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Vachier-Lagrave Knocks Out Svidler At World Cup

Vachier-Lagrave Knocks Out Svidler At World Cup

In today's tiebreak of their quarterfinal match, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave eliminated Peter Svidler from the FIDE World Cup. On what was the shortest day in Tbilisi so far, the Frenchman won the second rapid game after the first had ended in a draw.

MVL and Svidler chatting after their tiebreak match. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

With Svidler, the last Russian participant leaves the World Cup. Of the many top GMs who played, he is one of the few who goes home actually gaining Elo in classical chess: +3.6 points.

For the semifinals (starting Tuesday, not tomorrow) we have three top 10 players: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian and Wesley So. MVL and Aronian face each other in the battle for one ticket to the 2018 Candidates'; the other ticket goes to either So or Ding Liren.

2017 World Cup | Results Quarterfinals

Fed Player Fed Player Classical Rapid Blitz Score
Vachier-Lagrave (2804) Svidler (2756) ½-½,½-½ ½-½, 1-0 2½-1½
Ivanchuk (2727) Aronian (2802) 0-1,½-½
So (2792) Fedoseev (2731) ½-½,1-0
Ding Liren (2771) Rapport (2675) ½-½,1-0

Only one table and two chairs. Two players, six photographers. It felt like a final.

Vachier-Lagrave: "We joked that we were finally alone in the room. I said: 'Too bad it's not the final yet!'"

If the players had been in two different halves, the clash between Vachier-Lagrave and Svidler could easily have been played in round seven. The Frenchman is in excellent shape lately, and won the super strong Sinquefield Cup in August. Svidler himself won the World Cup before, reached the final last time, and is a seven-time Russian champion.

It's fair to say that Anna Rudolf expressed the sentiment of many spectators.

This battle, these players, it deserved more chess... but unfortunately it didn't last long. After Svidler fought well in the first rapid game and held it after 76 moves and with great skill, his energy seemed gone in the second. 

That first game was a continuation of a theoretical battle in the Giuoco Pianissimo started by Alexander Grischuk in this World Cup, who came up with the tempo-losing move ...a6-a5. Svidler had also played it against the Frenchman in the second classical game.

MVL got a slight edge in the early middlegame, but Svidler was hanging on using nice, defensive tactics and eventually he drew using a famous fortress.

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A smile from both players when the first game ends in stalemate. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

"The first game I got what felt like a substantial advantage but I somehow couldn't make it work. He was defending by tempi in most lines and I pressed basically as much as I could and it didn't amount to much," said Vachier-Lagrave.

Notes by Dejan Bojkov.

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Arbiter Faik Gasanov writing down the moves for the game. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Probably unwisely (though that's easy to say in hindsight) Svidler then repeated the sharp line in the English that we also saw in their first classical game, but this time MVL knew exactly what he was doing. "I was surprised once again that he would repeat a line that I thought was more or less dubious."

Black was comfortable out of the opening, but things remained "tricky," said MVL. "It all comes down to my move 21...Kc7 which, I have to admit, I didn't see in advance. I was a bit lucky there to have this move."

The position where MVL played 21...Kc7! protecting the queen and unpinning his g-pawn. Afterward Svidler agreed that the move was very strong.

"But it was a nice move to spot because without this discovery it works for him, and he's not in time anymore. I am just going to take on f5 and get a very pleasant endgame."

"Then I felt he could have defended better in the endgame but it's very tough because I have threats from everywhere. He also has some sort of threats with his rooks but overall, with the knight on e3, the position should be dominant and I should prove it."

Notes by Dejan Bojkov.

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Another very decent World Cup for Svidler, who leaves after round five. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Svidler also got low on time, and afterward FIDE's Press Officer Nastja Karlovich suggested that he might have lacked some power. "I think that made a huge difference," said Vachier-Lagrave. "I still didn't feel I had top level energy but decent enough to fight and I think in most cases he was fighting with his last resources left, but it took him a lot of time and of course at some point his position collapsed."

Yesterday Aronian, when asked whom he preferred to face, MVL or Svidler, joked: "I hate both of them!" Commenting on that, Vachier-Lagrave said: "He has no reason to be afraid of anyone; I also have no reason to be afraid of anyone. It should be a good match."

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Vachier-Lagrave on his semifinal vs Aronian: "It should be a good match." | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

2017 FIDE World Cup Bracket Quarterfinals

(Click for bigger version.)

Levon Aronian vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave at the World Cup

Wesley So vs Ding Liren at the World Cup

Download all games in PGN

Games from TWIC.

The World Cup takes place September 3-27 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Each round consists of two classical games (four in the final), and possibly a rapid and blitz tiebreak on the third day. The total prize fund is $1.6 million, including a first prize of $120,000. The top two finishers will qualify for the 2018 Candidates' Tournament. 

Chess.com relays the games at Chess.com/Live. You can watch also live commentary on Chess.com/TV provided by the Chessbrahs, which includes some of the best commentators on the planet: GM Eric Hansen, GM Robin van Kampen, GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Aman Hambleton.


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