FIDE World Cup: Upsets by Anton and Nisipeanu

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/14/2019 – Round two of the 2019 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk saw 11 out of 32 match-ups starting with a decisive result. The upsets of the day were achieved by David Anton and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, who defeated Wei Yi and Hikaru Nakamura respectively. Meanwhile, the youngest player in the field, Nihal Sarin, won a third classical game in a row, this time showing great positional feel to take down Eltaj Safarli. Round-up show by IM LAWRENCE TRENT. | Photo: FIDE

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No easy match-ups

The FIDE World Cup is taking place in Khanty-Mansiysk. It is a seven-round knock-out event for 128 players, with a total prize fund of US$ 1.6 million and a first prize of US$ 110,000. The matches consist of two classical games with a time control of 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with an increment of 30 seconds per move. The finals consist of four classical games. Full schedule.

The concern regarding players agreeing to quick draws in order to decide matches in knock-out events has been a non-issue so far in Khanty-Mansiysk. In fact, day one of round two saw a host of remarkable tension-packed games. In the end, eleven players only need a draw on Saturday to advance to round three, and two of them will have to do it against 2700+ opposition, as David Anton and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu got victories over Wei Yi and Hikaru Nakamura. 

The full list of decisive results:

White   Black
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 1-0 Igor Kovalenko
Parham Maghsoodloo  0-1 Levon Aronian
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 1-0 Rustam Kasimdzhanov
Vladislav Artemiev 1-0 Ivan Cheparinov
Sergey Karjakin 1-0 Samuel Sevian
Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu 1-0 Hikaru Nakamura
Pentala Harikrishna 1-0 Vladimir Fedoseev
Tamir Nabaty 0-1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda
Wei Yi 0-1 David Anton
Nihal Sarin 1-0 Eltaj Safarli
Aravindh Chithambaram 0-1 Evgeny Tomashevsky

From this point on, no one can be declared a clear favourite in any match-up, as only four players with ratings below 2600 are in the mix: Eltaj Safarli (2593), Daniil Yuffa (2577), Xu Xiangyu (2576) and Johan-Sebastian Christiansen (2558). Nonetheless, experience shows that mostly elite players end up reaching the finals — however, that does not mean all of them will survive against ambitious youngsters looking to leave their mark.

Vladislav Artemiev

Vladislav Artemiev beat Georgian Ivan Cheparinov | Photo: FIDE

Sergey Karjakin

Sergey Karjakin usually does good in knock-out events | Photo: FIDE

The upsets

Hikaru Nakamura got to round two after rightfully trusting his quick-play skills to take down Bilel Bellahcene in round one. His opponent, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, had also gone to tiebreaks in the first round, when he defeated Mircea Emilian Parligras. Both players, known for their tactical prowess, immediately went for a sharp theoretical line that recently led to a draw in a Chinese League game between Matlakov and Wang Hao. Things took a sudden turn on move 12, however:


While Matlakov had played 12.♗d2 here, Nisipeanu spent almost a half hour before going for 12.exf6, giving up his queen. Nakamura apparently had prepared this line and went for 12...xd1 13.xd1 d6 14.f4. But then the American made a strange decision:


Nakamura blitzed out 14...e5, when 14...♛a5 was critical, protecting the key d8-square. Nisipeanu spent 17 minutes on 15.xd6 (the computers think 15.♗xe5 is stronger) and only here did Nakamura start to take his time. The blitz specialist thought for over 28 minutes before erring with 15...cxd6 — capturing the bishop with 15...exf4 was better, although, as Nisipeanu put it, "it is completely insane". 

After 16.xe5 a5 17.xd6 g4 18.c3 c7 19.ad1, White has completely consolidated his position:


The experienced Nisipeanu did not falter from this point on and got the victory eleven moves later. He knows the rematch will not be easy though, as he declared: "I expect to face a beast, definitely. I know what's coming, so I hope to survive, but obviously it will be extremely tough".

Full interview with Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu

Much like Nisipeanu, David Anton reached round two after beating a tough opponent in tiebreaks, and he also had a difficult rival waiting for him — in this case, Chinese prodigy Wei Yi. The Spaniard had the black pieces and faced a highly strategic variation of the Italian Opening. Both players had fractured pawn structures, but Anton was the one with the initiative on the kingside. Eventually, Wei Yi saw it necessary to give up a pawn, but when his opponent played a decisive break his position was all but lost:


White's position completely broke down after 32...e4 33.e3 exf3 34.f4 f6 35.f2 g5. The f3-pawn is now protected and the white king is weaker than its counterpart. Anton went on to convert his advantage, and even finished with a flourish:


The white queen cannot capture the rook due to mate on the back rank. Wei Yi resigned.

Sergei Movsesian

Sergei Movsesian missed a big chance to upset top seed Ding Liren | Photo: FIDE

Another big upset could have taken place on board one, as Sergei Movsesian was clearly ahead with the black pieces against top seed Ding Liren. However, he missed the killer blow when the time control was approaching. Ding realized he was in danger and, when given the chance, gave up material to give perpetual check. The Chinese star will need to win with Black if he wants to avoid the match going to tiebreaks.

All games mentioned in this section


Nihal Sarin continues to impress

Only two players have managed to score three consecutive victories in this year's World Cup, Indians Pentala Harikrishna and Nihal Sarin. While Harikrishna's win over Vladimir Fedoseev was impressive, Nihal's performance so far definitely stands out — the 15-year-old was the organizer's wildcard, arrived as the second youngest player of the field and beat an in-form higher-rated opponent in round one.  

In round two, Nihal was paired up against Eltaj Safarli, who came from knocking out Sam Shankland. Out of a Ruy Lopez, the youngster showed fantastic strategic skills to get a clear positional advantage — perhaps some leftover analysis from his sessions with Fat Fritz? This is how the position looked after twenty moves:


An apparently counter-intuitive exchange on e5 followed — 21.dxe5 dxe5 — and White continued to stifle his opponent's mobility with 22.a5. Nihal kept building up on his advantageous position and showed no mercy while putting the finishing touches:


You can follow the moves of the winning variation on the diagram above: 31.gf5 gxf5 32.xf5 c7 33.xg7 xg7 34.xh6+ xh6 35.xf6+ g5 36.f5+ h6 37.e2 and Black resigned.

Video analysis by IM Sagar Shah

Game annotated by Sagar Shah


In other news...

One of the most attractive match-ups of round two, due to the fact that both contenders have moved up the ratings list in the last year or so, is Daniil Dubov versus Alireza Firouzja. In game one, the Iranian was an exchange and a pawn up, but Dubov's pair of bishops managed to keep the balance. Chess followers will keep a close eye on this match, as it would not be a big shocker if either of them reaches the final stages.

Alireza Firouzja

The ever dangerous Alireza Firouzja | Photo: FIDE

It was not all upsets and surprises though, as some of the top players kicked off round two with a win: Sergey Karjakin, Evgeny Tomashevsky, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian and Vladislav Artemiev are leading their matches after scoring victories on Friday.

Shakhriyar Mamedyaorv is also leading against Rustam Kasimdzhanov, after the latter fell victim to a devastating attack:


Black's 26...e6 led to an indefensible king hunt: 27.a2+ d5 28.xd5 xd5 29.d3 d4 30.e2 g4 31.ef4+ f6 32.xd5+ and Kasimdzhanov resigned.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov — looking for the mate? | Photo: FIDE

Round-up show

IM Lawrence Trent recaps the action of the day

Commentary webcast

Commentary by GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Alex Yermolinsky

All results


All games from round two



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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