FIDE World Cup: Final Friday

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/3/2019 – First and third places of the World Cup will be decided Friday in Khanty-Mansiysk, as the classical phase of the deciding matches ended with 2:2 scores. Ding Liren and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had the white pieces in the last "slow" games of the match-ups, but could not get last-minute victories to avoid the rapid play-offs. Teimour Radjabov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will kick off the tiebreaks with the white pieces. Round-up show by GM YANNICK PELLETIER. | Photo: FIDE

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Already used to play-offs...

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.

Game four of the final match was the shortest one of the duel so far, with the players reaching a drawn rook endgame by move 31. Eteri Kublashvili interviewed the players and, while Radjabov jokingly responded that they will need to play a hundred bullet games to find a winner, Ding correctly pointed out that he is already used to playing tiebreakers — the Chinese star only won his match-ups without play-offs in round one and in the quarter-finals.

On the other hand, Radjabov had a fantastic run in classical chess at the World Cup: his 10 out of 16 score gained him 9 rating points, a particularly impressive outing if we take into account he faced two 2500-players. The Azeri grandmaster, in fact, climbed to ninth place in the live ratings list. Tomorrow we will find out if the semi-retired former child prodigy leaves Khanty-Mansiysk as champion.

All in all, Friday's tiebreaks will put an end to a draining and memorable event. As Maxime Vachier-Lagrave declared when Kublashvili asked him to estimate his chances in the play-offs: "Tomorrow is the last day, and that is very welcome".

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: FIDE

Ding Liren ½:½ Radjabov

The rating favourite in Siberia tried the English Opening, but saw his opponent deviating from the line they had explored in their previous encounter as early as move 2. While usually Radjabov is the one going for forcing lines in the opening — most likely trying to keep things under control — it was Ding who set the agenda on Thursday:


Ding's 7.xe5 is not a novelty per se, but had only been used by much weaker players in the past. However, such forcing lines tend to be known by strong players even when they had not prepared it recently, and Radjabov was not the exception to the rule. The game continued 7...xc3 8.xc6+ bxc6 9.bxc3 d5 10.f3 h3 11.b3:  


White is a pawn up but needs to be careful here. Ding confessed afterwards that the first move that surprised him was 11...g2, which prompted him to spend over 13 minutes before swapping queens with 12.xd5 — given the vulnerable position of his king, this was the most natural way to go, but he was probably exploring the subsequent nuances. There followed 12...cxd5 13.g1 xf3 14.exf3 and White's pawn structure was  shattered for good.

This was the position when the bishops left the board:


Radjabov explained afterwards that it is necessary to be careful in this kind of endgames, as otherwise it can get uncomfortable — given the contenders' tiredness, playing under such circumstances is particularly dangerous. In the game, the finalists played nine more moves and signed a draw after repeating the position a couple of times.


Ding Liren

The marathon will come to an end on Friday | Photo: FIDE

Vachier-Lagrave ½:½ Yu Yangyi

While the Ding v Radjabov match-up provided some drama, the battle for third place was a rather stagnant affair. The longest encounter in the classical phase lasted 36 moves, while Thursday's fourth straight draw lasted exactly 30 moves. Yu Yangyi once again played the Petroff Defence with Black, and the players repeated nine moves from game two. By then, a familiar structure with opposite-side castling was seen on the board. 

When Yu offered a bishop trade, it seemed unlikely that any of the two strong grandmasters would manage to create enough imbalances to get considerable winning chances:


After 16...e6 17.xe6 xe6 18.xe6, the Chinese grandmaster spent 10 minutes before capturing with the f-pawn. Such cautious play from both sides led to an equal queen endgame, and the players agreed to a draw the first time they got a chance.


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

Round-up show

GM Yannick Pelletier recapped the action 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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