FIDE World Cup 2017: And then there were two!

by Sagar Shah
9/22/2017 – What an exciting day of chess at the semifinal tiebreaks! The match between Levon Aronian and MVL went all the way to the Armageddon. At the end it was the Armenian legend who struck the last blow and advanced to the final. The other semifinal was perhaps less exciting, but not without drama. Wesley So could not solve the Chinese conundrum. Ding Liren played a great match to beat his American opponent. Aronian and Ding have now booked their berths to Candidates 2018, the latter being the first Chinese player ever to reach the Candidates. A detailed report on the semifinal tiebreaks. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Ding Liren becomes the first Chinese player to reach Candidates

World Cup

The day of tiebreaks is like entering a colosseum where the gladiators would fight until death and at the end of the day there would only be one man standing. And today the stakes were even higher. The two winners in their respective matches would qualify for the Candidates 2018. This led to some behaviour by the participants which I had never seen before in this event. For example, Wesley So fumbling the pieces while making his move, or Ding Liren sitting on the edge of his chair, or Levon Aronian shaking his head even when he had not made a blunder, or Maxime Vachier-Lagrave simply missing a move that would lead to a mate even though he had plenty time on his clock. That's what pressure can do to the best in the business.

After winning his match against Vachier-Lagrave, I asked Aronian whether so much stress becomes unbearable for him. To which he replied, "It's a unique situation, and you have to cherish these unique situations in life. Many people would kill to be in your position because it's exciting. You just have to accept that it's not going to be easy and try to enjoy it in the process." Indeed wise words from a champion.

Wesley So vs Ding Liren

So-Ding crosstable

After the classical games, one thing was clear, both the players were extremely well matched. While So was winning in the first game, Ding was clearly better in the second. Both the games ended in a draw and we landed in the tiebreaks.

Game 1: 25'+10"

The Chinese player dominated the game from the outset and was completely winning. Wesley played an opening that was not so great. It seemed as if Ding would pull it off. However, just when it seemed as if White (So) had absolutely no hopes left, the Chinese player started to make mistakes and So was able to make a comeback. It was such a harrowing experience for Liren that he couldn't really get this result out of his system even when he sat for the second game.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.3"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Ding, Liren"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A13"] [WhiteElo "2792"] [BlackElo "2771"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "135"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventCountry "GEO"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "1500+10"] 1. c4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 2. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} e6 { [%emt 0:00:03]} 3. g3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} d5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 4. Bg2 {[%emt 0:00: 01]} dxc4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 5. O-O {[%emt 0:00:04]} a6 {[%emt 0:00:09]} 6. a4 { [%emt 0:01:46]} Nc6 {[%emt 0:00:19]} 7. Qc2 $6 {[%emt 0:01:15]} (7. Na3 { is much more common and much better.}) 7... Na5 {[%emt 0:01:13]} ({It could have been stronger to continue with} 7... e5 $1 8. Qxc4 Be6 9. Qc2 e4 $15) 8. Na3 {[%emt 0:00:08]} Qd5 {[%emt 0:04:39]} (8... Nb3 9. Rb1 $14) 9. Rd1 { [%emt 0:02:56] White is looking to break the position with d3 and take advantage of the queen on d5.} (9. Ne1 Qc5 10. d4 cxd3 11. Qxd3 $44) 9... Bd7 { [%emt 0:00:08]} 10. d4 {[%emt 0:01:29]} (10. d3 Nb3 11. Rb1 Bxa4 $15) 10... Qf5 {[%emt 0:04:07]} 11. Bd2 {[%emt 0:03:17]} (11. Ne5 $5 Qxc2 12. Nxc2 Nd5 13. Ne3 Nxe3 14. Bxe3 Bd6 $15) 11... Qxc2 {[%emt 0:01:52]} 12. Nxc2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Nb3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 13. Ra2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bc6 $1 {[%emt 0:00:10] The bishop will be well placed on d5. Ding places it on the important diagonal before White can play Ne5.} 14. Ne5 {[%emt 0:01:10]} Bd5 {[%emt 0:00:24]} 15. Bc3 {[%emt 0:01:14]} c5 $1 {[%emt 0:02:17]} 16. a5 {[%emt 0:01:07]} Rc8 { [%emt 0:00:44] All very simple and strong move.} 17. Ra4 $6 {[%emt 0:04:46]} ( 17. dxc5 Bxc5 18. Na1 $5 $15) 17... cxd4 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 18. Nxd4 {[%emt 0:00: 57] Very alert and not making any mistakes.} Nc5 $1 {[%emt 0:01:34]} 19. Raa1 { [%emt 0:00:00]} (19. Ra2 Nfe4 $17) 19... Nce4 {[%emt 0:00:24]} 20. Bxe4 { [%emt 0:00:02]} Nxe4 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 21. f3 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Nxc3 {[%emt 0:00: 17]} 22. bxc3 {[%emt 0:00:01] Black has not only the bishop pair, but also an extra pawn. He is clearly better.} f6 {[%emt 0:00:45]} 23. Ng4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bc5 {[%emt 0:00:29]} 24. Kf1 {[%emt 0:00:37]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:00:32]} 25. Rab1 { [%emt 0:00:39]} Rhd8 {[%emt 0:01:21]} 26. e4 {[%emt 0:03:20]} Bxd4 {[%emt 0:00: 02]} 27. cxd4 {[%emt 0:00:30]} Bc6 $17 {[%emt 0:00:09] The bishop comes to b5 and defends everything.} 28. Rb4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bb5 {[%emt 0:00:25]} 29. Ne3 {[%emt 0:00:08]} c3+ {[%emt 0:00:20]} 30. Kf2 {[%emt 0:00:04]} Rc6 {[%emt 0:01: 02]} 31. Nc2 {[%emt 0:00:37]} (31. Rc1 $15) 31... Rdc8 {[%emt 0:00:27]} 32. Na3 $2 {[%emt 0:00:44] A bad oversight by Wesley.} (32. Rc1 $17 {And Black is clearly better, but White has some drawing chances.}) 32... c2 $1 33. Rc1 Bd3 $1 {[%emt 0:00:17]} 34. Rxb7+ {[%emt 0:00:19]} R6c7 {[%emt 0:00:41]} 35. Rb2 { [%emt 0:00:27]} (35. Rxc7+ Rxc7 36. Ke3 Rc3 $19) 35... Rc3 {[%emt 0:00:09]} 36. Ra2 {[%emt 0:00:00]} f5 $1 {[%emt 0:01:56]} (36... g5 {with the idea of g4 is also very powerful.}) 37. e5 {[%emt 0:01:00]} g5 {[%emt 0:00:22]} (37... Rd8 38. Ke3 Be4+ 39. Ke2 Bxf3+ 40. Kd2 Rb3 41. Nxc2 Be4 $19) 38. Ke1 {[%emt 0:00: 12]} f4 $1 $19 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 39. Kd2 {[%emt 0:00:24]} Bf5 $6 {[%emt 0:00:04] } (39... fxg3 40. hxg3 h5 $19 {was the easiest way to win. The simple point being that White has absolutely no moves. He cannot take the pawn on c2 because the h-pawn just queens.}) 40. gxf4 {[%emt 0:00:23]} gxf4 {[%emt 0:00: 02]} 41. Nxc2 {[%emt 0:00:04]} R8c4 {[%emt 0:02:07]} (41... Rxf3 $19) 42. Rb2 { [%emt 0:00:07]} Rxf3 $2 {[%emt 0:00:04] Ding Liren chooses the most inappropriate moment to take on f3.} (42... Rc7 43. Ra2 Kf7 {Black just keeps the position and White is at loss for moves.} (43... Rxf3 {is also fine now.}) 44. Rb2 Rxf3) 43. Rb7+ $1 {[%emt 0:00:41]} Ke8 {[%emt 0:00:13]} 44. Nb4 $1 { [%emt 0:00:27] With two powerful moves, White has activated his position.} Rxd4+ {[%emt 0:00:24]} (44... Rf2+ 45. Ke1 $11) 45. Ke2 {[%emt 0:00:06]} Re3+ { [%emt 0:00:04]} 46. Kf1 {[%emt 0:00:40]} Be4 $2 {[%emt 0:00:05]} (46... Rxe5 47. Nc6 Bd3+ 48. Kg1 Rg5+ $17) 47. Rg7 $1 {[%emt 0:00:29] Of course Wesley is a machine! He defends amazingly. Black has lost all his advantage now and a mate is threatened on c8.} Kf8 {[%emt 0:00:21]} 48. Ra7 {[%emt 0:00:05]} Rd8 { [%emt 0:00:16]} 49. Nxa6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bd3+ {[%emt 0:00:16]} 50. Kg1 { [%emt 0:00:13]} Rxe5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 51. Rd1 $2 {[%emt 0:00:23]} (51. Nc5 $11) 51... Rxa5 {[%emt 0:00:16]} 52. Nc7 {[%emt 0:00:14]} Rxa7 {[%emt 0:00:42]} 53. Nxe6+ {[%emt 0:00:00]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:00:13]} 54. Nxd8 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Bb5 { [%emt 0:00:07] Once again Black has some chances to push.} 55. Rb1 $1 {[%emt 0: 00:24]} Bd7 {[%emt 0:00:09]} 56. Nb7 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Ra2 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 57. Nc5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Bc6 {[%emt 0:00:08]} 58. Nd3 {[%emt 0:00:13]} Rg2+ { [%emt 0:00:04]} 59. Kf1 {[%emt 0:00:00]} f3 {[%emt 0:01:02]} 60. Rb6 {[%emt 0: 00:32]} Bd5 {[%emt 0:00:07]} 61. Rb4 {[%emt 0:00:24] With very little time on clock, Wesley So defends with great ingenuity.} Rxh2 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 62. Ne1 { [%emt 0:00:15]} Ke6 {[%emt 0:00:14]} 63. Rf4 $1 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Rh1+ {[%emt 0: 00:30]} 64. Kf2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Rh2+ {[%emt 0:00:01]} 65. Kg3 {[%emt 0:00:10]} Re2 {[%emt 0:00:24]} 66. Nxf3 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Re3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 67. Kf2 { [%emt 0:00:01]} Rxf3+ {[%emt 0:00:01]} 68. Rxf3 {[%emt 0:00:00] What an escape for the American grandmaster.} 1/2-1/2

The Catalan: A complete repertoire for White!

The Catalan is one of the most solid openings for White. It forms part of the large and strong fianchetto family in which White builds his strategy mainly around the bishop on g2. The current DVD covers all of Black’s replies to the Catalan, some of which can even transpose to other openings such as the Tarrasch System and the Queen’s Indian. The author’s idea is, as it was in previous DVDs he has published in this area, to help White against all classical setups for Black. Though the DVD is aimed at players of the white pieces, it still might be useful for those who have Black so that they will better understand the coming threats. It would make little sense to mention all the strong players who include the Catalan in their repertoire. Suffice it to say that the Catalan rules! Video running time: 5 hours 29 minutes.

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Wesley So trying his best to not let the pressure of tiebreaks get to him | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Ding Liren tried very hard to forget what happened in the first game, but it was not easy | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Game 2 (25'+10")

Just nine moves were made, Ding Liren had taken the knight on f6 with his bishop and offered a draw. Wesley So accepted it. After the match the Chinese GM said, "I was unable to fully recover from the draw in the previous round. I had expected my opponent to play 5...h6, but he surprised me with 5...dxc4." Ding Liren was unprepared for this line and coupled with his fragile mental state, he made the smart decision of offering a draw. In hindsight it might be possible to say that Wesley So should have played on. It might have been possible that he would have won the match. However, this is something that we would never really know. As Ding Liren said, "If I were in Wesley's place, I would have played on."

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.4"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D39"] [WhiteElo "2771"] [BlackElo "2792"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "17"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventCountry "GEO"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "1500+10"] 1. d4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 2. c4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} e6 {[%emt 0: 00:01]} 3. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} d5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 4. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bb4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 5. Bg5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} dxc4 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 6. a3 {[%emt 0: 00:59]} Bxc3+ {[%emt 0:00:13]} 7. bxc3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} c5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 8. e3 {[%emt 0:00:36]} cxd4 {[%emt 0:00:02] Over here Ding Liren started to think for quite some time. Aronian has played this position with white and has gone for the move exd4. Ding Liren decided this was a good opportunity to just call it a day, recover from the shock of the previous round and get ready for the 10'+10'' tiebreaks. Hence, he offered a draw.} 9. Bxf6 {[%emt 0:02:12]} 1/2-1/2

Game 1 (10'+ 10")

The quick draw in the previous game was good enough for both the players to come refreshed to the game. Ding Liren was able to come out of the grief of having missed many wins in game one of 25'+ 10'', while Wesley was looking forward to press with the white pieces. In the opening, the American GM did get some advantage, but Ding made a smart sacrifice after which Black's play was very easy. Wesley soon started to consume quite some time and the Chinese GM also refused a draw offer. With some strong moves he was able to put a lot of pressure on Wesley and finished off the game.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.5"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Ding, Liren"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D78"] [WhiteElo "2792"] [BlackElo "2771"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "138"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventCountry "GEO"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "600+10"] 1. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} d5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 2. g3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} g6 {[%emt 0: 00:01]} 3. Bg2 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Bg7 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 4. d4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 5. c4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} c6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 6. O-O {[%emt 0:00: 00]} O-O {[%emt 0:00:03]} 7. Nbd2 {[%emt 0:00:04]} a5 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 8. b3 { [%emt 0:00:06]} a4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 9. Bb2 {[%emt 0:00:04]} Bf5 {[%emt 0:00:07] } 10. e3 {[%emt 0:00:26]} Nbd7 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 11. Qe2 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Ne4 { [%emt 0:00:40]} 12. Nxe4 {[%emt 0:01:16]} Bxe4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 13. cxd5 { [%emt 0:00:15]} cxd5 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 14. Qb5 {[%emt 0:00:04] This position has been reached four times before and has been played by strong players like Berkes and Nikolic.} Ra5 {[%emt 0:01:22]} 15. Qxb7 {[%emt 0:02:46]} Nc5 { [%emt 0:00:02]} 16. Qb4 {[%emt 0:00:59]} (16. dxc5 $1 Bxb2 17. b4 $1 Ra8 (17... Bxa1 18. bxa5 $18) 18. Nd4 $14) 16... Nd3 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 17. Qd2 {[%emt 0:00: 01]} Rb5 $6 {[%emt 0:00:26]} (17... axb3 $1 18. axb3 Rb5 $11 {Ding Liren said he saw this but didn't like that White could defend b3 with Ra3.}) 18. Bc3 $1 { [%emt 0:00:57]} axb3 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 19. Ng5 $1 {[%emt 0:00:24] This was missed by Ding Liren.} b2 {[%emt 0:01:52]} (19... Bxg2 20. Kxg2 $18) 20. Rab1 { [%emt 0:00:11] At this point it seemed as White is just winning as the knight on d3 is trapped. But Ding Liren finds the best practical try.} Nxf2 $1 { [%emt 0:00:09]} 21. Qxf2 {[%emt 0:01:37]} Bxb1 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 22. Rxb1 { [%emt 0:00:00]} e5 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 23. Nh3 $6 {[%emt 0:01:43] This is passive. Wesley played this and offered a draw. Ding Liren thought for a bit, saw that he has easy moves to make and more time on the clock and hence went ahead and declined the draw offer.} (23. Nf3 $14) 23... exd4 {[%emt 0:00:18]} 24. exd4 { [%emt 0:00:20]} (24. Bxd4 Bxd4 25. exd4 Qc7 $17) 24... Qc7 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 25. Qd2 {[%emt 0:00:06]} Rfb8 {[%emt 0:01:53]} 26. Nf4 {[%emt 0:00:18]} Qc4 { [%emt 0:00:47]} 27. Bxd5 {[%emt 0:00:22] Finally the pressure became too much for Wesley to handle and he sacrifices two pieces for a rook.} Rxd5 {[%emt 0: 00:01]} 28. Nxd5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Qxd5 {[%emt 0:00:05]} 29. Rxb2 {[%emt 0:00: 02]} Rc8 {[%emt 0:00:03] Threatening Rxc3.} 30. Rb3 {[%emt 0:00:25]} h5 { [%emt 0:00:05] Even though Black is a pawn down, he is in a completely dominating position.} 31. Bb2 {[%emt 0:00:55]} Kh7 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 32. h3 { [%emt 0:00:22]} Qe4 {[%emt 0:00:18]} 33. Qd3 $2 {[%emt 0:00:10]} Qe1+ $6 { [%emt 0:00:14]} (33... Bxd4+ $1 34. Bxd4 (34. Qxd4 Rc1+ 35. Kf2 Rc2+ $19) 34... Rc1+ 35. Kf2 Rc2+ 36. Qxc2 Qxc2+ $19) 34. Qf1 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Qd2 {[%emt 0:00: 40]} 35. Qf2 {[%emt 0:00:47]} Qd1+ {[%emt 0:00:11]} 36. Qf1 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bxd4+ {[%emt 0:00:06]} 37. Bxd4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Qxd4+ {[%emt 0:00:02] Black has won back the pawn and the white king is pretty weak. Ding Liren doesn't miss this opportunity.} 38. Kh1 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Qd5+ {[%emt 0:00:09]} 39. Rf3 {[%emt 0:01:11]} (39. Qg2 $1 {Wesley was not in the best defensive mood. This would have been a stauncher defence.} Rc1+ 40. Kh2 $17) 39... Rc3 {[%emt 0:00: 03]} 40. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Qc6 {[%emt 0:00:13]} 41. h4 {[%emt 0:00:30]} Kg8 {[%emt 0:00:21]} (41... Rc2+ 42. Kg1 Rc1 $19 {would have won the queen, but gives up the f7 pawn. So Black tries to win the queen when he can somehow retain all his pawns.}) 42. a4 {[%emt 0:00:12]} f6 {[%emt 0:01:30]} 43. a5 { [%emt 0:00:15]} Kg7 {[%emt 0:00:07]} 44. a6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Rc2+ {[%emt 0:00: 02]} 45. Kg1 {[%emt 0:00:02]} (45. Kh3 Qe6+ $19) 45... Rc1 {[%emt 0:01:26]} 46. Rxf6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Rxf1+ {[%emt 0:00:05]} 47. Rxf1 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Qxa6 { [%emt 0:00:01]} 48. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:12]} (48. Rf4 {was better. But even this should not hold.}) 48... Qe2+ {[%emt 0:00:02]} 49. Rf2 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Qe4+ { [%emt 0:00:01]} 50. Kh2 {[%emt 0:00:10]} g5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 51. hxg5 {[%emt 0: 00:01]} h4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 52. Rf4 {[%emt 0:00:18]} Qe2+ {[%emt 0:00:04]} 53. Kh3 {[%emt 0:00:02]} hxg3 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 54. Kxg3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Kg6 { [%emt 0:00:05]} 55. Rf2 {[%emt 0:00:16]} Qe3+ {[%emt 0:00:04]} 56. Kg2 { [%emt 0:00:01]} Kxg5 {[%emt 0:00:03] All the pawns have been removed from the board. It's just queen verus rook. Ding Liren shows good techinque.} 57. Rf3 { [%emt 0:00:03]} Qe2+ {[%emt 0:00:20]} 58. Kg3 {[%emt 0:00:07]} Qe1+ {[%emt 0: 00:04]} 59. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Kg4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 60. Rf2 {[%emt 0:00:12]} Qe4+ {[%emt 0:00:02]} 61. Kh2 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Kh4 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 62. Ra2 { [%emt 0:01:26]} Qe5+ {[%emt 0:00:09]} 63. Kg1 {[%emt 0:00:04]} Qd4+ {[%emt 0: 00:16]} 64. Kh2 {[%emt 0:00:10]} Qd6+ {[%emt 0:00:03]} 65. Kg1 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Qc5+ {[%emt 0:00:23]} 66. Kh2 {[%emt 0:00:04]} Qc7+ {[%emt 0:00:00]} 67. Kg1 { [%emt 0:00:03]} Qb6+ {[%emt 0:00:02]} 68. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:17]} Qb7+ {[%emt 0: 00:04]} 69. Kh2 {[%emt 0:00:15]} Qb8+ {[%emt 0:00:01] This zigzg movement has cost White the full rook.} 0-1

Game 2 (10'+10'')

Wesley So has excellent preparation in his solid lines with black. To be in a must win scenario was not a pleasant situation for him. He went for the Benoni, but the way he played it gave him absolutely no winning chances. Delaying exd5 was not a good idea as it allowed Ding to play e4 and take on d5 with his e-pawn. This resulted in a symmetrical structure with White having the bishop pair and extra space. It was not so difficult for Liren to make a draw and with this he advanced not only to the finals of the World Cup 2017, but also qualified for the Candidates 2018.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.6"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A60"] [WhiteElo "2771"] [BlackElo "2792"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventCountry "GEO"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "600+10"] 1. d4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 2. c4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} c5 {[%emt 0: 00:01]} 3. d5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} e6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 4. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} d6 { [%emt 0:00:01]} (4... exd5 5. cxd5 {In case Wesley wanted to play something imbalanced, this could have been the right way to go.}) 5. e4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} g6 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 6. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Bg7 {[%emt 0:00:05]} 7. Bd3 { [%emt 0:00:04]} exd5 {[%emt 0:00:28]} 8. exd5 $1 {[%emt 0:00:03] When you need a draw, this is the right approach.} O-O {[%emt 0:00:10]} 9. O-O {[%emt 0:00: 02]} Bg4 {[%emt 0:00:15]} 10. h3 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Bxf3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 11. Qxf3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Nfd7 {[%emt 0:00:13]} 12. Qd1 {[%emt 0:00:21] White has the space as well as the bishop pair. It is extremely difficult to play this position for a win as Black.} Re8 {[%emt 0:00:49]} 13. Bd2 {[%emt 0:00:31]} Na6 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 14. a3 {[%emt 0:00:14]} Qh4 {[%emt 0:00:44]} 15. Qg4 $1 { [%emt 0:00:43]} Qxg4 {[%emt 0:02:55]} 16. hxg4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Nc7 {[%emt 0: 00:01]} (16... Ne5 17. Be2 $16) 17. Rfe1 {[%emt 0:00:40]} h6 {[%emt 0:00:37]} 18. Rxe8+ {[%emt 0:00:50]} (18. Ne4 $16) 18... Nxe8 (18... Rxe8 19. Re1 $14) 19. g3 Nef6 20. f3 Ne5 21. Be2 g5 22. Kg2 {If Ding was in an ambitious mood, he could have easily pushed in this position. It is a very pleasant situation to be in.} Re8 23. Re1 a6 24. Bf1 Kf8 25. b3 b6 26. a4 Rb8 27. Ne4 Nxe4 28. Rxe4 Nd7 29. Re1 Ne5 30. Bc3 Ng6 31. Bd2 Ne5 32. Bc3 Bf6 33. Bxe5 $1 {An exclamation mark, because now the draw cannot be averted at all costs.} Bxe5 34. Bd3 Kg7 35. Re2 Kf6 36. Re1 Rb7 37. Re2 Rb8 38. Re1 Rh8 39. Re4 Rg8 40. f4 Bc3 41. Kf3 Rh8 42. Re2 Bd4 43. Rh2 Re8 44. Re2 Rh8 45. Rh2 Kg7 46. fxg5 hxg5 { With this draw, Ding Liren qualified for the Candidates 2018 and also advanced to the finals of World Cup 2017.} 1/2-1/2

The Chinese grandmaster is not very expressive, but the slight smile on his face says that he is happy with what just happened! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Wesley So played the entire tournament very well. Although he couldn't make it to the Candidates, he has excellent chances to qualify by being one of the highest rated players in the world. | Photo: Amruta Mokal 

Interview with Ding Liren

After the game ended, Ding Liren gave an interview for the official live broadcast. While he was walking with me towards the room where we would conduct an interview for the viewers of ChessBase, his coach Xu Jun asked him to come immediately with him. The Chinese television had to be sent some video footage and for that an interview had to be conducted in Chinese and some pictures had to be taken. Ding Liren excused himself and told me that he would come back in some time to do an interview with me. I went back to the press room, not having much expectation that he would return. But after 15 minutes, Ding Liren walked into the press room and kept his word. For me, this is the sign of greatness. Yes, Ding Liren is an amazing chess player and will soon be fighting for the highest crown in the chess world, but such episodes tell you that in spite of the success, he has his feet firmly rooted to the ground. A wonderful human being.

"I am so happy that I will not be able to sleep tonight!" Ding Liren gives an in-depth interview to ChessBase after the game

Levon Aronian vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Aronian-MVL

What a match between two of the strongest chess players in the world of chess. Levon Aronian and MVL had passed through some really well-established opponents to reach the semifinals. As many people rightly said, this match could well have been the finals, and no one would have complained. There was so little to choose between the two. And this showed in the final result. The match went all the way upto the Armageddon. In fact this was the first Armageddon of World Cup 2017. In the end it was Levon Aronian who emerged victorious by beating MVL and not only advancing to the finals of the World Cup but also qualifying for Candidates 2018. Let's go through the match by looking at all the games one by one:

Game 1 (25'+10")

MVL came with a new idea in the same line that Levon employed in their second classical game. The Frenchman had made a deep study of White's ideas there and was able to outplay his Armenian opponent. Levon said after the match that it was not the opening that led to his downfall. He felt that Black had no real problems. However, somehow he did not repeat the 9...Bg4 line again in the next few games.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.3"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2804"] [BlackElo "2802"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "127"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventCountry "GEO"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "1500+10"] 1. e4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} e5 {[%emt 0:00:05]} 2. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nc6 { [%emt 0:00:04]} 3. Bb5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} a6 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 4. Ba4 {[%emt 0:00: 00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 5. O-O {[%emt 0:00:01]} Be7 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 6. d3 { [%emt 0:00:02]} b5 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 7. Bb3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} d6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 8. a3 {[%emt 0:00:03]} O-O {[%emt 0:00:02]} 9. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bg4 { [%emt 0:00:02]} 10. Be3 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Nd4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 11. Bxd4 { [%emt 0:00:01]} exd4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 12. Nd5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Nxd5 {[%emt 0: 00:02]} 13. Bxd5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Rc8 {[%emt 0:00:02] The players repeat all their moves from the second classical game of yesterday.} 14. Bc6 $5 {[%emt 0: 00:02] This move was played by Alina Kaslinskaya and this move according to me is the only way in which White can deviate from what happened yesterday and not be dead equal.} Bf6 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 15. a4 {[%emt 0:00:26]} Bd7 {[%emt 0: 00:03]} (15... Rb8 {is also possible.}) 16. Bxd7 {[%emt 0:00:48]} Qxd7 { [%emt 0:00:02]} 17. Qd2 {[%emt 0:00:18]} Qc6 {[%emt 0:01:07]} 18. b3 {[%emt 0: 01:39] I think Maxime has analyzed this position in great depth, not move by move, but by understanding the plans in the position. He realizes that his knight is much more flexible and will use his kingside pawns to storm Black's kingside. But first he must stabilize the queenside.} Rfe8 {[%emt 0:00:54]} 19. Rfe1 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Qc5 {[%emt 0:01:28]} 20. g4 $5 {[%emt 0:02:17] The start of a nice kingside pawn offensive.} b4 {[%emt 0:00:54]} 21. Re2 {[%emt 0:01:43] } c6 {[%emt 0:01:27]} 22. Rae1 {[%emt 0:00:34]} g6 {[%emt 0:03:59]} 23. h4 Re6 24. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:39]} Rce8 {[%emt 0:02:08]} 25. Ng5 {[%emt 0:01:22]} R6e7 { [%emt 0:00:45]} 26. f4 {[%emt 0:00:14] White is just building up the pressure.} a5 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 27. Nf3 $6 {[%emt 0:03:48]} (27. Kh1 $14 {Getting ready to transfer the rook to h-file and later play h5 was much better.}) 27... h5 $1 { [%emt 0:00:10]} ({If Black makes a waste move White's idea is} 27... Kh8 28. h5 $1 gxh5 29. g5 $16) 28. g5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Bg7 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 29. Rf1 { [%emt 0:00:04]} Qa7 {[%emt 0:00:41]} 30. Qe1 {[%emt 0:00:07]} c5 $6 {[%emt 0: 01:55] This is crucial waste of time.} (30... Qd7 $1 31. Qg3 d5 32. e5 c5 $11) (30... d5 $1 31. e5 Qd7 32. Qg3 c5 $11) 31. Qg3 {[%emt 0:00:58]} Qd7 {[%emt 0: 00:40]} 32. Qh3 $1 {[%emt 0:00:24] Now there is no d5.} Qc6 {[%emt 0:01:50]} ( 32... Qxh3+ 33. Kxh3 {White willbreakthrough with f5 at some point which will give him the advantage.} d5 34. Nd2 $16) 33. f5 {[%emt 0:02:32]} Ra7 {[%emt 0: 02:51]} (33... d5 $1 34. Nd2 dxe4 35. Nxe4 c4 $1 36. bxc4 Rxe4 37. Rxe4 Rxe4 38. dxe4 Qxe4+ 39. Qf3 Qxc2+ 40. Rf2 Qxc4 $13) 34. Nd2 {[%emt 0:02:37]} Rc7 { [%emt 0:00:49] Vachier-Lagrave,M (2804)-Aronian,L (2802) Tbilisi 2017 playchess.com [ChessBase]} 35. Qf3 {[%emt 0:00:34]} Ra7 {[%emt 0:02:40]} 36. Rfe1 {[%emt 0:01:14]} Qc7 {[%emt 0:01:05]} 37. Nc4 {[%emt 0:00:41]} Be5 { [%emt 0:00:06]} 38. Rf1 {[%emt 0:00:07]} Qd8 {[%emt 0:00:19]} 39. Ref2 { [%emt 0:00:37]} Bg7 {[%emt 0:00:28]} 40. Qf4 {[%emt 0:00:35] Vachier-Lagrave,M (2804)-Aronian,L (2802) Tbilisi 2017 playchess.com [ChessBase]} Rd7 {[%emt 0: 00:17]} 41. Kg1 {[%emt 0:00:33]} Kh7 {[%emt 0:00:38]} 42. Qg3 {[%emt 0:00:08]} Kg8 {[%emt 0:00:20]} 43. Rf3 {[%emt 0:00:15]} d5 {[%emt 0:01:54]} 44. exd5 { [%emt 0:00:14]} Rxd5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 45. f6 {[%emt 0:00:24]} Bf8 {[%emt 0:00: 03]} 46. Re1 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Rxe1+ {[%emt 0:01:05]} 47. Qxe1 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Bd6 {[%emt 0:00:09]} 48. Qe4 {[%emt 0:00:23]} Bc7 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 49. Rf2 { [%emt 0:00:08]} Qd7 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 50. Re2 {[%emt 0:00:16]} Kh7 {[%emt 0:00: 12]} 51. Qg2 $6 {[%emt 0:00:29]} (51. Qf3) 51... Qf5 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 52. Re4 { [%emt 0:01:28]} Rd7 {[%emt 0:00:18]} 53. Qf1 $1 {[%emt 0:00:09]} Qd5 {[%emt 0: 00:06]} 54. Qf3 {[%emt 0:00:08]} Qb7 {[%emt 0:00:12]} 55. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:23]} Qc8 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 56. Qe2 {[%emt 0:00:05]} Qb7 {[%emt 0:00:16]} 57. Kg1 { [%emt 0:00:02]} Qd5 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 58. Ne5 {[%emt 0:01:00]} Bxe5 {[%emt 0:00: 14]} 59. Rxe5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Qd6 {[%emt 0:00:09]} 60. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:11]} Rd8 {[%emt 0:00:14]} 61. Qe4 {[%emt 0:00:04]} Rd7 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 62. Re7 { [%emt 0:00:17]} Qc7 {[%emt 0:00:07]} 63. Kh3 {[%emt 0:00:49]} Qc8 {[%emt 0:00: 04]} 64. Qe6 {[%emt 0:00:20] An excellet game by Maxime Vachier Lagrave} 1-0

Game 2 (25'+10")

This was simply a brilliant win by Levon Aronian who played fearlessly and showed his true strength. Being 0-1 down in the match and winning a must-win scenario can do wonders to your confidence. Aronian sacrificed a pieces, which was pretty dubious, but it worked perfectly in the game. With this win he equalized the score and took the game into the 10'+10" tiebreaks.

 

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.4"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A50"] [WhiteElo "2802"] [BlackElo "2804"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventCountry "GEO"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "1500+10"] 1. d4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 2. c4 {[%emt 0:00:10]} g6 {[%emt 0: 00:10]} 3. f3 {[%emt 0:00:10] When Anand was in a must win situation against Gelfand in the World Championship 2012, he too played the f3 variation. There cannot be a better choice. White gets an attacking double-edged position, just what the doctor ordered.} c5 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 4. d5 {[%emt 0:00:10]} d6 { [%emt 0:00:10]} 5. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:10]} e6 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 6. e4 {[%emt 0:00: 10]} Bg7 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 7. Nge2 {[%emt 0:00:10]} O-O {[%emt 0:00:10]} 8. Ng3 {[%emt 0:00:10] The game has transposed into a Benoni/Saemisch King's Indian.} a6 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 9. a4 {[%emt 0:00:10]} h5 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 10. Bg5 { [%emt 0:00:10]} Qc7 {[%emt 0:00:10]} 11. Qd2 {[%emt 0:00:10]} exd5 {[%emt 0:01: 02]} 12. cxd5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Nh7 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 13. Bh6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} h4 {[%emt 0:00:07]} 14. Bxg7 {[%emt 0:00:45]} Kxg7 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 15. Bc4 $5 { [%emt 0:00:01] A perfect move for the occasion. White is in a must win scenario and doesn't have much to lose.} hxg3 {[%emt 0:00:16]} 16. hxg3 { [%emt 0:00:02]} Rh8 {[%emt 0:00:01] The only move. Objectively this position should be fine for Black as Aronian pointed out in his interview after the match, but in a rapid game it is a great weapon.} 17. e5 $5 {[%emt 0:00:32]} ( 17. Qh6+ Kg8 $13) 17... Qe7 {[%emt 0:00:48]} (17... dxe5 18. d6 $18) 18. O-O-O {[%emt 0:01:02]} Nd7 {[%emt 0:00:31]} 19. exd6 {[%emt 0:01:05]} Qxd6 {[%emt 0: 01:19]} 20. Ne4 {[%emt 0:01:54]} Qe5 {[%emt 0:01:08]} (20... Qf8 $5 21. g4 $40 {I don't think Black can survive the onslught here.}) 21. d6 {[%emt 0:01:09]} g5 {[%emt 0:00:33]} 22. Rhe1 {[%emt 0:01:29]} b5 {[%emt 0:02:56]} 23. Bd5 { [%emt 0:01:07]} Rb8 {[%emt 0:01:05]} (23... Ra7 $5) 24. f4 {[%emt 0:01:37]} Qd4 $4 {[%emt 0:00:06] A huge oversight by Aronian.} (24... Qf5 {was the only way to keep the game going, but White is just better after} 25. Nxg5 $16) 25. Qe2 $1 {Attacks the queen and also threatens Qh5. Seeing this move MVL made one more, but the position is already lost.} Qb4 26. Qh5 {The f7 point cannot be defended and Maxime resigned. A great win for Levon.} 1-0

Game 1 (10'+10")

It was a heavy duty theoretical battle in the Grunfeld where both players knew what they were doing. As is usually the case in such games, the players fought until the very end, but the result was never really in doubt. A well played draw.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.5"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D97"] [WhiteElo "2802"] [BlackElo "2804"] [Annotator "ChessBase"] [PlyCount "118"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventCountry "GEO"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "600+10"] 1. d4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 2. c4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} g6 {[%emt 0: 00:01]} 3. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} d5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 4. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Bg7 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 5. Qb3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} dxc4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 6. Qxc4 { [%emt 0:00:01]} O-O {[%emt 0:00:03]} 7. e4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Nc6 {[%emt 0:00:05] } 8. Be2 {[%emt 0:00:02]} e5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 9. d5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Nd4 { [%emt 0:00:01]} 10. Nxd4 {[%emt 0:00:05]} exd4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 11. Qxd4 { [%emt 0:00:02]} c6 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 12. Qc4 {[%emt 0:00:07]} b5 {[%emt 0:00:05] } 13. Qxc6 {[%emt 0:00:04]} Bd7 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 14. Qd6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Re8 { [%emt 0:00:09]} 15. Bg5 {[%emt 0:00:06]} b4 {[%emt 0:00:14]} 16. Qxb4 {[%emt 0: 00:03]} Nxd5 {[%emt 0:00:20]} 17. Nxd5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Qxg5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 18. O-O {[%emt 0:00:03]} Rab8 {[%emt 0:00:23]} 19. Qd6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Bh3 { [%emt 0:00:03]} 20. Nf4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Bg4 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 21. Bxg4 { [%emt 0:00:02]} Be5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 22. Qd7 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Qxf4 {[%emt 0:00: 28]} 23. g3 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Qf6 {[%emt 0:00:29]} 24. Rad1 {[%emt 0:00:46] All of this has been seen before in the game Aronian against Anish Giri.} h5 { [%emt 0:00:49] Black is two pawns down, but he will recover the b2 pawn and also thanks to the opposite coloured bishop position, he has excellent drawing chances.} (24... Bxb2 25. Qa4 Red8 26. Rxd8+ Rxd8 27. Qxa7 Kg7 28. Be2 Rd2 29. Qe3 Qc3 30. Qxc3+ Bxc3 31. Bc4 Bd4 32. Kh1 Rc2 33. Bb3 Rxf2 34. Rd1 Bb6 35. h4 Bc7 36. Rd3 h5 37. a4 Kh6 38. Bc4 f5 39. exf5 Rxf5 40. Kg2 Rc5 41. Bb5 g5 42. hxg5+ Kxg5 43. Kh3 Be5 44. Re3 h4 45. gxh4+ Kf4 46. Rg3 Rc1 47. a5 Rh1+ 48. Kg2 Rg1+ {1/2-1/2 (48) Aronian,L (2797)-Giri,A (2784) Wijk aan Zee 2015}) 25. Be2 { [%emt 0:00:02]} Re7 {[%emt 0:02:17]} 26. Qd5 {[%emt 0:00:25]} Rxb2 {[%emt 0:00: 03]} 27. Rd2 {[%emt 0:00:24]} Rxd2 {[%emt 0:00:23]} 28. Qxd2 $11 {[%emt 0:00: 02]} Bd4 {[%emt 0:00:17]} 29. Qc2 {[%emt 0:01:48]} Kg7 {[%emt 0:00:16]} 30. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:50]} Rb7 {[%emt 0:00:08]} 31. Qc4 {[%emt 0:02:12]} Rb2 {[%emt 0:00: 16]} 32. f4 {[%emt 0:00:53]} Bb6 {[%emt 0:01:15]} 33. Rd1 {[%emt 0:00:19]} Qe6 {[%emt 0:01:09]} 34. Kh1 {[%emt 0:02:05]} Qxc4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 35. Bxc4 { [%emt 0:00:02]} h4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} 36. e5 {[%emt 0:00:57]} Kf8 {[%emt 0:00:42] } 37. a4 {[%emt 0:01:49]} Rc2 {[%emt 0:00:45]} 38. Bb5 {[%emt 0:00:19]} g5 $1 { [%emt 0:01:46] Black simplifies the position and makes a draw without too many difficulties.} 39. fxg5 {[%emt 0:00:35]} hxg3 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 40. hxg3 { [%emt 0:00:02]} Rc5 {[%emt 0:00:16]} 41. g6 {[%emt 0:00:38]} fxg6 {[%emt 0:00: 22]} 42. e6 {[%emt 0:00:08]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 43. Bd7 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Rc2 {[%emt 0:00:19]} 44. Rf1 {[%emt 0:00:21]} Rf2 {[%emt 0:00:35]} 45. Rc1 { [%emt 0:00:03]} g5 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 46. Rc4 {[%emt 0:00:20]} Rd2 {[%emt 0:00: 02]} 47. Rc8 {[%emt 0:00:29]} Bd4 {[%emt 0:01:47]} 48. Rg8 {[%emt 0:00:44]} Bf6 {[%emt 0:00:40]} 49. Kg1 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Re2 {[%emt 0:00:16]} 50. Kf1 { [%emt 0:00:09]} Re4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 51. Ra8 {[%emt 0:00:33]} Bd4 {[%emt 0:00: 02]} 52. Re8+ {[%emt 0:00:03]} Kd6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 53. Rg8 {[%emt 0:00:17]} g4 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 54. a5 {[%emt 0:00:19]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:00:36]} 55. a6 {[%emt 0: 00:08]} Bb6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 56. Rb8 {[%emt 0:00:06]} Bc5 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 57. Rb7 {[%emt 0:00:05]} Rb4 {[%emt 0:00:09]} 58. Ke2 {[%emt 0:00:32]} Rxb7 { [%emt 0:00:14]} 59. axb7 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Bd6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 1/2-1/2

Game 2 (10'+10") 

After one successful stint with 9...Bg4 and one not so successful one, Aronian shifted to 9...Na5 in the 6.d3 Ruy Lopez. He played a model game and equalized without any difficulties. He had excellent chances to press and bring home the full point, but he went wrong and allowed MVL to hold the draw.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.6"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2804"] [BlackElo "2802"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "k.o."] [EventCountry "GEO"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "600+10"] 1. e4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} e5 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 2. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nc6 { [%emt 0:00:02]} 3. Bb5 {[%emt 0:00:00]} a6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 4. Ba4 {[%emt 0:00: 00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 5. O-O {[%emt 0:00:00]} Be7 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 6. d3 { [%emt 0:00:00]} b5 {[%emt 0:00:03]} 7. Bb3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} d6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 8. a3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} O-O {[%emt 0:00:02]} 9. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Na5 { [%emt 0:00:02] Enough of Bg4, we are now back to mainline with ...Na5.} 10. Ba2 {[%emt 0:00:01]} Be6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 11. b4 {[%emt 0:00:07]} Bxa2 {[%emt 0:00: 02]} 12. Nxa2 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Nc6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 13. c4 {[%emt 0:00:07]} Nd4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 14. Be3 {[%emt 0:00:07]} Ne6 {[%emt 0:00:17]} 15. Nc3 { [%emt 0:00:11]} c6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 16. h3 {[%emt 0:00:24]} h6 {[%emt 0:00:21]} 17. Qb3 {[%emt 0:00:31]} Nh7 $1 {[%emt 0:00:22] The knight is going to g5.} 18. cxb5 {[%emt 0:00:53]} axb5 {[%emt 0:00:07]} 19. d4 {[%emt 0:00:01]} exd4 { [%emt 0:01:11]} 20. Nxd4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Nxd4 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 21. Bxd4 { [%emt 0:00:01]} Bf6 {[%emt 0:00:01]} 22. Rfd1 {[%emt 0:00:43]} Re8 {[%emt 0:00: 57] Black has equalized without any difficulties.} 23. Qc2 {[%emt 0:01:25]} Ng5 {[%emt 0:00:41]} 24. Qd3 {[%emt 0:00:12]} Ne6 {[%emt 0:00:34]} 25. Bxf6 { [%emt 0:00:15]} Qxf6 {[%emt 0:00:02]} 26. Ne2 {[%emt 0:00:12]} c5 27. Qxb5 $6 ( 27. bxc5 Nxc5 28. Qc3 $11) 27... Reb8 28. Qd3 cxb4 29. Qe3 Ra4 (29... b3 $1 $17 ) 30. Rab1 Rxa3 31. Rxb4 Rxe3 32. Rxb8+ Kh7 33. fxe3 Qg5 (33... Qe5 $15) 34. Nf4 Nxf4 35. exf4 Qxf4 36. Rd8 1/2-1/2

The arbiters show it to the players how it's done! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Game 1 (5"+3') 

This was a complete heartbreak for Levon. After playing the opening really well he got a completely winning position. His chances kept improving as won a pawn and then had a vicious attack against his opponent's king. However, MVL kept fighting. Some normal moves would have brought home the point, but it was nerves that prevent Aronian from scoring a win. In the end he could have even lost the game, but MVL returned the favour and the game was drawn.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi GEO"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.7"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A48"] [WhiteElo "2802"] [BlackElo "2804"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "110"] [EventDate "2017.09.03"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bf4 Bg7 4. Nc3 d5 5. Nb5 Na6 6. e3 O-O 7. h3 c6 8. Nc3 Nc7 9. Be2 Bf5 10. O-O Rc8 11. Bh2 Ne4 12. Nxe4 Bxe4 13. c3 Re8 14. Qb3 Rb8 15. Ne5 Bf5 16. Rfd1 Be6 17. Rac1 Qc8 18. c4 $1 $14 {White has a very pleasant position.} Ra8 19. cxd5 Bxd5 20. Qa3 f6 21. Nd3 e5 22. dxe5 fxe5 23. Nc5 b6 24. e4 Bf7 25. Nd7 c5 26. Qc3 Re7 (26... Nd5 $5 $14) 27. Bxe5 $1 Bxa2 28. Bxg7 Rxd7 29. Bh6 {This is a disaster for MVL out of the opening.} Be6 30. Qe5 Bb3 31. Rd3 $1 Be6 32. Rcd1 Rf7 33. Bg5 (33. Bd2 {With the idea of Bc3 is possible but is met with Nb5.}) 33... Rf8 34. Bh6 (34. Rd8 Rxd8 35. Rxd8+ $18) 34... Rf7 35. Bd2 Nb5 36. Be3 Qe8 37. R3d2 Nc7 38. Bg5 Bb3 39. Rd8 $1 Bxd1 {Here Aronian thought that he was losing, when in fact he was winning. Of course he had very little time figure out the details.} 40. Rxa8 $1 Qxa8 41. Bxd1 $2 (41. Bc4 $1 Qf8 42. Qxc7 $18) 41... Qe8 $15 42. Qc3 Qxe4 {Black is winning now.} 43. Bb3 Nd5 44. Qc1 Qd4 45. Kh1 b5 46. Be3 Nxe3 $6 (46... Qd3 $1 $19) 47. Bxf7+ Kxf7 48. fxe3 Qe5 49. Qf1+ Kg7 50. Qxb5 {Aronian manages to salvage the half point.} Qxe3 51. Qd7+ Kh6 52. Qxa7 Qe1+ 53. Kh2 Qe5+ 54. Kh1 c4 55. Qf2 Qe4 1/2-1/2

Game 2 (5"+3')

It was yet another discussion in the 6.d3 Ruy Lopez and once again Aronian managed to not only equalize, but also snatch the initiative. However, it was not enough. The game ended in a draw in 41 moves and the match moved towards Armageddon!

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi GEO"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.8"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2804"] [BlackElo "2802"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "81"] [EventDate "2017.09.03"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 O-O 9. Nc3 Na5 10. Ba2 Be6 11. b4 Bxa2 12. Rxa2 {Instead of the knight, this time MVL takes with the rook.} Nc6 13. Bg5 Nd7 14. Bd2 Nf6 15. Qb1 d5 16. Bg5 dxe4 17. dxe4 Qd6 18. Qb3 $6 (18. Rd1 Nd4 $15) 18... Nd4 $1 19. Nxd4 exd4 20. Bxf6 Bxf6 21. Ne2 (21. Nd5 Bd8 $15) 21... Rfe8 22. Ng3 c5 {Black once again has an excellent position.} 23. bxc5 Qxc5 24. a4 h5 25. axb5 axb5 26. Rxa8 Rxa8 27. Rb1 Rc8 (27... h4 $5) 28. Qxb5 Qxb5 29. Rxb5 h4 30. Nf1 Rxc2 {Black has a slight initiative, but it is not enough.} 31. Rd5 Re2 32. h3 Rxe4 33. g4 Re8 34. Kg2 Rd8 35. Rxd8+ Bxd8 36. Kf3 g6 37. Ke4 Kg7 38. Nd2 Bb6 39. f4 Bc7 40. Nf3 d3 41. Kxd3 {A well played game by Aronian, who held the edge but couldn't convert.} 1/2-1/2

So many handshakes between the two, 18 (9x2) to be precise! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Armageddon:

As the players had completed their stipulated six tiebreak games without someone taking a lead, the match moved into the Armageddon. The player with the black pieces would get four minutes and the one with white would have five. However, white is in a must-win scenario. A draw would mean he is knocked out.

MVL chose the black pieces, which meant that he had one minute less, but draw odds in his favour | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Aronian chose the non theoretical Bf4-Nc3 line and got absolutely nothing out of the opening. Very soon MVL got a clearly better position. It seemed as if Aronian would not be able to win this one. But in blitz, you don't really care what the objective evaluation of the position is. You just keep making moves. Aronian did that and after some great difficulties managed to win the game! It was a moment of sheer happiness for Levon as he sat back in his chair and looked upwards! It was one of the toughest matches of his life, and he was glad that it was not only over but had ended in his favour.

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "Tbilisi GEO"] [Date "2017.09.21"] [Round "6.9"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A48"] [WhiteElo "2802"] [BlackElo "2804"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "155"] [EventDate "2017.09.03"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bf4 Bg7 4. Nc3 d5 5. Nb5 Na6 6. e3 O-O 7. h3 c6 8. Nc3 Nc7 9. Be2 b6 10. O-O Bb7 11. Bh2 c5 12. a4 a5 13. Ne5 Nd7 14. Nxd7 Qxd7 15. Bg4 e6 16. Qd2 Bc6 17. b3 Rfc8 18. Ne2 cxd4 19. Nxd4 b5 20. axb5 Nxb5 21. c3 Nxd4 $6 (21... Bb7 $15) 22. exd4 a4 23. b4 Bb5 24. Rfc1 a3 25. Be2 Qc6 $6 { This move let Aronian get back in the game as he is now able to bring his bishop from h2-d6-c5.} (25... Bxe2 26. Qxe2 Bh6 $17 {I do not see how White can win this.}) 26. Bxb5 Qxb5 27. Bd6 $1 Rc6 28. Bc5 $14 Rca6 29. Ra2 Qc4 30. Qe2 Qxe2 31. Rxe2 a2 32. Ra1 Ra3 33. Rc2 (33. b5 $1 $14) 33... Bf8 34. Kf1 e5 ( 34... Bxc5 35. dxc5 Kf8 $15) 35. Bxf8 Kxf8 36. dxe5 Ke7 37. Ke2 Ke6 38. f4 d4 $1 {A nice pawn sacrifice to activate the king.} 39. cxd4 Kd5 (39... Kf5 $44) 40. Rd2 Kc4 $6 41. d5 $1 Kxb4 42. d6 Kb3 43. Kf3 Kc3 44. Rf2 h5 45. Kg3 Kd4+ 46. Kh4 Kd5 47. Kg5 (47. d7 $1 $18) 47... Ke6 48. g4 hxg4 49. hxg4 R3a5 (49... f6+ 50. exf6 R3a5+ 51. f5+ gxf5 52. Re2+ $18) 50. Re2 f6+ 51. Kxg6 Rg8+ 52. Kh6 Rxg4 53. f5+ (53. Raxa2 Rxa2 54. Rxa2 fxe5 55. fxe5 Kxe5 $11) 53... Kxf5 54. e6 Ra8 $2 (54... Raa4 $1 {was a unique way to make a draw.} 55. e7 $2 (55. Rf1+ Raf4 56. Rxf4+ Rxf4 57. Rxa2 (57. e7 a1=Q) 57... Kxe6 $11) 55... Rg6+ 56. Kh5 Rg5+ 57. Kh6 Rh4#) 55. Rf1+ $1 Rf4 56. Rxf4+ Kxf4 57. Rxa2 Rxa2 58. e7 { The rest is easy. Just like how Ding managed to win the queen vs rook endgame, Aronian also managed to achieve that in style.} Rd2 59. e8=Q Rxd6 60. Qe7 Rd4 61. Qxf6+ Ke3 62. Kg5 Rd5+ 63. Kg4 Rd4+ 64. Kg3 Rd3 65. Qe5+ Kd2+ 66. Kf2 Kc2 67. Qc5+ Rc3 68. Qf5+ Kb2 69. Ke2 Rc2+ 70. Kd3 Rc3+ 71. Kd2 Rb3 72. Qe5+ Kb1 73. Qd4 Rh3 74. Qb6+ Ka1 75. Qf6+ Ka2 76. Qe6+ Rb3 77. Kc2 Ka1 78. Qa6+ 1-0

Sportsman spirit:

MVL played the entire tournament extremely well | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Maxime had the toughest matches. He faced Grischuk in round four and then Svidler in five. He managed to win both the matches. It seemed like he was invincible in the tiebreaks, but Levon's super solid chess with black and unorthodox style with white managed to create some chinks in Maxime's armour. Surely MVL deserves a place in the Candidates and we can only hope he makes it through the Grand Prix cycle. 

We all know what the stakes were today, we all know how important it was for MVL to win. Yet, he was a gracious loser and sent this wonderful tweet to his opponent:

To which Levon Aronian replied:

Interview with Levon Aronian

"I am sure my wife-to-be won't mind marrying a two-time World Cup winner" -Aronian

Video Gallery:

Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal have worked inside the playing hall for nearly six hours collecting footage for you to follow this exciting day through videos. If you enjoy them, do subscribe to the ChessBase India youtube channel for more videos.

Start of game one of semifinals tiebreaks

Towards the end of 25'+10" rapid game — it's not so easy to find Wesley So in such a nervous state

Ding Liren and Wesley So in the break between game one and two of 25'+10" rapid

Start of 25'+10" game two

Levon moves his queen to h5 and Maxime has no better move than to resign. The last part of 25'+10" game two between Aronian and MVL

The first game of the 10'+10" rapid saw Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier Lagrave blitz out nearly 25 moves of theory. That's how well prepared they are.

The entire 10'+10" rapid game one in the form of a time-lapse video

Wesley So was in a must win situation in game two of 10'+10" rapid. He chose the Benoni against Ding Liren's 1.d4

This video will go down in the history books, as the game which gave China its first player in Candidates! Time lapse video of second game of 10'+10" rapid

The first 5'+3" blitz. Aronian thinks that he has blundered when, in fact he was winning the game!

Final four minutes of the Armageddon between Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave that was won by the Armenian

This video has the arbiter explaining the rules of the Armageddon, the initial moves of the game and the moment when Levon won the game and came outside the playing hall

Levon Aronian gets the white pieces in game one of the World Cup Finals 2017

Make your predictions!

When Ding Liren finished his game and was interviewed by us, the game between Aronian and MVL was in progress. When Ding Liren was asked,"Who is it that you would prefer to play against in the finals?", he replied, "Against Aronian I have a plus score, while against MVL I have done very badly. This is how well Ding has done against Aronian:

Ding Liren has three wins — all in classical chess, against Aronian's none, and four draws

Levon Aronian in the post-game interview said, "It's true I have a bad score against Ding Liren, but this is a chance to improve it!"

The two players and their path to the finals

Worldcup12

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Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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Masquer Masquer 9/24/2017 07:40
No such discussion, not even the head-to-head record of the two finalists.
A very poor preview :(
joegambit joegambit 9/23/2017 12:17
When will the Final commence? This website appears not to report this important fact.

Is there a preview discussion by GMs debating the prospects for the match? Recent games between the players etc.
flipone.dev@gmail.com flipone.dev@gmail.com 9/23/2017 04:15
NOTE: Ding Liren, with the White pieces, offered Wesley So a draw on Move 9 in Rapid Game #2.
flipone.dev@gmail.com flipone.dev@gmail.com 9/23/2017 04:06
For Wesley So, his match with Ding Liren is a great learning experience, especially about the STRATEGIC and PSYCHOLOGICAL aspects of Match Play. We don't doubt that Wesley has an overall strategic/game plan for the event, given that, as we understand it, he now has Tukmakov as his coach and naturally consults with him.

What Wesley probably lacked was a concrete, strategic/tactical game plan for his match with Ding Liren, who has an on-site coach (or team of coaches) and team to back him up. Match psychology also played an important part in the match --- something Wesley should have been prepared, perhaps with input from his team, to handle.

For example, Ding Liren failed to convert an absolutely winning position in Rapid Game #1 (which he would have reviewed and realized after the game). Something like this would have affected a chess player's psyche and consequently sapped his energy. Wesley So failed to recognize this when he accepted Ding Liren's draw offer on move 9, a point in the game which he later acknowledged he thought he already had a slightly inferior position after Wesley played an opening variation he was not prepared for. We didn't miss the fact that Ding Liren, in almost all his games with Wesley, BLITZED THROUGH his opening moves, sometimes well into moves 10-15, clearly establishing the fact that he was playing an opening variation that he prepared well for. BUT WHEN DING LIREN OFFERS A DRAW ON MOVE 9 WITH THE WHITE PIECES, SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT WITH DING LIREN. This Wesley So should have recognized and, therefore, Wesley should have rejected the draw offer.

Again, this is a great learning experience for Wesley So and his team. We're sure he'll benefit from this experience and move on better prepared for even bigger challenges to come.
rachmuth@pdx.edu rachmuth@pdx.edu 9/23/2017 03:39
What great sportsmanship by MVL and Aronian!
leigh leigh 9/22/2017 05:04
"Ding Liren" is a wrong expression in English. The correct way is "Liren Ding". In Chinese, the last name is read first, then the giving name. Ding is his last name, Liren is his first name. So Chinese call him "Ding Liren". But in English, the correct way to write is Liren Ding. We can say Mr Ding or Liren or Liren Ding.
TheSame Wastrel TheSame Wastrel 9/22/2017 04:45
In the Armageddon game, MVL's last attempt to get a stalemate was a good one. Congratulations to Aronian.
Joey Joey 9/22/2017 03:42
Take the champion Ding!
benedictralph benedictralph 9/22/2017 03:40
So So will not be a challenger to Magnus. It looks like his reign has ended before it even had a chance to begin. At least Ding seems to be showing some real potential.
Green22 Green22 9/22/2017 02:57
So should have never taken the draw in that shrot game after Ding was clearly shaken what was he thinking?
Nekthen Nekthen 9/22/2017 01:02
I think both MVL and Magnus blundered psychologically, by accepting a sacrifice in games where they only needed half a point. Even if accepting the sacrifice was objectively best play. Choosing a more solid alternative would have been the way to go.
TMMM TMMM 9/22/2017 11:17
Only in the first classical game did So have a chance to push for a win, after that (second classical game, rapids) it was all Ding Liren who had the chances. Great performance by Ding Liren! And Aronian-MVL was a lottery in the end - MVL was close to winning the match several times, but Aronian ultimately pulled through. Hopefully MVL will get the wildcard.
vishyvishy vishyvishy 9/22/2017 08:45
Funny to see Arbitrator's frustration From 3:15 to 3:22 when loses the track of moves in armageddon game :)
oldsalt7 oldsalt7 9/22/2017 08:19
Does not really matter now. Both Aronian and Ding have made it to the candidates. Good to see one of China's best in the candidates. MVL will have to do extremely well in the GP to qualify and So will possibly make it on rating average. Good luck to both of them.
hasayin5 hasayin5 9/22/2017 08:11
Great report Shah. Many thanks for your efforts.
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