FIDE World Cup 2017 tiebreaks: Nail biting chess and true sportsmanship

by Sagar Shah
9/6/2017 – Twenty-two tiebreak encounters were played on Tuesday at the World Cup 2017. Some matches witnessed a quick end, while some dragged on for hours and hours. A few of the biggest casualties were David Howell and Laurent Fressinet. The longest match was between Baadur Jobava and Ivan Salgado Lopez. It lasted for six games and over six hours. This battle was the epitome of sportsmanship and there is a lot that can be learned from the two grandmasters. | Photos: Amruta Mokal

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Round 1 Tiebreak

World Cup

Spirit of sportsmanship

Few players are able to transcend the pain of losing and just enjoy the struggle. It's a mentality in which you simply want to play the sport that you love so much. You want to improve, you want to master it. When the marathon match between Baadur Jobava and Ivan Salgado Lopez ended, the entire playing hall erupted into applause — not for the winner, but for the struggle, for the brilliant fight that the two gladiators had shown. From the time we first start playing, we are taught that winning is important and losing is not so great; wins earn you pats on the back, and losses are generally met with frowns and sadness. This clear-cut distinction between winning and losing is how a majority of people start their careers, and after playing the sport for years, they end it with the same attitude.

There was no sense of pride on Baadur's face after he had won the second blitz game and advanced to the second round with a score of 4½-3½. But, nor was there utter dejection on Ivan's. The two gentleman had locked horns with each other for nearly six hours, and six games later they reached a stage where the result was secondary. That's why after the game the first words that Baadur spoke to his opponent were, "Sorry man, what to do, just more lucky!" You can watch the entire game in video below and the post game discussions after 12 minutes and 30 seconds.

The final blitz game of Baadur Jobava and Ivan Salgado match and the post-game discussions


The spirit of sportsmanship: Baadur Jobava and Ivan Salgado Lopez play the longest match of round one and then they celebrate together with a glass of wine!


Ian Nepomniachtchi fights against the experienced Croatian GM Mladen Palac as Zurab Azmaiparashvili looks on

The match between Nepomniachtchi and Palac was quite unusual. Palac was clearly playing the better chess with the black pieces, but agreeing to draws in advantageous positions. With white he was not trying at all. In fact he drew two games with the same moves: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 Ng4 7. Bc1 Nf6 8.Be3 Ng4 9. Bc1. When you break the rules with such impunity Caissa can be quite unforgiving. In the sixth game Palac lost with the black pieces and thus was eliminated.

Nepomniachtchi speaks after his marathon battle against Mladen Palac

Double Brexit

David Howell was the second 2700+ player (after Pavel Eljanov) who was sent packing in the first round, joining his countryman Gawain Jones, who left yesterday.

Howell was clearly better and close to winning in the second 25' + 10" game. "I just got greedy for a pawn," said Howell after the game.

Disappointing start for the English


This greediness cost him the match as he was unable to hold Aryan Tari in the second 10' + 10" rapid game. Two Norwegians came to World Cup 2017, and after three days they are both alive!

Bassem Amin agreeing to a draw, and losing the match — perhaps, the most heartbreaking photograph of World Cup 2017 so far

You may remember the rook endgame between Bassem Amin and Viktor Erdos that we published in our report yesterday. The Egyptian player was two pawns up and clearly winning. He fell for a stalemate trick that dragged the match into tiebreaks. The first two 25' + 10'' rapid games ended in draws. In the 10' + 10" section Erdos scored the first win with the white pieces. Subsequently he was able to hold with black and send Amin home. So close, yet so far for Amin, who was, naturally, very dejected after the game.

The match of Sicilians

Five out of the six games began with e4 c5, and all of the six games were decisve. The first five were won by the player with the white pieces. Demchenko won the sixth one with black and sealed the match in his favour. Areshchenko is quite a strong player; he eliminated Levon Aronian in the World Cup 2015. Knocking him out was an excellent feat by Demchenko.

The bloodiest match of round one was between Areshchenko from Ukraine and Demchenko from Russia




Another upset in the first round was Sloveni's Luka Lenic's win over Laurent Fressinet. Luka played well in the shorter time controls and was able to win both the games in 10'+10" section.

Slovenian grandmaster Lenic Luka beat French GM Laurient Fressinet 4:2

India's Harikrishna Pentala had an extremely tough match against Yuri Gonzalez. According to Hari after the game, his opponent was much stronger than his modest rating of 2547. He played some strong chess and really pushed Harikrishna to show his best chess.

Harikrishna with a rating of 2741 is surely someone who can go quite far in this World Cup


"My opponent's rating was 2547, but he was much stronger"

Adhiban against Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son was one of those evenly matched encounters which could have gone either way. But Adhiban used his favourite opening — the King's Indian Defence to score a win in the first 10' + 10" game. He checkmated the Vietnamese GM's king in the middle of the board!

The wild card entrant Adhiban will face Nepomniachtchi next

What are players without their biggest supporters: Father for Adhiban and wife for Truong Son

Australia ousted

Anton Smirnov, the talented young Australian played openings which he had never done before. This took Sergey Karjakin by surprise and helped Anton equalize the match in classical time control.

"My opponent prepared very smartly for the match against me", said Karjakin.

In the rapid section, Smirnov had an excellent position in game one, after which he went wrong. And in the second game, it could have been a draw, but Anton was in a must-win situation, he overstretched and lost.

16-year-old Anton Smirnov will surely make it big in the years to come

Karjakin on Smirnov: "He is a big talent and I expect to see him soon in super tournaments."

In the above interview, we asked Sergey as to who he thinks is the favourite to win the World Cup apart from himself. The World Championship challenger said that the format is just so unpredictable. Before the tournament he had thought that Pavel Eljanov, the hero of 2015 World Cup, had good chances. However, he was knocked out 2-0 in round one.

Pavel Eljanov had to take an early flight back home

We spoke to Eljanov before he left about the tournament, how he felt and about his next plans:

"As a professional I have to deal with it"

The Ruy Lopez Breyer Variation

Pavel Eljanov explains in depth what Gyula Breyer already saw in 1911 and what became an opening choice of the likes of Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand or Carlsen. The Breyer Variation, which is characterised by the knight retreat to b8.

Fighting back

After losing the first classcal game Fedoseev unleashed his poweful moves and won three games in a row (one clasical, two rapids).

One of his combinations is quite beautiful:


Fedoseev survives a scare



Bator Sambuev had the Chinese phenom Wei Yi on the ropes in the classical part of the match. He won the first game and he had his chances in game two. A draw would have seen him through to the second round. But it was not to be. He blundered, and the match was taken to tiebreaks. In the shorter time controls Wei Yi was just much superior.

A close call for Wei

Although Sambuev lost, he was able to prove that with smart work, one can prepare well against the Chinese grandmaster and put him in positions where he would not be comfortable, as he explained:

"I was able to find flaws in Wei Yi's game and put him under pressure"

Samuel Sevian managed to defeat Liviu Dieter Nisipeanu

Nisipeanu knocked out

Grachev had a tough match against Hrant Melkumyan but did win

The arbiters did a fantastic job of maintaining the schedule and discipline at the tiebreaks and there have been no real issues for any players

A crowd gathered to follow the exciting rapid and blitz

The playing hall has big screens on three sides which makes it very easy for the spectators to follow the live games

Two excellent photographers: Eteri Kublashvili and Anastasiya Karlovich — both are also strong chess players — Eteri is a WFM rated 2149, while Anastasiya is a WGM with an Elo of 2204

Two top Georgian women: Bela Khotenashvili (left) with her daughter, and Nino Batsiashvili

Karjakin had to fight in the rapids against Smirnov, while Anish Giri had a free day!

All the players who didn't have to play today, looked very relaxed. That's the upside of the World Cup schedule — you do not have rest days, but if you can finish off the job in classical games, you get a day off.

What can you expect in round two?

We have divided the 32 boards into eight sections of 4 encounters. Let's have a look at who are the favourites and which are the most interesting battles.

Among the first eight, the most interesting match looks like Bacrot against Bu Xiangzhi. Apart from this, there is a clear favourite in each of the other three encounters: Magnus Carlsen, Peter Svidler and Radoslaw Wojtaszek.

Bracket 1

 Matches 1-4 (click or tap to expand the brackets)

Two matches stand out here: Lenderman and Tari — the only pair who knocked out 2700+ players from this tournament — and David Navara against Ivan Cheparinov which also seems like something to look forward to.

Bracket 2

Matches 4-8 (click or tap to expand the brackets)

Two encounters here have repeated from round two of World Cup 2015: Anish Giri against Alexander Motylev and Harikrishna Pentala against S.P. Sethuraman. Anish and Sethu won in 2015. Will 2017 be any different? Also worth watching is experience against youth: Vasily Ivanchuk against Duda Jan-Krzysztof.

Bracket 3

Matches 9-12

In this section five out of the eight are Russians. Aronian is a favourite against Hou Yifan. Andreikin against Matlakov will be interesting and Karjakin is surely a favourite against Dubov. Artemiev might well pull of an upset by beating Radjabov. 

Bracket 4

Matches 13-16

Yu Yangyi against Baadur Jobava is a mouth watering clash here:

Bracket 5

Matches 17-20

Nakamura, Anand and Adams are all favourites, while Fedoseev against Inarkiev is a match of two equals:

Bracket 6

Matches 21-24

Nothing can be more interesting than Wei Yi against Richard Rapport. Both are aggressive, but the Chinese likes to play by the book, while Rapport is more of a wild attacker.

Bracket 7

Matches 25-28

Gelfand against Wang Hao and Le Quang Liem versus Vidit Gujrathi are two games to look forward to:

Bracket 8

Matches 29-32

Replay all games


All results



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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