rapid games were drawn but the second The first blitz game had a bizarre computer-like opening. After 10. Qf4 Nh5 11. Bxf7+ Kh8 12. Qg3!? Rxf7 (12…Nxg3 13.Ng6+ hxg6 14.hxg3 mates.) 13. Nxf7+ Qxf7 14. Qd6.

    Does 12.Qg3!? remind you of
    a computer move?

    This game continued its weird play and none the commentators knew what was going on. In addition, time pressure was afoot and both players were scrambling. After some very sharp tactical play, Ding played 28…Nc4 29. bxc4 Qxc3 30. Qxf4 Qb4+ 31. Ka1 Qc3+ Draw. In the second blitz, Ding Liren repeated the English Opening he tried in the second rapid. He was able to work up an advantage, but ended up frittering away the advantage and losing the match.

    In Jakovenko-Eljanov, the Ukranian won the match on the strength of a nice, clinical victory in the second game. Sergey Karjakin won his match on the strength of his well-played first game. That leaves two Russians in the final eight. There was talk about Russians being dominant after placing eight players in the last 32, but of course knockouts are far different. The results show the parity and there is clearly no dominant power in world chess today.

    Replay of Round #4, Tiebreaks

    Videos by chess24.com.

  20. 2015 World Chess Cup
    September 10th-October 4th, 2015 (Baku, Azerbaijan)
    Match Scores (Round #5)
    1 Svidler, P
    RUS
    3½-2½
    Wei Yi
    CHN
    2 Vachier-Lagrave, M
    FRA
    ½-1½
    Giri, A
    NED
    3 Mamedyarov, S
    AZE
    2-4
    Karjakin, S
    RUS
    4 Eljanov, P
    UKR
    1½-½
    Nakamura, H
    USA
    Drum Coverage
    | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 |
    | Semifinals | Finals |

    Official Website: https://www.bakuworldcup2015.com/
    All PGN Games (TWIC): https://www.theweekinchess.com/
    Rules and Regulations: https://www.fide.com/FIDE/handbook/WorldCup2015Regulations.pdf

  21. Round #5 – Game #1
    Wednesday, 23 September 2015

    Eljanov sharp…stuns Nakamura!

    Pavel Eljanov has been the best player in the tournament thus far.

    Today’s first game of the quarterfinals was all about Pavel Eljanov. The Ukrainian upended the American star with a display of powerful play from a Catalan. Hikaru Nakamura, from which kinetic energy radiates in his play, tried to catch his opponent napping. On 15…Bh7!? white had a bit more play in the center. Eljanov uncorked 20.Nxb7! ultimately giving up two minor pieces for a rook and two pawns.

    Eljanov battered down the door, burst into the castle and the king was falling prey to a unique double rook mating attack!

    The problem with Nakamura’s pieces was the mobility. The knight and bishop were not able to work harmoniously until it came to stopping the a-pawn. Eljanov played 31.Rab2! seizing the b-file and his rooks were soon pillaging the queenside. While black was running out of the moves, the white king made a sudden dash to weave a mating net around the black king. Eljanov missed mate a couple of times, but it was a superb show of creativity and power play. Nakamura will be forced to win and if he does so, he will get the new nickname “The Comeback Kid”.

    In Mamedyarov-Karjakin, the Azeri crowd was anticipating another fallen black king, but the Russian fought and fought and fought staving off what appeared to be a certain loss. After torturing Karjakin for hours, Shakh played 69.f3? giving black a chance to get the pawns off the board. Then he let the trapped black rook out of prison and the game flat-lined to 0.00. The support for Mamedyarov is increasing and the President of Azerbaijan Chess Federation Elman Rustamov weighed in,

    “The main reason of my coming today is to support Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. I met him before the game and wished him success in the upcoming match. I really wanted him to know that we believe in him and all of us really want him to gain success in this tournament, though I understand this is a very hard tournament and that the best players in the world play here. Everyone wants to succeed in this World Cup, so the competition is very tough”.

    Will Shakh come through?

    Not the game of the day, but fireworks expected tomorrow and Wei Yi-Svidler!

    Replay of Round #5, Game #1
    PART ONE

    PART TWO

    Videos by chess24.com.

  22. Round #5 – Game #2
    Thursday, 24 September 2015

    Nakamura, MVL ousted… two tiebreaks left!

    Hikaru Nakamura may have been eliminated, but he has already qualified via Grand Prix and rating. He could not muster up any complications today to level the score. In his game with Pavel Eljanov, he could not create any imbalances.

    Replay of Round #5, Game #2
    PART ONE

    PART TWO

    Videos by chess24.com.

  23. Round #5 – Tiebreaks
    Friday, 25 September 2015

    Russians go through… join Giri and Eljanov in semi-finals

    Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler exchanging pleasantries,
    but they could face in the final.

    Replay of Round #5, Tiebreaks

    Videos by chess24.com.

  24. 2015 World Chess Cup
    September 10th-October 4th, 2015 (Baku, Azerbaijan)
    Match Scores (SEMIFINALS)
    1 Svidler, P
    RUS
    1½-½
    Giri, A
    NED
    2 Karjakin, S
    RUS
    3½-2½
    Eljanov, P
    UKR
    Drum Coverage
    | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 |
    | Semifinals | Finals |

    Who will advance and compete for the World Cup title?

    After the rest day, we move on to the semifinals of the 2015 World Cup with four familiar players. These two mini-matches are important especially for the winners because they will then qualify for the Candidates tournament in March. Pavel Eljanov has played solidly thus far and has not suffered a single loss in his matches. On the other hand, he has the ever-solid Sergey Karjakin to overcome. In the Svidler-Giri match, it will be the old guard vs. the new guard. Will Svidler earn his second trip to the finals? Will Giri break through? Giri could qualify on rating, but there is no sense in taking chances. Should be exciting!

    Official Website: https://www.bakuworldcup2015.com/
    All PGN Games (TWIC): https://www.theweekinchess.com/
    Rules and Regulations: https://www.fide.com

  25. Semifinals – Game #1
    Sunday, 27 September 2015

    Svidler breaks out on top!

    With only two matches remaining,
    the World Cup has calmed considerably from its frenetic pace.
    Photo by FIDE.

    Peter Svidler broke out on top when Anish Giri mis-evaluated a complicated Ruy Lopez. After Giri’s 32.g5? hxg5 33.Ne3 Rxa2 it is unclear what the follow-up plan was. White was simply two pawns down with no semblance of an attack. The game ended at time control when Giri tried for 37. Nh6+ Kg7 38. Nf5+ Kg8 39. Nh6+ Kg7 40. Nf5+. After Giri made time control, the Russian responded 40…gxf5, but after 41. Qh5 Ng6, white had nothing on the h-file and conceded. It was a disappointing loss for Giri who is forced to win tomorrow to force a tiebreak.

    Pavel Eljanov has clearly been the best player in Baku and his form continued against Sergey Karjakin. In this first game, he may have missed an opportunity to break out ahead 1-0 in the match after winning a pawn and pressing for the win. On 62. a6 Ne5 63. Rxf6+ (63.a7 Nxc6 64.a8(Q) Rxb6=) 63…Kxf6 64. Nd5+ Ke6 65. Nxb4 Nd7 66. Nd3 Kd6 67. a7. White rushed to attack the pawns, but black was in time to liquidate and force a draw.

    Peter Svidler analyzing his game versus Anish Giri

    Video by chess24.com.

  26. Semifinals – Game #2
    Monday, 28 September 2015

    Svidler qualifies for Candidates… Karjakin-Eljanov fizzles…
    Karjakin seems shaky.

    Karjakin needs to get his at together fast!
    Photo by FIDE.

    Peter Svidler advanced when Anish Giri could not break his fortress. Giri decided on a main line Caro Kann where Svidler tried 6.Nh3!? Nf6 7. Nf4 e5 8. dxe5 Qa5+ 9. c3 Qxe5+ This didn’t yield any advantage after 10. Qe2, but in the post-game press conference, Svidler had doubts during the game. He was concerned about shuffling his pieces in a passive manner, but his position was extremely solid. Instead of Giri playing another 100 moves, he acquiesced to a draw.

    Pavel Eljanov and Sergey Karjakin had a 14-move draw. What an you say about such a game? Let’s hope things pick up.

    Replay of Semifinals

    Video by chess24.com.

  27. Semifinals – Tiebreaks
    Tuesday, 29 September 2015

    Karjakin joins Svidler for Russian derby final!

    Karjakin checking his three-fold repetition claim.

    Sergey Karjakin upended Pavel Eljanov after coming back from a 1-0 deficit in the rapid. Eljanov had broken ahead after some missteps by Karjakin. After the greedy 25…Qxa4 the black queen became overloaded and eventually had to cede material. After that it was a smooth win. In the second rapid, perhaps Eljanov took a risk in playing sharply. His strategy almost worked, but he got a cramped position.

    It didn’t appear that the Ukrainian was playing to draw out his old compatriot, but instead tried to seize a queenside initiative. However, white was able to maintain composure and had more activity with an open file and a nice bishop. Meanwhile black was pinned down to the defense of a weak pawn. Unfortunately, black had weaknesses on both flanks. At this point, white’s rook dominated, mopped up the kingside and the score was level.

    In the first blitz, white was in control of the game, but overlooked a bishop shot after 42.h4 Bf6! This attacked a pawn, but also created a deadly threat… which Eljanov missed. After 43.h5? Bh4! white was suddenly in trouble and black began picking off pawns with the fleet-footed queen. Eventually white had no blockade and no perpetual check. Four pawns down, Eljanov resigned. The second blitz game was a type of Dzindzi-Indian (named for GM Roman Dzindzihashvili) where black gives up the strong bishop to cripple white’s pawn structure. It worked like a charm!

    Eljanov unfurled the Dzindzi-Indian (diagram #1) and got the type of position he wanted. After black applied pressure, white’s position crumbled and pawns started dropping. After 52…Kxg6 (diagram #2) there are many ways to win. Eljanov could not find a way.

    Black dominated the middlegame with a tremendous grip and an x-ray on white’s weaknesses. Soon white’s position was crumbling and black started picking off pawn after pawn until he was three pawns up!! Amazingly, it would not be enough. How does black NOT win this game?? Somehow black botched it as his time began to whittle away. Three pawns ups turned into three pawns up with opposite colored bishops.

    Then black dropped a pawn, shuffled his king around and allowed white to establish a blockade. In the interim, the position repeated three times and Karjakin claimed a three-fold repetition!

    Arbiters conferring with the players.

    After the arbiter intervened, they replayed the entire game, checked the position in question and confirmed the claim. Disappointing end for Eljanov who worked hard to get a chance to extend the match. It was not to be! Karjakin will face Peter Svidler who was commenting on the games and was still analyzing the position when the claim was upheld. The all-Russian final assures two spots in the candidates tournament for the Russians.

    Replay of Semifinals (Tiebreaks)

    Video by chess24.com.

  28. Finals – Game #1
    Thursday, 1 October 2015

    Svidler keeps winning… runs over Karjakin!

    Sergey Karjakin falls behind again.
    Photo by FIDE.

    What’s more amazing than Peter Svidler winning is that fact that Sergey Karjakin is playing in the final. The Ukrainian-Russian has not played particularly solid in the last couple of rounds and was close to being ousted by Pavel Eljanov on a couple of occasions. This time his lackluster play was punished in 29 moves.

    A key position… Svidler’s 16.d4 gave white favorable complications.

    Appropriately, Svidler used Eljanov’s of 1.Nf3, who used it effectively against Karjakin. Instead of a Reti or an English, it turned into a type of King’s Indian Attack… only the center was wide open after 9.exd5!? Given that unique character of the position, black misjudged the position and after 13.Bg!? f6 14.Bd2 e5 15.Rc1! Rf7 black’s queenside is already under pressure.

    Ultimately, white’s 16.d4! amplified black’s problems and 20.Qb3 Rb8 21.Rb1 Qd7 22.Rec1! black’s game was on edge. In a mode of panic 22…Qe6? lost immediately to 23.Nc5! and after a couple of spite checks, Karjakin resigned. Karjakin has not impressed in the last two matches, but he has qualified for the Candidates which was the ultimate goal. There are three more games in this mini-match, but things look very grim for Karjakin.

    Peter Svidler analyzing his game versus Sergey Karjakin

    Video by chess24.com.

    Replay of Final, Game #1

    Video by chess24.com.

  29. Finals – Game #2
    Friday, 2 October 2015

    Karjakin blunders… now at the brink

    Karjakin and Svidler in post-mortem analysis.
    Photo by FIDE.

    The World Cup took a drastic turn when Peter Svidler capitalized on two consecutive blunders by Sergey Karjakin. Just when it seemed that the game was headed for a draw, Karjakin uncorked two gross blunders ending the game abruptly. Svidler is now up 2-0, an almost insurmountable lead since only a draw is needed to clinch the match. While Karjakin has advanced to the Candidates match, he has been in bad form the last two opponents. However, he will have enough time to recover before the Candidates match in March. Svidler on the other hand has been solid and has taken what his opponents have given him. He cited his match with Wei Yi as the toughest. Svidler was unable to explain the blunder of Karjakin, but agreed that perhaps he was fortuitous in winning the game.

    Replay of Final, Game #2

    Video by chess24.com.

  30. Finals – Game #3
    Saturcday, 3 October 2015

    Svidler returns favor…blunders in winning position… Karjakin cuts lead!

    Peter Svidler is on the verge of winning the World cup and decided to sidestep mainlines with a line that does not received much action in the top level of chess. Commentators were shocked when Svidler threw 4.Qxd4!? on the board, but it is a line that bears little risk for white.

    Peter Svidler had a huge letdown in game three. Photo by FIDE.

    There are a number of main lines stemming from 4…Nc6 5.Bb5 Bd7 6.Bxc6 Bxc6 but the game went into a type of Maroczy Bind after 4…a6 5.c4 Nc6 6.Qe3!? (6.Qd2!? is common). Sergey Karjakin opted for a dynamic position with a a Dragon bishop, but in the middlegame unfurled the combative 13…f5!? While black had some play, but in fact white was never in danger.

    In a moment of opportunity, Karjakin played 25…Nxf2? A bad move, but may have invoked a bit of panic and Svidler collapsed in two moves after 26.Rf1 Qe4 27.Rbe1 exd5. Now the evaluation was +3.20 with 28.Qc3, but he opted for the gross 28.Rxf2?? and resigned after 28…Qh4 29.Qd2?? (29.Qxe8 is good for a draw) losing a rook. With his head in his hands, Svidler bolted back to the board, sat down and resigned before Karjakin could play the winning move. Yikes!

    Analysis of Svidler-Karjakin

    Video by GM Daniel King.

    Replay of Final, Game #3

    Video by chess24.com.

  31. Finals – Game #4
    Sunday, 4 October 2015

    Karjakin roars back from 0-2… forces playoff tiebreaks!

    After resigning, Svidler (far left) may be wondering “What is going on??”
    Photo by FIDE.

    Certainly… fatigue has officially set in the finals of the 2015 World Cup as the match is now tied after both players have traded blunders in the match. The games have been of an uncharacteristic nature given the tension of the moment. Both players have qualified for the Candidates, but there is an extra US$40,000 on the line… US$120,000 for the winner and US$80,000 for the runner up.

    After Peter Svidler’s tragic loss yesterday, he still had a good opportunity to clinch the match with a draw. Perhaps there was a bit of a shock when Sergey Karjakin traded queens in the opening and went into the middlegame with a slight advantage. It would be difficult to squeeze the position against a quality opponent, but maybe Karjakin has spotted a weakness. After 13.Nd6+! white saddled black with an isolated d-pawn and bore in on the d5-square. These types of positions are very difficult to defend for black, but there was no reason to believe that the 7-time Russian champion would not hold it.

    Karjakin’s 37.Kd4 muscled more space from black.

    Things must be bad if you have to fianchetto your rook. After Svidler’s 17… Bg7 18.Bxg7 Rxg7 (ugh!) Karjakin played 19.Bb5! and continued his work on the light squares. Black’s rook would become the bane of his position remaining in a defensive stance. Fast forward to 37.Kd4 It is clear that white has a large advantage in space. In addition, Svidler nerves are completely shattered at this point. It was actually 44.Kd4! that showed the critical nature of black’s position.

    As play continued, it was clear that he was not only trying to salvage a draw and the match, but was seeking to avoid the tiebreak which would find the momentum swinging in Karjakin’s favor. However, the house of cards fell on black’s position. Black dropped a kingside pawn, the white king and rook were dominating the black king and the passed g-pawn was sprinting toward the queening square. Too much.

    Replay of Final, Game #4

    Video by chess24.com.

  32. Finals – Tiebreaks
    Monday, 5 October 2015

    Karjakin wins 2015 World Chess Cup!

    It was a tortuous path, but Karjakin would be reward in the end.
    Photo by FIDE.

    Sergey Karjakin wins the 2015 World Chess Cup, but not before a thrilling tiebreak match of twists and turns. However, this tiebreak session explains clearly why the knockout format is inappropriate to determine the world championship title. Imagine… the world’s highest chess title decided by a comedy of errors (including Svidler’s dropped rook)?? World Champion Magnus Carlsen had not promoted many new ideas since becoming world champion, but one idea he had was to use the knock-out format for the title. Carlsen opined:

    I have long thought that moving to an annual knock-out event, similar to the World Cup, would be more equitable. This change would in effect improve the odds of becoming World Champion for nearly every chess player, with the exception of the reigning World Champion, and potentially a few other top players who would no longer be favoured by the current format.

    What a horrible idea! The 2015 World Chess Cup should put an end to this debate for awhile. This tournament demonstrated the reasons why… short matches, inevitable fatigue and poor quality of games unbefitting of world champion are main reasons.

    An absolutely forgettable chess experience for Peter Svidler.
    Photo by FIDE.

    One things for sure is that Karjakin was dressed for the moment as he headed in to the tiebreaks after staging a miraculous comeback. His composure was more evident in handling the time pressure in the tiebreak matches. Svidler on the other hand, had poor composure and had a “double match point” only to lose two games in a row! After losing two classical games, he came to the board and promptly dropped the first tiebreak game when he simply lost in a completely drawn position.

    Rapid Game #1 (25+10)

    White’s king literally took a roundabout path to victory.

    Karjakin marched his king from 56.Kg5 and finally to 85.Kf6. No… not Kg5-f6 in one move, but g5-f4-e3-d2-c2-d3-c2-b2-a3-b4-a5-a6-a7-b8-c8-d8-e7-f6 and after 85.Kxg6, black resigned!! It is funny that the white king played 56.Kg5 to pressure g6, but had to take a circuitous path to finally collect. As the saying goes, if you want something done, do it yourself! To be fair, Svidler could have draw rather effortlessly as GM Alejandro Ramirez points out in his notes. This was the third loss in a row for Svidler.

    Rapid Game #2 (25+10)

    Forced in a must-win situation, Svidler essayed the King’s Indian Attack and got a strong initiative on the queenside. The game ultimately ended with white tying down black’s defenses and attacking a pinned bishop. This forced black to donate an exchange and Svidler wrapped up the point to force two 10+10 games.

    Rapid Game #3 (10+10)

    In this game, Karjakin played badly with the white pieces allowing black to equalize easily. White pieces were caught flat-footed and a huddled mess on the first two ranks. Under several constriction, white blundered with 23.Rxc4?? losing a piece after 23…Rxd2! Svidler had pulled again at 4-3! Wow. The commentators started analyzing the games as if two 1500 ELO players were playing and wondering when the players would hang a piece next. Fatigue had won the battle.

    Rapid Game #4 (10+10)

    Again… all Svidler needed was a draw to clinch the match. This would be the third time he had “draw odds” but he had not had much success with securing a draw with white. The notion of white-black colors means little in these fast time controls. In this Rossolimo, white got a Maroczy Bind setup again, but overextended his queenside play. Black looked for weaknesses, a well-known motif in Sicilian play. Svidler’s a4-b5-c4 structure collapsed and forced him to donate one pawn after 17…Nxa4 and then another with 24.Nxd5. With no compensation, Karjakin had pulled even again!

    Blitz Game #1 (5+3)

    Peter Svidler had many chances to win… and just as many face palms.

    This game will be the target of criticism for a long time. This theoretical Marshall Gambit was exactly what Svidler needed and it worked like a charm. Karjakin erred with 18.Bc2? on which 18…Nxc3 would’ve been decisive. However, this is blitz. Svidler missed the shot and opted for 18…b4 with some dynamic play. As the pace quickened, Svidler hit Karjakin with a body shot 28…Bh5! forcing a weakening of the kingside with 29.g4, BUT white decided to play 29.Rb1?? which loses a piece to 29…Bxf3! Again… it’s blitz and the quality is not to their normal standards.

    Instead Svidler took an exchange with 29…Qxb1 and after 30.Bxh5, arrived at a completely winning position. That is when disaster struck. With a time advantage, Svidler was in full control and seem to be on his way to victory. Karjakin had mere seconds left. Svidler gave a spite check 41…Qd7+ and after 42.Kh2. Of course, any move here for black wins except… 42…Kg8??? which leaves the rook unattended. Karjakin snapped off the rook with 42.Qxb8+ and Svidler grimaced in disgust, resigned and snatched his jacket off the back of his chair. Is this what the World Cup comes down to… who makes the fewest blunders? Certainly not fitting for a world championship.

    Painful aftermath of Karjakin-Svidler (Blitz)

    Video by chess24.com.

    Blitz Game #2 (5+3)

    Svidler had one more chance and trotted out the ancient Guioco Piano. It appeared that he had developed a good attacking formation and GM Alejandro Ramirez pointed out a nice maneuver of 21.Re3-h3-h7xg7 winning. Not sure what black could have done to stop this attack. Svidler tried another way with 21.g3 with the idea of bringing the rook to h1. Black broke in the center and the queens came off stunting white’s attack. The only thing left was to play for tricks. This time there were no blunders and Karjakin closed the deal.

    Replay of Final, Tiebreaks

    Video by chess24.com.

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