Ding, Radjabov Reach FIDE Chess World Cup Semifinals
Four tables in the playing hall today, and just two tomorrow. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Ding, Radjabov Reach FIDE Chess World Cup Semifinals

| 25 | Chess Event Coverage

Both Ding Liren (China) and Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) won their white games on Tuesday to reach the semifinals of the FIDE World Cup. Ding knocked out Alexander Grischuk (Russia) who went astray in time trouble, while Radjabov came out on top in a complicated Gruenfeld against Jeffery Xiong (U.S.).

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.

Early in the tournament, Radjabov said in an interview that he was basically waiting for a bad result to come. The 32-year-old grandmaster from Azerbaijan didn't arrive to Khanty-Mansiysk with a bucket full of confidence, mostly because he hasn't been very active in recent years.

Few chess fans who filled out a fantasy bracket will have put him in the semifinals, but that's where he is right now. In a sharp Gruenfeld, Radjabov played strongly and knocked out the 18-year-old Xiong from Plano, Texas.

Teimour Radjabov 2019 FIDE World Cup
Radjabov also reached the semifinals of the 2004 FIDE Knockout World Championship, and has now achieved a similar feat. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

"For sure I surprised him in the opening," Radjabov said. "I guess he didn’t look at this line today because there are so many lines I am playing as well, and recently all the players are playing a lot of lines so it’s not easy to prepare."

He was referring to his choice on move seven, one of the main crossroads in this opening. Key moves are 7.Nf3, 7.Be3 and 7.Bc4, but Radjabov's 7.Bb5+ is a respectable system as well, which tries to prevent Black from getting his typical ...c5 break.

Indeed caught in unfamiliar territory, Xiong erred with 14...Rd8?! and after 15.f5! he was under serious pressure.

Jeffery Xiong 2019 FIDE World Cup
Jeffery Xiong can definitely be proud of his result in Khanty-Mansiysk. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

After the trade of dark-squared bishops, Radjabov felt he was much better, as he was told by the Baku school of chess.

"You know, we see the king there, the bishop is absent from g7, everything is coming, f6, Qh6 stuff," said Radjabov.

Radjabov thought for 14 minutes here and decided to follow his Azeri attacking instincts. He went 17.Qd2 to play for mate (“like in my childhood”—Radjabov) but completely missed 17...Nc4.

"I was really upset; I really didn’t see the way to proceed," said Radjabov, who saw his advantage slipping away. Still, he decided against a move repetition.

"There was a way to take the draw," he said, "which would be the sane thing more or less because just trying your luck in rapid or classical games, there is no huge difference, somewhere you’ll lose or win. So why not today, I thought."

FIDE's interview with Radjabov.

"Honestly it was a very complicated game, maybe one of the most complicated games I’ve played recently," said Radjabov. "I’m certainly happy to emerge as the winner in this situation because it didn’t seem to go my way at some point. I thought I lost thread and he’s playing well. I had my doubts there. At some point I thought that maybe if the good moment comes I’ll take a draw but actually I think he was the last to make a mistake. This is what decides the high-level matches."

Teimour Radjabov interview Eteri Kublashvili 2019 FIDE World Cup
Radjabov was interviewed by FIDE's Eteri Kublashvili. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

The top seed also managed to avoid tiebreaks. Ding defeated Grischuk with the white pieces as the Russian grandmaster once again got in severe time trouble. He managed to reach move 40, but by then his position was lost.

"Of course I’m happy about the result but maybe he didn’t play so well and he made many mistakes in time trouble," Ding said.

He thought his opponent initially played well.

"The position was equal but I was the one who was pushing for the advantage," said Ding. "Then he played too passive in time trouble."

Anna Rudolf Ding Liren 2019 FIDE World Cup
Ding Liren went through his game with IM Anna Rudolf. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

In his explanation after the game (see the annotations in the game viewer) Ding suggested alternatives for Black on move 25, 26 and especially 29.

Like Radjabov, the Chinese number-one is now one match victory away from reaching the 2020 Candidates' Tournament—a big bonus for both World Cup finalists, if not their main goal.

Ding explaining his game and his thoughts. Video: FIDE.

The game between Vachier-Lagrave and Aronian was over after just 40 minutes. The Armenian GM repeated the 6...d5 line in the Italian, a move with which he had beaten Maxim Matlakov in the third round and which had been played already four times in this World Cup. 

MVL, on his turn, repeated his 14.Qe2 move, which was a novelty when he used it to beat Dmitry Jakovenko in the tiebreak of the third round. Radjabov then borrowed it in one of his draws with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the next round—that's how fast theory develops these days!

Vachier-Lagrave vs. Aronian 2019 FIDE World Cup
Vachier-Lagrave vs. Aronian. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Aronian had done his homework, and in no time a dead-drawn endgame was reached. With only opposite-colored bishops the players blitzed out some more moves to reach move 30, when a draw offer was allowed. (The final position is almost symmetrical but somehow White has lost a tempo!)

That was not a great way to "spoil" a white game.

MVL explained: "It’s very simple, I played 19.Bg5 too quickly [spending less than three minutes on it—PD] and I realized after 19...h6 there was nothing more to be done, so I don’t know, I have to recheck what I actually was intending there. We’ll see."

Aronian smiled and said: "It was a perfect game. You see, at the end it was very balanced, each player had the same amount of pieces and pawns." On a more serious note, he added: "Of course I expect more effort by White from Maxime but I guess I will get to see it tomorrow."

Vachier-Lagrave vs. Aronian interview 2019 FIDE World Cup
We'll see these guys back at the board tomorrow. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Two years ago, the two played a World Cup semifinal that was eventually won by Aronian in the armageddon game. MVL suggested it may go all the way there yet again tomorrow.

"It can go up to armageddon, that’s a very likely outcome," said MVL. "I don’t know, we’ll see tomorrow how it goes. I hope to be able to freshen up and be ready for a full fight."

Aronian: "We had some interesting encounters in the past so I expect much more mistakes than in the first two games from both. For me it’s always a joy to play against Maxime because he’s a creative player, so I look forward to it."

FIDE's interview with Aronian and MVL.

Aronian and MVL will be joined in the playing hall by Yu and Vitiugov, who drew an interesting Nimzo-Indian. White won a pawn, but at the cost of losing his right to castle. In fact, his king and king's bishop stayed on their initial squares until move 29.

The draw was a good result if you take into account that both players seem to have missed a small chance: White on move 24 and Black on move 25.

Yu Yangyi Vitiugov 2019 FIDE World Cup
Yu Yangyi and Vitiugov will also return to the playing hall on Wednesday. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

FIDE World Cup | Round 5 Results

Seed Fed Title Player - Seed Fed Title Player G1 G2 TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 TB5 TB6 TB7
1 GM Ding Liren - 9 GM Grischuk Alexander ½-½ 1-0 . . . . . . .
3 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime - 6 GM Aronian Levon ½-½ ½-½ . . . . . . .
10 GM Radjabov Teimour - 31 GM Xiong Jeffery ½-½ 1-0 . . . . . . .
12 GM Yu Yangyi - 20 GM Vitiugov Nikita ½-½ ½-½ . . . . . . .

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

Radjabov Xiong post-mortem 2019 FIDE World Cup
Radjabov and Xiong analyzing, with commentators FM Leontxo García (left) and GM Elizbar Ubilava (right), and Xiong's father Wayne in the middle.

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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