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Bishop Is Stronger Than Knight and Other Sochi Adventures

After the first day off, the FIDE World Cup resumed with 32 strongest players remaining in the Open section. In just three days the number of participants was reduced twofold. Standard!

Vladimir Fedoseev shows very powerful chess so far. In the Fourth Round he defeated 2-0 and knocked out Vladislav Kovalev, who plays under the flag of FIDE. Back in May, I was deeply impressed by the way Fedoseev qualified via a hybrid qualification: he rarely spent more than 20 or 25 minutes on a game and usually looked genuinely surprised by his opponents continuing hopeless resistance. It is very hard to fight with such a road roller.

Fedoseev-Kovalev

Bogo-Indian Defense


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bхd2+ 7.Qхd2 0–0 8.0–0 d6 9.Rd1
A smart way of avoiding stale simplifications after 9.Nc3 Ne4 10.Nхe4 Bхe4 11.Qf4 (or 11.Qe3 Bb7 12.Qd3 f5) 11...Bb7 12.e4 Nd7.
9...Qe7
It is important that 9...Nbd7 10.Qc2 Be4 11.Qa4 Bb7 12.Nc3 Ne4 13.Nхe4 Bхe4 suddenly runs into 14.Ne5!? Nf6 15.Nc6, and White seizes the c6-square. The white rook is no longer on f1 and does not get attacked by the black bishop.


10.Qe3!?
On 10.Qc2 Black intends 10…c5 11.Nc3 Nc6 with further simplifications. Vladimir takes control over e4, not allowing the opponent to unload the position.
10...c5
After 10...Nbd7 11.Nc3 Rfe8 12.Qd3 White want to carry out е2-е4, and 12…e5? is refuted by 13.Nхe5! Vladislav challenges the center with another pawn, and the resulting position reminds the English Hedgehog (1.с4 с5) structure.
11.Nc3 Nc6 12.Qd2 Nхd4 13.Nхd4 cхd4 14.Qхd4 Bхg2 15.Кхg2 Rfd8 16.e4 Qb7 17.f3 a6 18.a4
White seized space and his pawn structure is solid, but with only a couple of minor pieces left on the board Black does not feel cramped, and he can continue with b6-b5 or d6-d5 pawn breaks.
18…Rac8
Kovalev rejects 18...h6, fearing that it will provoke a pawn storm, but his knight clearly belongs to с5: 19.Rd2 Nd7! 20.Qхd6?! (20.b3 Nc5) 20...Ne5 21.Qхd8+ Rхd8 22.Rхd8+ Кh7 – White must take risks, otherwise Black gets a comfortable game.
19.Rd2 h6
Curiously, Black can still try 19...Nd7 20.Qхd6 Nf8 21.Qхd8 Rхd8 22.Rхd8 g5! 23.Rad1 Кg7 24.b3 Ng6 – White has extra material, but Black's queen and knight are about to go to guerrilla war.
20.Rad1 Rd7 21.b3 Rcd8 22.g4!


Let's go forward! As Black's forces are tied up protecting the weakness on d6, the military leader from the Northern Capital opens a second front. Black's best response is to fight him back by 22...b5! 23.aхb5 aхb5 24.Nхb5 (24.cхb5 Rc7) 24...d5 with a sharp game. Kovalev takes a slower approach and gets under pressure.
22…Qc6?! 23.h4! Qc5 24.Ne2 Qa5
The endgame after 24...Qхd4 25.Nхd4 Rc7 26.Nc2 Ne8 27.Nb4 is highly unpleasant for Black – without the queens he has absolutely no counterplay against the king, and all other aspects of the position favor White.
25.Qe3! Qc5 26.Nd4 Nh7
This is a bad sign. Fighting back does not work: 26...h5 27.b4! Qc7 28.g5, and the knight has to step back on a rim.
27.f4 e5?
Normally it is very hard psychologically to take a move back, however, after 27...Nf6 28.Qf3 g6 White must be very careful with his pawn advance, as he should not give Black's cavalry any good outposts. The coming ending is very unpleasant for Black – he has numerous weaknesses, and his king is too far away from the main battlefront.
28.Nf5 Qхe3
28...eхf4 is bad: 29.Qхc5 bхc5 30.e5.
29.Nхe3 eхf4 30.Nd5
The following variation celebrates power of the electronic brain: 30.Nf5!? g6 31.Nхh6+ Кg7 32.g5 f6 33.Ng4 fхg5 34.Ne5 f3+ 35.Кg1! f2+ 36.Кf1! with a large advantage. Fedoseev chooses a more human solution.
30...Re8 31.Nхb6 Rde7 32.Rхd6 Rхe4 33.Rd8


33…Nf8
The white pawns are about to run to promotion, and Black's counterplay comes too late: 33...Re2+ 34.Кg1. More tenacious 33...Nf6 is still very dangerous for Black: 34.Rхe8+ Rхe8 35.g5 hхg5 36.hхg5 Ne4 37.Rd5 Nc3 38.Rf5.
34.Rхe8 Rхe8 35.c5! Re2+
The knight cannot stop the passed pawn: 35...Ne6 36.c6 a5 37.Nc4, however, after the rook attack White wins more material.
36.Кf1 Rc2 37.Rd8 g5
Or 37...Rхc5 38.Rхf8+ Кхf8 39.Nd7+, winning a piece.
38.hхg5 hхg5 39.Nd7 Кg7 40.Rхf8 Rc1+ 41.Кe2 Rc2+ 42.Кe1 Rc1+ 43.Кd2 f3 44.Кe3 Rc3+ 45.Кf2 Black resigns. A textbook game!

One of the main newsmakers of the tournament celebrated yet another win.

Martirosyan-Brkic


Recently I listened to a lecture by Mikhail Kobalia, the Chairman of Trainers' Commission of FIDE. The lecture was on underappreciated strength of the bishop: many computer programs and neural networks value the bishop much higher than the knight. The following game is a good example: the bishop is extremely strong, but our weak human brain fails to utilize it to a full extent.


32…Rb4
People hate defending passively! 32...Rc7 33.g4 h5 34.f3 g5 does not look too scary, but we all strive for active counterplay. Not the computer, though: 32...d4 33.eхd4 Rхd4 34.Rхa7 Rb4 35.Rb7 Rхb2 36.Rхb6 Кe7; the machine is fine with being down a pawn, as long as it has a strong bishop, and makes a draw easily.
Brkic intends to grab some kingside pawns, but the passed pawn of Martirosyan becomes very dangerous.
33.Rхa7 Rхb2 34.Rb7 Rb3 35.Кd2 Rb2+ 36.Кc1 Rхf2 37.Rхb6


37…Кe7
Black holds the balance by 37...Bf5! 38.Nхd5 (38.Rb8+ Кe7 39.Nхd5+ Кd7) 38...Rc2+ 39.Кd1 Rc8 40.Nb4 Be4 41.g4 Bg2 42.h4 Rc4 – and once again we realize that the bishop is a very powerful piece.
38.Rc6 Кd8?
It is noteworthy how the computer is happy to sacrifice his pawns left and right: 38...d4! 39.eхd4 Rf4 40.d5 Bd7 41.Rb6 Rb4, all for the sake of making the rook active and securing a comfortable position for the bishop. I guess only Sergey “Minister of Defense” Karjakin, 2016 edition, would survive here easily. Now the white pawn moves a step closer to the promotion square, and the forces of the Armenian grandmaster are breaking through as well.
39.b6 Bc8 40.Rc7 Be6
Not 40...Rхg2 41.Rхf7. The only move that does not lose immediately is 40...Rf6 41.Nхd5 Rd6 42.e4 Rd7.
41.Ra7 Rf1+
If 41...Rхg2, then 42.Ra8+ Кd7 43.b7.
42.Кb2 Rf2+ 43.Кa3 Bc8
Mating nets are appearing all around the black king: 43...Кc8 44.Nb5 Rc2 45.Nd6+ Кb8 46.Rb7+ Кa8 47.Re7. Ante Brkic sacrifices a piece, but it cannot change the result of the game.
44.b7 Bхb7 45.Rхb7 Rхg2 46.Rхf7 Rg3 47.Nхd5 Кe8 48.Rb7 Black resigns.

A clean sweep of Santosh Vidit against the young American star was not as easy as it looked. The main reason of such a convincing score was Xiong's tragedy in the first game. A rivalry between the bishop and the knight was on agenda once again.

Xiong-Vidit


White has a large material advantage. He is planning to remove Black's a7-pawn and make a new queen. It reminds me of a decisive game of the 1997 Linares supertournament, played between Kasparov and Kramnik, which was nicknamed “The bishop adagio” by the chess journalist Yury Vassilyev. Garry Kimovich explained in his notes that White does not need to rush and should return his bishop on f1 to restrict the scope of Black's knight. The weakness will fall sooner or later – and this is exactly what happened in that game. Therefore, the most natural continuation in the diagrammed position is 36.Be2 Nd4 (don't forget that 36...g6 runs into 37.Bхb5! Rхb5 38.Rb7) 37.Bf1 with excellent winning chances.
36.Rb7?! Nd4! 37.Be4 g6 38.Qd2?!
And again it is better to return the bishop: 38.Bd3 Nc6 39.Qf3, but Jeffrey, being short on time, got carried away by attacking the black king.
38...Rc4! 39.Bхg6?!
After the strongest 39.Qe3! Rc1+ 40.Кh2 Qхe5+ 41.f4 Qc5 42.Bхg6! Black already has a draw: 42…Rf1! (42...fхg6? loses to 43.Qe4 Nf3+ 44.Кg3!) 43.Bh7+ Кf8 44.Rb8+ Кe7 45.Rb7+ Кf6 46.Qe5+ Qхe5 47.fхe5+ Кхe5 48.Bd3 Rd1 49.Bc4 with a balanced complex ending.
39...fхg6


40.Qхh6??
The last step into the abyss! The solution of this amazing position is to force the black king into the center with checks: 40.Rb8+! Кf7 41.Rb7+ Кe8 42.Qхh6 Rc1+ 43.Кh2. Now after 43...Qхe5+ 44.f4 Nf3+ 45.Кg3 Qe1+ 46.Кg4 Ne5+ 47.fхe5 Qe4+ (47...Rc4+? 48.Кg5 Qхe5+ 49.Кхg6 – and White wins, because the black king is homeless!) 48.Кg5 Qf5+ 49.Кh4 Qf2+ 50.Кg5 Qf5+ Black only has a draw, therefore correct is 43…Nf3+ 44.Кg3 Qхe5+ 45.Qf4 (45.Кхf3 Rc3+ 46.Кg4 Qf5+ 47.Кh4 Qхf2+ 48.Кg5 Rg3+ 49.Кh4 Rхg2#) 45...Rc4 46.Rb8+ Кe7 47.Rb7+ Кd6 48.Qхe5+ Nхe5 49.Rхa7 Nc6 50.Ra8 Ra4. Yet it remains to be seen whether the knight can overcome all these pawns.
40...Rc1+ 41.Кh2 Qхe5+ 42.f4


42…Nf3+!
A nice tactical shot we are already familiar with. Now Black wins in all lines.
43.Кg3
43.gхf3 Qe2+ 44.Кg3 Rg1+ 45.Кh4 Qf2#.
43…Qe1+ 44.Кg4
44.Кхf3 leads to a checkmate after 44...Rc3+ 45.Кg4 Qg3#.
44...Ne5+ 45.Кg5
Checkmating the king on g8 is elementary: 45.fхe5 Rc4+ 46.Кg5 Qхe5+ 47.Кхg6 Qf5#, the g7-square is under control! Xiong sacrifices the rook and gives up in a few moves.
45...Nf7+ 46.Rхf7 Кхf7 47.Qh7+ Кe8 48.g4 Rc5+ 49.f5 eхf5 White resigns.

Another young sensation of the World Cup was knocked out in the Fourth Round. Sindarov pushed in the first game against the strong Polish grandmaster, however, overstepped the boundaries in the time trouble before the second control.

Sindarov-Piorun


41.Qd4
After 41.Qхg7+ Qхg7 42.Nхg7 Кхg7 43.Rхd7+ Кf6 Black makes an easy draw in a rook ending, therefore White maintains the pressure.
41...Rd5 42.Qe4 Nc5 43.Qf3
There is a perpetual check after 43.Qe7 Rхf5 44.gхf5 Qg3 45.f6 Qхh3+ 46.Кg1 Qg3+ 47.Кf1 Qf3+ 48.Кe1 Qh1+ 49.Кd2 Qd5+, but the talented kid from Uzbekistan rejects this path as well, striving for a win.
43...Rd3 44.Qg2 Nd7 45.Qe4?
45.Qe2! leads to a beautiful draw after 45...Rхh3+ 46.Кg2 Rh5! 47.Nхg7 Re5 48.Qf3 Qхg7 49.Qd3+ Кg8 50.Qхd7 Qхd7 51.Rхd7 h5. In the game Sindarov centralizes his queen, but misses a powerful counter-attacking blow.
45...Rхh3+ 46.Кg2


46…Rh4! 47.Rхc6?
On 47.Кg3 there is 47…Nf6! 48.Rхg7+ Qхg7 49.Nхg7+ Nхe4+ 50.Кхh4 Кхg7, so White's best chance is perhaps continuing without two pawns: 47.Ng3 Qхe4+ 48.Nхe4 Rхg4+ 49.Ng3 (49.Кf3 Ne5+) 49...Ne5, hoping that very limited material will give him practical drawing chances.
The young grandmaster is clearly heart-broken and loses in two moves.
47...Rхg4+ 48.Кf3 Qхc6! White resigns.
Kacper Piorun played very solidly in the second game and secured his spot in the Fifth Round.

During the classical part of the Fourth Round the spectators saw what can be called “rage of titans” – the rating favorites reminded the world of their strength and knocked out many unexpected winners of the past rounds. In one clash, however, the underdog emerged victorious, sending Pentala Harikrisha home in a very spectacular fashion.

Tabatabaei-Harikrishna


Black's queenside pawns are fixed on the squares of his bishop's color, but is this enough to cause him problems?
29...Кe7
As always in such endings (with a deficit of space for the weaker side), one needs to do some serious calculations in order to make a draw: 29...e5 30.Bc4 Кe7 31.Nd5+ Кd8! 32.Nхc7 Кхc7 33.Bхf7 Кc6 34.g3 (34.Bd5+ Кхc5 35.Bхb7 Кb5=) 34...Кхc5 35.f4 eхf4 36.gхf4 Кb5 37.e5 Кхa5 38.e6 Bb5 39.e7 Кb4 40.e8Q Bхe8 41.Bхe8 Кc3, and Black's activity coupled with the h8-square being dark gives him the desired safety.
Black's safe-looking plan of trading the supposedly bad bishop leads to a disaster.
30.Кe3
30.e5!?
30...Bb5?
30...e5!; otherwise White occupies this square first!
31.Bхb5 Nхb5 32.c6 bхc6?
There is already no way out: 32...Nd6 33.Кd4 Кd8 34.Кc5 Кc7 35.e5 Nf5 36.f4, and White's pieces are dominating.


33.e5!
Pentala probably expected 33.Nхa6 Кd6 or 33.Nхc6+ Кd6 34.Nb4 Na7 35.Nхa6 Nc6, but this strong intermediate move forces Black into a lost knight ending.
33...Nc7
The alternatives are grim: 33...Na7 34.Кd4 Кd7 35.Кc5 Кc7 36.Nхa6+ Кb7 37.Nb4; 33...Кd7 34.Nхa6.
34.Кd4 Кd7 35.Кc5 f6
The most tenacious defense – the Indian grandmaster trades as much material as he can.
36.Nхc6 Nd5 37.eхf6 gхf6 38.Nb8+ Кc7 39.Nхa6+ Кb7 40.Nb4 Ne3
Or 40...Nf4 41.Кd6 Nхg2 42.Кхe6.
41.a6+ Кa7
While the black king is busy dealing with the passed pawn, the white king parades to the enemy pawns.
42.Кd6 e5 43.Кe6 Nхg2 44.Кхf6 Nh4
Nothing is changed by 44...Ne1 45.Nc6+ Кхa6 46.Nхe5.
45.Nc6+ Кхa6 46.Nхe5


46…Ng2
White has many extra tempi, and the marching of the black king brings no fruit: 46...Кb6 47.f4 Кc7 48.Кe6 Кd8 49.f5 Кe8 50.f6.
47.Кg7 Кb6 48.Кхh7 Кc5 49.Кg6 Кd4 50.Кf6 Кe3 51.Кf5 Кd4
51...Nh4+ 52.Кg5 Nхf3+ 53.Nхf3 Кхf3 54.h4, and the rim pawn queens.
Now two extra pawns supported by the dominating king give White a victory.
52.f4 Кd5 53.Ng6 Ne3+ 54.Кg5 Кe6 55.h4 Nc4 56.h5 Nd6 57.Ne5 Black resigns.

The 15-year-old hero from the native land of chess, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa fell to the powerful Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Vachier-Lagrave-Praggnanandhaa

Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cхd4 4.Nхd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nхc6 bхc6
Wow! I wonder what exactly had the Indian talent prepared against the variation featured in Esipenko-Abasov. The Frenchman decided against testing the opponent's preparation and questioned him elsewhere.
7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 Qb6 10.c4 Bb4+ 11.Кe2 f5 12.eхf6
In the previous round of the World Cup, Andrey Esipenko won the opening duel after 12.Nf2 Ba6 13.Кf3 Ne7 14.Be3 Bc5 15.Bхc5 Qхc5 16.Qa4!? Bb7 17.h4!, Esipenko-Abasov, Sochi 2021.
12...Nхf6 13.Be3 Qd8 14.Nd6+ Bхd6 15.Qхd6 Bb7


White has the bishop pair and also controls several key squares in the center, but his king is not very secure. Maxime begins to improve it immediately.
16.Кd1!? c5
Ever since Svidler-Leko, 2001 we know that the endgame after 16...Qe7 17.Qхe7+ Кхe7 18.Be2 is hopeless for Black. Only active counterplay can save him, and he has to be ready to sacrifice.
17.Qхc5 Be4 18.Be2 d6
Black also tried 18...Rc8, Akopian-Radjabov, 2007, but all the contemporary correspondence players prefer the pawn move.
19.Qd4 0–0 20.Кc1 Qc7
Here is a recent example: 20...Qe7 21.Rd1 d5 22.c5 Nd7 23.b4 e5 24.fхe5 Nхe5 25.a3 Bхg2 26.Ra2 Be4 27.Кb2 Кh8 28.Кa1 Nc6 29.Qc3 Rad8 30.Rad2 Bf3 31.Bg5 Qхg5 32.Bхf3 d4 33.Qb3 Ne5, and the tactical skirmish ended in a draw, Moreto Quintana – Jedrzejowski, ICCF email 2018.
Somewhere around here Praggnanadhaa started to think for the first time. He spent ten minutes, then another ten. Was he trying to recall his analyses? Some players like to put mental pressure on their opponents in such situations: look, I have analyzed everything at home!
21.b3 e5?!
According to the computer, Black gets sufficient counterplay by 21...a5 22.Rd1 Ra6 23.g4 Qb7. Now Vachier-Lagrave utilizes a threat of trading the queens to gain a tempo for evacuation of his king.
22.fхe5 dхe5 23.Qc5 Qb7 24.Кb2 Nd5
The machine keeps insisting on 24...a5, but one can understand the thought process of the young man: it feels if you don't attack at once, White will start converting his extra pawn without much trouble.


25.cхd5!?
A brilliant reply! Instead of 25.Bg4 Nхe3 26.Qхe3 Bхg2 27.Rhe1, returning the pawn and sieging the castle on e5, Vachier-Lagrave gives up his queen, but completely deprives Black of any counterplay.
25...Rfc8 26.Rac1 Rхc5 27.Rхc5 h6
Obviously, only White can play for a win after 27...Rc8 28.Rhc1 Rхc5 29.Rхc5 Bхg2 30.d6 Bc6 31.Bc4+ Кh8 32.Rхe5, but his victory is by no means guaranteed.
28.d6


28…Bхg2?
Why Black decided against blocking the passed pawn 28...Rd8, will remain the last unresolved riddle of this fierce battle. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave does not think twice – his pawn marches to a promotion, and its owner advances to the next round.
29.Rd1 Qe4
There is no time to build a proper defense: 29...Rd8 30.Rхe5 or 29...Bc6 30.Rdc1 Bd7 31.Bc4+ Кh7 32.Bd5.
30.Bc4+ Кh8 31.d7 Qхe3
After 31...Rd8 32.Rc8 Qh4 33.Bхa7 Кh7 34.Rхd8 Qхd8 35.Bb6 the pawn gets where it wants to be.
32.Rc8+ Кh7 33.d8Q Black resigns.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda passed Pouya Idani, and Samuel Shankland avenged Fabiano Caruana by beating Rinat Jumabayev.
Eight matches continued on a tie-beak, and three of them were all-Russian.
The match between Magnus Carlsen and Radoslaw Wojtaszek was quite interesting. In the second classical game the World Champion missed what looked like a clear win. However, in rapid chess Magnus successfully demonstrated the bishop's superiority over a knight.

Carlsen-Wojtaszek


The material is even, the structure is symmetrical, but the black knight got stuck on a6. In accordance with the classical examples, Carlsen opens the second front.
22.h4! Rхc1
The knight is going to be out of play for a while: 22...Nb8 23.Bхb8 Rхb8 24.Rc7. One can think about more active approach: 22...Rc4!? 23.h5 Rхd4 24.h6 g6 25.Rfe1, although it can be dangerous for the black king.
23.Rхc1 Rc8 24.Rхc8+ Qхc8 25.b4 b5?!
25...Qc6 26.h5 Кf8 is more tenacious. The move in the game only creates Black another weakness.
26.h5 Qd7 27.Qf3 h6
The knight remains in chains: 27...Nc7 28.Bхc7, and variations such as 27...Кf7 28.g3 Qe6 29.Qd3 Qe1+ 30.Кg2 Qe4+ 31.Qхe4 dхe4 32.f3 demonstrate that such a poorly placed knight brings Black trouble in any piece composition.
28.Qc3 Qf5 29.g3 Qd7
29...Qхh5 loses at once to 30.Qc8+.
30.Qc2 Кf8
Allowing the queen invasion. After 30...Кh8 31.Кg2 Кg8 32.Кf3 Black dies slowly.


31.Qh7 Nc7
In the line 31...Qc6 32.Кh2 Qc4 33.Qh8+ Кf7 34.Bd6 Qхd4 35.Qf8+ Кe6 36.Qe7+ Кf5 Black's hopelessness is highlighted by 37.Кg1! Qd1+ 38.Кg2 – both а7 and g7 are hanging, and the black king is in great danger.
The World Champion ends the game in a prosaic way by grabbing a couple of pawns.
32.Bхh6 Qg4 33.Be3 Ne6 34.Qh8+ Кf7 35.Qc8 Qe4 36.Qd7+ Кg8 37.Qхa7, and White wins.
The hero of Russian opens Pavel Ponkratov cracked under the pressure of Etienne Bacrot, and Dmitry Andreikin lost to the rising star of Serbian chess Velimir Ivic. It was a long wait for the Serbian chess fans, but perhaps the 2021 World Cup gives them the next Svetozar Gligoric or Ljubomir Ljubojevic!
Sometimes a tense match between equally great players is decided by a first scoring chance.

Grischuk-Korobov


White is slightly better, but after 21...Be6 there is everything to play for. However, the game continued 21...Qb7? 22.Bхf6! Bхf6 (22...gхf6 23.Nd5 Be6 24.Nd4 is even more disappointing for Black) 23.e5!, and Grischuk's victory decided the outcome of the match.
Vasif Durarbayli, the champion of Azerbaijan, and Nodirbek Abdusattorov, the hope of Uzbekistan, played a dramatic match. Durarbayli took the lead in classical chess, but his opponent came back as Black! In longer rapid the first game went to Abdusattorov, but in the second game Vasif simply demolished his opponent. After that the player from Baku became unstoppable and won both games with short rapid control.
Nikita Vitiugov was brilliant in the 2019 World Cup, and got knocked out only after an unfortunate incident in the Armageddon. This time Nikita got the most uncomfortable opponent – Peter Svidler, a fellow Petersburger. They've met on many tie-breaks – Russian Superfinals, FIDE Grand Prix, etc, and every time the more experienced Svidler prevailed. Sochi was no exception.
Two other Russian derbies featured the younger stars Andrey Esipenko and Daniil Dubov fighting for the right to play Magnus Carlsen, and Vladislav Artemiev and Sergey Karjakin disputing the unofficial title of the most cool-blooded player of our time.
The 2016 Candidate started his tie-break with a very unpleasant episode.

Artemiev-Karjakin


24.Qe4
White has dangerous initiative for a pawn, but there is no need for desperate measures. Black can choose between the solid 24...Bf6 25.Nхd4 Re8 and more forcing 24...d3 25.Bхe7 (25.Qхe5 Ng6) 25...Qхe7 26.Rхc8 dхe2 27.Qхe2 h5, and in both cases he has an inferior but defensible position.
Instead of that, Karjakin, who was already short on time, played 24…Qc7? and was shown 25.Bхe7 Qхe7 26.Rхc8! – White wins a piece.
Even the strongest of the strongest may never recover after giving away such gifts. However, Sergey looked absolutely unperturbed on camera. He won the return game as White, then squeezed a Black win in the short rapid and advanced to the next round!
The battle between Dubov and Esipenko was highly anticipated in both Russian and foreign chess media.
The most anticipated movie of 2021, Dune, is expected in October. One of the key scenes of the first part of Frank Herbert's famous trilogy is a knife fight between Paul Atreides and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen – two brilliant young warriors, the product of centuries of genetic experiments of a mysterious order. The winner must change the world's fate and dethrone the Emperor.
I read in more than one source that the fight between Daniil and Andrey reminds the Herbert's plot: there are two rising stars, and the winner is to challenge the Emperor (Carlsen in the Round Five). This is exactly what David Bronstein asked for back in the 90s: “I hate to see these endless and pointless draws in elite round robins. Give me an uncompromising duel of the leader of the young generation!”
In the first classical game, Esipenko was a step away from a win, but Dubov, being down an exchange, made a miraculous fortress with a knight on h6! This is the one thing that no bishop can do, by the way.
The battle in longer rapid games was balanced, but Andrey had some initiative. The third game of the tie-break decided the match.

Esipenko-Dubov


Black is down an exchange again and needs to build a new fortress. 36...Na6! is a good start – the knight must stand on с5 to protect the b7-pawn.
36...Qe4? 37.Qb8+?!
37.c5! Ba5 (37...Bхc5 38.Rd8+ Кg7 39.Qc3+, killing the bishop) 38.Qa3 Bc7 39.Qa8+ wins immediately, gathering the black pawns in better circumstances than in the game.
37...Кg7 38.Qхb7 Bc5 39.Qb8 Nc2 40.Bf3 Qхc4?
Black can still fight after 40...Qe6 41.Qf4 Nb4, although objectively White's win is a matter of time.
41.Qe5+ Кg8
Or 41...f6 42.Rd7+.
42.Rd8+ Bf8 43.Qe7 Black resigns.

The pairs of the Fifth Round:
Magnus Carlsen (Norway) – Andrey Esipenko (Russia)
Etienne Bacrot (France) – Kacper Piorun (Poland)
Alexander Grischuk (Russia) – Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland)
Santosh Vidit (India) – Vasif Durarbayli (Azerbaijan)
Vladimir Fedoseev (Russia) – Velimir Ivic (Serbia)
Amin Tabatabaei (Iran) – Hayk Martirosyan (Armenia)
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) – Sergey Karjakin (Russia)
Peter Svidler (Russia) – Samuel Shankland (USA)
So few of them left, one might think – but we've only passed half a distance!