By the fifth round of the World Cup in Tromsø, Norway, the field had been whittled down to eight players. Former world champion Vladimir Kramnik faced Anton Korobov of Ukraine, Gata Kamsky played Evgeny Tomashevsky, Dmitry Andreikin played Peter Svidler, and the young and very theoretically-inclined players Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Fabiano Caruana faced off.
In the first game of the two-game matches, Kamsky and Tomashevsky had a placid draw - apparently both players needed a rest after some exciting matches in the previous round. Kramnik won a nice game against Korobov. We will be covering two games from this round which fit into the column - Vachier-Lagrave had an extra pawn against Caruana, but the latter's pieces were active, allowing him to hold a draw; meanwhile, Andreikin and Svidler contested a typical queenless middlegame which can result from the Torre Attack/London System, and we will be examining that.
Vachier-Lagrave might have had some slight chances before the trade of queens, but it always looked like Black's active pieces and pressure against the c3 and e4 pawns gave him enough play to hold. The onus was on White to make some sort of progress, and with the black pieces well-placed, there was never any real chance. Finally Vachier-Lagrave consented to the queen trade, resulting in the following position:
Svidler against Andreikin got a nice position as Black, and perhaps should have played on at the end:
In the second game of the matches, Kamsky was eliminated by losing as White against Tomashevsky, while Svidler and Andreikin agreed to another fairly quick draw, deciding to decide the match in tiebreaks. In the match between Vachier-Lagrave and Caruana it was now Caruana's turn to put some pressure on. However, his two bishops were not going to be enough to win the game with the black bishop solidly posted on b4, defended and defending, no path for the white king to invade, and the remaining play on the kingside over a fairly small region.
Kramnik only needed a draw against Korobov to advance, which he achieved in an opposite-colored bishop endgame. However the ex-world champion had to suffer a while, and probably Korobov had his chances to equalize the match.
The two undecided matches Andreikin - Svidler and Vachier-Lagrave - Caruana went to the rapid tiebreaks. The Andreikin - Svidler match ended when Svidler riskily grabbed a pawn and allowed Andreikin a strong attack in the center, and was unable to equalize the match in the next game. Vachier-Lagrave won his second game against Caruana, putting pressure on the latter in a Stonewall Dutch, finally wearing down Caruana's resistance. When the queens left the game it was already pretty much decided, but the finale illustrates the advantage of a bishop over a knight in endgames where passed pawns are present:
All photos by Paul Truong