As expected, Ding Liren easily prevailed in the All-Chinese FIDE World Cup semi-final tie-breaks on Saturday in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, as the top seed and world #3 ended the spirited run of Yu Yangyi, as he overpowered his compatriot to win the second rapid game to go through to the final – and with it, he now meets Teimour Radjabov in what will be his second successive final of the behemoth 128-player knockout competition.
In 2017 in Tbilisi, Ding lost out to Levon Aronian in the final, but at least as the defeated finalist, he had the consolation of securing his place in history as the first Chinese player to qualify into the Candidates. In this year’s final, Ding will be looking to go one better by beating Radjabov to add the World Cup title to his recent Sinquefield Cup victory in St. Louis ahead of rating rivals Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana.
Along with Caruana, Ding, 26, is seen as one of Carlsen’s two main title challengers. And the instant Ding reached the final to take one of the two candidate spots, Anish Giri immediately withdraw his entry to the Chess.com FIDE Grand Swiss taking place through October in the Isle of Man, as the Dutchman now takes pole position in the qualifying spot rating race with an unassailable lead over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, unless the Frenchman somehow can gain 27 Elo before the end of November, according to independent number-cruncher Martin Bennedik, which seems very unlikely.
But all is not lost for MVL, as he gets set to play Yu for the third-place playoff match in Khanty-Mansiysk. With his upset victory over MVL, Radjabov half-jokingly, half-shocked, said that he wasn’t sure he would take up his candidates spot – so if MVL beats Yu, and if the Azeri does indeed pull out, then there’s a backdoor spot for the Frenchman into his first candidates. Alternatively, his best chance rests on a strong finish to the FIDE Grand Prix.
There’s two spots available to the top finishers of the year-long race, and going into the final two events, in Hamburg and Tel Aviv in November and December, only a couple of points separate leaders Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Alexander Grischuk, Ian Nepomniachtchi and MVL. Joint leaders Mamedyarov and Grischuk, though, are at a disadvantage, having just one remaining GP event left to play, while Nepomniachtchi and MVL have two. The only other possibility to make it to the eight-player Candidates Tournament next year in Ekaterinburg would be the organisers wildcard nomination – but the Russians look set to give this spot to Sergey Karjakin, Carlsen’s 2016 title challenger, and indeed the Kremlin favourite was on hand in the early summer to help host city Ekaterinburg launch their bid to stage the 2020 Candidates Tournament.
Meanwhile, back to the World Cup final and the third-place playoff, where the opening games ended in a safety-first, big theory-clash that ended in two relatively easy draws – the final itself between Radjabov and Ding proving to be an interesting clash in the Marshall Attack, the lasting legacy left to the chess world by America’s redoubtable Frank J. Marshall.
GM Teimour Radjabov – GM Ding Liren
FIDE World Cup Final, (1)
Ruy Lopez, Marshall Attack
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 The myth – which most historians take with a pinch of salt these days – goes that Marshall kept this move a secret for seven years so that he could surprise World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca with it – and he got his chance at the famous New York tournament of 1918. Despite losing, Marshall’s gambit became universally popular equally at grandmaster and club level. 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d3 The tabiya of the Marshall Attack comes after the more usual main-line with 12.d4 – but Radjabov wants to avoid all the big theory-lines, so he adopts the more modest 12.d3, an original idea from the great Soviet free-thinker in chess, David Bronstein, that’s not as timid as it looks. I once played this line against Scottish IM and Marshall maven Douglas Bryson, where we basically just fiddled around with our pieces for a couple of moves and had transposed back into the big main-line, albeit with the gain of a couple of moves over the theory. 12…Bd6 13.Re1 Bf5 14.Qf3 Qh4 The usual move here for some time has been 14…Re8 – but today’s big Marshall maven, Peter Svidler, has also had some success with the similar queen sortie of 14…Qf6, and 14…Qh4 which fits right into the usual Marshall Attack scheme of things. 15.g3 Qh3 16.Nd2 Rae8 17.Ne4 Bg4 18.Qg2 Qxg2+ It always comes as a relief for White in the Marshall Attack when the queens are traded, as that means there’s less of a chance to be mated! 19.Kxg2 f5 20.h3 Bh5 21.Bf4 Bxf4 22.gxf4 fxe4 23.dxe4 Bf3+ 24.Kxf3 Rxf4+ 25.Kg3 Rfxe4 26.Rxe4 Rxe4 A touch of déjà vu going on here, as these two players had played out these 26 moves at this year’s Shamkir Chess – and this just shows you how deep the Marshall theory goes, as the players already have most of the pieces off the board and ready to go back into their box! 27.a4N [see diagram] And with this – though admittedly, another typical Marshall sort of move for White – Radjabov produces his novelty for the first new move of the game. Previously, 27.f3 was played by Caruana, Polgar, Nakamura, and indeed Radjabov himself (twice). 27…Re2 Regardless of it being a novelty or not, this was the most obvious move that was looming, and now we have a further mass trade of pieces, the net result being a rook and pawn ending and the unavoidable draw. 28.axb5 axb5 29.Bxd5+ cxd5 30.Rd1 Rxb2 31.Rxd5 Rb3 32.f3 Rxc3 33.Rxb5 ½-½