FIDE Chess World Cup: Radjabov Knocks Out MVL, Qualifies For Candidates
When he beat Vachier-Lagrave, Radjabov became the first player to reach the World Cup final. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

FIDE Chess World Cup: Radjabov Knocks Out MVL, Qualifies For Candidates

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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91 | Chess Event Coverage

Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) reached the FIDE World Cup final and qualified for the 2020 FIDE Candidates' Tournament as he beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) in the second semifinal game today. Yu Yangyi and Ding Liren (both China) drew their game and will play a tiebreak on Saturday.

You can follow the games here as part of our live portal Chess.com/events. 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 Twitch.tv/Chessbrah. Play starts at 3 p.m. local time, which is 12:00 (noon) CEST, 6 a.m. Eastern and 3 a.m. Pacific.

Seeing Radjabov back in the Candidates' Tournament is both surprising and not 100 percent certain yet. The following remark, which he made in his post-game interview, should probably be taken with a grain of salt: "I don’t even know if I will play the Candidates' but to get the invitation for a nice party is always good!" he said. 

Few would have expected the Azerbaijani grandmaster to reach the final in Khanty-Mansiysk. His best achievement in 128-player knockout events was the semifinals in 2004. Further, he hasn't been very active in recent years as his motivation hasn't been great.

Once you play well you have this illusion that this will always be with you. Then you suddenly get a lot of losses and you simply understand who you are and that’s it.

—Teimour Radjabov

In fact, Radjabov today said (though with a smile, so it's not clear how serious he was) that he's considered quitting chess for a long time: "Either you are here and you play or you just don’t play chess and that was a kind of thing I am considering for the last 10 years."

He shared a mindset that many amateurs will recognize. "Once you play well you have this illusion that this will always be with you. Then you suddenly get a lot of losses and you simply understand who you are and that’s it," he said.

Teimour Radjabov 2019 FIDE World Cup
After Fabiano Caruana, there's now a second player who has qualified for the Candidates' Tournament. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

It was after the 2013 FIDE Candidates' Tournament, where Radjabov finished on a disappointing 4/14, that the Azerbaijani grandmaster started to cut down on his tournaments. In the same year he became a father, after marrying the daughter of the vice president of Azerbaijan’s state oil company.

In the events he played, his results were not great and his rating dropped from his peak of 2793 to 2696 in November 2016. In 2018 he played especially little (only the Gashimov Memorial in Shamkir and the Batumi Olympiad), but this year he was active in Wijk aan Zee, Shamkir, Moscow and Dortmund.

By knocking out GMs Helgi Dam Ziska (Faroe Islands), Sanan Sjugirov (Russia), Daniil Yuffa (Russia), his compatriot and friend Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and now Vachier-Lagrave, Radjabov is back in the top 10 in the live ratings today, for the first time in six years:

Live ratings Septeber 2019
Source: 2700chess.com.

The start of the game could hardly have gone better for Radjabov, who reached a dream position out of the opening. Vachier-Lagrave must have mixed up something because, barely out of the opening and with his queen's knight still on b8, engine evaluations showed little faith in Black's position.

"I think he got into my preparation," said Radjabov. "I was kind of better immediately out of the opening; I didn’t expect him to play this way. Probably nerves or tiredness tells here at this stage. He mixed up the move order in the opening and then it’s very tricky for Black."

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2019 FIDE World Cup
Vachier-Lagrave still has the FIDE Grand Prix to qualify for the Candidates' Tournament, and even signing up last-minute for the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss (starting October 10) is not out of the question. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

White was already playing for mate by setting up a battery along the b1-h7 diagonal.

White played 13.Bh7!+ Kh8 14.Bc2! here, which threatened the killing 15.Qd3—a maneuver Radjabov didn't have to find at the board: "I’ve seen it all the time when I was analyzing the position," he said. 

During the game, the Azerbaijani thought he had missed a forced win somewhere, and he was upset for allowing his opponent to escape in a worse endgame. However, MVL didn’t go for that, and that made it practically easier, said Radjabov.

"The way he played I was very happy because he got into this position where I could just move around with a pawn up and pressure g7 all the time," Radjabov said. 

From the outside, Radjabov didn't seem too happy after the game, but that was of pure exhaustion. "Every game is like armageddon for me!" he remarked, glad he didn't have to play a grueling tiebreak.

Teimour Radjabov 2019 FIDE World Cup
Radjabov: "Every game is like armageddon for me!" Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

In a somewhat philosophical way, he seemed to suggest that you might as well gamble a little in the classical part.

"The person that loses at the end, half of his life is passing by. He’s a half-dead man, as we all are," said Radjabov. "At this stage of exhaustion you want to try to attack, sacrifice everything and just finish the tournament. If you win it’s nice but if you lose you say OK, fine, I don’t have to be tortured anymore."

FIDE's interview with Radjabov.

The all-Chinese encounter between Yu and Ding lasted less than 90 minutes and finished on move 30 with a perpetual check.

The story is simple: Ding followed the recipe of Nikita Vitiugov, who drew two black games with Yu in the previous round. In the same line of the Nimzo-Indian, Ding came up with a novelty, then the players continued playing the first choice of the computer some more, and then it was over.

"I was afraid of some preparation by him but but maybe it was not so special," Ding said.

Ding Liren 2019 FIDE World Cup
Top seed Ding Liren is one tiebreak away from joining Radjabov. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

This means we'll see a tiebreak between these Yu and Ding tomorrow, with the second spot in the final as well as the 2020 Candidates' Tournament at stake.

Yu thinks the chances are equal, and Ding agreed: "We played many rapid and blitz games recently; sometimes I win, sometimes he wins, so the results are really balanced."

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 ½-½ . . . . . . .
3 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime - 10 GM Radjabov Teimour ½-½ 0-1 . . . . . . .
Bracket:

2019 FIDE World Cup semifinals bracket(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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