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By John Henderson

The top seeds continue to stumble and tumble early in the FIDE World Cup in Sochi, as the younger generation rebel against the world’s top 10. First Levon Aronian was forced out early due to illness; then in the third round, world #2 Fabiano Caruana was sensationally eliminated (by Rinat Jumabayev); and now following the tiebreaks, also joining Caruana in the Sochi departure lounge will be Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

For all four top 10 stars, the main attraction of playing in Sochi was not only the $1.9m prize fund but the prospect of getting to the final and two automatic spots into the next Candidates Tournament – but they had to be bitterly disappointed of how things have gone with their early exits.  But then again, anything can, and often does happen when it comes to the vagaries of a  knockout competitions!

The Dutch world #8, Giri, found himself being upstaged by seventeen-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov in the first Rapid game, and then, having to win “on demand” in the second game, looked on the verge of doing so, but he could never quite close the door on the young Uzbek, who battled hard not only to stay in the game, but was rewarded with it dramatically swinging his way for an unlikely victory.

It was more or less a similar sad story for Mamedyarov, with the world #6 trying to “boss” his first Rapid game against the Armenian former world under-16 champion Haik Martirosyan, seeing it all backfiring, and then eventually being ground down in what should have been a drawn endgame. And also like Giri, needing to win “on demand”, but failing.

Magnus Carlsen will now be joined by Jumabayev, Abdusattorov, Martirosyan and 15-year-old Uzbek, Javokhir Sindarov – who eliminated another high-profile potential outsider, 18-year-old Alireza Firouzja, now officially playing under the French Tricolour – in the final 32 of the competition. They’ll also be joined by the two American’s left in the competition, Sam Shankland and 20-year-old Jeffery Xiong.

Round 4 gets underway on Thursday, 22 July starting at 15:00 local time ( 08:00 EST | 05:00 PST |). The full pairings are available on the official FIDE World Cup site.

GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov – GM Anish Giri
FIDE World Cup 2021, (3.4)
Old Indian Defence
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 Needing to win on demand to stay in the match, Giri wisely goes for an “old” system to avoid any mainline theory, namely the Old Indian Defence. This is a system that is similar to the Philidor’s Defence, or even the King’s Indian Defence, with the main difference being that Black doesn’t fianchetto his king’s bishop. Not only that, but the Old Indian is highly under-rated and a notoriously tough nut to crack. 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.e4 e5 5.Nf3 Be7 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 c6 8.d5 This just releases the tension in the center a little early, and plays into Giri’s hand. Best is usually 8.Re1 or 8.Be3 to keep things fluid for now. 8…Nc5 The most obvious move is the best move, as Giri starts to build up an initiative down to Abdusattorov’s premature 8.d5. 9.Qc2 a5 10.Be3 Qc7 11.a3 Also a good alternative is 11.Nd2 that at least avoids Giri’s next move. 11…Ng4!? Giri rightly starts to mix things up, looking to take his opponent out of his comfort zone and into murky waters. The Dutchman also had a good alternative in 11…a4!? 12.Bxc5 dxc5 13.Nxa4 Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Rxa4 15.Qxe5 Qxe5 16.Nxe5 Bd6 17.Nf3 cxd5 18.cxd5 Bg4 where Black has good compensation for the pawn – but that said, with Giri in a “must-win” scenario, he would have been wary that this line involved a lot of pieces being traded and more chances of the game fizzling out to a draw. 12.Bxc5N A novelty by all accounts, but a natural good one it seems, as previously seen here has been 12.Bg5 Bxg5 13.Nxg5 a4 and already Black stands better, as in Glodyan,D-Chelyadinsky, A, Dagomys 2009. 12…dxc5 13.Ne1 Nf6 14.Nd3 Bd7 15.b3 cxd5 16.cxd5 The best pawn recapture as 16.exd5? walks right into 16…e4! 17.Ne1 Bd6 and Black is in charge. But Abdusattorov missed a trick with the recapture 16.Nxd5! Nxd5 17.cxd5 b5 18.Nb2 and an easier position to co-ordinate for White with a set of knights traded. 16…b5 17.Nb2 With the intention of following up with 18.a4 – but the young Uzbek GM again missed a trick. He should have tried 17.a4!? first. The problem may well be that he was seeing “ghosts” here, and worried that after 17…b4 18.Nb5 Bxb5 19.axb5 Black would throw in 19…c4 (Unfortunately everything backfires on Black after 19…Nxe4? 20.Nxb4!) 20.bxc4 Nxe4 21.Nxb4 Bxb4 22.Qxe4 f5 23.Qc2 Rf6 and worried that Black has a strong kingside attack brewing,.  But White stands no worse here, and indeed, many would argue that White may well stand better. 17…c4! Giri seizes his moment, as the cumbersome Nc3 allows him to make his breakthrough on the queenside. 18.bxc4 b4 19.axb4 axb4 20.Nca4?! Against a strong opponent looking to “boss” the position, the Uzbek first had to play 20.Rxa8! Rxa8 21.Nca4 Ra5 22.Bd1 Qa7 23.Re1 and the trade of rooks has made White’s task of defend all the easier. 20…Ra5! Now Giri goes to town on the self-inflicted pin on the a-file. 21.Bd1 Rfa8 22.Qd3 Bc5 23.Bb3 White’s position is beginning to look a bit ropey, to say the least, as Giri dominates – and there was no hope of trying to make something of his passed pawns with 23.Nxc5?! Rxa1 24.Nb3 R1a2 25.Qb1 Qa7! 26.c5 Bb5 27.Re1 Nd7 28.c6 Nc5 as all White’s pawns are contained. 23…h6 The first sign of hesitancy from Giri, who failed to “cash-in” with the superior 23…Bd4! 24.Rac1 Qa7 25.h3 Qa6 and White is beginning to run out of moves he can make, and eventually he will succumb to a “happening” on a4. 24.Qc2 Qa7 25.h3 Bd4 26.Ra2 Ra6?! Nerves is playing a part now in the game, as Giri seems to play a patient waiting game, hoping his young Uzbek opponent will crack under the pressure. But games don’t win themselves, and he had to move in for the kill with the forcing sequence 26…Bxb2! 27.Qxb2 Bxa4 28.Rfa1 Qd4! 29.Qxd4 exd4 30.Rxa4 Rxa4 31.Rxa4 Rxa4 32.Bxa4 Nxe4 and marching his king via f8-e7-d6-c5 for a winning endgame. 27.Rfa1 Rc8 28.Nc3!? It’s a clever freeing move that suddenly offers Abdusattorov some hope of saving the game – but the ever-resourceful engine finds a better approach with 28.c5! where now 28…Bxa4 29.Rxa4 Rxc5 30.Qe2 and White is over the worst of it now. 28…Ra3! Giri keeps up the pressure. 29.Nd3 Nxe4! And with that, I felt it was now just a matter of time before the young Uzbek would collapse – and that seems to be the impression Giri had, but he still has to put the work in to actually win the “won” game. 30.Nxe4 Bxa1 31.c5! Now objectively white is lost – but this is the only desperate chance in a lost position, and Abdusattorov is not going to give up meekly without a fight, and he continues to put the onus firmly on the Dutchman to work to collect the full point. 31…Rxa2! This is good, but the engine gleefully points out that the clinical killer was 31…Bf5!! 32.Nxb4 (There’s no way to defend against the pin. If 32.f3 Bd4+ 33.Kh1 Rxa2 34.Qxa2 Qxa2 35.Bxa2 Bxe4 36.fxe4 Bxc5 is easily winning.) 32…Bxe4 33.Qxe4 Rxa2 34.Bxa2 Qxc5 and Black should easily clean up now from here. 32.Qxa2 Qxa2 33.Bxa2 Ra8 34.Bc4 White is still on the brink of losing, but credit to the young Uzbek for keeping his wits about him by going for the only try that offers him potential saving chances with his passed central pawns. 34…Bf5 35.f3 Bd4+ 36.Kf1 Kf8 And this is where the game starts to take a very dramatic and cruel twist, as Giri starts to lose the thread of the game by being in time trouble. If he had the time to think here, he might have realised that 36…Bxe4! 37.fxe4 Bxc5! 38.Nxc5 Ra1+! A move quickly spotted by the engine, but likely missed by Giri. What may well have been clouding his judgment is that 38…Rc8 39.d6! Rxc5 40.d7 proves to be a winning table-turner for White! 39.Ke2 Rc1 and only now does skewer on the c-file win for Black. 37.d6 Bxe4?! The win is beginning to slip through Giri’s fingers now – he had to stay upbeat with 37…b3! 38.Bxb3 Ra3 39.Bc4 Bxe4 40.fxe4 Rc3 and Black should have no problems converting this. 38.fxe4 Rd8 39.Ke2 With White looking to march the king to b3, Giri now has to give back material. 39…Bxc5 40.Nxc5 Rxd6 41.Nd3 f6 42.Bd5! [see diagram] We’re witnessing a dramatic turnaround in the position! And with it, Abdusattorov now makes the most of his minor pieces to (eventually) pick-off Giri’s b-pawn. 42…Rb6 43.Kd2 Ke7 44.Kc2 Kd6 45.Kb3 Rb8 Easy to say when you don’t have the additional pressures of your flag rising, but by now Giri should have been pushing with 45…f5! 46.Kc4 Rb8 (You can’t push the pawn. After 46…b3 47.Kc3! and the b-pawn will soon fall.) 47.Nxb4 f4 and he still has “chances”. But the reality is that White’s minor pieces should easily hold the draw. 46.h4 f5 47.h5 f4 The last chance to win looks like 47…Rc8! 48.Bc4 (If 48.Kxb4 Rc2 and it starts to get more promising for Black with his rampant rook set to pick off the loose pawns on g2 and h5.) 48…fxe4 49.Nxb4 Rf8 but after 50.Nc2! Rf5 51.Ne3 Rxh5 52.Kc3 I dare say White has good chances of holding this position by setting up a fortress of some sort. 48.Ne1 Ke7 49.Nf3 White’s pieces now have everything under control, with Black’s pawns on e5 and b4 needing full-time protection. 49…Kf6 50.Bc4 Rb7 51.Bd5 Rb6 52.Bc4 Rb8 53.Bd5 Rb5 54.Bc4 Ra5 What else could Giri do under the circumstances? In a desperate try to avoid the draw, he gives up his b-pawn to activate his rook. 55.Kxb4 Ra1 56.Kc5 Rh1 57.Kd6 Rxh5 58.Bd5 Even better was 58.Be6! threatening Bh3 and the rook chronically short of squares, now forcing 58…Rh1 59.Nxe5 g5 60.Bd5 and with ideas such as Nd3 and e5+ coming, White’s quick-running e-pawn will easily win. 58…g6 59.Bc6 Kg7 60.Bd7! The final nail in Giri’s coffin, as his young Uzbek opponent finds the most efficient way to pick off the e5-pawn – and when it falls, resignation will not be far behind. 60…Kf6 61.Bc6 Rh1 62.Nxe5 Rd1+ 63.Bd5 h5 64.Nd7+ Kg7 65.e5 Re1 66.e6 g5 67.e7 g4 68.Ne5 1-0

 

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