FIDE World Cup: Giri beats Najer in Armageddon

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/16/2019 – The pairings for round three of the FIDE World Cup are set, as the last fifteen (out of thirty-two) spots were decided on Sunday's tiebreaks. The rapid and blitz play-offs saw the first Armageddon battle of the event: the score in Anish Giri vs Evgeniy Najer remained tied after eight games — Giri got the black pieces and won the sudden-death encounter to get his pass to the next round. The other lengthy match-up of round two saw Daniil Yuffa knocking out Luke McShane. Round-up show by GM ERWIN L'AMI. | Photo: FIDE

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Most favourites prevail

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 tiebreaks of round two were a case of rating being a good predictor of who would get match victory. The only real upset was seen in the duel between Daniil Yuffa and Luke McShane, as the Russian impressed by collecting a second scalp after having knocked out David Navara in round one. We must add that Eltaj Safarli (2593) defeated Nihal Sarin (2610) and Dmitry Jakovenko (2681) took down Gawain Jones (2688), but the rating differences in these two cases are too small for the results to be considered upsets.

Household names like Ding Liren, Leinier Dominguez, Alexander Grischuk, Teimour Radjabov, Yu Yangyi, Peter Svidler, Nikita Vitiugov, Wei Yi and Jeffery Xiong proved their strength in the first 25-minute rapid games to eliminate their lower-rated opponents. Also in the first two encounters of play-offs, Kirill Alekseenko knocked out Johan-Sebastian Christiansen and Maxim Matlakov got the better of 2009 World Cup champion Boris Gelfand.

Jeffery Xiong

18-year-old Jeffery Xiong defeated Amin Tabatabaei | Photo: FIDE   

So most match-ups were decided after merely two games. Only Giri, Najer, McShane and Duffa were left on an almost unoccupied stage. This meant the commentators could focus on the action more comfortably. The matches reached the blitz stages, and there was no lack of emotion.

The first Armageddon in Khanty

42-year-old Evgeniy Najer is no stranger to top-level competition, as he became European champion in 2015 and won the strong Aeroflot Open in 2016 — which earned him a spot at the traditional Dortmund supertournament. The Muscovite knocked out Benjamin Gledura in round one and was paired up against second seed Anish Giri, number four in the world rankings.

After drawing their classical encounters in well-played balanced games, the contenders continued the trend by drawing their first four rapid games on Sunday. In the blitz, however, the first one to falter was Najer, who actually had a favourable position but failed to properly assess the danger around his king on move 24:


You can follow the game continuation on the diagram above

25.b4 completely turns the tables, as Black has a killer attack after 25...xb4. Najer took the 'free' queen with 26.xd7, and Giri showed the winning combination: 26...xd3+ 27.a2 b2+ 28.a1 xc2+ 29.b1 b2+ 30.a1 d2+ 31.b1 b8+.

Evgeniy Najer

Evgeniy Najer | Photo: FIDE 

Bouncing back from such a loss cannot be easy — much less so in blitz against a top gun like Giri. But Najer was up to the task. The Russian grandmaster went into a double-rook endgame a pawn up and showed good nerves to convert his advantage into a 105-move win!

Both players had won their games with Black, and Giri precisely got the black pieces in the sudden-death decider. The good omen ended up serving the Dutchman well, as he got a ticket to round three after his opponent cracked under pressure — Black was a piece down but had a strong initiative, a huge asset in quick-play encounters:


White needed to keep the defensive setup around his king with something like 35.♗e3 or 35.♗d4. Instead, Najer's 35.g1 lost quickly against 35...c1+ — after 36.d1 f3, the veteran tried a desperado with 37.xg7+ but resigned after 37...xg7 38.d4+ g8, as there is no way to survive.

It was a valiant performance by Najer, while Giri now needs to recover before facing former junior world champion Jeffery Xiong in round three.  

Anish Giri, Evgeniy Najer

A tense-packed match-up | Photo: FIDE 

Giri vs Najer - All games 


Yuffa stuns again

While Giri and Najer drew both their 25-minute and 10-minute encounters, Luke McShane and Daniil Yuffa traded blows from the get go on Sunday. Yuffa won first with Black and McShane retaliated immediately; then came what perhaps became the turning point of the whole match:


This position portrays the nature of the duel: complex struggles in which McShane's ability to pose tricky problems to his opponent came to the fore. Here the Englishman, for example, went for 31...xe4, with the idea of responding to 32.xe4 with 32...f5. The computer thinks Black is totally busted, but finding the right continuation with the clock ticking down is never easy. Yuffa spent over three minutes before going for the second best option, 33.xg4

Eventually, White was left with a rook, a bishop and a knight for a queen:


Given McShane's resourcefulness, the commentators started to doubt Yuffa would be able to convert his advantage, but the Londoner finally erred with 79...a6. Yuffa immediately found 80.d7+ and the king cannot capture the bishop due to the fork from c5. After 80...b8 81.b4+ a7 White trapped the queen with 82.a4 and McShane resigned.

Daniil Yuffa, Luke McShane

Another upset by Daniil Yuffa | Photo: FIDE  

The Englishman needed to win on demand again, and he did so after getting a comfortable position out of the opening with the white pieces. It must be added that Yuffa tenaciously defended what seemed to be a miserable position, forcing his opponent to play until move 68 before throwing in the towel.

It was time for the blitz, and McShane kicked off this section with the white pieces. After 42 moves, the players had reached a balanced position with a queen, a bishop, a knight and three pawns per side, but suddenly White committed a mistake:


McShane's 43.g2 gave way to 43...g4+ 44.g3 xh5 gaining a pawn. White was in trouble and blundered two moves later before resigning with his queen hanging on f6.

Luke McShane

The ever tricky Luke McShane lamenting having missed his chances | Photo: FIDE 

Only a win would save the Englishman, which meant Yuffa only needed to keep things under control in order to split the point and reach the next round. The Russian actually missed some chances to win, as he was clearly thinking about getting some sort of equal ending — and that is precisely what he got:


Black, in need of a win, had been manoeuvring his bishop for around thirty moves, and here he failed to find a golden opportunity: instead of 81...f7, McShane could have trapped the white knight with 81...♝a7, winning the game. Yuffa immediately rerouted his knight to safety and nine moves later McShane lost on time. 

Bravo to both players, who showed uncompromising play throughout the match. It was a sad way to go for McShane, while Yuffa will try to keep up his streak of good results when he faces Teimour Radjabov in round three.

Daniil Yuffa

A smiling Daniil Yuffa giving an interview | Photo: FIDE 

Yuffa vs McShane - All games


In other news...

International Master Sagar Shah has been keeping a close eye on the performance of Indian players in Khanty-Mansiysk for ChessBase India. Sunday was not a good day for them, as Nihal Sarin and Baskaran Adhiban were eliminated, against Eltaj Safarli and Yu Yangyi respectively. Nonetheless, Sagar provided in-depth analyses of his compatriots' games:


Despite these two losses, there is more in store for the Indian fan base, as Vidit Gujrathi and Pentala Harikrishna are still in the race to get a spot in next year's Candidates Tournament — Vidit will face Wesley So and Harikrishna will battle against Kirill Alekseenko in round three.

Eltaj Safarli

Eltaj Safarli showed better nerves than Nihal Sarin on tiebreaks | Photo: FIDE 

We cannot leave without sharing an amusing tweet by Peter Svidler, who put this up after having knocked out Carlos Albornoz and Andrey Esipenko...

...or the post-tiebreaks interview with Alexander Grischuk, who, amongst other things, mentioned that he prefers not to know who he is paired against, as "the less you know, the better you sleep".

Round-up show

GM Erwin l'Ami 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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