FIDE World Cup: Hard-fought draws

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/24/2019 – The scores of the four quarter-final matches at the FIDE World Cup are tied, as hard-fought draws were seen on all boards on Monday. Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi did not shy away from shedding material while playing Black against Alexander Grischuk and Nikita Vitiugov; Levon Aronian had a very slight edge in his white game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave; while Jeffery Xiong and Teimour Radjabov signed a 'correct' draw after 30 moves. IM LAWRENCE TRENT reviewed the highlights 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.


Exchange sacrifices

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.

Less than a week from today, we will know who qualified to the Candidates Tournament in virtue of having reached the finals of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. The players must be as exhausted as they are motivated, and the first game of the quarter-finals proved they are ready to go all out for the win — critical lines of major openings were explored in all games. The four encounters finished drawn, but the tension in Siberia is palpable. Without a doubt, so far it has been a treat to watch these gladiators fight for their chance to advance to the next phase of the World Championship cycle.

Coincidentally, both Chinese players still in contention started the quarter-finals with Black against their Russian counterparts, and both of them made positional exchange sacrifices in order to get the initiative! The complex positions that ensued were handled skilfully by Russians and Chinese alike until draws were agreed soon after the time control.

Levon Aronian and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave followed theory until move 19 out of a Grunfeld Defence and showed they knew their way around the resulting position, as they did not take long to get into a drawn opposite-coloured bishops ending. Jeffery Xiong and Teimour Radjabov, in the meantime, played a 'correct' draw, never leaving the realms of equality during their 30-move encounter.  

Yu Yangyi, Nikita Vitiugov

Yu Yangyi and Nikita Vtiugov are strong 2700 players that do no quite belong to the elite | Photo: FIDE

Grischuk ½:½ Ding Liren

Alexander Grischuk was interviewed after drawing his game against Ding Liren, and the Russian quipped that he should study the 4...dxc4 variation of the Catalan, as he also was one hour down in the clock in his round two encounter against Benjamin Bok in this line. Nonetheless, it was Grischuk the one who deviated from theory:


Players and commentators alike spent some time here considering the sharp continuations that would follow after 14...♝d5, when White immediately would give up an exchange with 15.♖xd5, getting a strong initiative if Black does not find the equalizing 15...♛f5. World number three Ding Liren certainly evaluated the consequences of such move deeply, and then decided to instead give up an exchange himself — 14...b6.  

The Chinese star correctly assessed that the pair of bishops and White's weakened king position would give him enough compensation, but nevertheless, as his Russian opponent put it, "[White] made a draw from a position of strength even":


The draw was signed here. Ding Liren will now have the white pieces in the rematch game. A win will give him a spot in the semi-finals.


Post-game interview with Grischuk and Ding Liren

Vitiugov ½:½ Yu Yangyi

This was the last game to finish on Monday, as the contenders played seventeen moves of theory out of a Najdorf Defence. White took control of the central d5-square, while Black tried to make the most of his pair of bishops. When the time control was approaching, much like his compatriot Ding, Yu Yangyi decided that his best chance was to give up an exchange to create threats against the white king:


After 33...Qa8, the forcing line 34.Rxf2 Rxf2 35.Nf4, with a discovered attack on the long diagonal, forces Black to give up his rook for the bishop with 35...Rxg2. Vitiugov mentioned after the game: "Probably I was better, but how exactly should I play I don't know. I mean, it was always scary for me, so I think a draw is a deserved result".


This was the final position. Certainly some similarities with the game mentioned above, regarding both the players' nationalities and the material distribution over the board!


Nikita Vitiugov

Nikita Vitiugov | Photo: FIDE

Aronian ½:½ Vachier-Lagrave

This match-up sees two old friends fighting over the board for a second World Cup in a row. It would not be a shocker if either of these players get a spot in the Candidates, and even at that stage they would be amongst the favourites to become the next challenger of Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship title. 

Levon Aronian mentioned afterwards that "this was a solid game, something to be expected in the quarter-finals". The Armenian was the one with the initiative, but Vachier-Lagrave was aware of the dangers in the position and decided to give up a pawn in order to get more activity:


The Frenchman's 25...f5 gives way to 26.g5+ e8 27.f4 h6 28.xh7, when the knight is out of play and will soon be traded, taking the game to an opposite-coloured bishops endgame. Aronian tried to create some imbalance for a while, but ended up agreeing to a draw after 44 moves. 


Post-game interview with Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave

Xiong ½:½ Radjabov

Jeffery Xiong has surely been the sensation of the World Cup so far, and he is now facing one of the most solid players in the circuit. The American played a line that had given Le Quang Liem a good position in his game against Aronian from the round of 16, but Teimour Radjabov was ready to face it, choosing the variation with 8...d7, in which Xiong confessed he "did not have many ideas". Once Black played 15...b2, it is hard to find resources for either side:


Teimour Radjabov showed no hesitation when evaluating the position:

I think White played correctly and I think nobody had any chance, so the draw is the right result there.


Teimour Radjabov

Teimour Radjabov has already participated in two Candidates Tournaments | Photo: FIDE

Round-up show

IM Lawrence Trent reviewed the highlights of Monday's action

Commentary webcast

Commentary by GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Daniil Yuffa

All results


All games from the quarter-finals



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