FIDE World Cup 2017: Die another day!

by Sagar Shah
9/27/2017 – It could all have ended today had it not been for some heroic defence by Ding Liren. After getting an extremely bad position out of opening, it seemed as if the Chinese player had no chances of survival. But he started to make his moves quickly and confidently and Levon Aronian who was clearly under pressure, couldn't find the best possible way to make most of his advantage. With all the four classical games ending in draws we are now going into the tiebreaks to decide who will win the World Cup 2017. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Levon Aronian so near yet so far

World Cup

One of the features in the four classical games that Levon Aronian and Ding Liren have played is white not being able to claim even a minute edge in any of the games. Somehow both the players have been unable to find loopholes in their opponent's black repertoire. The fourth game was no exception.

The photographers take their positions much before the players have arrived. This might well be the last game of the FIDE World Cup 2017 | Photo: Sagar Shah

Ding began with his usual 1.d4 and Aronian countered it with the Ragozin trying to repeat the same line that was played by Wesley So against Ding in the semifinal rapid tiebreaks. The Chinese player had agreed to a 9-move draw against So, but today he seemed to be better prepared as he went for the much more critical 6.e4.


Aronian as always came very well prepared to the game and blitzed out his opening moves | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The opening phase of the game between Ding and Aronian


Position after Levon's 13....Bd7. None of the players are at the board | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Black's play left Ding confused. Usually White has two approaches in this position:

  1. He can go for central play, pick up the pawn on d4 and slowly build the position
  2. He can forget about the d4 pawn and just focus on the kingside

I think Ding Liren wanted to go for the second option but started off on a wrong foot by making the move Rfd1. There was absolutely no need to develop the 'f' rook to d1. Rad1 could have been more accurate. Or just to begin with Bd3, planning Ng3 and Qe4. Aronian had his game against Grischuk from 2010 to fall back to. The Armenian might have been soon out of his preparation, but I am sure he knew this idea of Ne7-g6.


The manoeuvre Nc6-e7 turned the tide in Black's favour. Very soon Ding landed in a position where he had to exchange the queens. His e5 pawn was weak and his opponent had the bishop pair. It was then that he decided that he would play practically, exchange a pair of bishops even if that meant being a pawn down.


Black has just played his rook from f8 to c8. His plan is simple — get the king to e7 via f8 and then just play Rd8 and exchange the rooks. What can White do? You have to be a tad imaginative to find the solution to this:

How nicely Ding Liren was able to find an idea and put his opponent under pressure, in three minutes

Slowly and steadily Ding managed to improve his position and Aronian drifted into passive defence. There were a lot of important points in the game that could discussed, but we stick to the one which shows Ding Liren's active style of play in the best possible manner.


Ding prefers things to be as clear as possible. He played the move g4 in the above position. This move clearly looked like a mistake, but the Chinese player has calculated accurately. After fxg4 Rxg4 Rh3 Ding was able to show the key move of the game 41.Be4!


Once the move Be4! was played by Ding, Aronian realized that the win no longer existed. This made him really dejected and depressed. Check out this video which shows Levon's grim expression along with the final moments of the game.

Levon Aronian's expressions tell you the story of how important it is for him to win the World Cup

It's not so easy to finish off Ding. He remained unbeaten in 16 classical games that he played at the World Cup 2017 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Where could I have improved? A very important question. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

[Event "FIDE World Cup 2017"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.09.26"] [Round "?"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D39"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "103"] [SourceDate "2017.09.26"] [SourceVersionDate "2017.09.26"] 1. d4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Nf6 {[%emt 0:00:05]} (1... d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4 h6 $6 (6... b5 {is the best move and main line.}) 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. Bxc4 $14 {We reach similar position to the game where instead of c6, Bb4 is played, which is of course an improvement for Black.}) 2. c4 {[%emt 0: 00:00]} e6 {[%emt 0:00:11]} 3. Nf3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} d5 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 4. Nc3 {[%emt 0:00:00]} Bb4 {[%emt 0:00:06] Going for the Ragozin.} 5. Bg5 {[%emt 0: 00:00]} dxc4 {[%emt 0:00:11] This was the same line that Wesley So played against DIng Liren in their tiebreak and the game was drawn in just six moves.} 6. e4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} (6. a3 {was played by Ding Liren and after} Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 c5 8. e3 cxd4 9. Bxf6 {The players agreed to a draw.}) 6... h6 {[%emt 0: 00:57]} (6... c5 {is the main line.} 7. Bxc4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5 { is the main line, I am sure Ding had some preparation done in those lines.}) 7. Bxf6 {[%emt 0:01:16]} Qxf6 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 8. Bxc4 {[%emt 0:00:04] I would already feel that White has a very good position. Black has to do something with a break in the centre or else the centre is just too strong.} c5 {[%emt 0: 00:33]} (8... Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qg6 10. Qe2 Qxg2 11. Rg1 Qh3 12. Rxg7 $18) 9. O-O { [%emt 0:01:14]} O-O {[%emt 0:00:05]} (9... cxd4 10. e5 Qd8 11. Nxd4 $14) 10. e5 {[%emt 0:00:34]} Qd8 {[%emt 0:00:06]} 11. Ne4 {[%emt 0:00:06]} cxd4 {[%emt 0: 00:07]} 12. Qe2 $5 {[%emt 0:00:10] This is the more ambitious way of playing for White. He hopes to put his rook on d1 and then win the d4 pawn. In any case, even if he doesn't win the d4 pawn, he would like to launch a kingside attack with Ng3 Bd3 and the king on g8 is already feeling the heat.} (12. Nxd4 Qc7 $15) (12. Qxd4 Qxd4 13. Nxd4 Nd7 $11 14. f4 Nc5 15. a3 Bxa3 16. Nf6+ gxf6 17. Rxa3 f5 $13) 12... Bd7 {[%emt 0:00:06]} ({A game which shows the power of White's attacking prospects is played by Mamedyarov.} 12... Qb6 13. Bd3 Rd8 14. Ng3 Bd7 15. Qe4 g6 16. Qg4 Be8 17. h4 Nd7 18. h5 Nf8 19. Nh4 Kh7 20. f4 Be7 21. f5 exf5 22. Ngxf5 Bg5 (22... gxf5 $13) 23. hxg6+ Nxg6 24. Nxh6 Bxh6 25. Rf6 Be3+ 26. Kh1 Qc7 27. Raf1 Qxe5 28. Rxf7+ Bxf7 29. Rxf7+ Kh8 30. Nxg6+ {1-0 (30) Mamedyarov,S (2743)-Vallejo Pons,F (2698) Dubai 2014}) 13. Rfd1 $6 {[%emt 0:09: 10] Ding already thought for nine minutes which meant that he was out of his preparation. This move along with his next do not go well together. If he wanted to launch an attack on kingside with Ng3 - Bd3 and so on like Mamedyarov, the rook is doing absolutely nothing on d1.} (13. Bd3 Nc6 14. Ng3) (13. Rad1 {could also be interesting so that later the other rook can go to e1. }) 13... Nc6 {[%emt 0:00:07]} 14. Ng3 {[%emt 0:02:27] White is putting his ambitions into the kingside attack.} (14. a3 Be7 15. b4 (15. Rac1) 15... Qb8 16. Ng3 b5 17. Bxb5 Nxe5 18. Bxd7 Nxd7 19. Nxd4 $14 {1/2-1/2 (101) Grischuk,A (2736)-Aronian,L (2781) Linares 2010}) (14. Nxd4 $2 Nxe5 $17) 14... Bc5 $1 { [%emt 0:10:11]} ({If you transfer your knight immediately to the kingside then d4 can be taken by the rook.} 14... Ne7 $6 15. Rxd4 $14 {The rook can also move to g4 which could lead to a strong attack.}) 15. a3 {[%emt 0:10:51] This move was played predominantly to stop Black's ideas related to Nb4 after White plays Bd3.} (15. Bd3 Nb4 $1) 15... Ne7 $1 {[%emt 0:07:34] An excellent idea which is an extremely important one. The knight is beautifully placed on g6. From there it attacks the e5 pawn, but that it did from c6 as well. The more important function is that it defends Black's king position and threatens jumps like Nf4 and Nh4. Also it frees the space for the bishop to come to c6.} 16. Ne4 {[%emt 0:11:20]} (16. b4 Bb6 17. Nxd4 Ng6 $15 {Somehow the e5 pawn is very weak and with the bishop on b6, you can never bolster it with f4.}) (16. Nxd4 $6 Qb6 $1 17. Nf3 (17. Nb3 Ba4 18. Nxc5 Bxd1 $19) 17... Bc6 18. b4 Bxf3 19. Qxf3 Bd4 $17) (16. Bd3 Bc6 {And with the queen unable to use the e4 square, this will lead to a position where White has many pieces on the kingside, but no good way to launch an attack.} 17. Nh4 Nd5 18. Qe4 (18. Qg4 Qg5 $17) 18... Nf6 19. Qe2 Nd7 $17) 16... Bb6 {[%emt 0:01:13]} 17. Nxd4 {[%emt 0:03:33]} (17. Nd6 Ng6 18. Nxb7 Qe7 19. Nd6 Bc6 $17 20. Nxd4 Bxg2 $1 $17) 17... Ng6 $1 { [%emt 0:05:09] White is not afraid of any discovered attacks down the d-file. This is very solid play by Aronian.} 18. Qh5 {[%emt 0:04:25]} (18. Nf3 Qc7 $15) (18. Nd6 {might look like a strong move but it fails to} Qg5 $1 19. Nf3 Qh5 $17 {The queen is well placed, bishop is coming to c6 and the knight is jumping to f4.}) 18... Qh4 $1 {[%emt 0:01:11] This was the move that Ding Liren had missed. Now the queen exchange is forced, after which the weak e5 pawn and Black's bishop pair give him a very substantial edge.} 19. Qxh4 {[%emt 0:09:04] } Nxh4 {[%emt 0:00:05] I was sitting in the press room discussing this position with IM Beglar Jobava (Baadur's brother). At first we did not think White has so many difficulties, but the more we analyzed the more we realized that the only way for White to hold the balance is to give up a pawn and aim for activity. After the game Ding Liren also said the same — he was looking to give up a pawn, but in return exchange one of Black's bishops.} 20. a4 $5 { [%emt 0:04:49]} (20. Bb5 Bxd4 21. Bxd7 Bxb2 22. Rab1 Bxe5 23. Rxb7 Rfb8 $17) ( 20. Nd6 Ng6 21. Bb5 (21. Nf3 Bc6 22. Be2 Nf4 23. Kf1 Nxe2 24. Kxe2 f6 $17) (21. Nxb7 Nxe5 22. Be2) 21... Nxe5 22. Bxd7 Rfd8 $1 $17 (22... Nxd7 23. Nxb7 Rab8 24. Nd6 Bxd4 25. Rxd4 Rxb2 $17)) (20. Be2 Ng6 21. Nd6 Nxe5 22. Nxb7 Rab8 23. Nf3 Ba4) 20... Ng6 {[%emt 0:07:17]} (20... a6 21. Nd6 Ng6 22. Be2 Nxe5 23. Nxb7 Rab8 24. Nf3 {And now Ba4 is impossible.} Nxf3+ 25. Bxf3 $13) 21. a5 {[%emt 0: 00:40]} Bxd4 {[%emt 0:02:14]} 22. Rxd4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Bc6 {[%emt 0:01:09] This seemed like more safe and cohesive.} (22... Nxe5 {was one move that was considered.} 23. f4 Nxc4 24. Rxd7 {The b7 pawn is attacked.} b6 25. a6 (25. axb6 axb6 26. Rxa8 Rxa8 27. Nd6 Nxd6 28. Rxd6 Ra4 $5 29. f5 Rb4 30. fxe6 fxe6 31. Rxe6 Rxb2 $17) 25... Nxb2 (25... Rfd8 26. Rad1 Rxd7 27. Rxd7 Nxb2 28. Nd6 f5) 26. Rc1 Rfd8 27. Rxd8+ Rxd8 28. Rc7 Ra8 29. Nd6 f5 (29... Na4 30. Rxf7 Nc5 31. Re7 $17) (29... Nd3 30. Rxf7 Nb4 31. Re7 Nxa6 32. f5 e5 33. f6 gxf6 34. Ne4 Rf8 35. Rxa7 Nc5 36. Nxc5 bxc5 37. Rc7 $11) 30. Nb5 Na4 31. Rxa7 Rxa7 32. Nxa7 Nc5 33. Nc8 Nxa6 34. Nxb6 $11 {Although Black can try this, it seems as if it is closer to a draw.}) 23. b4 {[%emt 0:01:44]} Nxe5 {[%emt 0:03:48]} (23... a6) (23... Rfd8 {After the game Ding Liren said this was a better move.} 24. Rad1 Rxd4 25. Rxd4 Nxe5 26. b5 Bxe4 27. Rxe4 Rc8 $17) 24. b5 {[%emt 0:01:30]} Bxe4 { [%emt 0:00:09]} 25. Rxe4 {[%emt 0:00:04]} Nd7 {[%emt 0:00:14] Levon decides to keep his knight.} (25... Nxc4 {was a move that was considered in the analysis. But I have a feeling that this too should be a draw.} 26. Rxc4 Rac8 27. Rac1 Rxc4 28. Rxc4 Rd8 {An important tempo with the threat of a back rank mate.} 29. Kf1 Rd5 30. Rc8+ Kh7 31. Rc7 Rxb5 32. a6 bxa6 33. Rxf7 Kg6 34. Rxa7 a5 $15 { Black can try here for sure, but the outcome would be mostly a draw.}) (25... Rfc8 26. Bxe6 $1 $15 {As a pair of rook has not been exchanged, there is no back rank mate.}) 26. Rd4 {[%emt 0:01:42]} Nc5 {[%emt 0:00:57]} (26... Nf6 { was possible, but Levon considered that his knight would be better placed on c5.} 27. Be2 Rfd8 28. Rxd8+ (28. Rad1 Rxd4 29. Rxd4 Rc8 $17) 28... Rxd8 29. Bf3 Nd5 30. Rc1 {White should be able to hold this.}) 27. Rad1 {[%emt 0:00:06]} Rfc8 {[%emt 0:04:12] At this point everyone started to get really excited about Levon's chances. His plan is simple get the king on f8-e7 and then Rd8, swap a pair of rooks and the rest is easy. However, Ding had some other plans in his mind.} 28. h4 $1 {[%emt 0:00:08] The idea of this move is clear once it is made — to play h5 and to fix a weakness on g7 which can be attacked with the rook coming to g4. However, it is not so easy to find the move at first instance.} (28. Be2 Kf8 (28... Nb3 $1 29. Ra4 Rd8 $17) 29. Bf3) 28... Kf8 $6 { [%emt 0:03:21]} (28... g6 $1 {I feel this would have been the best way to continue. Concrete variations might not be necessary here. The main point is that h5 is met with g5, and there is no weakness on g7. That's the reason why g6 looks good.}) (28... h5 {could also be possible, but White wins an important tempo with} 29. Be2 $1 (29. g4 hxg4 30. Rxg4 Rd8 $17) 29... g6 30. Bf3 Kf8 31. Rc4 Rab8 (31... Ke7 32. a6 $16) 32. b6 $1 axb6 33. axb6 Ke7 34. Rdc1 Kd6 35. Rd1+ Ke7 36. Rdc1 $11) 29. h5 {[%emt 0:00:05]} Ke7 {[%emt 0:01:54] } 30. Rg4 $1 {[%emt 0:00:04] And Black's plan of exchanging the rooks has to be stalled for the time being as the g7 pawn is hanging. At this point it could have been a good idea to give up the g7 pawn and just activate the rook.} Rg8 $6 {[%emt 0:02:15] Levon wants to keep things under control and convert his extra pawn, this might not really be the best idea.} (30... Rd8 $1 31. Rxd8 Rxd8 32. Rxg7 Rd1+ 33. Kh2 Rc1 34. Be2 (34. Rg4 f5 35. Rh4 e5 $17) 34... Rc2 35. Bf3 Rxf2 $17 {Black has a tangible edge.}) 31. Be2 $1 {[%emt 0:02:07]} (31. b6 axb6 32. axb6 Ra4 $17) 31... b6 {[%emt 0:00:50]} (31... Rad8 {might have been more accurate.} 32. Rc1 b6 33. axb6 axb6 34. Bf3 Rd3 $132) 32. Bf3 { [%emt 0:04:58] Attacking the rook before taking on b6, so that the rook cannot be activated via the a-file.} Rac8 {[%emt 0:02:59]} 33. axb6 {[%emt 0:00:18]} axb6 {[%emt 0:00:05]} 34. Ra1 $1 {[%emt 0:00:13] Taking the open file.} Rc7 { [%emt 0:01:53]} 35. Bc6 {[%emt 0:00:39] In general White has just put all his pieces on the most active squares and asks Black what he wants to do. At this point everyone's faith in Ding's defence increased as all of Black's pieces are really very active.} f5 {[%emt 0:04:08]} (35... Nd3 36. Ra6 Ne5 37. Rg3 Nxc6 38. bxc6 Rxc6 39. Ra7+ $11 {would lead to a draw.}) 36. Rg3 {[%emt 0:06: 09]} (36. Rg6 Nd3 $1 $17) 36... Kf7 {[%emt 0:02:41]} 37. Rd1 {[%emt 0:00:57]} Ra7 {[%emt 0:00:18]} (37... Rcc8 38. Ra1 $132) 38. Rg6 {[%emt 0:00:45] The rook now attacks the e6 pawn, and the other rook is ready to go to d6 anytime. All in all things are looking very promising for White from the point of view of making a draw.} Ra3 {[%emt 0:03:34]} (38... Ra4 39. g3 $15) (38... Rf8 39. g3 Ra2 40. Rd6 $15) 39. g4 {[%emt 0:01:20] Everyone thought that this move was not the best as it allows Black to take on g5 and play Rh3 to attack the h5 pawn. But Ding has seen it deeper.} (39. Rd6 {Keeping the pressure could have been a good idea.}) (39. g3 {Slowly improving the position is how many people would have played this position.Get the king to g2 and then see what is to be done. But that's not Ding's style. His way is to be more direct and this he does with the move g4.} Nd3 (39... Rd3 40. Ra1 $14) (39... Rf8) (39... Rc8 { Rf8 and Rc8 were two moves that Ding didn't want to calculate and hence he chose g4.}) 40. Bd7 $11) 39... fxg4 {[%emt 0:02:43]} 40. Rxg4 {[%emt 0:00:00]} (40. Rd4 Ra4 {This was the move that Ding didn't like.} (40... Rh3 41. Rf4+ Ke7 42. Rfxg4 Rxh5 43. Rxg7+ Rxg7 44. Rxg7+ Kd6 $17) 41. Rxa4 Nxa4 42. Rxg4 Nc5 { [%cal Gg8d8] Now the rook is coming to d8.} 43. Rf4+ Ke7 44. Rg4 Kf6 45. Rg6+ Kf7 {And there is no perpetual checks and the rook is coming to d8.}) 40... Rh3 {[%emt 0:00:22]} 41. Be4 $1 {[%emt 0:11:24] The key move of the game that secures the draw. Once White sees this he immediately understands that he has the half point in his hands.} Nxe4 {[%emt 0:17:11]} (41... Rxh5 42. Bg6+ $18) 42. Rxe4 {[%emt 0:00:03]} Rxh5 {[%emt 0:00:09]} 43. Rd7+ {[%emt 0:00:07]} Kf6 { [%emt 0:00:05]} 44. Rd6 {[%emt 0:00:04] Pawns are exchanged and it's just a draw.} Re5 {[%emt 0:00:18]} 45. Rxe5 {[%emt 0:00:24]} Kxe5 {[%emt 0:00:04]} 46. Rxb6 {[%emt 0:00:04] The worst is over for Ding Liren.} g5 {[%emt 0:00:15]} 47. Rb7 {[%emt 0:00:18]} h5 {[%emt 0:00:08]} 48. b6 {[%emt 0:00:05]} h4 {[%emt 0: 00:05]} 49. Rf7 {[%emt 0:00:51]} Rd8 {[%emt 0:00:54]} 50. b7 {[%emt 0:00:30]} Rd1+ {[%emt 0:00:37]} 51. Kg2 {[%emt 0:00:02]} Rb1 {[%emt 0:00:08]} 52. f3 { [%emt 0:00:33] Black has no way to make progress. A great opening by Aronian and a great defensive effort by Ding Liren.} 1/2-1/2

The Ragozin Defense

The Ragozin is being played by every top grandmaster in the world - it is time you also add it to your repertoire to get interesting and dynamic positions against 1. d4!
GM Alejandro Ramirez analyses every single move that White can play once the Ragozin is reached, but due to several transpositional possibilities he always emphasises strategic goals to keep in mind.

The new "Minister of chess Defence"?! Ding Liren speaks about game four.

Aronian's manager and physical trainer can sense their man coming very close to victory, but the job is still left to be done | Photo: Amruta Mokal


The tiebreaks will be in the same format as the previous ones. Two games of 25' + 10". If still tied then two games of 10' + 10", followed by two games of 5' + 3" and finally an Armageddon of 5 minutes versus 4.

Ding Liren will have the black pieces in the first rapid game and the Chinese player was quite happy with this fact | Photo: Amruta Mokal


Some more videos via ChessBase India

Three legends in the press room: Gaprindashvili, Alexandria and Ioseliani. Only one missing is Chiburdanidze. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Nona Gaprindashvili, Nana Alexandria and Nana Ioseliani analyze the game in the press room

IM Salome Melia, top Georgian woman player visits the tournament hall and gives her opinion about the match and also talks about her daughter Ketevan.

Round-up show of Game 4


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. 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 and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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