FIDE World Cup: Grischuk's sharp win

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/17/2019 – The round of 32 of the FIDE World Cup began on Monday, with seven players getting the lead in their mini-matches. The three biggest underdogs — all with ratings in the 2500s — are amongst those needing a win to bounce back after a loss, as Alexander Grischuk, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Teimour Radjabov defeated Xu Xiangyu, Eltaj Safarli and Daniil Yuffa respectively. IM LAWRENCE TRENT recapped the action of the day. | Photo: FIDE

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


The Bronze Horsemen take over Khanty

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.

Mednyi Vsadnik, a club based in Saint Petersburg, are the current European and Russian champions, and no less than five of their members are still going strong in the World Cup: Peter Svidler, Leinier Dominguez, Nikita Vitiugov, Maxim Matlakov and Kirill Alekseenko.

While Dominguez and Matlakov signed rather quick draws, Vitiugov and Alekseenko scored remarkable wins over Sergey Karjakin and Pentala Harikrishna. Meanwhile, the long-time leader of the team, Peter Svidler, saved a half point in a complicated queen endgame against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. Curiously, no pair of teammates would meet in the next round even if they all go through. It's been a superb couple of years for the club, and there is a good chance one of their members will represent them in the next Candidates Tournament.

Besides Vitiugov and Alekseenko, five other players kicked off round three with a victory: Alexander Grischuk showed good calculation skills (and had his fair share of luck) to defeat Xu Xiangyu; Wesley So outplayed Vidit Gujrathi in a balanced rook endgame; Jan-Krzysztof Duda defeated Dmitry Andreikin; Shakhriyar Mamedyarov beat his compatriot Eltaj Safarli; and Teimour Radjabov got the better of Daniil Yuffa.

Teimour Radjabov

Teimour Radjabov does not play often lately | Photo: FIDE 

Xu Xiangyu's strange decision

In 2011, Alexander Grischuk was the runner-up in the last World Cup to take place in Khanty-Mansiysk before this year's return to Siberia. An advocate of the format, Grischuk tends to do well in knock-outs. In round three, he was paired up against Xu Xiangyu, the young Chinese grandmaster that had upset Bu Xiangzhi and Ernesto Inarkiev to reach this stage. Xu had the white pieces and made a strange decision out of a Ragozin Defence:


Standard ways to continue would be 14.♘g3 or 14.0-0, while capturing the knight with 14.xe4 created trouble unnecessarily. The game continued 14...dxe4 15.g5 d5 16.xe4 and now 16...h4 is the move that should have prevented White from going into this line. Long story short, Black gets the g2-pawn while White's king is stuck in the centre for the rest of the game.

Grischuk did a good job in handling the initiative and was steadily increasing his advantage...until he gave his young opponent a chance to execute a nice tactical shot:


Xu Xiangyu thought for a minute before playing 25.c6, when he could have turned the tables with the stunning 25.♖xh7. In the post-game interview, Grischuk said he had seen this line, but he also quickly realized what he had missed — after 25...♝xh7 26.♘xh7 ♛xh7 he had only calculated 27.♘xe7, but failed to notice that 27.♕e4 is lethal:


From the central square, the queen protects h1, and there is no effective way for Black to prevent 28.♖h1 next. 

Luckily for the Russian, Xu Xiangyu did not see this nice manoeuvre either, and after 25.c6 the evaluation continued favouring Black. Nonetheless, credit should be given to Grischuk for having found a nice way to simplify his task on move 37, when the clock was dangerously ticking down before the time control:


37...xe5 cannot be answered with 38.♕xd8, as a sequence of discovered checks would be fatal: 38...♝f6+ 39.♔f3 ♜e3+ and the white queen is hanging. After the text, White opted for 38.fxe5 and resigned after 38...xe5+ 39.f3 exd5.


Alexander Grischuk, Alex Yermolinsky

We all enjoy it when Alexander Grischuk gives interviews | Photo: FIDE 

Other decisive results

After having won three out of his first four encounters in Khanty-Mansiysk, Sergey Karjakin faced his compatriot Nikita Vitiugov with the black pieces at the outset of round three. The former World Championship challenger once and again chose to create imbalances in the position, looking for chances to outplay his opponent. Vitiugov kept his cool, though, and was left with a safer king and a healthier pawn structure when the time control was reached. 

The presence of opposite-coloured bishops — with queens still on the board — made Karjakin's defensive task markedly difficult: 


These positions are all about the initiative, and Black clearly has the more vulnerable king. The computer thinks this is still defensible for Black though, and Karjakin could have certainly kept the fight going...but 52...d5 simply gave up the point on the spot. Vitiugov spent less than a minute on 53.c5+ and Karjakin resigned, as the king is stuck in a mating net: 53...♚g8 54.♕b8+ ♚f7 55.♕f8+ ♚e6 56.♕e7+ ♚f5 57.g4+ ♚f4 58.♗e3# is a sample line.

Nikita Vitiugov

Nikita Vitiugov | Photo: FIDE 

While Grischuk and Vitiugov showed their skills in tactical skirmishes, Wesley So demonstrated his strength in technical endgames. Against Vidit Gujrathi, the American reached the following endgame with the white pieces after 28 moves:


At this point, the commentators thought it was a matter of time before the players would agree to a draw, but So was not done for the day and started going around, looking for the slightest chance to create some sort of imbalance. Twenty-five moves had passed and the computer evaluation kept assessing the position as drawn, but a slight inaccuracy by Vidit rewarded So's insistent probing:


The Indian spent almost fifteen minutes before going for 53...f8, as he was probably evaluating the pawn endgame that would ensue after 53...♜c5 54.♖d5 ♜xd5 55.exd5 — Vidit should have gone for the simplification. Nevertheless, converting after the text move is no easy task, but So continued to stun the commentators with his technique until finally scoring a 93-move victory. 

Vidit Gujrathi

Vidit had a tough day at the office | Photo: FIDE 

Meanwhile, the two strongest performers so far in Khanty-Mansiysk scored crucial victories — both Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov have collected 4½ out of 5 and only need a draw on Tuesday to get their tickets to round four. And they did it against strong opposition, as 2013 World Cup runner-up Dmitry Andreikin and Eltaj Safarli are compelled to win on demand in order to keep the matches going.

Pentala Harikrishna and Daniil Yuffa also need victories on Tuesday to stay in the race.

All the decisive games of the day


Pentala Harikrishna, Kirill Alekseenko

Kirill Alekseenko beat Pentala Harikrishna | 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 three



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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register