Karjakin Needs Six More Games, Wins World Cup

Karjakin Needs Six More Games, Wins World Cup

[Edited 10/6/15 to add closing ceremony photos and also correct the amount won by the players.]

GMs Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler will both sleep well tonight, but Karjakin's pillow will be just a little bit softer.

All photos courtesy of FIDE.

After 10 games between each other over the last three days, Karjakin survived to win the 2015 FIDE World Cup. Today six tiebreak games were needed after each man won the opening game of a time control but failed to convert in the second.

"Anything could happen," Karjakin said about the day's events. "It was almost a random match."

When the commentators called the match the most exciting final in World Cup history, Svidler interjected, "Slightly better for the spectators I think!"

For Karjakin, his win as Black in the day's fourth game represented his fifth in must-win games in Baku. His event may go down as one of the most extended clutch performances in chess history. GM Vladimir Kramnik won his final game in 2004 to hold on the world championship, as did GM Garry Kasparov in 1987, but Karjakin put that all to shame by doing it five times!

Apparently GM Sergey Karjakin's magic is not made of metal -- security personnel allowed him to enter with it.

Today's tiebreaks had enough storylines for an entire event, and served as a surprising capstone after the two men had already earned Candidates Tournament berths. Although the chess was flawed again, Karjakin could be said to have made the "second to last" blunder.

In game one, played at rapid time controls, all progressed according to plan for him. White survived the lasting pressure against his hanging pawns and entered an opposite colored bishop ending but with all his central pawns fixed.

The winning plan? A circuitous and unlikely king march. Bring your hiking shoes: Kg5-f4-e3-d2-c2-d3-c2-b2-a3-b4-a5-a6-a7-b8!

From there, his path became impassable until the breakthrough 80. d5+! Any recapture allowed the king to sneak in, and although perfect play may have held the ending for Black, it was unreasonable to expect to find it with three minutes remaining. Like a good general, the king returned to the battlefield, traveling back to the g-file as the game ended fittingly with 89. Kxg6.


Their afternoon looked like it could be a short one; in actuality they were just getting started. Instead of salting away the title with a dull draw in the second rapid game, Karjakin allowed a late, deadly last-rank invasion in game two.

Svidler played an old Fischer favorite, the King's Indian Attack versus the French, even using the American's a3 idea (although Fischer played it a few moves earlier versus Myagmarsuren in 1967).

Unlke that Interzonal game, there was no quick, flashy mate on the kingside. Karjakin diffused all the pressure and play shifted to the queenside, which nearly always favors Black in these setups. But White's reduced army gave Black fits, and the pawn sacrifice 41. Rb8! rendered Karjakin's pieces completely helpless.

Where else can you drop three games in a row but still control your own tournament destiny? Svidler's win showed that the World Cup allows for some strange occurrences.

The match was back to square and they were now off to twin G/10 matches.

Svidler rode his newfound momentum to quite an easy victory in game three. With his own pieces pushed back on the first two ranks, Karjakin flailed about with 16. a3, then 17. a4, and a few moves later 20. a5. His pieces never found harmony and Svidler summarily punished him with the simple 23...Rxd2.


The roles reversed back to the second two games of classical chess, with Svidler now only needing to hold serve with White to earn the title. But like in the final two games of the classical portion, Karjakin's return game pushed the match further.

Svidler tried another setup versus the Sicilian where his queen lands on d4 early. But like in the third classical game, it didn't work out. Karjakin saddled White with weak queenside pawns and picked them off quite easily. Svidler didn't even push on very far after getting a losing position:

Amazingly, in two would-be clinching games with White, Svidler went 0-2 versus Karjakin in a combined 57 moves. "Today once again I couldn't manage to make a draw with White," Svidler said. "I was more or less given an opportunity in every single game."

Svidler revived the Marshall plan, but the game five loss cost him $40,000 in prize money. Still, that's much less than the original Marshall Plan's $130 billion cost.

It seemed Black would win a third game in a row as the match moved on to blitz (5+3). Svidler rebounded with the dormant Marshall Attack and got exactly the kind of attack Black dreams of. 

After 20 finals handshakes, the action ceased in Baku.

In the first critical moment, he could have knocked out White with 18...Nxc3! but even later Karjakin's inaccurate zwischenzug 29. Rb1? gave Svidler several routes to victory. The simplest, 29...Bxf3 followed by 30...Bxc6 got the queens off the board and Black has a healthy piece and active bishops to the good. Svidler's choice netted him "only" an exchange, with White enjoying central influence too.

The howler was yet to come. After a mindless check, Svilder had nearly a minute to Karjakin's handful of seconds, but out came 42...Kg8?? Black forgot his rook was now en prise and resigned immediately after it was captured.

The ritual this repeated one last time. Svidler had his back against the wall for game 10 of the match, which was the fifth game that could end the entire charade.

His Closed Spanish worked swimmingly, with a clear advantage until Black began to beat back the pair of menacing knights. 29. Nh6+ wasn't as scary as it seemed, and the return Trojan horse offer 30...Nf4+ liquidated the last vestiges of an attack.

Karjakin called the three-plus week event the "best result of my life." He won $120,000 USD while Svidler walked away with $80,000 USD. [Edit: it seems the organizers will not be picking up the 20 percent FIDE fee as the broadcast mentioned would happen. This brings Karjakin's winnings down to $96,000 and Svidler's to $64,000.]

The winner dedicated the game to his close friend, the late Azeri GM Vugar Gashimov. Shortly before his death, Gashimov told Karjakin, "Now you have to play for both of us."

"The main feeling for me is a feeling of regret," Svidler said. "I had so many opportunities to close out this match." He said qualifying for the Candidates but losing the match was "bittersweet" and "a bit heartbreaking."

After 302 moves played on Monday, Karjakin's 4-2 tiebreak margin finally ended the series. Out of the 10 games, amazingly all 10 were decisive.

"The recipe for solving the drawing problem in chess is simple," Svidler said. "You take two reasonably strong players, you make them completely exhausted, and then you make them play a long match." He compared the match to a Roman circus, where the lions either won or lost.

The only drama spared was an Armageddon match for game 11, chess's version of the goalkeeper taking a penalty kick after the rest of the squad couldn't break a deadlock.


The two are guaranteed to play that 11th game (and also a 12th!) -- in March they'll help contest the double round robin Candidates Tournament

Both Svidler and Karjakin said they will likely still play in the World Rapid and Blitz Championship in Berlin, which begins October 9. Today they already got a jump on both events.

2015 World Cup | Round 7 Results

Name Name C1 C2 C3 C4 TB Score
Peter Svidler Sergey Karjakin 1-0  1-0  0-1 0-1   2-4 4.0-6.0

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