World Cup: Predictions for the semifinals

by Sagar Shah
9/27/2015 – Only four players remain in the World Cup 2015: Anish Giri plays against Peter Svidler and Sergey Karjakin against Pavel Eljanov. In this article we talk about the route taken by these four players to the semi-finals, the statistics of their games, their best and their most lucky moments – and predict who will enter the finals.

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World Cup

10th September – 5th October

Baku, Azerbaijan

Follow the semifinals live on

Anish Giri

Solid: Anish Giri

14 games
10 classical: 3 wins and 7 draws
4 rapid: 4 wins

Anish Giri’s route to the semi-finals has been quite smooth. His first round opponent from Uganda, Arthur Ssegwanyi (2357), stretched him quite a bit before Anish could register a 1.5-0.5 win. In the second round Motylev was quite solid in the classical games and both of them ended in draws. But Giri showed his class and won the rapid games to advance to the third round. A big challenge in the form of Peter Leko stood in front of Giri. Some people, including the World Champion, predicted a huge series of draws by the two most solid players in the world. But Giri played fantastic chess in his second classical game and sealed the match.

Giri’s best game


His next opponent was Radoslaw Wojtaszek. After two draws Giri defeated his opponent 2-0 in the rapids. The first rapid game was an excellent performance by Anish who outplayed his opponent in smooth fashion, but in the second game he got a losing position right out of the opening. He was lucky that his opponent made a very banal oversight.

Giri’s lucky moment


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was Giri’s opponent in the fifth round, maybe the Dutch player’s toughest challenge. After playing a solid Petroff in game one, Giri made good use of his white pieces. The position was close to a draw in the rook endgame but Anish kept pressing and took home the full point. Anish Giri has been in no danger whatsoever in this tournament and can be dubbed as the most solid player in this event.

In all the seven games that Anish has won in this tournament, his queenside bishop
has been placed on either d2 or d7 (with black pieces) at least once in the game!

Peter Svidler

The oldest (and the most experienced) of the four semi-finalists: Peter Svidler

18 games
10 classical: 2 wins and 8 draws
6 rapid: 2
wins, 4 draws
2 quick rapid: 1
win, 1 draw

39 years old and by far the oldest player left in the tournament. Svidler has been a candidate in 2013 as well as 2014. He is just a step away from a third consecutive appearance. He won his first round against Emre Can with a score of 1.5-0.5 and beat Nisipeanu 2.5-1.5 with a win in the first game of the rapid format. From third round onwards he faced three strong opponents. The first was the local hope Teimour Radjabov. After draws in two classical and the first rapid game, Svidler won the second rapid. But there was a moment where he could have been thrown out of the event!

Svidler’s lucky moment


Svidler was not really a favourite against Topalov but he eliminated the Bulgarian in the classical games scoring 1.5-0.5. There was one particular moment which will make you understand why Svidler is still one of the best players in the world.

Svidler’s best moment


After the top seed was eliminated, the most talented 16-year-old in the world of chess, Wei Yi, stood between Svidler and a place in the semi-finals. Five draws ensued with fluctuating fortunes. Svidler was better most of the times but Wei Yi had a clear advantage in the fifth game. Finally, in the sixth battle, the deadlock was broken and Svidler emerged victorious though his position after the opening was less than ideal. The Chinese representation in the World Cup ended, and Svidler moved into the last four.

Anish Giri – Peter Svidler

Not much to choose between them. In the two classical games they played in 2015, they traded blows. Anish won in the Grand Prix in Tbilisi and Svidler in Khanty Mansiysk. Svidler might be a better blitz player than Anish but there are six games to be played before. Both the players have taken quite a different route to the semi-finals. Giri has almost sailed through while Svidler had to struggle quite a bit against Wei Yi. Form, stamina, energy levels as well as Elo are all in favour of Anish, and hence I would put my money on him.

Prediction: Anish Giri

Sergey Karjakin

Versatile and pragmatic: Sergey Karjakin

20 games
10 classical: 4 wins, 1 loss and 5 draws
6 rapid: 1
win and 5 draws
4 super rapid: 4

After a 2-0 victory against Ermes Espinosa in the first round, Karjakin immediately faced a very difficult situation when he was 1-0 down in his match against Alexander Onischuk. He struck back with the white pieces which led to the World Champion tweeting – “Sergey Karjakin shows how to win on demand!” He drew his rapid games and then demolished Onischuk in the super-rapids (10’’+10’) with a 2-0 score. It seemed like Yu Yangyi would be quite a huge challenge for Karjakin in round three but he won the match 1.5-0.5 in the classical format.

Karjakin’s best moment


In the fourth round Karjakin faced his nemesis Dmitry Andrekin. He played it safe in the classical games making two draws. In the first game of the rapid Andreikin was quite inspired and played a very interesting pawn sacrifice. Just when it seemed that history would repeat itself (World Cup 2013), Dmitry blundered.

Karjakin’s lucky moment


Once Andrekin was out of the way, Sergey’s confidence must have soared and in a tense match against Mamedyarov he emerged victorious, although even here he was on the brink of defeat in the first classical game. With many adventures Karjakin has made his way to the semi-finals.

Pavel Eljanov

The best player so far: Pavel Eljanov

12 games
10 classical: 7 wins, 3 draws
2 rapid: 1 win and 1 draw

Pavel Eljanov has been by far the best player in this tournament. He has not only played the least number of games to reach the semis but also scored a whopping seven classical wins. From a rating of 2717 he has gained 34 points to reach 2751 and is currently world number 14! What a tournament! But things didn’t start off too smoothly for Eljanov. In his first round match against Rinat Jumbayev he had an inferior position in both games. Somehow he managed to turn it around and win 2-0. His play improved in the second round against Ipatov when he again won 2-0. His first round game against Ipatov witnessed an unusual combination.

Eljanov’s best moment


Beating a player like Grischuk 2-0 is never easy. But Eljanov managed it albeit with some luck in the first game.

Eljanov’s lucky moment


In the second game Grischuk tried hard but Eljanov was just too solid with the white pieces. Pavel’s match against Jakovenko was the only one that went into the tiebreaks, but once again Eljanov played a beautiful game with the white pieces in the second rapid and won. Nakamura was next on Eljanov’s list and he played a clean match where Nakamura conceded that his opponent performed better than him. So there we have it! Pavel Eljanov is in scintillating form and could beat any player here in Baku.

Sergey Karjakin - Pavel Eljanov

If you were to predict based on this tournament alone there would be no doubt about who the favourite would be. Pavel Eljanov is playing better chess and looks extremely solid with the white pieces. But Karjakin has faced just about everything. He came back from being 1-0 down in classical chess against Onischuk, has played many rapid games, defeated Mamedyarov in the quick rapid format. An interesting statistic is that both the players met each other in the third round of the 2013 World Cup and the match lasted for eight games with Karjakin winning the second blitz game. No doubt many people would want Eljanov’s success story to continue but I think Karjakin will make sure that it comes to an end. If Karjakin can see off Eljanov’s white pieces then I think he will have excellent chances to win this match.

Prediction: Sergey Karjakin

Pictures from official website  


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Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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