FIDE World Cup: Xiong beats Duda in thrilling match

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/23/2019 – The highlight of the round four play-offs at the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk was Jeffery Xiong's victory over Jan-Krzysztof Duda, in a match-up that was only decided in the blitz phase after the players repeatedly exchanged blows in riveting encounters. Ding Liren, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjabov also advanced to the quarter-finals. The eight survivors need two more match wins to get a spot in the next Candidates Tournament. | Photo: FIDE

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Not so random

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 argument that the knock-out format depends more on luck than round-robins has some solid reasoning behind it, but some players seem to know how to handle the increased variability better than others. Some curious facts about the eight quarter-finalists:

  • This is the fourth World Cup in a row that sees Maxime Vachier-Lagrave amongst the final eight.
  • Both finalists from the previous edition — Ding Liren and Levon Aronian — are still in contention, and once again in opposite sides of the bracket.
  • A Russia v China duel has been set up on one side of the bracket: the winner of Ding Liren v Alexander Grischuk will face the winner of Yu Yangyi v Nikita Vitiugov.
  • The United States has had a single representative in the quarter-finals since 2013 — Gata Kamsky (2013), Hikaru Nakamura (2015), Wesley So (2017) and Jeffery Xiong (2019).

Five out of eight players still in contention got their ticket on Sunday's tiebreaks. Ding and Grischuk won their match-ups in the first pair of rapid games; Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjabov won a single 10'+10" encounter in their whole matches to advance; and Jeffery Xiong continued to stun by defeating Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the most exciting battle of the round.

Alexander Grischuk

Alexander Grischuk will face top seed Ding Liren in the next round | Photo: FIDE

Fighting fire with fire

Jan-Krzysztof Duda had been showing his fearless brand of chess to reach round four without needing tiebreaks at all. His opponent, 18-year-old Jeffery Xiong, came from overcoming tough struggles to surprisingly eliminate Giri and Tabatabaei in consecutive rounds...and came ready to get into sharp battles to counter Duda's resolute play.

In their classical encounters, the young contenders traded wins with White. On Sunday, Xiong was the one getting the white pieces in the first 25-minute game, and duly won 'as expected'; Duda responded provocatively, playing 1.a3 in the next game and winning a wild encounter to tie the score. The match could have taken a turn in the first 10-minute encounter though, as Xiong built up a strong attack with the black pieces but then failed to find the killer blow:


You can try your own variations on the diagram above

With his queen, rooks, knight and dark-squared bishop on great attacking positions, Xiong played the timid 28...e8 here, instead of the winning 28...♞g3+. It must be noted that White has a rook quietly protecting the second rank from the queenside, with his knight, bishop and queen in close proximity to his king. But the knight sacrifice was the way to go nonetheless — the most forcing line goes 29.hxg3 hxg3+ 30.h3 xh3+ 31.gxh3 xh3+ 32.h2 g2+ 33.xg2 xf3, winning.

After this miss, Xiong lost the thread and went on to lose the game ten moves later. The 2016 World Junior champion did not lose faith though, and bounced back for a second time in the match.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Facing a sharp tactician is never easy — Jan-Krzysztof Duda | Photo: FIDE

The pressure was mounting, and the players signed the first draw of the duel in the 5-minute portion. Xiong had the white pieces in the rematch, and once again chose to put direct pressure against the opposite king — Duda faltered in an extremely sharp position: 


Black played the natural-looking 24...d1+, when 24...♛c5+ was the correct alternative. After the text, the game continued 25.f2 f8+ 26.f3 and Black was forced to retreat with 26...d7. White captured the loose bishop, 27.xe2, and Black responded with the ineffective 27...h7:


The rest was easy for Xiong: 28.g5+ h8 29.xe6 f5 30.xg7+ g8 31.d4+ f7 32.f6+ and Duda resigned. It will certainly be a memorable play-off for the American, who is only two match victories away from reaching the Candidates!

Xiong vs. Duda - All games


Post-game interview with Jeffery Xiong

Ding and Grischuk move on quickly

The first and the ninth seeds in Khanty-Mansiysk advanced in the first rapid section of the play-offs. Alexander Grischuk safely drew his first encounter against Leinier Dominguez and went on to get a clear win in the rematch with the white pieces. Ding Liren, in the meantime, kicked off the day with a 24-move win over Kirill Alekseenko, but could have easily got in trouble in the second game:


Instead of 44.xg3, Alekseenko would have obtained winning chances with 44.♖xc1, as White gains a piece after 44...♝xd2 45.♖d1, attacking both the rook and the bishop. In that line, Black has plenty of pawns to fight for a draw, but after the text Ding was the one calling the shots. Alekseenko tried to make something out of nothing and ended up losing game two as well. It was a great run for the 49th seed nevertheless.

Ding Liren

Ding Liren is having a great year so far | Photo: FIDE

Ding vs. Alekseenko and Grischuk vs. Dominguez 


Aronian and Radjabov get the one win they needed

Two match-ups were decided in the 10-minute games stage, and both saw the winner getting a single win to advance to the next round. 

Teimour Radjabov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov not only are teammates but also close friends. In fact, after beating 'Shak', Radjabov confessed that this is the worst pairing he could get, as even a win feels like a loss for either of them. After five rather balanced draws, Mamedyarov faltered in a sharp position:


Mamedyarov spent about half a minute on 38.gxh7, when the correct way to continue his attack was with 38.h6+ — after 38...♚xh6 39.gxh7 ♝g5 40.♕f3, the weak position of the king is too much to handle for Black and White should be able to find the way to convert his advantage. After the text, on the other hand, Black takes the initiative decisively with 38...g3. Radjabov needed only six more moves to get the crucial win.

Teimour Radjabov

Teimour Radjabov does not often play lately, but he is still an elite-level player | Photo: FIDE

Levon Aronian beat Le Quang Liem in the first 10-minute game, but only after having survived a scare in the second 25-minute encounter. The defending champion did not see a tactical shot as early as move 14:


Here the Vietnamese won a piece by making use of the light-squared bishop  — there followed 15.c6 f6 16.xd8 xh5 and now 17.e5 both opens up the long diagonal and leaves the h5-knight without squares to escape a potential attack. 

Aronian is a sneaky tactical player though, and found a way to muddy the waters and get a 33-move draw. The defending champion is now paired up against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave — let us not forget that these two players faced each other in a highly dramatic semifinal in 2017, when Aronian defeated the Frenchman in an exhilarating Armageddon finale.

Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian never shies away from a fight | Photo: FIDE

Radjabov vs. Mamedyarov and Aronian vs. Le Quang Liem


Commentary webcast

Commentary by GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Daniil Yuffa

All results


All games from Round 4



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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