"It is the best result of my life," said Sergey Karjakin, 25, after he won the 2015 FIDE World Chess Cup, the grueling 128-player elimination tournament that took 25 days and finished on Monday in Baku, Azerbaijan. Karjakin defeated Peter Svidler in the all-Russian final match 6:4.
The match, a combination of classical, rapid and blitz games, delivered amazing moves and unexpected blunders. All 10 games were decisive, no draws. Svidler, 39, blamed it on exhaustion and the resulting mistakes. Karjakin averted the loss several times and evened out the score time and again. Svidler expressed regrets that he was unable to win the match after having had many opportunities to do so. "I didn't do it, I don't deserve it," he said. It would have been another nice addition to his illustrious career that includes winning the Russian championship seven times and the World Cup in 2011.
The first game was the best game of the match:
Svidler,Peter - Karjakin,Sergey
FIDE World Cup, Baku 2015
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 e6 4.0-0 Be7 5.d3
The King's Indian Attack with a slow build-up in the center may look passive and innocent at first, but many dangerous and beautiful attacks were conducted on the kingside by White.
Both players were familiar with this opening, having played it against each other last year.
5...0-0 6.Nbd2 c5 7.e4 Nc6 8.Re1 b5
A liberating idea, known from the King's Indian, stressing direct play in the center.
The most common line is 9.e5 and it gained popularity after Bobby Fischer's brilliant victory in Sousse in 1967. After 9...Nd7 10.Nf1 b4 11.h4 a5 12.Bf4 (In one of the rapid games Svidler played against Karjakin 12.N1h2 Re8 13.h5 and won in 58 moves.)
the debate of how to conduct future play started. Here are some inspiring examples:
A. 12...Ba6 13.Ng5 Qe8 14.Qg4 a4 (14...Kh8!) 15.Nxe6! 1-0, Bronstein -Uhlmann, Moscow 1971
B. 12...a4 13.a3 (Fischer in 1967) 13...bxa3 14.bxa3 and now:
b1. 14...Na5 15.Ne3 Ba6 16.Bh3 d4 17.Nf1 Nb6 18.Ng5 Nd5 19.Bd2 Bxg5 20.Bxg5 Qd7 21.Qh5 Rfc8 22.Nd2 Nc3 23.Bf6 Qe8 24.Ne4 g6 25.Qg5 Nxe4 26.Rxe4 c4 27.h5! cxd3 28.Rh4 Ra7 29.Bg2 dxc2 30.Qh6 Qf8
31.Qxh7+!! Black resigned in the game Fischer-Miagmarsuren, Sousse Interzonal 1967. He is getting mated after 31...Kxh7 32.hxg6+ Kxg6 33.Be4 mate.
b2. 14...Ba6 15.Ne3 Rb8 16.c4 dxc4 17.Nxc4 Nb6 18.Nd6 Nd5 19.Qxa4 Rb6 20.Rac1 Nxf4 21.Qxf4 Nxe5 22.Nxe5 Bxd6 23.Qe3 Rb3 24.a4 Qc7 25.Nc4 Be7 26.Ne5 Bd6 27.Nc4 Be7 28.Ne5 ½-½ Svidler-Karjakin, Russian Team ch 2014.
9...exd5 seems better. Black keeps his queenside pawns together and the square f5 is still covered. On the other hand, White controls the e-file and can start an immediate action in the center: 10.d4 c4 11.Ne5 with the idea: 11...Nxd4 12.Ndxc4!±.
Karjakin might have disliked the undermining 10.a4 played against him by Movsesian at the World Team championship in 2013. After 10...Rb8 11.axb5 Rxb5 12.b3 White's pawn structure was more compact.
A flexible move, leaving different action in the center open. The knight also tickles the pawn standing on the critical square c5.
The alternative was to gain the square c4 for the knight: 10.a4 b4 11.Nc4 but it also limits White's possibilities in the center.
10...e5?! 11.Nc3 makes the black center shaky.
11.c3 a6 12.a4!
Karjakin wanted to cement the queenside, but Svidler would have none of it.
12...b4 13.Bg5 f6
Svidler wanted to provoke this move because in addition to the square c5, Black would have weaknesses on the major light diagonals.
Waiting with 13...Rb8 14.Rc1 bxc3 15.bxc3 h6 16.Bxe7 Qxe7 was preferable.
14.Bd2 e5 15.Rc1
This is the moment just before a deadly arrow is released from the bow string.
With all pieces in the play, Svidler breaks in the center. Karjakin has some weaknesses that can't be covered.
More open lines on the queenside are in White's favor. He may still maintain some edge after 16...cxd4 17.cxd4 exd4 18.Bh3 Bc8 19.Bxc8 Rxc8 20.Qe2 a5 21.Qa6±.
17.bxc3 cxd4 18.cxd4 Nxd4 19.Nxd4 exd4 20.Qb3!
Svidler cracks Karjakin's position with several crosspins.
20...Qd7 can be met by 21.Rc4 with advantage.
With the pin on the b-file White threatens 22.Nxf6+.
Svidler is in no hurry, improving his position and preparing Ne4-c5. Black is tied up.
Allowing White to win simply. But even the confusing 22...Nc3 would not help, for example: 23.Nxc3 dxc3 24.Bxc3 Bxg2 (24...Bf8 25.Qa2 Kh8 26.Ba5 Rc8 27.Rd1 Qf5 28.Qxf7+-) 25.Qxb8+ Rf8 26.Qf4 Ba8 27.Bb4 Qb7 28.f3 and White should win.
23.Nc5 Bxc5 24.Rxc5
White is winning. The pins are too much for Black and he must lose material.
24...Rd8 [24...Rd7 25.Bxd5+-] 25.Ba5 Rd6 26.Qc4
Svidler is ready to win a piece with 27.Rxb7 and Karjakin gets desperate.
26...Nc3 27.Rxb7 Qe1+ 28.Bf1 Ne2+ 29.Qxe2
After 29...Qxe2 the zwischenzug 30.Rb8+ wins.
Svidler also won the second game in the classical four-game sequence and needed only a draw to clinch the Cup. In the third game Svidler had Karjakin on the ropes again, but missed wins in two consecutive moves and eventually lost. Karjakin equalized the match with a fine positional victory in the fourth game.
In the tie-breaks, both players saw their lead in rapid games disappear. Game 9, the first blitz game, was a comedy of errors and went to Karjakin. He also won the second blitz game and the Cup. Both players looked exhausted and Svidler compared the event to an ancient Roman circus, where the public decides who is going to live and who dies at the end.
The World Cup was also a qualification for the 8-player Candidates tournament next year. Five contestants are known: Vishy Anand from India, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana from the United States, Karjakin and Svidler from Russia. Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and the Dutch grandmaster Anish Giri have the best chance to make it on rating. FIDE will decide on the wild card later. The winner will challenge Magnus Carlsen in the world championship match in the fall of next year, possibly in the United States.
Note that in the replay windows below you can click either on the arrows under the diagram or on the notation to follow the game.
Images are from the official World Cup web site.