FIDE World Cup: Theoretical face-offs

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/30/2019 – Teimour Radjabov and Ding Liren signed a 33-move draw as the final match of the FIDE World Cup kicked off Monday in Khanty-Mansiysk. The players blitzed out no less than 26 moves of theory before simplifying into a completely drawn rook endgame. Meanwhile, a similar story was seen in the match-up for third place, as Yu Yangyi had the white pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave — they played 36 moves of a sharp Grünfeld before splitting the point. IM LAWRENCE TRENT reviewed the highlights of the day. | Photo: FIDE

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The Golden Week begins

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.

Tomorrow, October 1st, China will celebrate its National Day, commemorating the establishment of the "People's Republic" in 1949. Traditionally, three or four days of paid holiday are added around this date, giving way to what is known as the "National Day Golden Week". Naturally, millions head out on vacation, thus creating one of the busiest periods both for tourism and the retail industry.

Coincidentally, this year's finals include two Chinese representatives, while calling this the "golden week" of the World Cup seems quite appropriate — the four-game match-ups started on Monday and the winner will be decided by Friday at the latest.

Both duels started with all four players showing the kind of first-rate home preparation that top grandmasters need to keep constantly updated to survive against their colleagues. Sharp variations of the Marshall Attack and the Grünfeld led to short draws, with Ding Liren repeating his result from the 2017 final, when he also started with Black and drew game one against Levon Aronian.  

Yu Yangyi

Trying to recall a long theoretical line? — Yu Yangyi | Photo: FIDE

Radjabov ½:½ Ding Liren

Teimour Radjabov and Ding Liren already faced each other twice in 2019, signing draws both in Shamkir (the Azeri had White) and Wijk aan Zee (the Chinese had White). In their head-to-head record, Ding was the last one to get a win, as he beat Radjabov with the black pieces at the 2015 Tata Steel Masters. Back then, the Chinese ace had a 2732 rating and used the King's Indian Defence to defeat his 2734-rated colleague.

This time around, Ding opted for the Marshall Attack of the Ruy Lopez, repeating the line they had discussed this year in Shamkir. Incidentally, at the aforementioned edition of the Tata Steel Master (2015), Radjabov himself played this variation with White and was the one in the driver's seat before signing a draw with Aronian. The Azeri grandmaster was the first one to deviate from previous play...on move 27:


Radjabov had played 27.f3 against both Ding and Aronian, but now opted for 27.a4. After 27...e2 28.axb5 axb5 29.xd5 cxd5 there was no doubt the game would finish peacefully. The players quickly traded a couple of pawns and signed the draw on move 33.


Ding Liren

Ding Liren gladly speaks to the press | Photo: FIDE

Yu Yangyi ½:½ Vachier-Lagrave

The contenders for third place, Yu Yangyi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, have faced each other this year more often than the finalists, as they met at the Norway Chess Tournament and the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz event, trading blows in their quick-time encounters. The players drew their classical match-up in Stavanger ('MVL' was Black), while both times Yu Yangyi had the white pieces in Saint Louis, the players unsurprisingly delved into Vachier-Lagrave's pet Grünfeld Defence.

Much like in the game between Radjabov and Ding, the players all but blitzed out their first 25 moves. At this point, Yu had a rook and two pawns against Vachier-Lagrave's knight and bishop:


Only here did the players start taking their time. Yu spent over 11 minutes on 26.he1, while 'MVL' thought for over 21 before responding with 26...f7. The Chinese thought long and hard (24 minutes) for a last time before playing 27.c4, and apparently both contenders were already certain of the outcome, as they went back to playing quickly before splitting the point nine moves later.


Post-game interview with Yu Yangyi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Round-up show

IM Lawrence Trent reviewed the highlights of the day

Commentary webcast

Commentary by IM Anna Rudolf and GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko

All results


All games from the 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.


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bbrodinsky bbrodinsky 10/1/2019 01:48
FischerRandom looking better and better every day.
chessgod0 chessgod0 9/30/2019 10:30
Honestly if they were just gonna blitz out 25 moves of theory only to hit the showers 9 moves later I wouldn't have bothered tuning in today.

Wake me up when it gets interesting.