FIDE Chess World Cup Semifinals Start With Draws
Two tables and four players are left in the playing hall. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

FIDE Chess World Cup Semifinals Start With Draws

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

The FIDE World Cup semifinals started today with draws in both Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Teimour Radjabov and Ding Liren vs. Yu Yangyi. The return games will be played on Friday, followed by a possible tiebreak on Saturday.

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.

It was a day of calming down at the World Cup. Yesterday's dramatic tiebreak theater was followed by a completely different genre: Two interesting classical games played at a slow pace, and ending in draws after less than three hours.

Expectedly, we saw a safety-first approach on the first day of the semifinals, where there is so much at stake—not only a place in the final (and at least $20,00 extra in prize money), but also in the 2020 Candidates' Tournament.

Chief arbiter Ashot Vardepetyan 2019 FIDE World Cup
Chief arbiter Ashot Vardapetyan. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Radjabov played the 2...Nc6 Sicilian today, inviting his opponent to the currently topical Sveshnikov. Vachier-Lagrave, however, went for the move 3.Bb5, named after the American-French-Greek-Russian grandmaster Nicolas Rossolimo (1910-1975).

This choice was no big surprise, as MVL had done the same a month against none other than Magnus Carlsen. (Before that, he hadn't played it since 2006.)

The French player then came with a novelty on move seven, and managed to keep a slight edge into the endgame.

"I thought I had some chances. It was my idea to get a safe position but also not without venom," he said.

Vachier-Lagrave 2019 FIDE World Cup
Vachier-Lagrave was happy with his position out of the opening. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Radjabov: "In general I think it wasn’t too bad for me ever but certainly it felt at some point that it’s a kind of an unpleasant endgame that I might get into. My bishops are there, they are two bishops, but still, the positioning of my bishops is very awkward."

The key moment was on move 20, when Black had just pushed his e-pawn. 

"At some point I thought it was getting really awkward with my bishop on b7. If I don’t play 19...e5 it doesn’t look good," said Radjabov.

The logical move here is 20.Ra1, which MVL had planned in advance, but he wasn't too happy with 20...d5. "I don't think I am better anymore," MVL said.

The engine doesn't agree with him, and prefers White after both 21.Ra7 or 21.b4.

Not playing the rook to the a-file gave Black the opportunity to improve the position of his light-squared bishop. "I had to be a bit careful to make a draw," said MVL.

Radjabov: "Once I got this Ba6-b5 then I was happy about my position in general; it’s easier to play maybe for Black but probably it’s just equal."

Teimour Radjabov 2019 FIDE World Cup
Radjabov was first worse, but slightly better at the end. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Radjabov didn't feel he has a psychological edge now, and hinted at a quick draw tomorrow: "In these knockout tournaments many players are even deciding to play safe draws fast as White; there are strategies like this. I also implemented it in 2004. It’s only the final result that matters," he said.

Vachier-Lagrave sounded reasonably satisfied about his black games so far: "There’s been a couple of awkward moments but in general it hasn’t been going badly," he said. 

FIDE's interview with Vachier-Lagrave and Radjabov.

Where things were only slightly unpleasant for the Frenchman in the final phase of the game, the other white player had much more to worry about. The usually solid Ding, especially with the white pieces, overlooked a knight maneuver from his opponent and was clearly worse after 13 moves.

Ding Liren 2019 FIDE World Cup
Ding Liren was in a bit of danger today. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

With slightly more energetic play on move 14, Yu could have posed serious problems. As it went, Ding found a great rook maneuver that saved the day. 

FIDE's interview with Ding and Yu.

Yu, who had played a thriller of a tiebreaker the other day, repeated that he had been "very lucky" there. "Today I just wanted to play chess," he said.

Ding had watched the armageddon game from his hotel room.

"I saw he blundered two pawns with one move," said Ding. "Then I thought my opponent will be Vitiugov. But then on Chessbomb I saw many red moves made by Black. After the first red move it was already just slightly worse for White so I realized maybe after more red moves it’s better or just winning for White."

Yu Yangyi 2019 FIDE World Cup
Yu Yangyi definitely had his share of luck yesterday, but he also deserves credit for not collapsing after dropping two pawns in the opening. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

FIDE World Cup | Semifinals, Day 1 Results

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

2019 FIDE World Cup bracket semifinals
(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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