FIDE Chess World Cup: Ding Opens Score Against Radjabov
Ding Liren is getting closer to his first World Cup victory. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

FIDE Chess World Cup: Ding Opens Score Against Radjabov

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

Top seed Ding Liren took the lead in the final of the FIDE World Cup as he defeated Teimour Radjabov on Tuesday in impressive style. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Yu Yangyi drew their game in a Petroff.

You can follow the games here as part of our live portal There is daily coverage by our Twitch partner, the Chessbrahs.

GMs Yasser Seirawan, Eric Hansen and Aman Hambleton are covering the tournament each day on their channel Play starts at 3 p.m. local time, which is 12:00 (noon) CEST, 6 a.m. Eastern and 3 a.m. Pacific.

After Ding's excellent win on Tuesday, when the rush of "Harry the h-pawn" played a big role (especially in the final position), it was tempting to ask Ding whether he has been influenced by AlphaZero. The commentator IM Anna Rudolf indeed asked that question, and the answer was affirmative.

"Yes, I was influenced by some computer games," said Ding. "This h4-h5 was a trademark of AlphaZero—putting the pawns in front of the [enemy] king and control the squares [in front of that] king and then attack on the other side."

White's h-pawn, all the way on h6, created two different checkmate possibilities used by Ding to end the game nicely:

White's 40.Re1! forced resignation as 40...Nxd5 is simply met by 41.cxd5!

Radjabov had chosen a rare variation in the English. Unlike the game suggested, Ding wasn't completely sure what he was doing in the opening as he had prepared it a long time ago: "I forgot the details," he said.

"It’s an interesting line actually; I think it was worth a try today," said Radjabov. "It was one of the options. I didn’t want to play anything boring today somehow."

Ding Radjabov game 2 2019 FIDE World Cup final
Ding and Radjabov starting their game. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

To Ding's surprise, his opponent also seemed "out of book" by move 15, which was the first critical moment as the Azerbaijani grandmaster wrongly decided to keep the queens on the board. 

Radjabov: "I forgot what I should do against castling long there but certainly I think I should take on c5 and play d6, and then do the same things more or less but without the queens."

The middlegame turned out to be favorable for White, who pushed his pawns on the kingside and combined that with the prophylactic 22.Qb3!, which prevented Black from getting active on the queenside. With two more inaccuracies on move 23 and 29, Radjabov sealed his fate.

Radjabov said Ding played "a strong game." He wasn't too devastated about his first loss in this World Cup.

"It’s a normal result," he said. "I mean I’m not that happy, of course, but this should’ve happened at some point in this tournament. You can lose at any moment so psychologically I don’t have any special thoughts about it. I’m just playing game after game, as I have started this way and I’m still playing this way. It happens, it’s OK, it’s normal, part of chess life."

During the interview it was mentioned that Ding scored his win on the day that the People's Republic of China is celebrating its 70th birthday. The country's strongest grandmaster might have been inspired, as he said: "This morning it was celebrating time in China. I didn’t see it live but I saw many photos and words. It gave me some more ambitions."

Ding's game analysis in the FIDE broadcast.

Vachier-Lagrave and Yu played an even more quiet game than yesterday, when at least some of the moves that were bashed out in just a few minutes before reaching an endgame that looked interesting.

But, as always, there was more going on behind the scenes than only a superficial look at this game would reveal. For starters, these two players had played three games in the Petroff before: at the 2017 Gibraltar Masters (where MVL went 5.d4), in 2018 in Shenzhen and this year at Norway Chess.

Today it was 5.Nc3 and against this—the main line—Yu had played the 7...Nc6 system in his last two games against the same opponent. Recently he switched to castling kingside instead. 

Yu Yangyi Petroff 2019 World Cup
Yu Yangyi looked ultra-solid with his Petroff today. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

"I thought I had some pressure," Vachier-Lagrave said, before explaining in more detail some of the tactics that were involved (see the annotations to the game).

"I thought I was content. I thought with maybe a little more accurate play I could’ve claimed at least a very playable position," MVL said. 

Yu said knew the plan with retreating the g4-bishop to d7 and c6, and indeed it looks very safe, as the game showed. The ball is yet again in White's court in the Petroff.

FIDE's interview with MVL and Yu.

MVL and Yu will now surely play two more games as the final consists of four classical games and if needed, a tiebreak.

The winner will earn $110,000; the runner-up, $80,000. The winner in the match for third place will earn $60,000; the loser gets $50,000.

FIDE World Cup Finals Results

Seed Fed Title Player - Seed Fed Title Player G1 G2 G3 G4 TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 TB5 TB6 TB7
1 GM Ding Liren - 10 GM Teimour Radjabov ½-½ 1-0 . . . . . . . . .
3 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime - 12 GM Yu Yangyi ½-½ ½-½ . . . . . . . . .

2019 FIDE World Cup bracket final
(Click on image for larger version.)

The FIDE World Cup takes place Sept. 9-Oct. 4 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Each round consists of two classical games and a tiebreak on the third day. The final consists of four classical games. Both finalists will qualify for the 2020 Candidates' Tournament. The total prize fund is $1.6 million (1.45 million euros). Sept. 19 and 29 are rest days. You can find more background info in our preview article.

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