Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow Four Players Advance to Round Two; Ramirez Out in Armageddon Thriller
Four Players Advance to Round Two; Ramirez Out in Armageddon Thriller Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
August 13, 2013
GM Ray Robson, Photo Cathy Rogers
Nine US players made the trek above the Arctic Circle to Tromso, home of the 2013 World Cup and in 2014 the Chess Olympiad.

However five of them, along with 58 others, are returning home after being knocked out in the first round.

The first round losers return home with $4,800, but after paying for travel, accommodation and food and then rebooking air-tickets – only the most pessimistic players would book their tickets to return home after the first round! - their profit will be limited.

On the positive side, Tromso in summer is an awesome sight with 18 hours of bright daylight and six hours of a glorious twilight.

The opening ceremony – where chess was memorably described by the head of the Arctic University as “Creativity in a straight-jacket” - featured only the second song I have ever heard about reindeer and contained a plea to the players to explore the mountains and lakes of Tromso before they went home.

The World Cup is one of the key tournaments on the road to the World Championship. The top two players qualify for the next Candidates tournament and the winner picks up $96,000 as well.

The tournament would normally be a 128 player knock-out but this year only 127 made it to Tromso -  Egyptian GM Ahmed Adly was called up for national service in the Egyptian army just before the World Cup and even permission to travel by the Sports Ministry was not enough to overrule a negative decision by the army.

The 2013 World Cup was described  as the strongest-ever such event, with 26 of the world's top 30 players competing. (The missing four were November's two world title match contenders, Anand and Carlsen; Topalov, who has already qualified for the Candidates tournament, and China's Ding Liren.)

Usually the first round sees quite a few of the top seeds fall by the wayside but only a few big names dropped out in round one; the most surprising being  Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi – beaten by 14-year-old Chinese Grandmaster Wei Yi – and 2011 quarter-finalist Judit Polgar who lost to the unfancied Isan Ortiz from Cuba. All four female players lost in the first round, though Women's World Championship rivals Hou Yifan and Anna Ushenina forced Alexey Shirov and Peter Svidler to rapid tiebreakers before losing.

The top two US players, Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky are expected to have plenty of time to explore, but they qualified for the second round in contrasting styles.

Nakamura wrapped up a 2-0 win against Deysi Cori, although the Peruvian teenager was not disgraced.
Tromso World Cup Round 1 Game 1
White: D. Cori
Black: H. Nakamura
Opening: Bogo/Nimzo-Indian Defence
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 c5 5.e3
An extremely quiet method of meeting the Bogo-Indian Defence, after which Black has few problems.
5...0–0 6.Bd3 b6 7.0–0 Bb7 8.Nc3 cxd4 9.exd4 d5 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.Qc2 Nf6

11...h6 would avoid the coming liquidation.
12.Ne4!? Bxd2 13.Nxf6+ Qxf6 14.Bxh7+ Kh8 15.Be4! Rc8! 16.Qd3 Bxe4 17.Qxe4 Nc6 18.Nxd2 Qxd4 19.Rfd1 Qxb2
Very risky, but the greater risk in Nakamura's eyes was mass exchanges leading to a draw.
20.Nc4 Qb4 21.Rab1 Qa4

Cori admitted that she felt sure she would have enough play for the pawn but wasn't really sure how to continue. The direct 22.Rd3! gives an attack which is rather dangerous for Black, e.g. 22...Rd8! (The only good move because 22...Kg8? allows 23.Ra3!) 23.Rh3+ Kg8 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Qh8+ Ke7 26.Qh4+ and now 26...f6 27.Qg4 looks like a suicide attempt so Black would be forced to concede a draw after 26...Kf8 27.Qh8+.
22...Rd8 23.Nd6 Kg8 24.Rbc1 Ne7 25.Qf3 Nf5 26.Rc7?

This meets a surprising refutation. Black has little for the pawn so 26.Nxf7!? was the best chance to keep the game messy.
26...Rab8! 27.Rc4 Qxa2 0–1


Tromso World Cup
White: H. Nakamura
Black: D. Cori

Nakamura had been trying to make progress for 30 moves, without a pawn moving nor a piece being taken, so he tries a final trick...
78.Re6! Rxe6 79.Kxe6 Kf4 80.Kf7 Ke5 81.Kg7 Ba3?
Surprisingly, this is a losing move. The key to the position is that Black should not be scared about abandoning both her pawns in order to set up a blockade, so 81...Kd6+ 82.Kxh6 Ke7 83.Kxg5 Kf8 followed by placing the king in the corner, was the direct way to reach a position where White will be unable to make progress.
82.Kxh6 Kf6 83.Bg6!
Now the Black king cannot reach f8 and the h pawn becomes a winner.
83...Bb2 84.Kh7 Ba3 85.Kg8 Bb4 86.Bf5 Bc3 87.h6 Ke7 88.h7 1–0
Kamsky on the other hand, had to work his way through two sets of playoffs before he could shake off the young Chinese player Lou Yiping. The first four games – two classical time limit and two rapid games - were drawn without serious chances for the American and it took until the 10 minute games before Kamsky could show his superiority.

Tromso World Cup
White: Lou Yiping
Black: G. Kamsky
After a tough manoeuvring game, Kamsky has taken the initiative, but there would be plenty of fight in White's position after 35.Be3. However finally Lou erred and Kamsky did not need to be asked twice...
35.Na4? Nxd4 36.Nxd4 e3! 37.Nxc5

On 37.fxe3 Qg3 is decisive.
37...bxc5 38.Ne2 Rxd1+ 39.Rxd1 exf2+ 40.Kxf2 Qh2!

Now, because of the 41...Rxe2+ trick, both 41.Qg3 and 41.Rg1 are unplayable, meaning that White must lose bulk material and the game.
41.Rd5 Bxd5 42.cxd5 Qd6
42...Rxe2+ is not bad either.
43.Qf3 Nd7 44.Nc3 Qf6 0-1
Kamsky needed only to draw the final 10 minute game with White to win the match and, after he neutralized some aggressive play by Lou, he soon reached an endgame which was impossible to lose and finally went through to the second round.
Nakamura and Kamsky were joined in the second round by Alexander Onischuk, who looked good against a Venezualan GM almost equal to Onischuk on rating.
Tromso World Cup

White: A. Onischuk
Black: E. Iturrizaga
Opening: Queen's Indian Defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 c5 4.Nf3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.d5! exd5 7.Ng5!?

For many years 7.Nh4 was considered de rigeur here but recently 7.Ng5 has become popular at high levels, intending to reposition via h3 and f4.
7...h6 8.Nh3 b5

In qualifying for the World Cup through the Americas Continental Championship in May, Iturrizaga had found difficulty playing against this move with White and so decides to try it against Onischuk. He is in for a rude shock....
Irrutizaga had played the more 'normal' 9.cxd5 but Onischuk's move is much stronger.
9...bxc4 would allow 10.Nf4 so by protecting the bishop Black forces White to capture on d5 immediately.
10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11.Bxd5 Nc6 12.Nf4 bxc4 13.0–0 g5
At first sight this is desperation, since otherwise 14.Bxc4 and 15.Nd5 would follow. However tactically 13...g5 holds everything together for Black so it is hard to condemn. Iturrizaga's problem is long-term; the Black king will never have a safe home.
14.Ng2 Nd4 15.Ne3 Bxd5 16.Nxd5 Qc6 17.e4 0–0–0

Now Black will be unable to back up the knight with ...Bg7, but the immediate 17...Bg7 is met by 18.f4 when the position opens up in White's favour.
18.Be3 Re8 19.Bxd4 cxd4 20.Qxd4 Bc5 21.Qc3 Rhf8 22.b4! Rxe4 23.bxc5 Qxd5


With Black having a number of loose pawns and an airy king, one would expect White to win this position 90% of the time, even if perfect computer defence might hold.
24...Rfe8 25.Rad1
Perhaps a slight misstep - White wants one rook on d1 and one on b1 and therefore should use the king's rook here.

25...Qb7!? might not be as bad as it looks because after 26.Rb1 Qc7 27.Qa6+ Kd8 28.Rb7 Qxc5 White has no knock-out blow.
26.Qa6+ Qb7 27.Qxh6 R4e5?!

Rather too careful. After 27...c3! 28.Qxg5 (28.Rb1 Qc6) 28...c2 29.Rc1 Re2 the game could go either way but, importantly, White's rooks have no avenues to the Black king.
28.Qf6! R8e7 29.Rc1 Qb5 30.Qd6! R7e6
30...Qxc5? loses to 31.Qa6+! followed by 32.Rxc4.
31.Qf8+ Kc7

Now White's attack becomes overwhelming. 31...Re8 32.Qxf7 Re4 was the last chance.
32.Rb1! Qxc5 33.Qb8+ Kc6 34.Rb7! Qa5 35.Qc8+ Kd5 36.Rxd7+ Ke4 37.Qxc4+ Kf5 38.Rxf7+ Kg6 39.Rd7 1–0

The fourth US winner completed one of the biggest upsets of round 1; Ray Robson defeating the highly ranked Andrei Volokitin with an amazing 2-0 score.
Volokitin vs. Robson, Photo Cathy Rogers

Robson started the match with a brilliant attacking game.
Tromso World Cup
White: R. Robson
Black: A. Volokitin
Opening: Petroff's Defence

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6
"He also plays the Najdorf and the Berlin," said Robson. "I figured he was trying to be solid and make a draw with Black in the first game and then press with White."
3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0–0 Be7 8.c4 Nb4 9.Be2
"We followed the main line for a long time," said Robson. The older line 9.cxd5!? Nxd3 10.Qxd3 Qxd5 11.Re1 Bf5 12.Nc3 Nxc3 13.Qxc3 , which produced Robson's compatriot Walter Browne's self-described 'Game of the Century' after  13...c6? 14.Bh6!! is no longer considered dangerous after 13...Be6! 14.Qxc7 Bd6 followed by 15...0-0.
9...0–0 10.Nc3 Bf5 11.a3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 Re8 14.cxd5 Qxd5 15.Bf4 Rac8

The pawn sacrifice 15...Na5 16.Bxc7 Rac8 is no longer considered good enough for Black in view of  17.Qa4!.
"[This move is] known," said Robson," but maybe he didn't know it that well."
The very first outing of 16.Qc1, in a 2005 game between Anand and Kramnik, saw Kramnik lose in just 20 moves after 16...Na5?! 17.c4! Qe4? (17...Qd8) 18.Bd1! Qd3 19.Re3 Qxc4 20.Re5 1–0.
17.Qb2 Na5 18.Ne5 Bxe5 19.Bxe5 Qb3 20.Qd2 Nc4?
"His last few moves were OK but he should have played [20...f6," said Robson.
21.Qg5 Nxe5 22.Qxf5 Nc4 23.Qc5
"I had seen this position before the game!" admitted Robson.
The natural move, but 23...Nb6 was safer.
"The critical moment," said Robson. "I sacrifice a piece but [my 30th move] is the key - his king had to come out and in time trouble he couldn't defend."
24...Rxe1+ 25.Rxe1 b6 26.Qc6 f5
26...Rf8 27.Qxc7 Nb5 would be fine for Black, but 27.a4! keeps up the pressure.
27.Bxf5!! Nxf5 28.Re8+ Kf7 29.Qd7+ Kf6
Now it seems that the back rank threats save the day for Black, but Robson has a surprise in store...

Struggling with the clock - while perhaps wondering if his opponent is still in his home preparation - Volokitin fails to put up maximum resistance. However even after the computer defence 30...Rf8 31.g4! Kg6! 32.Re6+ Kg5 33.gxf5 Qd1+ 34.Kg2 Qg4+ 35.Kf1 Kh5! White can play the simple 36.Qxc7 Rxf5 37.Qg3 and Black is unlikely to survive the rook ending.
31.g4! g6 32.f4! h6 33.h4! Qf7 34.Qxc8 1–0
The next day Volokitin threw everything at Robson but the 18-year-old Robson – who has happy memories of Tromso having gained one of his GM norms there – defended calmly and pocketed a second point, to move his FIDE rating ever-closer to 2650.
And so to the losers...

GM Alejandro Ramirez, Photo Cathy Rogers
Chessplayers are not used to knock-out tournaments. Unlike tennis players, who are usually able to recover from a loss by starting a new tournament the following week, chessplayers are used to playing complete tournaments and the thought of going home after three days, with perhaps a month to wait before the next big event, feels very unpleasant. The thought that within a week 75% of the powerful World Cup field will have gone home does not assuage the pain of an early knock-out.

Ramirez's match against Russia's super-solid Evgeny Tomashevsky started with 4 draws, but then Tomashevksy looked to have decided the match with a win with Black in the first 10 minute playoff game. However one down with one to play, Ramirez employed a Benko Gambit to crush Tomashevksy and force the match into blitz games.

Ramirez won the first blitz game easily and needed only a draw to progress, but this time it was Tomashevsky who bounced back in style.

That left the ninth and final game – an Armageddon game where White has 5 minutes to Black's 4 but Black will win the match if he can draw....
Tromso World Cup
White: E. Tomashevsky
Black: A. Ramirez


Black has emerged from the opening in reasonable shape but soon the game goes haywire.
21.b4! Ne6?
21...Nxc3 22.Bxc3 Ne4 was safe enough.
22.Nxe4! dxe4 23.Nf5!?
Apparently a winning move, but in fact 23.Nc6! was a much better way of achieving the same goal.
23...Qxd1+? Desperation, since 23...Qa4 24.Nxg7 Nxg7 25.Qe1! looked even more disastrous. However the unlikely; 23...Nf4!! would have saved the day - "at least that's what they tell me," said Ramirez after the game.
24.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 25.Qxd1 Bxb2 26.Nd6 Rd8 27.Qb3 Rxd6 28.Qxb2
The rest is not too difficult for White because the Black pieces lack secure outposts.
28...Bc6 29.Kh2 Rd8 30.a3 h5 31.h4 b5 32.Qc3 Bb7 33.Ba2 Re8 34.Qe5 Kf8 35.Qd6+ Kg7 36.Qd7 1–0
And the tournament was over for Ramirez, who lost his second huge Armageddon match of the year.
Larry Christiansen also had reason to feel aggrieved that he was heading home. Christiansen was not given much chance against Laurent Fressinet, who had performed so impressively in this year's Alekhine Memorial tournament.

However Christiansen held his own in the first game, before erring just near the time control.
Tromso World Cup
White: L. Christiansen
Black: L. Fressinet

Fressinet has slowly been increasing the pressure, but just in time Christiansen finds counterplay...
35.e6! fxe6 36.Qxg6 Qf5 37.Qe8+?

Christiansen is unwilling to try his luck in the rook ending which arises after 37.Qxe6+ Qxe6 38.Rxe6 Rxb2 39.Rxa6 Rxb4 but in fact Black's pawns are very slow and after 40.Rc6! Rb3 41.Kf1 c3 42.Ke2 b4 43.Kd3 Rb2 44.f4 White should have little trouble securing the draw but pushing his kingside pawns until Black is forced to use his rook to take them, allowing White to eliminate the queenside pawns with Rc4.Instead Christiansen keeps searching for an attack which comes unstuck very quickly.
37...Kh7 38.Rf1 Rxb2 39.h5 c3 40.h6!? Kxh6 41.Kg2 Qd5+!
There goes the mating attack on the h file.
42.Kg1 c2 0–1

That loss left Christiansen needing a win with Black to level the match and the veteran 3-time US Champion very nearly pulled off a  win with a classic attacking game that just needed the finishing touch....
Tromso World Cup

White: L. Fressinet
Black: L. Christiansen

Both sides seem to have exposed kings, but Christiansen shows that it is White who has more to worry about by playing...
24...Ba6! 25.Nd3
Desperation, since 25.Qxa6 Rxf2! 26.Kxf2 Qxh2+ 27.Kf3 Rf8+ is fatal for White.
25...c4! 26.Ne5 c3! 27.Qxa6 Rxf2?
Right idea, wrong move order. After 27...cxb2 28.Rab1 Rxf2! the attack runs like clockwork, e.g. 29.Kxf2 Rf8+ 30.Kg1 Bc5+ 31.Kh1 Rf2 32.Qc8+ Bf8 and White is doomed.
28.Kxf2 cxb2
28...Rxb2+ 29.Ke1!! leaves White's king safe while; 28...Qxh2+ 29.Kf3 Rf8+ 30.Nf7+! also interrupts the attack with fatal consequences for Black.
29.Kg1! bxa1Q 30.Rxa1
Now the weakness of Black's back rank prevents any knock-out blow. Christiansen tried
but after
31.Rb1! Rf8 32.Qa3

Black's advantage was gone and the game drawn after
32...Be7 33.Qxa7 Kg8 34.Nd7 Nf4 35.gxf4 Qg4+ 36.Kh1 Qxg6 37.Rb8 Qe4+ 38.Kg1 Qe1+ 39.Kg2 Qd2+ 40.Kg1 Rxb8 41.Qxb8+ Kh7 42.Qb5 Kh6 43.Qc6 Qe2 44.Ne5 Qxa2 45.Qf3 Bc5+ ½–½

Alexander Shabalov also had a tough task against an in-from Frenchman; Maxime Vachier Lagrave, who had just triumphed at the Biel GM tournament. However the 45-year-old was holding his own against Vachier until late in the first game...

Tromso World Cup

White: M. Vachier Lagrave
Black: A. Shabalov

Shabalov has been suffering pressure in the endgame and, with the time control approaching, he decides to make a break.
32...Bxc3+!? 33.bxc3 e5! 34.f5 Rd7 35.Re6

35.Bh5+ is tempting but after 35...Kg8 (35...Kf8? 36.Bc5! is unpleasant for Black.) 36.Rxc6 Bxh5! Black has good chances to hold the resulting opposite bishops endgame.
35...Re7 36.Rd6 Rd7 37.Rg6!? Rd3?!
37...Kf8! would leave the rook embarrassed and White may have nothing better than 38.f6 , liquidating to a draw.
38.Be2! Rxc3

It is too late to go back as then 39.Bc4+ will be a winner. 39.Kd2! 1-0
At first sight the Black rook is completely trapped - and here the game ended - but it turns out that Black could possibly save the game after 39.Kd2 Nd4!! e.g. 40.Kxc3 Nxe2+ 41.Kd2 Nf4, winning a kingside pawn with excellent drawing chances.
The next day offered no solace for a dispirited Shabalov. Vachier found a sensible pawn sacrifice to kill Shabalov's initiative in a Sicilian Defence and the Frenchman picked up the full point  when Shabalov over-extended.
Gregory Kaidanov lost the sort of rook endgame he probably teaches his students on a weekly basis....
GM Kaidanov, Photo Cathy Rogers

Tromso World Cup
White: G. Kaidanov
Black: A. Areshchenk


Kaidanov cost himself the match against the Ukraine's Areschenko by losing this endgame, which is not quite as trivially drawn as it looks.
49...h5! 50.gxh5+ Kh6 51.h4 Re5 52.Kg3 Rxh5 53.Ra8 Rb5

The liquidation has led to another drawn rook ending, but this is one which Carlsen famously lost to Aronian in Linares 2009 - just before Carlsen started working with Kasparov and his endgame knowledge improved exponentially.
54.Rc8 Kh5 55.Rh8+ Kg6 56.Ra8 Kf5 57.Ra3 Rb4 58.Ra5+ Kg6 59.Rc5 f5 60.Ra5 Rb3+ 61.Kg2 Rb6 62.Kg3 Kf6 63.Kf4 Rb4+ 64.Kg3 Rg4+ 65.Kh3 Re4 66.Kg3 g6 67.Ra7 Re3+ 68.Kg2 Re7 69.Ra5 Re5 70.Ra7 Rd5 71.Kg3 Rd3+ 72.Kg2 f4 73.Ra5 Rg3+ 74.Kh2 Re3 75.Kg2

Carlsen's technique, which involved repositioning his rook along the lines of 75.Rb5 Re5 76.Rb1 Kf5 77.Kh3 Re3+ 78.Kh2 Kg4 79.Rg1+ should also be sufficient for a draw.
75...Re5 76.Ra8 Kf5 77.Rg8 Re2+ 78.Kf3 Re3+ 79.Kg2 Rg3+ 80.Kf2 Rh3 81.Rh8 Kg4

By now White's position is hanging by a thread and only 82.Rh6! Rh2+ (82...Kf5 83.Rh8!) 83.Kg1 Rxh4 84.Rxg6+ Kf3 85.Ra6! hangs on. The text move looks equally good but the White rook now becomes overloaded.
82...Rf3+! 83.Ke2
If 83.Kg2 Rg3+ followed by 84...Kxh4 wins.
83...Re3+ 84.Kf2 Re6 85.Rh8 Ra6!
Now the White rook cannot prevent Black from either winning the h pawn or advancing his king and f pawn.
86.Rf8 Ra2+ 87.Ke1 Kf3
The computer, with tablebases guaranteeing perfect chess with limited pieces, wants to play 87...Kxh4 88.Rxf4+ Kg3 when apparently Black is winning. Areschenko preferes a more human method of converting his advantage.
88.Rf6 Ra1+ 89.Kd2 Rg1 90.Kd3 Rg4 91.Kd2 Kf2 0-1

Black will play ...f3, exchange the h pawn for the g-pawn, and then reach the classic Lucena position.
The following day Kaidanov could make no impression with Black and so was eliminated.
GM Conrad Holt, Photo Cathy Rogers

Conrad Holt, the second youngest of the Americans, stayed with his experienced Russian opponent for most of his two games but in the end Vitiugov's consistency won through.

Tromso World Cup
White: N. Vitiugov
Black: C. Holt

The players are approaching the first time control of a hard-fought game where Vitiugov managed to find counterplay every time Holt seemed to be consolidating. Now Holt has some weak pawns to worry about but the natural move he chose...
turned out to be fatal. Instead 38...Nf4! intending to meet 39.Nxc6 with 39...Bd5, would have left White with only a minuscule advantage.
Now, however, White has a worrying number of attacking pieces pointed at the Black king.
39...Bd5 meets the same response.
40.Nd6! h6
40...Kh8 was the unlikely computer suggestion to enable Black to survive but after 41.Ndf7+ Bxf7 42.Nxf7+ Kg7 (42...Kg8 43.Re7) 43.Nd6 their is no reprieve for the Black king.
41.Nd3! Rb3 42.Re7+ Kg6
From here the king will be hunted to extinction but on 42...Kh8 43.Ne5 Bd5 44.Ne8! would end any resistance.
43.Ne5+ Kh5 44.Rg7 Be6 45.Ne4 Ne2+ 46.Kh1 Rd8 47.Nf6+ Kh4 48.Ng6+ Kg5 49.h4# 1-0

In the second game Holt tried to make something happen with a tricky exchange sacrifice in an endgame, but Vitiugov held firm and when Holt pressed too hard he was out, 0–2.
The round 2 pairings for the US players are as follows:

Kamsky v Shimanov, a little-known Russian who knocked out England's Gawain Jones in the first round.

Onischuk v Dominguez Perez the talented Cuban who ran close to the wind in defeating Egypt's Essam El Gindy 2-0 in the first round.
Robson v Ivanchuk, perhaps the match of the round – the 18-year-old rising star against the Ukrainian living legend.
Nakamura v Safarli, the 21-year-old Azeri who was extremely lucky to get past another Egyptian Bassem Amin to reach the second round.

Games begin at 9am AEST time and can be viewed with commentary by Susan Polgar and Laurence Trent on the official tournament web site http://www.chessworldcup2013.com/  

August - Chess Life Online 2013

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