Baku Semis G1: Experience over youth

by Albert Silver
9/27/2015 – Fans who worried that only two games left would mean a more cautious, sedate day at the World Cup saw their concerns quickly dispelled. Svidler was the first to end his game with a resounding victory over Giri with black, while Eljanov will be kicking himself for not sharing in the joy after obtaining a winning position in the opening. Report with analysis by Daniel King and Sagar Shah.

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World Cup

10th September – 5th October

Baku, Azerbaijan

Semifinals - Game one

It is self evident that Peter Svidler hardly needs any introduction with a peerless pedigree that speaks for itself. Seven Russian Championship titles, not to mention winner of the 2011 World Cup. Still, here he faces a much younger opponent, on the rise, and who is already knocking on the door of 2800. This 'fact' was thrown out the window as he played a mainline Closed Ruy Lopez, and in spite of being very well-prepared Anish Giri was completely outplayed by the Russian and was unable to do anything with the chances he had.

In the today's battle of youth versus experience, experience won out

IM Sagar Shah analyzes Giri - Svidler:

[Event "FIDE World Chess Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku"] [Date "2015.09.27"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Giri, Anish"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C92"] [WhiteElo "2793"] [BlackElo "2727"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "AZE"] {What a resounding victory for Peter Svidler. He was able to beat Anish Giri after his streak of 43 unbeaten classical games, and that too with the black pieces! But as we shall see Svidler didn't really have to try too hard, Anish just self destructed.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 {With the Berlin gaining in popularity, it is a refreshing change to see the main line of the Ruy Lopez. } 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 (5... b5 {is what Svidler tried against Karjakin in the Russian Championships 2015. But today being such an important game, he tries to be more solid.}) 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 {Giri does not fear the Marshall Gambit.} d6 {Staying true to his strategy of playing solid chess, Svidler doesn't opt for the Marshall.} (8... d5 {Out of 28 games that Svidler has reached this position, he has tried 8...d5 in 12 games.}) 9. h3 Bb7 { Played after three minutes of thought. This is explained by the fact that Svidler has played literally every possible line in this position - ...Na5, ... Re8,...Nb8,...Nd7 and even....h6.} 10. d4 Re8 11. Nbd2 (11. Ng5 Rf8 12. Nf3 { is a common way to make a draw.}) 11... exd4 {We can call this the Svidler line because the Russian is by far the strongest player to have played this line. He has tried it twice in 2015 against strong players like Motylev and Yu Yangyi and both the games ended in a draw. The interesting point is that Svidler played this after a long think of seven minutes while Giri was blitzing out his moves.} (11... Bf8 {is the main move and out of the nearly 3050 positions reached here, 2900 have continued with this move.}) 12. cxd4 Nd7 13. Nf1 Na5 14. Bc2 Bf6 {This is the reason why the bishop is not put on f8. It will be more active on f6. While both of Svidler's opponents played Bf4 in this position, Giri improvised with Rb1.} 15. Rb1 {This has been played in five games before and the speed with which Giri played showed that he was well prepared for this line. The idea is to play b3 and stop the knight from coming to c4.} c5 (15... g6 16. b3 $1 {The knight on a5 is stranded.}) 16. d5 (16. b4 {was played by Iordachescu but black shouldn't be worse after} cxb4 17. N1h2 Rc8 $15 {1-0 (34) Iordachescu,V (2590)-Kjartansson,G (2484) Jerusalem 2015}) 16... Nc4 {The knight heads to e5 before b3 can be played.} 17. b3 Nce5 18. N3h2 $5 {This move makes complete sense. Black has less space and hence exchanges are avoided. The knight on e5 might not have such a good square to go to after 19.f4.} Ng6 19. Ng3 Bc8 {The bishop was doing nothing on b7 and hence is rerouted to a better diagonal. At this point Svidler had already used up more than half of his alloted time while Giri seemed like he was still in his preparation.} 20. Rf1 {By moving away the rook, Bc3 will no longer come with the tempo and now the threat is to play Ng4.} (20. Ng4 {looks like a natural move.} Bc3 21. Rf1 Nde5 22. Ne3 Nf4 23. Nef5 Neg6 {Black has a perfectly acceptable position.}) 20... Nb6 (20... Nde5 21. f4 Nd7 22. Ng4 $36) 21. Ng4 {First real think of the game for Giri.} Bxg4 22. hxg4 (22. Qxg4 {is not in the spirit of the position.} Ne5 23. Qe2 g6 $11 {Black is completely fine here.}) 22... h6 23. Nf5 Ne7 24. Ne3 {Once again avoiding exchanges makes complete sense as White has more space.} b4 (24... c4 {is another way to create counterplay but after} 25. bxc4 bxc4 26. f4 $14 {White is clearly better.}) 25. g3 {The idea of Kg2 followed by Rh1 is very natural in this position.} a5 26. Kg2 a4 {Svidler has been able to create counterplay on the queenside and White hasn't really made any headway on the kingside or in the center.} 27. bxa4 $6 {I don't really like this move spoiling your own structure. But Giri is well aware about the positional concession and yet he decided to go for this.} (27. Bd3 axb3 28. axb3 Ra2 29. Re1 $14 {With the idea of Re2 neutralising the pressure should give White a small edge.}) 27... Qd7 28. Qd3 Ng6 (28... Nxa4 {is the computer's way of playing chess.} 29. e5 Bxe5 30. Qh7+ Kf8 31. Re1 $44 {should give White enough compensation and no human player would allow the queen to infiltrate in to h7.}) 29. Nf5 (29. a3 {was the last chance to get rid of the a-pawn weakness.} Nxa4 (29... bxa3 30. Rxb6 $18) 30. axb4 Ne5 31. Qd2 Nxg4 $13) 29... Nxa4 {The pawn is recovered, White has no attack on the kingside and Black is simply better.} 30. Bxa4 Rxa4 {Giri had lot of chances to play a3 and get rid of his a2 pawn. But he did not do that. Now he has to live with that weakness.} 31. Rh1 Ne7 (31... Rxa2 {There is nothing wrong with taking this pawn but Svidler might have been afraid of} 32. g5 $5 {An interesting pawn sacrifice.} hxg5 (32... Bxg5 33. Bxg5 hxg5 34. Qf3 f6 35. Rh2 $40) 33. Qf3 {With the idea of Qh5 is dangerous but can be defended with accurate play.} Re5 $1 34. Qh5 Rxf5 $1 35. exf5 Qxf5 $19) 32. g5 (32. Nxh6+ gxh6 33. Qf3 Bg7 34. Bxh6 Ng6 $19 {With no real attack.}) 32... hxg5 33. Ne3 Rxa2 {Black wins a second pawn. True that the h-file is open but how exactly to make use of that?} 34. Bd2 Ng6 35. Nf5 (35. Rh2 Ne5 36. Rbh1 g6 $19 {and all the threats have been averted.}) 35... Ne5 36. Qe2 g6 37. Nh6+ Kg7 38. Nf5+ Kg8 39. Nh6+ Kg7 {Svidler repeats the position to reach the 40th move mark.} 40. Nf5+ gxf5 41. Qh5 Ng6 {Black is a piece and two pawns up and his king is pretty safe. Svidler played a very consistent game but it has to be agreed that Anish was completely off colour. He now faces the uphill task of winning with black in game two.} 0-1

This puts the young Dutchman in an extremely precarious position since not only is he in a must-win position for the second game, but will be playing black as well. If disaster should strike, meaning he is unable to win, does that mean he is out of the forthcoming Candidates? Not quite. He may still easily qualify by virtue of rating, since the players rated above him, such as Anand, Topalov, Nakamura, and Caruana are already qualified. Nevertheless, the match is not over, and he may still surprise everyone.

It will be a steep uphill battle for Anish Giri, but it is not over yet

Peter Svidler comments on his game 

Pavel Eljanov has been the Cinderfella of the tournament so far, not just because he made it to the semifinals, but also how. He not only crushed his first three opponents by 2-0 scores in classical games, but has only faced one single tiebreak so far. Sergey Karjakin's trek to the semifinals has not been quite as immaculate, but he has won when he needed to and one cannot argue with success.

Pavel Eljanov has had an amazing tournament so far, and is now ranked world no.13

Eljanov might have ended his game far earlier than Svidler-Giri, and in his favor, had he been able to capitalize on the winning position he obtained from the opening.

IM Sagar Shah analyzes Eljanov - Karjakin:

[Event "FIDE World Chess Cup 2015"] [Site "Baku"] [Date "2015.09.27"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Black "Karjakin, Sergey"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E15"] [WhiteElo "2717"] [BlackElo "2762"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "156"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [EventCountry "AZE"] {Pavel Eljanov has played very strong chess with the white pieces in this event. Once again today he proved that. However, he will be upset he only finished with a half point since he had a winning position right out of the opening.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 {Karjakin is a firm adherent of Queen's Indian having more than 70 games with the black pieces in it.} 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 (5. Ne5) 5... Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Bg2 c6 8. Bc3 d5 9. Ne5 Nfd7 {It is important to start with this move.} (9... O-O $6 10. Nd2 Nfd7 11. Nd3 $14 { White is able to maintain more pieces and stands clearly better.}) 10. Nxd7 { White has to exchange the knights as the c4 pawn would otherwise be hanging.} Nxd7 11. Nd2 O-O 12. O-O Rc8 13. Re1 (13. e4 {was the main move previously but Black has found good enough antidotes and we hardly see this move at top level these days.}) 13... c5 (13... f5 {was a move found by the great Tigran Petrosian.} 14. a4 $5 Nf6 15. e3 Rc7 16. a5 {1/2-1/2 (16) Kortschnoj,V (2670) -Petrosian,T (2640) Moscow 1971 Candidates [Bulletin]} b5 17. c5 b4 $5) 14. cxd5 exd5 15. Rc1 (15. Bxd5 $2 cxd4 16. Bxd4 Nf6 17. e4 (17. Bxf6 Bxf6 $15) 17... Nxd5 18. exd5 Bb7 $17 {The light square weaknesses give Black an excellent position.}) 15... cxd4 {Karjakin thought for twenty minutes here which meant that he was on his own.} (15... Nf6 16. e3 Bb7 17. Rc2 cxd4 18. Bxd4 Qd7 19. Rxc8 Rxc8 $11 {1/2 (45)-1/2 (45) Aronian,L (2752) -Leko,P (2740) Morelia/Linares 2006}) 16. Bxd4 Nc5 17. Bb2 {Elajnov's first long think of the game - 20 minutes.} d4 $6 {Karjakin wasn't happy with a slightly inferior position out of the opening and wants to clarify the situation in the center. But in that process he miscalculates and ends up in a nearly lost position.} ( 17... Ne6 18. Rxc8 Bxc8 19. Nf3 Bb7 20. Nd4 $14 {is a stable edge for White.}) (17... Bf6 $5 {Would have been a very typical way of solving all the opening problems.} 18. Bxf6 Qxf6 19. Bxd5 (19. Nf3 {is better but hardly threatening as the e2 pawn can be attacked after Re8 and e3 is impossible due to Nd3. Black always has counterplay.}) 19... Rcd8 20. Bg2 Qh6 $1 21. Rc2 (21. e3 Nd3 $15) 21... Ne6 22. e3 Nc5 $44) 18. Nf3 d3 (18... Ne6 {might have been an interesting practical chance but White retains better chances if he avoids the pitfalls.} 19. Rxc8 Qxc8 (19... Bxc8 20. Nxd4 Nxd4 21. Qxd4 Qxd4 22. Bxd4 $16) 20. Qa1 $1 (20. Nxd4 $2 Nxd4 21. Bxd4 (21. Qxd4 Bf6 22. Qd2 Rd8 23. Qc1 Qxc1 24. Bxc1 Bc3 $19) 21... Bb4 22. Rf1 Rd8 23. Qa1 Bxe2 $11) 20... Bc5 21. Nxd4 $16) 19. exd3 (19. Bf1 Bg5 $1 (19... dxe2 20. Bxe2 Qxd1 21. Rcxd1 Bxe2 22. Rxe2 Rfe8 $11) 20. Nxg5 (20. e3 Bb7 $15) 20... d2 21. Nf3 dxc1=Q 22. Bxc1 Qxd1 23. Rxd1 Rfd8 $17) 19... Nxd3 {Karjakin took 14 minutes to make this move. By this time he had realised that he had made a mistake by playing this idea with d5-d4-d3 but it was too late to do anything about it.} 20. Rxc8 Qxc8 (20... Bxc8 21. Rxe7 Nxb2 (21... Qxe7 22. Qxd3 $18) 22. Qxd8 Rxd8 23. Rxa7 Rd1+ 24. Bf1 g6 25. Ra8 Rc1 26. Kg2 $16) 21. Rxe7 Nxb2 22. Qd7 {After 16 minutes Eljanov doesn't find the best chance in the position but this move is good enough to retain a tangible advantage.} (22. Qd2 $1 {was a natural move and the best one in the position. But things are not so clear for a human.} Nd3 23. Rxa7 {Why did Eljanov reject this variation? First of all he might have been afraid that his back rank is a little weak plus his pieces look not so well co-ordinated. But there is no way Black can take advantage of it and threats of moving the f3 knight followed by Ra8 is always on cards.} Re8 (23... Rd8 24. Nd4 $1 Nc1 (24... Rxd4 25. Ra8 $18) 25. Qf4 $18) 24. Bf1 (24. Rxa6 Qxa6 25. Bf1 Rd8 26. Ne5 $18) 24... Ne5 25. Nxe5 Bxf1 26. Qd5 $18) 22... Qc1+ 23. Re1 Qc8 ( 23... Qc2 24. Ng5 $1 Nd3 (24... Qc8 25. Qxc8 Rxc8 26. Bd5 $16) 25. Qxf7+ $3 Rxf7 26. Re8+ Rf8 27. Bd5+ Kh8 28. Rxf8# {would have been a brilliant finish.}) 24. Qxc8 {30 minutes is what Pavel took to make this move! Eljanov knew that this was the critical moment but it was already very difficult for him to find the correct path.} (24. Qxa7 $6 Nd3 25. Re7 (25. Rd1 Qc2 $36) 25... Qc1+ 26. Bf1 Ne5 $1 27. Qxa6 Nxf3+ $11 28. Kg2 Ne1+ 29. Rxe1 (29. Kg1 Nf3+ $11) 29... Qxe1 30. Qxb6 Qe4+ 31. Kg1 $13) (24. Qd2 $1 {was the best even if it meant being a tempo down than what we considered in the previous variation.} Nd3 25. Re7 $16) 24... Rxc8 {White has lost the bulk of his advantage and Karjakin can consider himself to be pretty lucky after his poor play in the opening.} 25. Bh3 (25. Nd4) 25... Rd8 26. Ne5 g6 27. Bf1 Bxf1 28. Kxf1 a5 $6 {Once again Karjakin starts going wrong and gives his opponent chances to snatch the initiative. The main drawback of this move is that it weakens the b6 pawn.} ( 28... Rd2 {was active, the most natural and the easiest way to achieve equality.} 29. Re2 Rd1+ (29... Rxe2 30. Kxe2 a5 31. a4 $18) 30. Kg2 Nd3 31. Nxd3 Rxd3 32. Re7 a5 $11) 29. Re3 f6 (29... a4 $5) 30. Ng4 Kf7 31. Rc3 $1 h5 32. Ne3 Nd3 (32... Nd1 {should be considered.} 33. Rc7+ Ke6 34. Rc6+ Ke7 35. Ke2 Nxe3 36. Kxe3 Rd6 37. Rxd6 Kxd6 38. Kd4 g5 $11) 33. Rc7+ Ke6 34. Rb7 Nc1 ( 34... Rd6 35. Nc4 Rc6 36. Rxb6 (36. Nxb6 Rc2 $15) 36... Rxb6 37. Nxb6 Nc1 38. Nc4 Nxa2 39. Nxa5 Nb4 40. Ke2 Kd5 41. Nc4 $14 {White can push for the full point.}) 35. Rxb6+ Kf7 36. Rb7+ Ke6 37. Rb6+ Kf7 38. a4 Rd3 (38... Rd2 39. Nc4 Ra2 40. Nxa5 Nd3 41. Nc4 Rxf2+ 42. Kg1 $16) 39. b4 axb4 40. Rxb4 Ra3 {40 moves have been reached. Both players get an additional thirty minutes and Pavel must have been very happy that he once again has realistic winning chances in the game. But unfortunately he is facing one of the best defenders of our era. Sergey Karjakin just doesn't give up.} 41. Nc4 Ra1 42. Kg2 Nd3 43. Rb7+ Ke6 44. Rb6+ Ke7 45. a5 Ra4 (45... Ra2 {looked natural.} 46. a6 (46. Kf3 $5 Nxf2 (46... Rxf2+ 47. Ke3 $18) 47. Rb2 $1 Rxb2 48. Nxb2 $16) 46... Rxf2+ 47. Kg1 Ra2 48. Rb7+ Ke6 49. a7 Nc5 50. Rb5 Rxa7 51. Rxc5 {White has excellent chances to convert this.}) 46. Rc6 Ne1+ $1 (46... Kd7 47. Rd6+ (47. Nb6+ Kxc6 48. Nxa4 Kb5 49. Nc3+ Kxa5 50. Nd5 $16) 47... Kc7 48. Rxd3 Rxc4 49. Ra3 $16) 47. Kf1 Nf3 { Threats of Nxh2 and Rxc4 followed by Nd2 have been created.} 48. Rc7+ Ke6 ( 48... Kd8 $1 {It is surprising as to why Karjakin did not play this move.} 49. Rc8+ (49. Rc6 Rxc4 50. Rxf6 (50. Rxc4 Nd2+) 50... Nxh2+ 51. Kg2 Ng4 $15) 49... Kxc8 50. Nb6+ Kb7 51. Nxa4 Nxh2+ 52. Kg2 Ng4 $11) 49. Ke2 Nxh2 50. Kd3 Nf3 ( 50... Ng4 51. f4 Nf2+ 52. Ke3 Ra2 $11) 51. Rc6+ Kf5 (51... Kd5 52. Rd6+ Kc5 53. Rxf6 Rxc4 54. Rxf3 Ra4 55. Rf6 Rxa5 56. Rxg6 $16) 52. Kc3 g5 53. Rc5+ Ke6 $6 ( 53... Kg4 $1 {Keeping the king active would have ensured a draw.} 54. Kb3 (54. Ne3+ Kh3 $11) 54... Ra1 55. Kb2 Ra4 56. Nb6 Rb4+ 57. Kc3 Rb1 58. Nd5 h4 59. Nxf6+ Kh3 60. Ne4 Kg2 61. Nxg5 Nxg5 62. Rxg5 h3 63. Rh5 h2 64. Kc4 h1=Q 65. Rxh1 Rxh1 $11) 54. Kb3 Ra1 55. Kb2 Ra4 56. Kb3 Ra1 57. Kb2 Ra4 58. Nb6 Rb4+ 59. Ka3 Rb1 60. Ka2 Rb4 (60... Rf1 61. a6 Rxf2+ 62. Ka3 Rf1 63. Na4 $18) 61. Rc6+ Kf5 62. a6 Ne5 63. Rxf6+ (63. a7 Nxc6 64. a8=Q Rxb6 65. Qc8+ Kg6 66. Qe8+ Kf5 67. f3 $16) 63... Kxf6 64. Nd5+ (64. a7 Rxb6 65. a8=Q $16 {is better for White. Maybe objectively drawn but in a practical game there are a lot of chances for Black to go wrong.}) 64... Ke6 65. Nxb4 {Usually in knight endgames an extra pawn is decisive but here Black has the chance to create an outside passed pawn on the h-file and hence the chances to make a draw increase significantly. } Nd7 66. Nd3 Kd6 67. a7 Nb6 68. Kb3 Kc7 69. Kc3 Kb7 70. Kd4 Kxa7 71. Ke4 Nc4 ( 71... h4 $11) 72. Ne5 Nb2 73. Nf7 h4 (73... Nd1 74. f3 (74. f4 gxf4 75. gxf4 Kb7 $11) 74... h4 $11) (73... g4 74. Ke3 Nd1+ 75. Ke2 Nc3+ $11) 74. Nxg5 hxg3 75. fxg3 Kb7 76. g4 Kc8 77. Kf5 (77. Nf3 Kd7 78. Kf5 Ke7 79. Kg6 Nd3 $11) 77... Nd1 78. Ke4 Nf2+ {A lucky escape for Karjakin who was on the brink of a defeat on two occasions in the game. The good news for him is that he has white pieces tomorrow and excellent chances to press for the full point. On the other hand Eljanov must definitely be a little dejected that he let such a golden opportunity pass by.} 1/2-1/2

Although Eljanov will be kicking himself for the golden opportunity he missed, he really just needs to remain positive and remember that he has played the most convincing chess of any player in the World Cup so far, and can count on it.

Karjakin will be less thrilled with the way the game played out, but can console himself that his
luck has held so far and his resourcefulness has brought him here, so why not a few steps more?

Daniel King analyzes game one of the Semifinals:


Semifinals pairings

Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Peter Svidler (RUS) 2727
Anish Giri (NED) 2793
Player Rtg
G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 Pts
Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2793
Pavel Eljanov (UKR) 2744

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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