The first day of the FIDE World Cup fourth round saw four decisive games, all won by White: Jan-Krzysztof Duda beat Jeffery Xiong; Alexander Grischuk beat Leinier Dominguez; Maxime Vachier–Lagrave beat Peter Svidler and Nikita Vitiugov beat Wesley So.
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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.
Duda continued his excellent World Cup so far with a win against Xiong, despite being down an exchange in the middlegame. It was the fourth win with the white pieces for the Polish grandmaster, who kept his 100 percent score there. He has scored 5/6 in total and hasn’t needed a tiebreak yet.
“It was difficult to prepare because Jeffery basically plays anything, so I decided to choose a quiet opening,” said Duda, who was surprised his opponent nonetheless as early as move six.
Soon after the opening, some commentators were wondering if he had blundered an exchange in the early middlegame, but that wasn’t the case. Afterward Duda said it was a sacrifice, but he had missed 19…Rb8 and that this move threatens to trap his queen.
That meant that Xiong was doing well as Black, but in the following phase he got outplayed, especially when Duda found a beautiful pawn push.
As Chess.com’s director of social media and international content Sam Copeland pointed out, the move 35.e5!! is very similar to (and played on the same move number!) as 35.e5 in the famous game Lasker-Capablanca, St. Petersburg 1914:
Duda showing his game for the FIDE broadcast.
Two years ago, Vachier-Lagrave defeated Svidler in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, and thanks to a win with the white pieces, the Frenchman has good chances to beat him again. He kept a slight advantage in the Chigorin variation of the Ruy Lopez, as he explained.
“I think the opening in general was a success for me,” said MVL, “because the position was very playable. It is very close to equality but not quite easy to achieve [for Black]. Peter tried to force things by exchanging pawns and trying to liquidate as much material as possible, but the position was quite unpleasant. My pieces were more active. This way, tactics did work out for me.”
“Then we liquidated into a position where I am a pawn up but he has practical chances to hold,” MVL continued. “I don’t know, I think he should have stayed; at some point he sacrificed a piece but he blundered this idea with 36.f5 and 37.Bd6. Then it’s still not totally easy because my king is not that safe, but it should be a technical win.”
FIDE’s interview with Vachier-Lagrave.
Vitiugov has played his career somewhat in the shadow of the absolute elite grandmasters, with the exception of two tournament victories: the 2013 Gibraltar Masters and the 2017 Grenke Open. In this World Cup he is showing his absolute best chess as he eliminated Sergey Karjakin and now also defeated So as White.
The St. Petersburg grandmaster won in great style today, by slowly improving his position in what was a Petroff from the start. Especially fixing the a-pawns on a6 and a7 was nice, and the game showed perfectly why that was unpleasant for Black. Despite missing some quicker wins, Vitiugov can be proud of this one.
The last winner of the day was Grischuk, who was rewarded for his stamina as he kept on pushing in a slightly better endgame, even with just opposite-colored bishops and pawns on the board. Dominguez probably missed his opponent’s idea of taking on g5 with the king and then trading his h-pawn to create two connected passed pawns, after which it was very difficult to defend.
As it turned out, Black needed both his c- and h-pawn to defend against White’s winning attempts, but Dominguez, playing on increment, sacrificed his c2-pawn and that was the losing move. Grischuk, however, didn’t see Black’s defense even with the c-pawn (but it’s there—see the annotations).
FIDE’s interview with Grischuk.
Among the four draws (you can find all games in the game viewer at the end of this report), Ian Nepomniachtchi seemed to be pressing the most and he might have missed quite a promising move. He could have solved the problem of his slightly badly-placed bishop, and this would have given him an excellent position.
FIDE World Cup | Round 4, Day 1 Results
Friday’s games for download/replay:
Bracket: (Click on images for bigger version.)
(Click on images for bigger 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.