World Cup: Firouzja and Dominguez knocked out

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
7/18/2021 – Two matches, one in each section, went the distance in the playoffs of round 2 in Sochi: Ivan Cheparinov and Olga Badelka (pictured, right) scored wins with white in Armageddon to advance to round 3 in the longest matches of the event so far. Alireza Firouzja and Leinier Dominguez were knocked out by two Uzbek players, Javokhir Sindarov and Jakhongir Vakhidov respectively. | Photo: Eric Rosen

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Uzbek upsets

Besides Levon Aronian, who had to withdraw from the World Cup due to health-related issues, the two strongest GMs to have been knocked out from the event in Sochi so far are Alireza Firouzja and Leinier Dominguez, seeded 8th and 9th respectively. 

In his first tournament representing France, Firouzja was eliminated in round 2 by 15-year-old Javokhir Sindarov from Uzbekistan. Dominguez, who also changed federations (in December 2018), was coincidentally knocked out by Sindarov’s compatriot, Jakhongir Vakhidov.

After drawing both classical games and the first two rapid tiebreakers, Sindarov beat Firouzja with the black pieces.


Instead of defending his inferior position passively, Firouzja went for 26.a4, trying to complicate matters. Sindarov, one of the few players in the field younger than his round-2 opponent, kept his cool and played 26...Qxb4, and after 27.Bc3 Qc4 28.Rc2 Qxa4 Black is simply two pawns to the good.

The 15-year-old went on to win the game, and a draw with white in the next encounter gave him a pass to round 3. His next rival is Peruvian GM Jorge Cori.

Sindarov vs Firouzja and Vakhidov vs Dominguez


Jakhongir Vakhidov

Jakhongir Vakhidov | Photo: Eric Rosen

Sindarov and Vakhidov are two of the seven players rated below 2600 who are still in contention. That list also includes:

  • Bobby Cheng (2552, knocked out Aronian by forfeit)
  • Velimir Ivic (2581, Francisco Vallejo Pons)
  • Michal Krasenkow (2591, Kirill Alekseenko)
  • Ante Brkic (2592, Yuriy Kryvoruchko)
  • Kiril Georgiev (2594, Anton Korobov) 

Two other upsets were seen in the playoffs of round 2, with Vasif Durarbayli (AZE, 2606) knocking out Alexandr Predke (RUS, 2683) and Timur Gareyev (USA, 2606) leaving Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS, 2684) out of contention.

The ever-entertaining — and blindfold specialist — Gareyev did not shy away from pushing his pawns down the board in the first rapid tiebreaker against the experienced Jakovenko.


The bold 18...e4 needed to be responded by 19.Nxe4, keeping a solid structure while not fearing 19...Nxa2+. Instead, Black’s 19.fxe4 gave Gareyev the kind of initiative that suits his play so well — 19...f3 20.Bd3 Qf6. The black f-pawn, in fact, survived until the end of the game. Jakovenko resigned on move 43.

Gareyev vs Jakovenko 


Timur Gareyev

Timur Gareyev | Photo: Eric Rosen

In the women’s section, the biggest surprise on Saturday was given by 17-year-old Kazakhstani IM Bibisara Assaubayeva, who knocked out her compatriot Zhansaya Abdumalik. The latter arrived in Sochi as the eighth seed and, more importantly, she came from having a remarkable performance in Gibraltar.

Assaubayeva showed that her win in the first classical game was no fluke, as she outplayed her opponent from a rather technical position in the second encounter of the playoff.


Abdumalik, playing white, actually had a better position here. To convert it, though, she needed to part with her bishop by playing 52.Bxc5 Rxc5 53.f4, and the engines give White an advantage. Instead, 52.Rd8+ gave Black a chance to regroup. Assaubayeva won the game in 79 moves.

Bibisara Assaubayeva

Bibisara Assaubayeva | Photo: Eric Rosen

Other highlights from Saturday’s action in the women’s section:

  • The match between Olga Badelka and Ana Matnadze was decided in Armageddon. Badelka won with white to advance to round 3.
  • Germany’s number one Elisabeth Paehtz knocked out 18-year-old Bulgarian IM Nurgyul Salimova only in the third set of tiebreaker games.
  • In a hard-fought duel, Pia Cramling knocked out Monika Socko.

Assaubayeva vs Abdumalik and Cramling vs Socko


Pia Cramling

Pia Cramling | Photo: Anastasiia Korolkova

The wall of umbrellas - Endgame analyses

Once again, GM Karsten Müller sent us the endgame positions he deemed most interesting. Among the five instructively annotated games, he included Daniil Dubov’s missed chance against Gukesh in their second playoff encounter.


It is worth noting that Dubov only needed a draw with black to move on to round 3. Maybe that is why he played 65...Nxe4 in the above position, all but securing a draw by force.

Nonetheless, this is a good example of a case in which keeping the white pawns alive actually helps Black — the winning move was 65...Kf4, and the black king will be protected from unwanted checks by his opponent’s pawns. Or, as GM Müller puts it, he will be able to make good use of a “wall of umbrellas”.

Our in-house specialist also looked at games won by Gulnar Mammadova, Alexei Shirov, Vladislav Artemiev and Vidit Gujrathi.


Alexei Shirov

A well-known face — Alexei Shirov | Photo: Eric Rosen


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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