In the digital era, ‘on-demand’ is a term we’ve come to associate with having control, at the click of a button, over what and when we watch TV, cable or movie streaming services. In chess, however, ‘on-demand’ is not nearly as much fun or relaxing, as this requires you to win a game to stay in a KO event – and all three Americans in the $1.6m FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk faced this scenario in round four, and now only one is left standing.
After losing the opening game of their match-ups, Wesley So, Lenier Dominguez and Jeffery Xiong had to win on demand against Nikita Vitiugov, Alexander Grischuk and Jan-Krzysztof Duda respectively. So could only draw and was duly eliminated without going to the speed tie-break – but Dominguez and Xiong (see today’s game) both played bravely to win to force their matches into overtime and the tie-break deciders.
Against a very tough and experienced Russian opponent, Dominguez didn’t survive long, going out after losing the first two-game rapid playoff – but 18-year-old Xiong and 21-year-old Duda produced one of the most memorable tie-break playoffs seen in recent years, as the two youngest competitors left in the contest all but turned battle-hardened streetfighters as they went toe-to-toe in a veritable slugfest.
Save for one – though nevertheless exciting – draw in game 7, the two matched win-for-win throughout their epic playoff that had the online fans captivated and cheering on every move. But that solitary draw against the Pole proved crucial for Xiong, who went on to finally clinch the match by winning game 8. Sadly, there has to be a winner and a loser in all KO tournaments – but kudos to both players, because their fighting-spirit throughout made this an epic match that was truly worthy of having two winners!
And after knocking out second seed Anish Giri, and now Duda in successive rounds, the Texan keeps alive his dream of following in Bobby Fischer’s footsteps by becoming the only American-born teenage world title candidate. Xiong now faces Teimour Radjabov in the quarterfinals – and a win over the Azeri would take him into the semis, tantalisingly just one match away from the final and two automatic spots into the eight-player 2020 Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinburg, Russia that will ultimately decide Magnus Carlsen’s next title challenger.
Ding Liren 3-1 Kirill Alekseenko, Alexander Grischuk 2½-1½ Leinier Dominguez, Nikita Vitiugov 1½-½ Wesley So, Ian Nepomniachtchi ½-1½ Yu Yangyi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda 3½-4½ Jeffery Xiong, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2½-3½ Teimour Radjabov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 1½-½ Peter Svidler, Le Quang Liem 2½-3½ Levon Aronian
Grischuk v Ding, Vitiugov v Yu, Xiong v Radjabov, Aronian v Vachier-Lagrave
GM Jeffery Xiong – GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda
FIDE World Cup, (4.2)
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 The Bishop’s Opening is a relic, one of the oldest systems in chess that dates back to opening analysis published in the late 1400s and early 1500s by pioneers such as Luis Ramírez de Lucena and Ruy López de Segura. After laying dormant at the top level for the best part of a century, the ‘great Dane’ Bent Larsen successfully revived this venerable opening in the 1960s and 70s. 2…Nf6 3.d3 c6 The Berlin Defence in the Bishop’s Opening is characterised by Black fighting to take a grip in the centre with pawns on d5 and e5. 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 Qd6 8.Qg5 Nbd7 A brave choice. In view of the match situation, with Duda only needing to draw to go into the next round, Xiong’s ‘annoying’ move of 8.Qg5 – simultaneously attacking e5 and g7 – may well be best met by 8…0-0!? as 9.Qxe5 Qxe5 10.Nxe5 dxe4! 11.d4 Nbd7 12.Nc3 e3 does look to lead to easy equality. 9.exd5 cxd5 10.d4! Another ‘annoying’ move from Xiong, and one that Duda could well regret not going for 8…0-0 noted above. 10…e4 No better was 10…exd4 11.0-0 0-0 12.Nxd4 where the isolated d-pawn scenario offers White something permanent to bite on. 11.Ne5 0-0 12.Nc3 Nb6 13.f3!? And in view of the match situation, Xiong has to take every risk possible to unbalance the position – and this certainly fits the bill! 13…Be6 14.0-0-0 Rac8 More problematic for White was 14…a5! 15.a4 Rac8 and Black can follow-up with ideas such as …Rfe8 and …Qb4. 15.Qd2 a6 This is far too slow, and only allows Xiong the time needed to regroup his major pieces in the center to force open possible attacking lines on the kingside. 16.Rhe1! exf3 17.gxf3 Nfd7 18.h4! The attacking prospects on the kingside suddenly make everything rather awkward for Black to find a defence to. 18…f6 Xiong’s last move was enough to induce Duda into making this further weakness, in an effort to shunt the powerful knight from its dominating outpost – but the weaknesses it leaves in its wake is ruthlessly exploited by Xiong. 19.Nd3 Bf7 20.Qf4! This is powerhouse chess at its best from Xiong now, as the forced trade of queens will leave Black struggling to defend the vulnerable d5-pawn. 20…Rc6 21.Qxd6 Rxd6 22.Nc5! Another strong follow-up from Xiong, and with it, Duda faces a very tough, back-to-the-wall defence to try and save the game. 22…Rb8 23.Re7 Kf8 24.Rde1 Nxc5? Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Duda’s last slim hope of trying to stay in the game lay with 24…f5 25.f4 g6 26.N3a4 Nf6!? 27.Rxb7 Rxb7 28.Nxb7 Rc6 29.Nac5 Nc4 30.c3 Nh5 and try to make a stand here by attacking the f4-pawn. There’s no sure-fire draw on the horizon for Black, but this was a position he could try to make a stand with rather than what now transpires in the game. 25.dxc5 Rd7 26.Rxf7+ Kxf7 It’s bad enough for Black that two minor pieces is slightly better than the rook – but here there’s the added problem that the d5-pawn falls. 27.cxb6 Rbd8 28.Nxd5 Kg6? Duda decides he’d rather hang for a sheep than a lamb by basically surrendering the game. It’s bad, and the logical conclusion should have been 28…Rxd5 29.Rd1 Ke6 30.f4! where, with Black unable to extricate his king from the pin, if White is now given a free rein he’ll play Rd3 and Kd2 and get his pieces where he wants for the endgame before capturing the rook. The likely scenario runs 30…h6 31.Rd3! g5 Forced, as everything else walks into Kd2-e3 and White picks his moment to capture on d5. 32.Re3+ Kf5 33.Bxd5 Rxd5 34.fxg5 fxg5 35.hxg5 hxg5 36.Re7 g4 37.Rxb7 and the rook ending is hopelessly lost for Black, e.g. 37…Kf4 38.Rg7! Stopping …Rg5. 38…Rh5 39.c4 and with b4 coming next, Black can’t stop the passed pawns running up the board. 29.c4 Kh5 30.Re4 Rc8 Well, you never know, White may just miss the threat of …Rxd5. 31.Kd2 g5 32.Ke3 Rf7 33.hxg5 fxg5 34.Ba4! [see diagram] The relic bishop of the past gets re-routed to effectively end the game now. 34…Kh6 35.Be8 Rf8 36.Bd7 Rb8 37.b4 Kg6 38.Nc7 Rfd8 39.Re7! Chess domination at its very best from Xiong. 39…Rh8 40.Be8+! Kf6 41.Nd5+ 1-0 Duda resigns, as 41…Kf5 42.Bh5 and Black is rendered powerless with the prospect of his king being snared in a mating net.