Karjakin Claims Threefold; Qualifies For Candidates, World Cup Final

Karjakin Claims Threefold; Qualifies For Candidates, World Cup Final

| 98 | Chess Event Coverage

Sergey Karjakin defeated Pavel Eljanov in the tiebreak of the FIDE World Cup semifinal. The Russian GM correctly claimed a threefold repetition in the second 10+10 game, and qualified the final as well as the 2016 Candidates’ Tournament. 

All photos courtesy of FIDE.

It was both a dramatic and anticlimactic end to what had become an intense and truly fascinating tiebreak. After losing the first, and winning the next two, Sergey Karjakin escaped with a draw against Pavel Eljanov, thanks to a draw claim, and won the match.

Eljanov had lost the first 10+10 game due to a blunder, in a phase where he played fast, despite having more time on the clock. This, and allowing a threefold repetition, made the difference today — not the chess moves.

Eljanov started the tiebreak strongly. He blew Karjakin off the board with the white pieces, finding the critical moves when it mattered, and finishing off elegantly. A superb game by the Ukrainain:

An excellent start for Eljanov.

Then it was Karjakin's turn to bring out the best chess he's capable of. The game started quietly, and in fact Eljanov seemed to be very close to equalizing. It seems that he could have tried to reach a fortress based on a nice trick, pointed out by the computer. 

The game went differently, and the players reached an ending RB vs RN. Karjakin showed fantastic endgame technique, to the extent that commentator Evgeny Miroshnichenko started mentioning the ultimate classic in this type of ending, Fischer-Taimanov, Vancouver match (4) 1971.

To show this kind of technique in a must-win situation was “tremendous” according to Peter Svidler. The Russian, who had qualified for the final the other day, spent some time commentating for the official broadcast.

Miroshnichenko was joined by Svidler today.

“It was maybe the most difficult situation for me in the whole World Cup,” said Karjakin. “Actually I can say that I sat in front of him and I decided to play my first move 1.Nf3 just maybe 10 seconds before the game because I didn't know [whether to play] 1.e4, 1.d4 or 1.c4. I didn't know where he's prepared better, and you have to win. It was a very difficult decision.

“But fortunately he went to my preparation. This whole 18...Ba3, 19.Bxa3 Qxa3 20.Nc5 I knew all of this and I knew White is better according to the computer. But of course it wasn't easy at all to win this game but at least I think it was kind of a good game.”

A good endgame win by Karjakin to level the score.

With two rapid games played, the score was still equal. Two more games followed, with 10 minutes and 10 seconds increment on the clock.

In the same variation as in the first rapid game Karjakin got a decent position this time. It became a middlegame with heavy pieces and opposite-colored bishops. At some point Eljanov had a four-minute time advantage (six vs two minutes) and was pressing.

Maybe he felt he had to play for a win, maybe he wanted to keep Karjakin under pressure both on the board and on the clock? Who knows. Fact is that Eljanov played too fast, and blundered away the game.

A few seconds after Svidler noticed that 43.h5 fails to 43...Bh4, Eljanov played it. The Ukrainian briefy looked at his opponent; he probably noticed the blunder right after he let go of the pawn, as it always goes. When Karjakin played Bh4, Eljanov briefly shook his head.

Eljanov was lucky to get a position where he could still fight, but with 53.Qc4 he sealed his fate. He must have missed that he would now lose the h-pawn by force, where he should have given another. “The c-pawn was of little to no importance,” Svidler pointed out.

“Actually I was a bit lucky,” said Karjakin. “He was slightly better but normally I was holding and it would end in a draw. But suddenly he blundered. I think the problem for him was that he played a little bit on time. He played too quickly and he that's why he blundered.”

Bad time management by Eljanov in game three.

Suddenly a draw with White was enough for Karjakin to go through. That mindset didn't exactly help him; as early as move five (5.Nc3 — “a very peculiar choice” said Svidler) he allowed the type of position his opponent needed: a double-edged, complicated and non-symmetrical position.

“The objective evaluation is completely irrelevant in this situation,” said Svidler.

“I allowed [Bxc3] because I thought I should play normal chess but then I played very badly,” Karjakin would later say. “When you play with White and you have to make a draw you start to think: should you play for a win, or for a draw? You start to make moves which are not the best and at some moment you realize that you are slightly worse, and it goes worse and worse...”

Eljanov slowly but surely outplayed Karjakin, and reached a winning opposite-colored bishop ending. Svidler: “Tremendous heart shown by both players. Very impressive. Winning a must-win game is incredibly hard, and doing it with Black even more.”

But then, while gaining some time on the clock, Eljanov played some kind of triangulation with his king... and Karjakin suddenly stopped the clock. The Russian player claimed a draw by threefold repetition.

Karjakin claims.

The chief arbiter took the players to the other board, where the position was reconstructed based on the notation of the deputy arbiter. As it turned out, Karjakin was right.

“This is an incredibly sad ending of this match, from a spectator’s point of view,” said Svidler. And indeed, even Karjakin's wife must have hoped for a better scenario than this one!

It was impressive though, that Karjakin was sharp enough to realize the threefold, with just fifty seconds on the clock.

“It's such a pity that I cannot make a normal draw with White,” said Karjakin in the official broadcast. “I had such a terrible position. Of course I should have done something more...let's say convincing!”

Karjakin speaking to Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam after winning his tiebreak.

Karjakin confirmed that he had exactly the same aim at this World Cup as the other finalist, Peter Svidler: to reach that final, and with it, the Candidates. “The final, of course, is important but it was much more important for me to win today.”

“It was my third semifinal in a World Cup and of course I would be very upset if I would lose this one!”

Wednesday is a rest day. The final starts on Thursday, with Svidler having the white pieces. There will be four classical games — something Karjakin didn't know until he was told after his tiebreak match today. “I was hoping it will be two games.”


2015 World Cup | Round 6 Results

# Name Name C1 C2 TB Score
1 Anish Giri Peter Svidler 0-1  1/2   0.5-1.5
2 Pavel Eljanov Sergey Karjakin 1/2  1/2 1.5-2.5  2.5-3.5

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Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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