And so the exhibition match between Alexei Shirov and Daniil Dubov has come to an end with a draw in game 6. As after game 1, a draw in the classical game meant they had to play blitz afterwards, and the results were a repeat of what happened in game 1: a draw followed by a Dubov win. In the part that counted, however, Shirov proved his dominance, and while Dubov is an impressive young talent this will have reminded him that he still has a long way to go to reach the elite. For Shirov, it netted him some points and probably some confidence, and hopefully presages a return to better things for him. There's nothing wrong with 60-move rook endings, but as chess fans most of us - myself included - would rather see his "fire on board" approach instead.
Entries in Daniil Dubov (7)
Mr. Fire On Board is having his way with young Russian GM Daniil Dubov in their six-game match, consistently outfoxing him in the crazy complications. If you enjoy tactically rich positions, this match is a feast for you.
The Daily Update: Russia Beats Ukraine And Leads The World Team Championship; Shirov Beats Dubov Again
There's still a round to go at the World Team Championship, but for practical purposes the winner and the medalists seem to have been decided. In the key match of the tournament, the leading Ukranians took on the Russians, hoping to keep or extend their lead of a single match point (half a point in normal chess scoring). The first three boards were drawn, but Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated Yuriy Kryvoruchko, and his team won the match. As the Russians' final opponent is the Egyptian team, which has lost all its matches and has only managed eight points in their eight matches - in 32 games - it would seem to be a foregone conclusion. If so, it would mark the first time in quite a while that the Russian team has managed to win a major team competition.
Ukraine is now a point behind, but their chances of catching or leapfrogging the Russians are exceedingly slim, as we just noted. Worse, they're not in second right now but in third. The Chinese team beat the Germans - also 2.5-1.5 with the sole victory coming on board four - and while they are tied with Ukraine on match points they are ahead in board points. Better still for the Chinese, Ukraine must play the tough and motivated Armenian team, while China will play the next-to-last placed Turks. If Armenia wins, they will finish ahead of Ukraine (they are the only other team besides the Russians and the Chinese) who can do so, but before we assume that the Chinese are a shoo-in for second there's a warning to be issued.
The American team played Turkey in this round, and if they had won they still would have been in the medal hunt. They were apparently confident enough to rest Hikaru Nakamura, and they paid the price. Ray Robson was convincingly beaten on board 3, and only Varuzhan Akobian's fine endgame play enabled them to save a tie thanks to Akobian's win on board 4.
Meanwhile, in the other noteworthy ongoing event Alexei Shirov won again to take a 2.5-.5 lead over Daniil Dubov in their match (and to get back over 2700). They've reached the halfway point, and have a rest day tomorrow.
They're headed for home at the World Team Championship, and right now it's a three-team race for the gold. The Ukranian team bounced back - sort of - from yesterday's loss with a victory over Egypt. It was only 2.5-1.5 over a team that had lost all of their matches, but as match points have priority over board points that was good enough. The Ukranians thus lead with 12 match points out of 14 (six match victories worth two points apiece, and one loss).
They are a point ahead of the Russians, who beat the Dutch team 3-1. The Dutch team had been in the thick of the medal hunt, but will now have a tough time catching up. They had been tied for third, but now that belongs to the Chinese alone. The Chinese team beat Azerbaijan 3-1 and have 10 match points.
Three teams have 8 match points, and in tiebreak order they are the U.S. (3-1 victors over Germany), Armenia (3-1 winners against Turkey) and (as noted above) the Dutch team.
Here are the key pairings for the last two rounds:
- Ukraine-Russia (that match will probably decide the tournament, especially if Russia wins)
There's also the exhibition match between Alexei Shirov and Daniil Dubov. Game 2 was an exciting win for Shirov with the black pieces in a Moscow Gambit (Semi-Slav), and while Dubov had a big advantage in time out of the opening Shirov's very deep experience in such positions mattered, and he managed to outplay his young opponent in the complications. So far, it's a very entertaining match.
At the World Team Championship Ukraine had gotten off to a rip-roaring 5-0 start, but today they received their come-uppance from the Dutch team, 2.5-1.5. Three games were drawn, and on board 2 Loek van Wely won with Black against Anton Korobov. Korobov had a safe position but went for more, and van Wely outfoxed him in the complications.
Ukraine still leads, but the Russians are just a single match point behind after defeating their Turkish hosts 3-1. Ian Nepomniachtchi won with Black against Mustafa Yilmaz in just 20 moves, while Vladimir Kramnik beat Alexander Ipatov in a pretty remarkable game. When Kramnik played 19...c4 the "know-it-all" spectators on ICC said "sure, and next he'll play ...g4 and draw, boring". They got one part right: Kramnik played ...g4 just three moves later. But this was not the prelude to a draw or a peaceful disposition, as became clear when he sacrificed first a pawn with 29...e5 and then a piece on the next move. An impressive win, and one that shows how large the gap is between the world's very best and even a strong, 2600+ rated GM like Ipatov.
Another big surprise was the Armenian loss to the Germans by a 3-1 score. Daniel Fridman defeated Sergei Movsesian with the black pieces, while Arkadij Naiditsch beat Vladimir Akopian with White - the only White win mentioned thus far in the recap.
Since Radjabov and Mamedyarov aren't playing it probably isn't really an upset, but it is surprising that the USA's match victory over the Azerbaijan team didn't come from their top seeds Hikaru Nakamura or Gata Kamsky (both players drew) but from board 4 Ray Robson. Gadir Guseinov sacrificed four(!) pawns for a dangerous-looking attack, but in the end Robson's defense held and the material matterered.
In a separate event, a six-game match between Alexei Shirov and Russian prodigy Daniil Dubov started today. Both players - Shirov especially - are known for their very sharp styles, but game 1 was a rather straightforward-looking draw with Shirov playing White. Still, I'm expecting some very exciting chess to come from this match, so keep your eyes peeled.
UPDATE: Oops! I needed to research the event a bit more. Part of the arrangement is that if their regular game ends in a draw, they have to play some additional blitz games. And so they did. The first game also finished in a draw, but a very wild one, and Dubov won the second blitz game (which was also pretty sharp) with Black.
Given the 1 vs. 128, 2 vs. 127...64 vs. 65 pairings formula FIDE uses for the World Cup, significant upsets are relatively unlikely. In fact, only one of the 38 players rated over 2700 lost, and that was 16th seed Alexander Morozevich, who lost with Black to 2524-rated Canadian GM Bator Sambuev. Morozevich was in good shape in a complicated position, but a serious error late in the game turned the tables.
A bit below the 2700 mark there were some notable upsets though. Judit Polgar (2696) lost to Isan Reynaldo Ortiz Suarez, Vladimir Akopian (2691) lost to Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen, and Andrei Volokitin (2688) lost to a player with only two names - Ray Robson of the U.S.A.
Transitioning to the other American results, Nakamura won pretty easily against his opponent, rated more than 300 points below him, but two boards down Gata Kamsky only managed a draw (albeit with Black) against Lou Yiping. Alexander Onischuk defeated Eduardo Iturrizaga, and in a semi-upset Alejandro Ramirez drew with the 2700+ rated Evgeny Tomashevsky, though with White.
That was the good news for the U.S.; now for the bad news. The four other Americans all lost to 2700+ rated opposition: Larry Christiansen, Gregory Kaidanov, Alexander Shabalov and Conrad Holt lost to Laurent Fressinet, Alexander Areshchenko, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Nikita Vitiugov, respectively.
With 64 games to choose from there were plenty deserving careful attention, but the interests of brevity I'll note just three, which you can replay here. Two have been mentioned already: Morozevich's upset loss and Robson's impressive win, in which he built on good preparation with a very nice combination. The third game I'll note is the young Russian star Daniil Dubov's win over Sergey Fedorchuk, which ended with a spectacular mating combination.
Just a reminder: day 2 continues the first round, as the players switch colors and do it all over again. All players who are ahead after day 2 get the next day off; those who are tied play rapid (and if necessary, blitz) tiebreaks to decide who advances to the next round. Full results here, or more conveniently, here.