Radjabov Wins FIDE Chess World Cup; Vachier-Lagrave Takes 3rd
World Cup winner Teimour Radjabov with fans and the Azeri flag. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Radjabov Wins FIDE Chess World Cup; Vachier-Lagrave Takes 3rd

| 65 | Chess Event Coverage

Teimour Radjabov won the $110,000 first prize at the FIDE World Cup after beating Ding Liren (who earned $80,000) in the 5+3 games of today's final tiebreak. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave came in third ($60,000) as he beat Yu Yangyi ($50,000) in both rapid games.

The FIDE World Cup has been won by Levon Aronian (2005), Gata Kamsky (2007), Boris Gelfand (2009), Peter Svidler (2011), Vladimir Kramnik (2013), Sergey Karjakin (2015) and again Aronian (2017). Today a new name was added to this list of great players and fighters: Radjabov.

Staying remarkably cool and showing fighting spirit at the moment when it counted, the 32-year-old Azerbaijani defeated 26-year-old Ding, the top seed in the tournament, in the five-minute portion of today's tiebreak.

Radjabov Ding 2019 FIDE World Cup final
Ding and Radjabov starting their tiebreak. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Radjabov became instantly famous when, at 15, he defeated Garry Kasparov in the 2003 Linares tournament. Nine years later the Azerbaijani player would reach his peak rating of 2793 in November 2012, when he was ranked number four in the world.

It was already quite a surprise when Radjabov beat Vachier-Lagrave in the semifinals, thereby qualifying for both the final and the 2020 Candidates' Tournament. It was an unexpected achievement for someone who hasn't been very active, and lacked motivation for quite some time.

In his interview from last week, Radjabov revealed that he's considered quitting chess for a long while: "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 said.

Perhaps it was this mindset that prevented him from getting too nervous today. Not expecting anything, and happily taking the underdog position, can actually help.

Radjabov 2019 FIDE World Cup final
Radjabov, cool as a cucumber today. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

The draws in the two rapid games and the two 10+10 games can be found in the game viewer below. It must be noted that Ding was winning at the very start, but the real action happened in the 5+3 games.

In the first game, Ding had a slight edge out of a Catalan, but Radjabov was going to hold. However, deep in the endgame Black was getting more and more comfortable, and that's where Radjabov decided to fight on a bit more.

"Certainly it was an unnecessary loss for him in the first game of the blitz," Radjabov said. "I think he was making a draw many, many times there and at some point he was maybe even slightly better. He offered a draw there and somehow I thought he might be nervous there, otherwise you just make a draw by hand there."

Ding Liren 2019 FIDE World Cup final
Ding's draw offer made him look vulnerable. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

It got more unpleasant when Ding missed a knight fork, and ended up with two-vs-three pawns on the kingside and bishop against knight, while his king was far away. It was still a draw, but the Chinese GM missed the correct, active defense:

That was a tough, and unexpected loss for the man who had beaten Magnus Carlsen in a playoff only a month earlier. Fatigue must have played a role here, although Radjabov wasn't exactly fresh anymore either!

"I can’t even feel anything at the moment because it’s like [...] extreme exhaustion," he said, after winning the second game. "OK [I am] just happy about the last two games that I was able to outplay him in the fast part where the hands were moving and stuff."

Ding should have been satisfied with what he got in the second game: a Rauzer Sicilian that led to a middlegame position.

Radjabov: "In the second game of course he has the tricky task to win as Black. I was hesitating to go for a 1.d4 or 1.e4. While you have to make a draw it’s not sure what do you have to do. Especially at this nervous moment when everything was at stake and stuff, it’s not like you’re playing at home and you try to make a draw. Especially that your opponent is motivated to come back. That was a tricky part."

Radjabov 2019 FIDE World Cup press conference
The players at the press conference. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

There was actually one moment where Ding had chance to come back, if he had found 23...Qc7. Radjabov felt the slight trouble, but got away with it because his opponent didn't find it.

"At some point I think I got my pieces discoordinated," said Radjabov, "and [I was] less on time, maybe two minutes less, but somehow I maintained to the balance there. I brought my pieces back and also brought my queen to b6, which was I think a very good decision—then it was always controlling f2 and keeping him out of rook takes f2 stuff, and the threats that he could create."

From that point it went downhill for Ding. Radjabov, where he needed a draw, even won as he found a nice trick at the end.

FIDE's interview with Radjabov.

Radjabov's down-to-earth approach in this tournament, which got him as far as winning the whole thing, was still there in his last interview. He wasn't screaming of excitement, and one gets the feeling that any of the 127 other participants would have been happier with this victory.

"Actually there is no difference for me in general," Radjabov said. "It’s not like I’m going to celebrate like I was 15 or 16 or something, when I beat Garry [Kasparov] for example at Linares. I was really happy at the moment, as it was kind of one of the best players of all my life that I was studying the games and so on, and I won against him and I was really happy at that moment. I can’t compare it to today somehow even though this is a tournament victory and that was just a game victory in the tournament."

Ding's comment at the final press conference was: "I think today he played well. Better than me."

Ding Liren loses 2019 FIDE World Cup final
Ding has now lost two World Cup finals in a row. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

It was quite a different story in the match for third place, where Vachier-Lagrave convincingly won both rapid games. In less than two hours, the French GM had claimed the third prize.

Despite scoring two reasonably solid draws in the Petroff before, Yu decided to play the Sicilian in the first rapid game. It seems he got surprised by MVL's offbeat system with an early fianchetto and Qe2, and the Chinese player was clearly worse out of the opening. Vachier-Lagrave continued playing strongly in the remainder of the game:

Vachier-Lagrave Yu Yangyi tiebreak 2019 FIDE World Cup press conference
Vachier-Lagrave and Yu Yangyi playing for third place, next to the final. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

Yu's opening choice in the second game made sense: the 7.Qa4+ system in the Gruenfeld. It was with that move that Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had scored a crushing win against Vachier-Lagrave at the Riga Grand Prix in July. 

MVL deviated straight away with 7...Nd7, as Wei Yi had done successfully earlier this World Cup against the same opponent. Yu tried something else but in fact played worse, and in no time MVL was in full control once again:

FIDE's interview with MVL.

"It’s a relief of course," MVL said. "It’s still disappointing that I didn’t manage to qualify directly for the Candidates’ but of course I hope to have a chance in the FIDE Grand Prix starting in November. But of course it’s very good to end on a high note. Today I played very well. I got very good positions from the start; this helped a lot.

A very long period of chess has now ended for Vachier-Lagrave, who, starting from mid-July, played in the Riga Grand Prix, the Paris Grand Chess Tour, the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz, the Sinquefield Cup and the FIDE World Cup and squeezed in his Speed Chess match with Wei Yi as well.

Vachier-Lagrave interview 2019 FIDE World Cup press conference
Vachier-Lagrave was interviewed by FIDE. Photo: Kirill Merkuryev/FIDE.

In that respect, it's disappointing but understandable he did not accept an invitation to the upcoming FIDE Grand Swiss. MVL said: "I am escaping from my duties. I’ve been playing nonstop basically since the end of June so I’m taking October off!"

Next for the French player is the third leg of the FIDE Grand Prix—his best chance right now of qualifying for the Candidates'—but not without some partying first.

"I’m probably gonna have some drinks with my friends," MVL said. "That’s for sure; I’m gonna hang out in Paris and see how it goes. Then it will be back to the drawing board with the FIDE Grand Prix in Hamburg. That’s in like a month."

FIDE World Cup Finals Results

Seed Fed Title Player - Seed Fed Title Player G1 G2 G3 G4 TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 TB5 TB6 TB7
1 GM Ding Liren - 10 GM Teimour Radjabov ½-½ 1-0 0-1 ½-½ ½-½ ½-½ ½-½ ½-½ 0-1 0-1 .
3 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime - 12 GM Yu Yangyi ½-½ ½-½ ½-½ ½-½ 1-0 1-0 . . . . .

Today's tiebreak games for replay:


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

The FIDE World Cup took place Sept. 9-Oct. 4 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Each round consisted of two classical games and a tiebreak on the third day. The final consisted of four classical games. Both finalists qualified for the 2020 Candidates' Tournament. The total prize fund was $1.6 million (1.45 million euros). You can find more background info in our preview article.

Next on the agenda for top level chess is the FIDE Grand Swiss, Oct. 10-22 in Isle of Man, where the winner will qualify directly to the 2020 Candidates. Tournament. The top seeds are Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So and Viswanathan Anand.

You can find this and other upcoming top events in our tournament calendar.

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