Entries in 2015 World Cup (28)
Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler played in epic match in the final of the World Cup, won by the former 6-4 without a single drawn in the ten games. The players gave long interviews to Vladimir Barsky of the chess magazine 64, and it has been translated by Colin McGourty over on chess24. Here is part 1.
The 2015 World Cup came to a madcap conclusion after six crazy tiebreak games, all of them decisive, and after a series of topsy-turvy games the last man standing was Sergey Karjakin. Both he and Peter Svidler have qualified for next year's Candidates' tournament, but it was Karjakin who secured the title of World Cup Champion and the extra $40,000 that went with it. He won $120,000 to Svidler's $80,000, and both will be able to afford some quality help as they try next year to qualify for a match with Magnus Carlsen.
The tiebreak match was every bit as crazy as the classical match (or rather, the classical portion of the match). Both players won must-win games, and knowing what happened in the preceding game or even who came out of the opening better off told one almost nothing about what would happen by the game's end. Let's give a quick recap of the games.
In game 1 (game 5 overall), the first of the 25' + 10" contests, Karjakin had White and played an unusual line of the English. He may have obtained a slight edge at first, but Svidler outplayed him and managed to achieve all his strategic aims. Perhaps he was never quite winning, but he was much better for a very long time. He was never in danger until he missed 42.Ng4, and even then things weren't so bad for a while. Finally, though, they reached an opposite-colored bishop ending where Karjakin didn't seem to have any real winning chances, but he managed to make progress. He was a little careless about it and gave Svidler three chances to find a blow that would have put Karjakin on his heels trying to find the draw, but finally White put a stop to the idea. After 79 moves the last critical moment of the game appeared. Karjakin had made as much progress as he possibly could "for free", while Svidler was at his last line of defense. Unfortunately for him, Karjakin had, and found, 80.d5!!, and that won the game.
Svidler had lost three games in a row by this point, one he was winning outright (game 3) and one (this one, game 5 overall) where he was much better for a very long time. Now it was his turn to have to win to stay in the match, and despite all the discouragement he must have felt by this point he came through in spades, winning a remarkably clean game with White in a King's Indian Attack. Somehow the Svidler of the first two and 9/10 games had returned, and it was match on once again.
Games 3 and 4 of the tiebreak (7 & 8 overall) were with the 10' + 10" time control, and this time Karjakin faltered with White. His attempt to avoid an inferior sort of Modern Benoni led to something worse, and things just snowballed from there. Karjakin was already losing when he played 23.Rxc4?, but that cost him a piece to an elementary tactic. The game went on a while longer, probably so Karjakin could get mentally prepared for the next game, but there was never any doubt as to the result over the course of the remaining moves.
So once again Svidler had White in a game where he only needed to draw, and once again...he failed to score. He chose a differet anti-Sicilian line than he did in game 3, but here too it wound up in a sort of Maroczy Bind. Karjakin apparently surprised him somewhere, because Svidler played hesitatingly and then overreacted and overreached on the queenside. After 15 moves Svidler was losing a pawn, after 23 moves he was losing a second pawn, and after 27 moves he resigned. A disaster for Svidler, but good nerves by Karjakin, who had saved his third "match point".
On to the blitz: 5' + 3". Yet again Karjakin started with the white pieces, and this time there was something new. Karjakin played 1.e4 for a change, and Svidler headed for his beloved Marshall. Karjakin went all the way into the rabbit hole, but even though they went into a main line he was somehow unprepared and played a terrible novelty on move 18, Bc2. Svidler had plenty of time, having gained almost 40 seconds on the clock by this point, and he used two or three minutes trying to figure out what to do against this new move. It's clear from his facial expressions that he figured it out...a few seconds after making the wrong move. Black could have played 18...Nxc3, with a decisive advantage. A less tired Svidler would have spotted this (for that matter, a less tired Karjakin probably would have seen it as well before playing 18.Bc2), but instead he played 18...b4, which was a bad move in its own right in addition to missing a huge opportunity. A few moves later Karjakin could have been winning, but even with his imprecise 24th move he maintained a significant advantage.
Unfortunately for Svidler, his horrors had not yet come to an end. Bit by bit he fought back, only to make a serious error on move 28. Karjakin could have replied to 28...Bh5 with 29.g4, with a winning advantage, but instead he played 29.Rb1??, allowing several winning rejoinders. Svidler's wasn't the best, but it was good enough for a winning advantage. Once again it was time for Karjakin to demonstrate his resilience, and while Svidler maintained his advantage over the next dozen or so moves he didn't make much progress. He did have an advantage on the clock, but having more time and more material won't rescue you when you blunder a rook, as he did. He simply left his rook en prise on b8, Karjakin took it, and Svidler's anguish was palpable. You will rarely see a player more distraught than Svidler was, but there was still another game to play, one more chance for a comeback.
With White Svidler managed to achieve a serious, possibly winning advantage. This time around there weren't any blunders that gave the game away; it was just the slow but steady drip of inaccuracies that allowed Karjakin to equalize, and at the end even win when Svidler was forced to gamble to avoid a draw. Svidler found a very nice trick at the end of the game that could have won, but Karjakin found the right response and Svidler had to resign. A very bitter end for Svidler, who was winning or nearly winning in games 3, 5, 9 and 10 and lost them all.
So Karjakin won the tiebreak 4-2 and the match by the overall score of 6-4. (The games are here, with my comments.) Incredibly, both players are headed to Berlin at the end of the week for the World Rapid & Blitz Championships. They might be so tired by now that I would stand a decent chance against them, but hopefully they will recover well enough to play near enough to full strength to avoid a catastrophe. One final note about the event. At the end of the press conference Sergey Karjakin mentioned that he had been given some advice by Sarkhan Gashimov, the brother of the late super-GM Vugar Gashimov and a talented chess player in his own right. He also recounted his friendship with Vugar and that the dying Vugar had told him that from now on he, Karjakin, had to play for the both of them. It was a moving moment and a nice gesture to the Azeris, as Gashimov was one of their own. We shall see next March whether he, or Svidler, can take a further step towards the world championship when the Candidates' tournament takes place.
If Peter Svidler manages to bounce back from this second straight loss to win the 2015 World Cup in tomorrow's tiebreaks, I will be shocked and my admiration for his resilience will know no bounds. If I had to bet, though, I would lay long odds against his making a comeback - very few people can recover from such a collapse. Anatoly Karpov did it (against Viktor Korchnoi in 1978), Garry Kasparov did it (more than once, against Karpov in their World Championship matches, for example in 1986 when he lost three in a row near the end), and...no one else comes to mind.
I don't know if Svidler has a second - someone who is giving him advice, as opposed to analysts who are helping him with his theoretical preparation - but it's hard to believe that some grizzled old pro would have suggested he choose the line he played against Karjakin today. The problem wasn't that it was risky in a Mikhail Tal or Alexander Morozevich kind of way; just the opposite. Black takes a passive position with no counter-chances at all, hoping to neutralize White's edge and eventually eke out a draw. Karjakin followed standard theory and found a nice 13th move, and he already stood clearly better.
From here Svidler started playing well, and by the time of his 28th move he was still worse and still without any winning prospects, but most of White's advantage was gone. Unfortunately, he came up with the plan of putting all his kingside pawns on dark squares, which paved the way for White's king to penetrate. Instead of this Svidler should have tried something more active and combative, like 28...f5 or later 37...f5, and then on move 44...d5 was his last best chance to save the game. After 44...Re8? 45.g3 Ne6+ 46.Bxe6 Rxe6 47.Kd5 White's king was in, and he only needed the precise 51.Rf4! to seal the deal.
So Karjakin has received a third straight match "miracle", and tomorrow's tiebreaks will give him the chance to complete the comeback. A remarkable achievement. We'll see what happens soon; for now, here's my analysis of today's game.
Update: I've revised the analysis for two reasons. First, Jan Gustafsson's video analysis brought up some interesting points worth mentioning; second, the game score was wrong (DGT's bad design and an inattentive/lazy arbiter error, as usual) undid the final move, 57.Ke6. The link is in the previous paragraph, with updates marked as such.
Easy come, easy go. Peter Svidler got a free half point in game two after Sergey Karjakin's 37.Rb5?? (compounded by 38.Rd5??), and today Svidler returned the favor with interest, losing a winning position and then a drawn position after his own back-to-back blunders. As with Karjakin's errors yesterday the mistakes were unforced and occurred with the victim having plenty of time left on the clock. Fatigue has set in, and nerves are apparently getting the best of the players as well.
In the game, Svidler chose an unusual approach for a situation where a draw would be good enough to finish the match. If he wanted to go for a solid sideline against the Sicilian, 3.Bb5+ would have sufficed. If he wanted principled chess, then 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 would have made sense, especially since Black would have had to avoid many, many lines where Black's only way to avoid a loss or a seriously worse position is to allow a forced draw. Instead, Svidler chose option #3, 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4, a line that promises White neither an advantage nor an especially safe position.
That's not to say that Svidler was worse after the move either. Both sides played very well, and Karjakin's efforts to create complications didn't extract any errors from Svidler. Karjakin then had to overpress, as normal moves would result in an easy draw for his opponent, but after overpressing he was lost. The critical moment started after Karjakin's 27...exd5, which was objectively bad but the only way to keep any drama in the position. Svidler had 13 minutes left on the clock, and after just 30 seconds or so played the terrible 28.Rxf2?? Instead, 28.Qd2 would have forced Black to sac a piece and hope to scramble for a draw after 28...Nxh3+ 29.gxh3, whlie 28.Qc3 would have won the game with ease.
After 28.Rxf2 Svidler sprung up from the board, then rushed back to see 28...Qh4! He turned red, buried his face in his hands, and shook his head repeatedly. In short, he did everything...except take his time and regain his composure. Instead, after less than a minute and a half in total he played 29.Qd2??, losing almost trivially. Had he managed to regain his bearings he would have played the obvious 29.Qxe8, when after 29...Qxf2+ 30.Kh2 Qxb6 (or 30...Rxb6) Black has practical chances but a draw is the likeliest (and objectively correct) result.
But he instead played 29.Qd2?? and again shot up like a jackrabbit. After a few seconds, probably spent quadruple checking to make sure that it really was his lucky day and he wasn't missing anything, Karjakin played 29...Rxf2. Svidler hopped back on stage and rushed to the board, played 30.Qc3+, and hopped back up and away. A few seconds later Karjakin responded with the blindingly obvious 30...d4, and Svidler looked up at the projected demo board on the screen in absolute horror, came back to the board and resigned after a few seconds. Svidler's bouncing up and down - his "ants in his pants", as the old-timers would say - looked fairly ridiculous under the circumstances, and it's hard to believe that he would have blown the game the way he did had he just stayed at the board and worked his way through the initial shock of seeing 28...Qh4.
But let's be fair: who among us hasn't blown a critical game at some point in his life, or lost a game from a winning position? Been there, done that, and so has pretty much everyone else. And before we feel too bad for Svidler, we should remember that he's still in good shape, only needing a draw in game 4 tomorrow to win the match and the World Cup title. And no matter what, he (and Karjakin) are headed for the Candidates' tournament next year, and that's the big prize.
Here is today's game, with my notes.
It ain't over 'til it's over, as Yogi Berra used to say, but it's pretty close. Peter Svidler has taken a 2-0 lead in the best-of-four finals match at the 2015 World Cup, and there's no reason to think he'll falter at this stage, especially with so little on the line since both he and Sergey Karjakin have qualified for the Candidates' tournament. (I don't say that nothing is on the line - the difference between first and second is a serious chunk of money - but with the main competitive goal achieved I suspect that both players are relatively relaxed.)
To the game: Svidler had Black in a Breyer Ruy Lopez, and his 17th move was the brainchild of some anonymous friend or friends who helped prep him via Skype. Unfortunately for Svidler, he thought he could improve on that prep, given Karjakin's move order, and he soon realized that his improvement wasn't one. After that White had persistent pressure that lasted almost to the end of the game, but with good defense the game was headed, step by step, for the inevitable draw.
At least that was the case into Karjakin blundered in Svidler's mild time pressure. 37.Rb5?? was a howler, blundering a piece (not by hanging a piece, but by making it impossible for him to regain the material he was temporarily down). That was enough to lose, but while he could have resisted a while longer he made a fresh blunder on the very next move after thinking for several minutes, and after Svidler's reply it was time for Karjakin to give up.
So it's 2-0 for Svidler, and he needs only a draw in the next two games to claim his second World Cup victory; he won the event for the first time in 2011. Will Karjakin manage to make a fight of it? I doubt it, but we'll see tomorrow. Meanwhile, today's game, with my annotations, is here.
Perhaps the secret of Peter Svidler's success at the 2015 World Cup is that he is handling his nerves and fatigue better than everyone else. In game 1 of their finals match, Sergey Karjakin played as if he was exhausted, which after a pair of nervy and grueling matches in the quarter- and semi-finals he most probably is.
Svidler essayed the King's Indian Attack, an opening he has used with some regularity over the last year or two, including in two previous games against Karjakin. Karjakin played a near-novelty, 9...Nxd5, and while it's a very decent idea he didn't follow it up very successfully. Perhaps Svidler's 10.Ne4 surprised him. It may not have been an especially good move, but it created fresh problems for Black to solve, and on this day Karjakin wasn't even close to being up to the challenge. He probably should have tried ...h6 on move 11 or at least on move 12, and then his 15th and especially 16th moves were inaccuracies that gave White a serious edge. After his 20th and especially 22nd moves his position went from bad to clearly lost, and it was already time for him to resign after Svidler's 29th move, faced with a hopeless ending two pieces down.
It was a very bad day for Karjakin, but his fans shouldn't lose hope. He has come back from a one-point deficit more than once in this year's World Cup, and as the finals are best-of-four rather than just best-of-two he'll potentially have two shots with the white pieces rather than just one. Game two is tomorrow; in the meantime, here is today's game, with my comments (based on but not limited to Svidler's post-game remarks).
It wasn't easy, and he had some good fortune along the way, but Sergey Karjakin's resourcefulness and resilience enabled him to qualify for the finals of the World Cup and for next year's Candidates' tournament by defeating Pavel Eljanov 2.5-1.5 in the tiebreaker. Eljanov, whose overall play in the World Cup was probably the best of all 128 players, came extremely close to qualifying, but one narrow miss after another stopped him just short of the event's ultimate prize.
In the first g/25 Eljanov won an excellent game with the white pieces, but in the rematch Karjakin won an equally impressive win in his white game. Eljanov had more chances to hold than Karjakin, but in both cases the player with White kept up the pressure until his opponent cracked. In the g/10 battles, however, Karjakin saw Dame Fortune smile on him repeatedly. In the first game, Eljanov had a big advantage, but 42.h4? made it equal and 43.h5?? left him lost. Even after that he had a couple of subtle chances to save the game or at least make Karjakin's job a lot tougher, but without time to find these better moves Karjakin reeled in the point. Needing to win with the black pieces to stay alive, Eljanov somehow managed to outplay Karjakin and obtain a winning endgame, but he missed several wins and then stumbled into a threefold repetition. (The games, with my comments, are here.)
A huge pity for Eljanov, but sport can be cruel. Karjakin will meet Peter Svidler in the final, and while there's money and the title at stake both players have achieved their main competitive goal; namely, qualification to next year's Candidates' tournament. The other known candidates are Viswanathan Anand (for making it to the last world championship match), Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana (both from the Grand Prix). I think the expected favorites to qualify by having the best average rating in 2015 are Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri, and that will leave one more player to be determined by the organizers of the Candidates' tournament (scheduled for March of 2016). As of this moment, the venue isn't yet known - or at least not publicly known, but standard operating procedure is for the host country (or at least the organizer's/sponsor's host country) to get the pick.
Anyway, that's off in the more distant future. First things first: the final match will be a best-of-four (rather than a best-of-two), to be followed if necessary by the same set of rapid tiebreakers. Tomorrow (today - Wednesday) is a rest day, and the match will begin on Thursday.
World Cup 2015: Round 6 (Semifinals), Day 2: Svidler Goes to the Finals, Eljanov and Karjakin to Tiebreaks
And then there were three. Having defeated Anish Giri with Black the day before, Peter Svidler needed only a draw to advance to the finals of the 2015 World Cup, and thereby qualify for his third straight Candidates' tournament - a very impressive feat! A draw he needed, and a draw he received. Giri played a very interesting opening for a must-win game: the Caro-Kann! At first this seemed like a crazy idea, but upon reflection it does have one virtue, and it's that it generally results in at least slightly asymmetrical pawn structures. One can meet the French with the Exchange Variation, there are plenty of ways to create flat positions in the Open Games and the Sicilian is chock full of forced draws, if White wants them. With the Caro-Kann Black isn't going to create fire on the board, but there isn't any obvious way for White to kill the game either.
Svidler is a clever fellow, however, and he figured out a way to reach the kind of insipid and symmetrical pawn structure that would practically guarantee the draw: the Classical line with 6.Nh3! It promises White absolutely nothing, but the bad news is that the path to equality runs through 6...Nf6 7.Nf4 e5. After 8.dxe5 Qa5+ 9.c3 Qxe5 10.Qe2 White gets symmetry, a queen trade and even the bishop pair. Giri was never in the least trouble, but he couldn't cause much either, and after 51 moves Giri offered the draw that ended the match. The good news for Giri is that he's in good shape to qualify for the Candidates' by rating anyway, so his ouster probably won't be too big a blow for the ambitious youngster.
The other game was rather surprising. After suffering for 77 moves with Black before ekeing out a draw against Pavel Eljanov, you'd think that Sergey Karjakin would return the favor. It didn't happen. Karjakin came up with an interesting novelty in an English Four Knights with 4.g3 Bb4, but just two moves later thought for half an hour and offered a draw. Very strange, but Karjakin did something similar in the quarter-finals against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. We'll see in the tiebreaks whether this was some sort of energy conservation strategy or not.
Today's (yesterday's) games are here, with my brief comments.
Anish Giri has excellent chances to qualify for next year's Candidates' tournament by rating, and if he can't pull off a win with the black pieces against Peter Svidler tomorrow that will be the only way he can make it to the Candidates'. Giri rarely loses, but he picked just about the worst possible time to do so, losing with White in the semis of the World Cup to Svidler.* Giri had a slight advantage out of the opening, an increasingly popular sideline of the Zaitsev Ruy, but he failed to stabilize the queenside and Black broke through on that wing before Giri's kingside attack took flight. His window was a narrow one: he was fine after 28 moves, but had a lost postition just four moves later.
That's good news for one underdog, and the superstar underdog of the event, Pavel Eljanov, was very close to a win of his own. He played a new move in the opening, a mainline Queen's Indian with 4...Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+, and when Sergey Karjakin didn't react particularly well Eljanov had a winning position after 20 moves. Unfortunately for the Ukranian, he failed to play Qd2 on either move 22 or 24, when it would have a pawn for nothing (or even less than nothing), and Karjakin equalized. Despite that, Karjakin soon got into trouble for a second and even a third time, though the situation never got as bad as it did right out of the opening. Eljanov was unable to make the most of these chances either, and Karjakin escaped by the skin of his teeth with a draw. Will Eljanov bounce back to become another Rustam Kasimdzhanov (2004 edition), or will he falter at the final hurdle, like Evgeny Tomashevsky did in the last World Cup? We'll find out tomorrow and possibly on Tuesday.
In the meantime, here are today's games, with some game citations and brief annotations.
* Or maybe it's strategy on his part? If Giri qualifies for the Candidates' by reaching the finals of the World Cup, then someone else would get the rating spot, someone 50-60 points higher-rated than Svidler. I don't actually believe that Giri would throw a game, even for this reason, but it could very well be in his best interest if Svidler qualifies rather than someone like Alexander Grischuk or Vladimir Kramnik.