FIDE World Cup: On to round two

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/13/2019 – A number of upsets were in store at the FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, as round one concluded after twenty-three matches were decided on tiebreaks. Most play-off encounters finished after the first pair of rapid games, while only two of them reached the third stage of tiebreaks. From the top quarter of the tournament bracket, besides Radek Wojtaszek and David Navara — who were knocked out in the classical phase — Bu Xiangzhi and Sam Shankland were eliminated before round two. | Photo: FIDE

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Down to sixty-four

The first round of the World Cup is over, which means the biggest cut-off of the tournament has already taken place. Sixty-four players were nominal favourites as they faced lower-rated opposition (sixty-three, in fact, as Sergei Movsesian and Grigoriy Oparin had the same rating) and fifteen of them were left out of contention in round one. More notably, out of the thirty-two highest rated, i.e. the top quarter of the bracket, four players were upset in the first round: Radoslaw Wojtaszek, David Navara, Bu Xiangzhi and Sam Shankland.

Some more stats from round one:

  • 23 out of 64 matches went to tiebreaks
  • 14 out of 23 tiebreak match-ups lasted two games
  • 7 out of 23 finished after the second pair of rapid games (10'+10")
  • 2 out of 23 were decided on the third set of tiebreak mini-matches (5'+3")
  • No match reached the Armageddon stage

The youngest player to reach round two is Nihal Sarin, as Nodirbek Abdusattorov was knocked out by Maxim Matlakov, while the oldest contender is Boris Gelfand, who eliminated 24-year-old Lu Shanglei from China.

Post-game interview with Boris Gelfand

The rapid play-offs (25'+10")

Being ready to face rapid tiebreakers surely is part of the players' preparation before travelling to the World Cup, and perhaps the 25-minute games stage is the last instance in which handling your nerves is not the main decider of the match-ups. Players like Hikaru Nakamura, Sanan Sjugirov and Dmitry Andreikin, amongst others, got clear victories in this stage.

Tamir Nabaty, who came from losing game two with the white pieces against Sethuraman, was facing a tough psychological situation as we pointed out in our previous report. Nabaty won the first rapid game — with Black again — and nicely finished off his opponent in the next encounter:


34.g4 was a natural way to continue with the attack, but Nabaty's 34.xe6 is more lethal. Black captured the knight with 34...xh5 and the Israeli grandmaster gave up yet another piece in order to give mate: 35.g7+ xg7 36.g4+ fxg4 37.h2#.


A nice way to get a ticket to round two.

Sethuraman, Tamir Nabaty

Sethuraman could not bounce back again against Tamir Nabaty | Photo: FIDE

Meanwhile, the youngest player in the field, 14-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov, also fell prey to a king hunt in his second rapid game against Maxim Matlakov:


Black is doomed. Instead of immediately capturing the bishop, Matlakov spent a minute and a half calculating a winning sequence (one of many) and duly showed it on the board (you can follow the moves and try your own variations on the board above): 37.d6+ xd6 38.f8+ c7 39.xg7+ b6 40.f6+ a5 41.d8+ b4 42.f8+ c4 43.c8+ and Black resigned.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov

More than a promising talent — Nodirbek Abdusattorov | Photo: FIDE

All the games from matches decided on this stage


The 'quick-rapid' play-offs (10'+10")

Seven match-ups were decided on this phase. Vladimir Fedoseev defeated Ganguly, Wang Hao eliminated Aleksei Pridorozhni, Yu Yangyi finally got the better of Ehsan Ghaem Maghami (the latter surprisingly tied the score in game two of the classical stage), Boris Gelfand beat Lu Shanglei and Anton Korobov took advantage of an inaccuracy by Abhijeet Gupta to take him out of contention — Gupta took it in stride.

Yes, we are missing two match-ups in the list above. First, let us take a look at a Chinese duel, in which Xu Xiangyu eliminated his higher-rated compatriot Bu Xiangzhi — as pointed out by user "thesavage4" in the comments section of this article, trying to say the names of these two five times in a row can be a real challenge. Bu was actually better in the first 10'+10" encounter, but his opponent ended up on top after a complex tactical skirmish:


Bu Xiangzhi made the last mistake with 30.b5 — instead of 30.gxh4 — as after 30...g6 capturing the knight is not advisable any more. The game continued 31.e5 f3+ 32.xf3 and Xu Xiangyu went on to convert his material edge into a memorable win.

Bu Xiangzhi

Bu Xiangzhi eliminated Magnus Carlsen in the previous World Cup | Photo: FIDE

The strangest occurrence of the day was seen in Sam Shankland vs Eltaj Safarli. After four draws in classical and rapid, Safarli had won their fifth encounter. Only needing a draw with Black, he missed an easy tactic though:


The Azeri played 27...a6 and eventually got a 62-move draw to go through, but in the diagrammed position he could have gone for the simple 27...♜xd6, using the deadly pin on the long diagonal. Even top players miss simple tactical tricks!

Post-game interview with Vladimir Fedoseev

All the games from matches decided on this stage


The blitz play-offs (5'+3")

Kacper Piorun (Poland, 2660) and Nijat Abasov (Azerbaijan, 2632) drew their two classical encounters and exchanged blows in both rapid phases of the tiebreaks. After splitting the point in the first blitz game, Abasov eliminated his Polish rival in a fine strategic effort with the black pieces.

The storyline in Michael Adams (England, 2694) vs Aravindh (India, 2609) was rather different, as the players drew their first seven encounters and seemed en route to an Armageddon...until Adams miscalculated in an endgame:


45...e6 gives way to 46.g5+ xg5 47.xg5 and White can later force a rook trade in order to get a superior pawn ending.


The white king will inevitably penetrate Black's camp. The game continued 54.c5 55.d2 e6 56.e3 d5 57.d3 c4+ 58.e3 c5 59.e2 c6 60.f3 c5 61.e3 d5 62.e6 etcetera, and the young Indian got his pass to the next round. 

Aravindh Chithambaram

Aravindh Chithambaram got the better of none other than Mickey Adams | Photo: FIDE

All the games from matches decided on this stage


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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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