Shankland and Vidit advance in the World Cup

Monday, July 26thth, 2021 – There were two very happy chess players this afternoon in the playing venue: Sam Shankland and Vidit Santosh Gujrathi. Both of them won their games in good style and are the first qualifiers for the quarterfinals: the rest of the players will have to return tomorrow afternoon for the stressful tiebreaks.

The first one to finish was USA’s number five player GM Sam Shankland (2709). After holding his opponent, Russian GM Peter Svidler (2714), to a draw with Black in the first game, Shankland went all out with the aggressive 3.h4 against Svidler’s pet Grunfeld defence.

Soon the game entered a tactical stage with opposite-side castled kings and both players attacking with all their forces. Svidler’s 24…Qb6 was a big mistake (24…Qb5 was the correct move, with approximate equality) probably based on a miscalculation, and Shankland cashed in with a direct attack on his opponent’s king.

He will now face the winner of the match between Sergey Karjakin and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, which will be decided in the tiebreaks. After dealing with the mandatory testing, Sam was kind enough to pop in to the press centre and give his thoughts on both of the games of this round.

The other happy face of the day was Indian’s number three player GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi. He missed a win with White in game one and the game ended in a draw. Today, with Black, he played an interesting side-line in the Ruy Lopez in which his opponent’s light-squared bishop – the “Spanish bishop” is the key piece.

In the game, GM Vasif Durarbayli (2625) wasn’t able to solve this equation over the board and in the end the bishop was blocked in with no activity. Vidit’s excellent technique did the rest. He will be paired against the winner of the more than interesting tiebreak between Grischuk and Duda.

Before abandoning the playing venue, a relieved Vidit gave us a brief interview, explaining the reasoning behind his thought process in both of the games.

The third decisive result of the day in the open group was Iran’s GM M. Amin Tabatabaei (2613) defeating on-demand GM Haik M. Martirosyan (2632) from Armenia, levelling the score in the match 1-1 and forcing the tiebreak.

Tabatabaei was pressing with Black most of the game but the draw was always in hand. But in the nick of time, Martirosyan miscalculated a pawn ending, exchanged the last piece and found himself resigning after a few moves. Instead of 58.Nxf3? , a move like as 58.Nf1 would have probably held the draw and Martirosyan would have advanced to the quarterfinals.

The rest of the games all ended in draws, some of them hard-fought, others blitzed out in the opening. Funnily enough, the first game to finish was the rematch between GM Sergey Karjakin (2757) and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2749).

While the rest of the players were essentially starting to get comfortable in their chairs, preparing for a long afternoon of chess, Karjakin and MVL blitzed out a fashionable line of the Grunfeld defence, which includes a spectacular queen sacrifice, but that ultimately ends in a perpetual check.

There will be six tiebreaks (of the eight matches) battled out tomorrow afternoon at the Galaxy Center in Sochi.

GM Magnus Carlsen (2847) vs GM Andrey Esipenko (2716),
GM Vladimir Fedoseev (2696) vs GM Velimir Ivic (2582)
GM Etienne Bacrot (2678) vs GM Kacper Piorun (2608)
GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda (2738) vs GM Alexander Grischuk (2778).
GM Haik M. Martirosyan (2632) vs GM M. Amin Tabatabaei (2613)
GM Sergey Karjakin (2757) vs GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2749)

In the women’s group the action was fast and furious. Three players qualified for the semi-finals with their result today and only one match will be decided at tomorrow’s tiebreak. An interesting fact is that the three top finishers in the women's section qualify directly for the Candidates tournament. Since Goryachkina is out of the contest, all the other three semi-finalists have qualified for the Candidates. Kosteniuk and Tan already got their tickets, and the third name will be decided in tomorrow’s tiebreak.

The first game to finish in the women’s group was the rematch between GM Anna Muzychuk (2527) and GM Nana Dzagnidze (2523). A three-fold move repetition in a tense position of the Sicilian Najdorf “Poisoned Pawn” variation left the match with a final 1-1 score.

Soon after, playing with Black, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina (2596) found a convincing way to equalise against the London System proposed by IM Dinara Saduakassova (2483).

However, the blunder 22.Rc2? (22.Rfe1 and anything can happen) decided the game immediately, the point being that 22.Qxc2 Qxf1+! (but not 22…Ne3 23.Qb3+ which was probably what Dinara had in mind) 23.Kxf1 Ne3 and Black has to resign. As the first game ended in a draw, the top seed representing Russia advances to the semi-finals.

Towards the end of the playing session the other two games finished one after the other. In GM Kateryna Lagno (2559) vs GM Tan Zhongyi (2511) the game seemed to be heading for a draw, but around move 30 Lagno went astray, and let Tan Zhongyi’s rooks penetrate to the seventh where they proved to be decisive.

Meanwhile on the adjacent board GM Valentina Gunina (2437) and Alexandra Kosteniuk (2472) were fighting it out in a side-line of the Ruy Lopez. Gunina, in a must win situation, was forced to play aggressively in a situation where she might have been able to hold a draw.

Kosteniuk will now face Tan Zhongyi in one of the semi-finals while Goryachkina’s opponent will come out of tomorrow’s tiebreak and will be either Nana Dzagnidze or Anna Muzychuk.

The tiebreaks of Round 5 are scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday July 27th at 3 pm. Pairings of the round, live games and PGN files can be found on the World Cup website alongside a great amount of other interesting information such as daily videos, a complete photo collection and other useful data.

About the tournament:

Scheduled to take place from July12th (Round 1) to August 6th (finals), the 2021 FIDE World Cup will gather together in Sochi (Russia) 309 of the world’s best chess players, with 206 of them playing in the Open World Cup (and 103 participants in the first ever Women’s World Cup.

The top two finishers in the tournament, aside from World Champion Magnus Carlsen who is also participating, will qualify for the 2022 Candidates Tournament, in addition to winning the 110.000 USD first prize (80.000 USD for the runner-up).

Organisers: International Chess Federation (FIDE), Chess Federation of Russia, Russian Ministry of Sports, and Government of Krasnodar Krai.

Gazprom– general partner
Nornickel– general partner
PhosAgro– general partner
Chessable– event’s partner
Rosatom– event’s partner
Aeroflot– CFR’s partner
Educational centre “Sirius”