FIDE World Cup Final last 16

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

The FIDE World Cup started with 128 players two Saturdays ago and now, after round 3, there are 16 players left standing. Here are the matchups for the 16 survivors for round 4.

Peter Svidler RUS 2756 vs Bu Xiangzhi CHN 2714

Maxime Vachier Lagrave FRA 2804 vs Alexander Grischuk RUS 2788

Vassily Ivanchuk UKR 2727 vs Anish Giri NED 2777

Daniil Dubov RUS 2666 vs Levon Aronian ARM 2802

Wesley So USA 2792 vs Baadur Jobava GEO 2702

Maxime Rothstein ISR 2695 vs Vladimir Fedoseev RUS 2731

Richard Rapport HUN 2675 vs Evgeniy Najer RUS 2694

Wang Hao CHN 2701 vs Ding Liren CHN 2771

A quick census shows five Russians, three Chinese and one each from USA, France, Ukraine, Netherlands, Armenia, Georgia, Israel and Hungary. Big names who are going home after Round 3 are Magnus Carlsen (the reigning world champion, no less), Vladimir Kramnik and the two American superGMs Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana.

A quick summary of what happened in Round 3:

1. GM Anton Kovalyov withdraws from the World Cup.

Canada’s Anton Kovalyov, who created a sensation in the first round by eliminating former World Champion Vishy Anand, created another stir by becoming the first player to ever be disqualified from the World Cup for wearing shorts!

Apparently he had been wearing shorts from the very start and his attention had not been called, so why is it unacceptable now? Main organizer GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili gave Kovalyov 15 minutes to change but the Canadian GM just stood up and left.

GM Kovalyov wrote afterwards that he did not bring any pants to Tbilisi and would have gone to the mall to buy a pair if he had been informed earlier that his attire was not acceptable. He felt that Zurab Azmaiparashvili was overly aggressive in confronting him just before the start of play, calling him a gypsy and, rather than do anything stupid, he decided to leave the playing venue.

Many would probably disagree, but I find it hard to sympathize with the GM from Russia turned Canadian — when you go to the World Cup you are representing your country and dressing properly shows your respect both for your own flag, your opponent and his flag, as well as to the organizers.

2. Pure Frustration

Jobava vs Nepomniachtchi was a hard fight in every game. In what was to be the final game of their match the following occurred:

Jobava, Baadur (2702) — Nepomniachtchi, Ian (2741) [B50]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi GEO (3.4), 11.09.2017

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.c3 Nf6 4.Bd3 g6 5.Bc2 Bg7 6.d4 cxd4 7.cxd4 0–0 8.0–0 Bg4 9.Nbd2 Nc6 10.h3 Bd7 11.Re1 Rc8 12.a3 b5 13.Bd3 Qb6 14.Nb3 Na5 15.Nxa5 Qxa5 16.Bd2 Qb6 17.Bg5 Rfe8 18.Qd2 a5 19.Bh6 b4 20.axb4 axb4 21.e5 Nd5 22.Be4 e6 23.Bxg7 Kxg7 24.Nh2 Ne7 25.Ng4 Ng8 26.Re3 dxe5 27.dxe5 Bc6 28.Bxc6 Rxc6 29.Rf3 Rd8 30.Qf4 Qc7 31.Nf6 Rc4 32.Qe3 Rcd4?? 33.Qxd4 1–0 because 33…Rxd4 is met by 34.Ne8+ winning back the queen with a free rook to spare.

Nepom was so disgusted with himself that within 30 minutes after resigning the game he had already left the hotel on his way to the airport.

3. Brilliant Fight

The games to the Aronian vs Matlakov match were particularly exciting. They went back and forth through the two classical games (1 win each), then the 25-minute tie-breaks (2 draws) then the 10-minute tie-breaks (1 win each) until the blitz tie-breaks where Aronian won the first and held the draw in the last. Just take a look at the first two games.

Aronian, Levon (2802) — Matlakov, Maxim (2728) [A28]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi GEO (3.1), 09.09.2017

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 Bb4 5.Qc2 Bxc3 6.bxc3 0–0 7.d3 d6 8.Be2 Re8 9.e4 Ne7 10.Nh4 Ng6 11.Nxg6 hxg6 12.0–0 c6 13.f4 b5 14.cxb5 cxb5 15.h3 Qb6+ 16.Kh2 Be6 17.a4 a6 18.Qb2 Nd7 19.Rb1 Rab8 20.axb5 axb5 21.Rf3 f6 22.f5 gxf5 23.exf5 Bd5 24.Rg3 Re7 25.Bh5 e4 26.d4 Bc4 27.Bf4 Ra8 28.Ra1 Rd8 29.Ra3 Nf8 30.Qa1 Bf7 31.Ra6 Qc7 32.Be2 Bc4 33.Bxc4+ Qxc4 34.Rxd6 Nd7 35.Qa7 Kf7 36.Qb7 Ke8 37.Re6 Rxe6 38.fxe6 Qxe6 39.Rxg7 e3 40.Qf3 1–0

Matlakov, Maxim (2728) — Aronian, Levon (2802) [D35]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi GEO (3.2), 10.09.2017

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 c5 7.Rb1 Be7 8.Nf3 0–0 9.Bc4 Qc7 10.Qe2 a6 11.a4 cxd4 12.cxd4 Bd7 13.0–0 Rc8 14.Bd3 Bxa4 15.d5 Nd7 16.e5 exd5 17.e6 Nf8 18.exf7+ Kxf7 19.Nd4 Bf6 20.Bxh7 Qe5 21.Rxb7+ Bd7 22.Qg4 Qxd4 23.Rxd7+ Nxd7 24.Qxd7+ Be7 25.Re1 Qe5 26.Bd2 Rd8 27.Qg4 1–0

4. Magnus Carlsen eliminated.

Remember the issue I discussed last Tuesday about the draw being favorable to the bottom half of the World Cup (the half that Wesley So is in) against the top half, where Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik, the complainer, are in? Since Magnus and Karjakin have already been previously qualified for the Candidates’ tournament, if they both reach the semifinals then the two semifinalists from the bottom half are automatically qualified to the Candidates. Well, it has become a non-issue since Karjakin in round 2 and now Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik (in round 3) have already been eliminated!

Carlsen never knew what hit him — he was just playing a normal game and then came 15…Bxh3! and suddenly he was under a full-scale attack. Bu Xiangzhi, previously the youngest grandmaster ever in history (before this title was taken over by Sergey Karjakin), is known for his solid positional style which sometimes borders on the boring. If he should retire today this brilliancy will be the game he will be remembered by.

Carlsen, Magnus (2822) — Bu, Xiangzhi (2710) [C55]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi GEO (3.1), 09.09.2017

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.0–0 0–0 6.Bb3 d6 7.c3 Be6 8.Re1 Qd7 9.Nbd2 Rab8!?

A novelty. Bu explained that its purpose is twofold: (1) To defend the b7–pawn after …Bxb3, Qxb3, and (2) He is planning to play …d6–d5. White might respond with Ba4 to pin his c6–knight, but now, with the rook on b8, he can interject with …b7–b5.

10.Bc2 d5!?

Sacrificing the e5–pawn. The game is going to resemble very much the Marshall Attack.


Magnus should have taken the pawn immediately. After 11.exd5! Nxd5 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Rxe5 Bd6 14.Re1 Black does not have the pawn on h3 to target.

11…h6 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.Nxe5 Nxe5 14.Rxe5 Bd6 15.Re1 Bxh3! 16.gxh3 Qxh3

Threatening mate in 4 starting with …Bh2+

17.Nf1 Rbe8! 18.d4

The idea is Bc2–e4–g2.

18…f5! 19.Bb3 c6 20.f4 Kh7

Bu takes his king out of checking distance and threatens …Rf8–f6–g6.


After this Black comes crashing through. For better or worse White had to play 21.Re2 and move his rook or queen to g2/h2.

21…cxd5 22.Re3 Rxe3 23.Bxe3 g5! 24.Kf2 gxf4 25.Qf3 fxe3+ 26.Nxe3 Qh2+ 27.Kf1 Rg8 28.Qxf5+ Rg6! 29.Ke1 h5 30.Kd1

Both players were in time trouble here. Carlsen only had about 5 seconds left on his clock. The rest of the game was played a tempo.

30…Kh6 31.Nc2 h4 32.Ne1 h3 33.Nf3 Qg2 34.Ne1 Qg4+ 35.Qxg4 Rxg4 36.Nf3 Rg1+! 0–1

Carlsen resigns because 36…Rg1+! 37.Nxg1 h2 the pawn cannot be stopped from queening.

5. Wesley So proceeds to round 4.

Wesley’s opponent, the Spaniard Paco Vallejo Pons, tried to wipe him off the board early, with the inevitable result.

Vallejo Pons, Francisco (2717) — So, Wesley (2810) [B12]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi GEO (3.1), 09.09.2017

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.g4 Be4

More common is 4…Bd7. Six years ago Alexei Shirov fell to his worst loss with 5.c4 e6?! 6.Nc3 c5! 7.cxd5 exd5 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.Bg2 (9.Qxd5 Qb6 10.Qg2 Nc6 11.Nf3 Nb4 12.Rb1 Bc6 White is against the ropes) 9…Ne7 10.h3 Qb6 11.Qe2 0–0 12.Nf3 d4 13.Ne4 Bb5 14.Qd2 Nbc6 15.a3 Ng6 16.b4 Be7 17.Bb2 Rfd8 0–1 Shirov,A (2709)-Anand,V (2817) Leon ESP 2011.

5.f3 Bg6 6.h4 h5 7.e6 Qd6!

The correct move, incidentally threatening a check on g3. One wonders what Vallejo had in mind as this is a known position and Black has an excellent score with it.

8.exf7+ Bxf7 9.Be3

The main line is 9.Ne2. This position occurred in the Tagaytay Zonals a few years ago. Future zonal champion Yeoh Li Tian beat the dentist Dr. Alfredo Paez with it — 9…Nd7 10.g5 e5 11.Bh3 Be6 12.f4 Bxh3 13.fxe5 Nxe5 14.Rxh3 (14.dxe5 Qb4+ followed by Qxh4+) 14…Ng4 15.Bf4 Qe6 Black had no problems at all. Paez,A (2151)-Yeoh,L (2278) Tagaytay City 2013. 0–1 31.

9…hxg4 10.fxg4 Nf6 11.Nc3 Qe6! 12.Kd2?!

Better was to give up a pawn with 12.Qe2 Nxg4 13.Bg5 but I believe that the Spaniard, a very dynamic and aggressive player, did not want to defend an inferior pawn-down endgame against “perfect technique” Wesley and preferred to keep queens on the board.

12…Nxg4 13.Bg5 Nf2 14.Qf3 Nxh1 15.Qxh1 [Now White intends Bh3 and Re1 to get some counterplay going on.]

15…Qd6 16.Bh3 e6 17.Rf1 Be7 18.Bf4 Qb4! 19.Nge2 Nd7 20.a3 Qxb2 21.Rb1 Qxa3 22.Rxb7 Qa6 23.Qb1 Rxh4 24.Bf1 <D>


White is hanging on by a thread. Wesley finishes him off nicely.

24…Rxf4! 25.Nxf4 Qa5

With the deadly Bg5 coming up.

26.Qe1 Bg5 27.Qg3 Bh6 28.Bd3 0–0–0! 29.Rb3 e5 30.dxe5 d4 0–1

Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.