2017 World Cup – Round 2 Complete

by admin on September 8, 2017

The playoffs of round 2 in the World Cup happened today, and as you’d expect with closer matchups and faster time controls, there were a few upsets. Probably the most notable one was Hao Wang over Boris Gelfand. Even though the rating difference wasn’t so big, Gelfand is one of those people whose reputation is better than his rating. After all, he played for the World Championship against Anand when his rating was only around 20th or something (and he did pretty well too, Anand was really lucky to win that match).

In the matches I was really interested in, Richard Rapport beat Wei Yi (a match between young stars and a big upset, as Wei was seeded #14) and Vladislav Artemiev, one of the Russian “new wave” players I wrote about yesterday, beat Teimour Radjabov (also a major upset, although Radjabov is not quite as dominant as he used to be).

Rather than go match by match, let’s just see who’s left.

The 700 Club (2700+)

Carlsen, Bu, Svidler, Vachier-Lagrave, Grischuk, Navara, Caruana, Li, Wang, Ding, Vidit, Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Giri, Aronian, Matlakov, So, Vallejo Pons, Nepomniachtchi, Jobava, Nakamura, Fedoseev

The 600 Club (2600-2699)

Onischuk, Najer, Rapport, Kuzubov, Sethuraman, Dubov, Artemiev, Kovalyov, Rodshtein

The 500 Club (2500-2599)


The Americans

So, Caruana, Nakamura, Onischuk, Lenderman

Matches to Watch in Round Three

Kramnik vs. Ivanchuk. Need I say more? Two players who always seem to be in the world championship conversation. Ivanchuk has slipped a bit, but he’s like Gelfand, you don’t ever want to count him out.

Giri vs. Sethuraman. The Indian, Sethuraman, has pulled off two upsets in a row and is the second-lowest seed left in the tournament. Giri is the #13 seed, but I always have trouble figuring out how good he really is.

Dubov vs. Artemiev. Should be a great match, two of the Russian new wavers, both around 20 years old and looking to make their breakthroughs at this tournament. One of them will definitely make it to the round of 16.

Kovalyov vs. Rodshtein. The other match between two members of the “600 Club.” I don’t really know much about either of them.

Carlsen vs. Bu. This one probably won’t last too long. Magnus Carlsen is the only person in the tournament who won both of his first two matches by 2-0. In fact, he was the only person who even won 2-0 in the second round! The real question is, can he do it again? My guess is no. I think he’ll win 1½-½.

Svidler vs. Onischuk. Svidler always seems to do better than his rating at the World Cup. Onischuk is a steady player, doesn’t get the headlines that the other Americans (So, Nakamura, and Caruana) do, but this is his chance to change that.

Vachier-Lagrave vs. Lenderman. Well, this is almost certainly going to be the end of the line for Alex, but we’ll see if he can throw a scare into the Frenchman.

Today’s Quiz

rapport weiWhite to move.

FEN: 6k1/8/4K1p1/5p1p/5P1P/3R2P1/1b6/8 w – – 0 59

This was a crucial position from the match between Richard Rapport (White) and Wei Yi (Black). Rapport was up the exchange, but it looks as if Yi has made it impossible for him to make progress. I’m sure that many games between amateurs would be agreed drawn at this point. How does White win?

In a way, this is a very easy quiz. Once you’ve seen that king moves and rook moves achieve absolutely nothing for White, there is only one other piece that can move. Therefore, the solution has to be 59. g4! But would you really have the guts to do this in a tournament? Would you sacrifice two pawns and give Black a protected passer?

Wei played 59. … hg. I would have played 59. … fg, and the computer likes it a bit better too, because it’s better to aim for the endgame K+R+RP vs. K+B, which can sometimes be tricky for White to win. However, this would probably have been a futile hope. White has the “right” rook pawn (i.e., the queening square is on the color of the bishop) and a 2600 player will almost certainly know the technique. Also, even if White had the “wrong” rook pawn, it’s still a win for White provided that his pawn stays back at h4. (See Wikipedia article on Wrong rook pawn for an explanation.)

Maybe Wei didn’t go in for this because 59. … fg 60. f5 Kg7? would allow 60. f6+. Rapport doesn’t have that resource in the game variation. However, it’s still an easy win. The game ended

60. h5! Kg7 

If 60. … gh 61. Kxf5 would give White a passed pawn, which is the whole point of the two-pawn sacrifice.

61. Rd7+ Kh6 62. hg Kxg6 63. Rf7 Bc1 64. Rxf5 Kh6

and here Black resigned without waiting for White’s next move, presumably because he felt that it would be just too easy for White. After 65. Ke5 White brings the king back, rounds up Black’s pawn, and then has an easy win with the f-pawn.

A neat finish! It’s really not that hard, but as I said, the challenging part is just having the guts to give up two pawns, one right after the other.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michael Aigner September 8, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Please don’t underestimate Wang Hao just because was less active over the past 5 years. In 2009, he became the fourth Chinese GM to break 2700 (after Bu Xianghu, Zhang Zhong and Ni Hua). At that time, he was considered the greatest Chinese hope for the World Championship, peaking at 2752 in January 2013 (#14 in world). Then he flamed out, but not after winning major tournaments in Dubai, Sarajevo and Biel (the latter ahead of a certain Magnus Carlsen). Maybe Wang Hao is no longer a kid (he’s 28), but I’m hardly shocked by his victory over Boris Gelfand and consider him the favorite over Yury Kuzubov.


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