Baku Finals TB: Karjakin Wins

by Alejandro Ramirez
10/5/2015 – A titanic struggle, full of blunders, missed chances, hanging rooks and more. The only thing that this match didn't have was a single draw! After ten decisive games, Karjakin crowns himself as the winner of the 2015 World Cup in Baku. Today Svidler had more than one chance to win the event, but it was as if it was not destined to be. Analysis of every single game inside.

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World Cup

10th September – 5th October

Baku, Azerbaijan


Watch it live on Playchess!

Finals - Tiebreaks

Karjakin crowns himself as winner of the 2015 World Cup! The path to this success could not have been more difficult. Many times he was so close to elimination in this tournament, and many times in the final, that it almost looks like a miracle. However, through sheer perseverance, some luck and resourcefulness Karjakin finally did it!

Svidler started by putting pressure on Karjakin, but he misplayed his position, lost a pawn and ended up suffering. I believe the endgame was a draw, but these kind of positions are always tricky:

Ready for action! Svidler was unable to hold his own in the first game

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.10.05"] [Round "7.5"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A15"] [WhiteElo "2762"] [BlackElo "2727"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "177"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. e3 g6 4. d4 cxd4 5. exd4 d5 6. cxd5 Nxd5 7. Qb3 Bg7 8. Bc4 e6 9. Bg5 Qa5+ 10. Bd2 Qd8 11. Bg5 Qa5+ 12. Nc3 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Nc6 14. O-O O-O 15. Bh4 Qc7 16. Bg3 Qd8 17. Qa3 b6 18. Rfd1 Na5 19. Be2 Bb7 20. Ne5 Rc8 21. Rac1 f6 22. Nf3 Qd5 23. Bf1 Bh6 24. Rc2 Rf7 25. Bd3 Qd7 26. h3 Bd5 27. Ba6 Bb7 28. Bd3 Nc4 29. Bxc4 Rxc4 30. Qxa7 b5 31. Ne1 Rf8 32. Qa3 Ra8 33. Qb2 Rca4 34. Qb1 Bd5 35. Nd3 Bf8 36. Rdd2 Qc6 37. f3 Bc4 38. Bf4 Qd5 39. Nf2 {Black is clearly better. His two bishops are very powerful and he can recover a2 whenever he feels like it.} Rxa2 (39... Qf5 $1 40. Be3 Rxa2 {was even stronger, though not as logical.}) 40. Rxa2 Bxa2 41. Qe1 Bc4 42. Ng4 Qf5 $6 (42... Be7 { was safer and better.} 43. Ne3 $11) 43. Qe4 Ra1+ 44. Kh2 h5 $2 {Without much ado losing a pawn.} (44... Bg7 {seems to preserve around equality.}) 45. Qxf5 exf5 46. Nxf6+ {Now Svidler will be tortured in a long endgame.} Kf7 47. Nd7 Bg7 48. Be5 Bh6 49. f4 Ra2 50. Rxa2 Bxa2 51. Kg3 Bf8 52. Bc7 Ba3 53. Ne5+ Kf6 54. Bd8+ Kg7 55. Kh4 Bd6 56. Kg5 Bxe5 57. fxe5 Kf7 58. g3 Be6 59. Kf4 Bd5 60. Ke3 Ke6 61. Kd2 Bg2 62. h4 Bd5 63. Kc2 Kd7 64. Ba5 Kc6 65. Kd3 Kd7 66. Kc2 Kc6 67. Kb2 Be6 68. Ka3 Bd5 69. Kb4 Be6 70. Bd8 Bd5 71. Ka5 Be6 72. Ka6 Bc8+ 73. Ka7 Be6 74. Bg5 Bd7 75. Bf4 Be6 76. Kb8 Bd7 77. Bg5 Be6 78. Bh6 Bd7 $2 {Karsten Muller knows more about endgame than me, but I believe this to be the losing move. Had Svidler cleared f5 for his bishop, I don't see how Karjakin can make progress. Of course, this is easier said in hindsight, over the board it looks illogical to just give up a pawn for free.} (78... f4 79. Bxf4 (79. gxf4 Bf5 $11) 79... Bd7 80. d5+ Kxd5 81. Kc7 Bf5 $11 82. Kd8 Ke6 $11) 79. Bf4 Be6 80. d5+ $1 Bxd5 (80... Kxd5 81. Kc7 {and the king penetrates, with similar results to the game}) 81. Kc8 Bb3 82. Kd8 Bc4 83. Ke7 Bb3 {This is the issue, basically. Ideally, Black would like to put a bishop on f5 and a king on d5/e6 to prevent activity, but he can't because he doesn't have access to that square.} 84. e6 Bc4 85. Kf6 Bb3 86. Bc1 Bc4 87. Ba3 Bb3 88. e7 Kd7 89. Kxg6 { This is completely winning. White will create a second passed pawn and win easily. } 1-0

Half a point away from the title, Karjakin was unable to hold his own in an uncomfortable endgame:

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.10.05"] [Round "7.6"] [White "Svidler, Peter"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A08"] [WhiteElo "2727"] [BlackElo "2762"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "115"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 e6 4. O-O Be7 5. d3 O-O 6. Nbd2 c5 7. e4 Nc6 8. Re1 b5 9. e5 Nd7 10. Nf1 b4 11. h4 a5 12. N1h2 Re8 13. h5 h6 14. Ng4 Bf8 15. Bf4 a4 16. a3 bxa3 17. bxa3 Rb8 18. Ne3 Bb7 19. c4 dxc4 20. Nxc4 Nb6 21. Nxb6 Qxb6 22. Qxa4 Ra8 23. Qc2 Ra6 24. Reb1 Qa7 25. Be3 Ba8 26. Qc3 Rd8 27. Nd2 Nd4 28. Bxd4 cxd4 29. Qc2 Bxg2 30. Kxg2 Rxa3 31. Rxa3 Qxa3 32. Ne4 Qa6 33. Rb3 Qa5 34. f4 Ra8 35. Qb1 Qd5 36. Rb5 Qc6 37. Kf3 Ra3 38. Rb8 Ra8 39. Qb7 Qxb7 40. Rxb7 { This endgame is beyond uncomfortable for Black. His pawn on d4 is a big liability, White has much more space, his knight on e4 is well placed and Black has to permanently worry about his eighth rank.} Ra3 {Creating some activity, but Svidler has this under control.} 41. Rb8 $1 Rxd3+ 42. Kf2 g6 43. Nc5 (43. Nf6+ Kg7 44. hxg6 {was even stronger. Notice how g6 can't be taken!} fxg6 (44... Kxg6 45. Rxf8) 45. Rb7+ Kh8 46. Rh7#) 43... Rd2+ 44. Ke1 Rb2 (44... Rg2 45. Nd7 Kg7 46. Rxf8 Rxg3 {doesn't inspire confidence, but maybe was a better try.}) 45. Rxb2 Bxc5 46. hxg6 fxg6 47. Ke2 {Black has no hope in this endgame, his structure is too weak.} d3+ 48. Kxd3 h5 49. Kc4 Be3 50. Rb3 Bf2 51. Rf3 Bg1 52. Kb5 Kf7 53. Kc6 Ke7 54. Rb3 Bh2 55. Rb7+ Kf8 56. Kd6 Bxg3 57. Kxe6 Bxf4 58. Rf7+ 1-0

Svidler managed to hang on and quick games had to be played.

The 10+10 games were rather strange. In the first Karjakin completely misplayed the opening and soon found himself in a bad position in which he was swiftly punished:

A swift victory for Svidler in their seventh game

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.10.05"] [Round "7.7"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A15"] [WhiteElo "2762"] [BlackElo "2727"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. e3 g6 4. d4 Bg7 5. d5 O-O 6. Nc3 d6 7. h3 e6 8. Be2 Re8 9. Nd2 Na6 10. dxe6 Bxe6 11. O-O d5 {Clearly something went very wrong for the opening for Karjakin. He is worse after only eleven moves of chess. Black's central control and superior piece placement gives him a clear edge.} 12. cxd5 Nxd5 $17 13. Nxd5 Bxd5 14. Qc2 Nb4 15. Qb1 Qe7 16. a3 Nc6 {Just try to find a move for White, or a constructive plan. It is not easy!} 17. a4 Qe6 18. Ra3 c4 19. Re1 Rad8 20. a5 (20. e4 Nd4 {doesn't win a piece for White, but still was worth a try to gain some space.}) 20... Bf8 21. Ra4 Ne5 22. e4 Bc6 23. Rxc4 { Losing instantly, but White's position was unenviable.} Rxd2 $1 (23... Nxc4 24. Bxc4 {is also winning but not as clean}) 24. Bxd2 (24. Rxc6 Rxe2 25. Rxe6 Rxe1+ 26. Kh2 Rxe6 {is completely hopeless for White. He is already down material and will lose his c1 bishop}) 24... Nxc4 25. Bc3 Nd6 {A free piece is a free piece. Svidler converts without problems.} 26. f3 Bg7 27. Bxg7 Kxg7 28. Qd3 Qe5 29. Qd2 a6 30. Rd1 Nb5 31. Qb4 Nc7 32. Qb6 f5 33. Bd3 Rd8 34. exf5 gxf5 35. Kf2 Qd4+ 36. Qxd4+ Rxd4 37. Ke3 Ne6 38. Rc1 f4+ 39. Ke2 Rb4 40. Bxa6 bxa6 0-1

But Svidler committed big mistakes with white in a game he just needed to draw. Karjakin took full advantage, plucking pawns left and right.

Karjakin lost with white, but came back with a strong win with black

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.10.05"] [Round "7.8"] [White "Svidler, Peter"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2727"] [BlackElo "2762"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "54"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 a6 6. Bxd7+ Bxd7 7. c4 Nf6 8. Nc3 {What can be safer than a Maroczy set up?} g6 {Actually Black scores superbly in these systems, even if the draw ratio is still high.} 9. O-O Bg7 10. Qd3 O-O 11. a4 (11. Be3 b5 $1) (11. Bg5 {might be the best move} b5 12. cxb5 axb5 13. a3 $11 {I'd rather be black, but not by much.}) 11... Rc8 12. Rb1 Bc6 13. Re1 Nd7 {White already feels a bit uncomfortable. Somehow too many of his pawns are hanging after Nc5.} 14. b4 {Weakening c4 severely.} Nb6 {a4 is hanging and so is c4. Awkward.} 15. b5 (15. a5 Nxc4 16. Qxc4 Bb5 {is an almost winning position for Black.}) 15... Bd7 16. Nd2 Be6 17. Nd5 Nxa4 {Black's up a pawn. White has almost no compensation.} 18. Ba3 Qd7 19. h3 Rfe8 20. Rb3 a5 21. Qc2 Bh6 22. Nf3 Bxd5 23. exd5 Nb6 {Now Black is up two pawns.} 24. Re4 Nxd5 25. Bb2 Nf6 26. Bxf6 exf6 27. Rxe8+ Qxe8 {Svidler has had enough. The position is hopeless.} 0-1

Now it was time for the 5+3 games. Here, things were even stranger. In the first game Karjakin blundered which Svidler missed, then Karjakin blundered again and Svidler was almost winning - until he left a full rook en prise:

Svidler missed chance after chance in this match

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.10.05"] [Round "7.9"] [White "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C89"] [WhiteElo "2762"] [BlackElo "2727"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d3 Bd6 13. Re1 Bf5 14. Qf3 Re8 15. Rxe8+ Qxe8 16. Nd2 Qe1+ 17. Nf1 Bg6 {A known theoretical position. Karjakin, a known theoretical monster, commits a blunder when he still has several normal choices (h3, Bxd5 and g3 have all been played by grandmasters). He instead blunders immediately.} 18. Bc2 $2 b4 $2 (18... Nxc3 $1 19. bxc3 { what else? Ne2+ was coming.} Qxc3 {and the double attack on c2 and a1 gives Black a winning position.} 20. Bg5 (20. Be3 Qxa1 21. Qxc6 Rd8 $19) 20... h6 $1 $19 (20... Qxc2 $17)) 19. c4 b3 20. Bd1 Nb4 21. Bd2 Qe5 22. Bc3 Qc5 23. Bxb4 Qxb4 24. Bxb3 {Karjakin is up two pawns, though Black still has some compensation on this one. White's pieces are very passive.} Qb6 25. Re1 Bc5 26. Ba4 (26. Re2 {simply defending everything first looked good.}) 26... Rd8 27. Rd1 Qxb2 {Svidler manages to grab one pawn back, and suddenly his position is not so bad.} 28. Bxc6 Bh5 {Svidler's trick isn't so good} (28... Rxd3 $1 29. Rxd3 Bxd3 $11 {was a better way of going at it.}) 29. Rb1 $4 {The following moves are very hard to explain, so I'm not going to try except by throwing out words like blitz, pressure, exhaustion, etc.} (29. g4 $1 Bxg4 30. Qxg4 Qxf2+ 31. Kh1 Rxd3 32. Rb1 {and Black has nothing except a piece deficit.}) 29... Qxb1 $4 (29... Bxf3 30. Rxb2 Bxc6 {is instant resigns. Black is up a piece for two pawns that will fall very soon.}) 30. Qxh5 Bxf2+ $6 (30... Qb6 31. Bd5 Bxf2+ 32. Kh1 Qf6 {was cleaner.}) 31. Kxf2 Qb6+ 32. Ne3 Qxc6 33. Nd5 {White has no compensation for his missing material. His king is exposed and Black can create real threats.} Qd6 $2 (33... Qc5+ 34. Kf1 Qa3 $19) 34. g3 h6 35. Qe2 Rb8 36. Kg2 Kh8 37. h4 Qa3 38. Kh3 Qc1 39. Nf4 Qb2 40. Qe7 Qb7 41. Qe5 Qd7+ 42. Kh2 Kg8 $4 {Hanging a rook...} 43. Qxb8+ {What a terrible feeling for Svidler. From pushing hard with Black to simply dropping his rook.} 1-0

Finally, Svidler was simply unable to make anything with his strong initiative in the decisive game and was unable to force the Armageddon:

The jacket comes off to finish the match

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku AZE"] [Date "2015.10.05"] [Round "7.10"] [White "Svidler, Peter"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C53"] [WhiteElo "2727"] [BlackElo "2762"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2015.09.11"] [SourceDate "2015.02.07"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. h3 Ne7 8. O-O Ng6 9. Bb3 a6 10. Re1 Ba7 11. Nf1 Be6 12. d4 Bxb3 13. Qxb3 Qc8 14. Ng3 Re8 15. Bg5 Nd7 16. Nf5 Ndf8 17. h4 h6 18. h5 hxg5 19. hxg6 Nxg6 20. Nxg5 Qd7 21. g3 ( 21. Re3 {seems to give White an almost winning attack. Simply transfer the rook over to the kingside.}) 21... d5 22. Qxd5 Qxd5 23. exd5 Rad8 24. Kg2 Rxd5 25. f4 $6 (25. c4 Rd7 26. d5 $14) 25... f6 26. Ne4 Rdd8 27. fxe5 fxe5 28. d5 Rxd5 $1 {Karjakin accurately calculates there are no tricks.} 29. Nh6+ Kf8 ( 29... gxh6 30. Nf6+ $18) 30. Rf1+ Nf4+ $1 31. gxf4 gxh6 32. f5 Kf7 {Black is up a pawn. Svidler has a good knight on e4, but it is not enough. Karjakin defends accurately.} 33. Rad1 Rg8+ 34. Kf3 c6 35. c4 Rd4 36. Rxd4 exd4 37. Rh1 Rh8 38. Rg1 (38. Nd6+ Ke7 (38... Kf6 39. Rg1 $14) 39. Nxb7) 38... Rd8 39. f6 Ke6 40. Rg7 Rd7 41. Rg8 d3 42. Re8+ Kf7 43. Rh8 Ke6 44. Rxh6 {losing, but there is no difference between a loss and a win anymore.} d2 45. f7+ Ke7 {and Karjakin is the World Cup winner!} 0-1

At the end of the day Sergey Karjakin wins the World Cup! Congratulations to him and to Peter Svidler; both qualify for the Candidates Tournament. The President of FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, hinted that the Candidates had a "50% chance" of being held in America while the World Championship Match would most likely be held in either Chicago or Los Angeles. Nothing was confirmed, however.

Final results

Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 G10 G11
Peter Svidler (RUS) 2727
Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2762

Photos and information from the official website and their Facebook page


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Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


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