World Cup Final: Tactical Mayhem
By Vanessa West   
October 5, 2015
KarjakinSvidler.jpg
Karjakin and Svidler, Photo

On Friday night, the World Cup seemed like it was over. After two straight wins in the final, Peter Svidler was just a single draw away from the title.

In Game 1, Svidler's active pieces exploited tactical weaknesses in Karjakin's position.

 
Tactic #1

Peter Svidler vs. Sergey Karjakin, Final Game 1
Tactic 1 - Game 1.jpg

White to move.

Karjakin has just played 22...Qe6, which Svidler considered, "the last mistake". How did he take advantage?

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In Game 2, Karjakin pressed for the win most of the game. In the face of Svidler's excellent defense, Karjakin took some risks and refused to accept an equal position. Trying to take advantage of Svidler's time trouble, Karjakin then made a terrible blunder, 37. Rb5:

Tactic #2

Sergey Karjakin vs. Peter Svidler, Final Game 2
Tactic 2 - Game 2.jpg

Black to move.

Svidler is a knight ahead, but it seems like Karjakin will get the material back because of the pin on Black's rook. How did Svidler to keep the extra piece?

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At this point, when just one draw in the next two games would lose the match, Karjakin started an impressive comeback.

His must-win challenge began with a game as black. Karjakin was prepared to do everything he could to win the game: "I had to try to win, and I went into the most complicated position I could have done."

Tactic #3

Sergey Karjakin vs, Peter Svidler, Final Game 3
Tactic 3 - Game 3.jpg

Black to move.

Svidler just played 29. Qd2, a very unfortunate move that turns an equal position into a losing one. What was Karjakin's winning move?

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In Game 4, Karjakin won again - this time by gradually increasing his positional superiority. He gained an extra pawn, and converted it into a point in a rook endgame.

When asked how he's managed to stay calm, Karjakin said, "I was trying to concentrate on chess and not think about the specific situation."

This victory secured a tiebreak match, finally allowing Karjakin to play to win the title and not just to stay in the competition. Suddenly, the World Cup was up in the air.

The playoffs began with two 25 minute rapid games. Since Karjakin is a former World Rapid Champion (2012) and FIDE rated 70 points higher in rapid chess (2805), it seemed like the advantage was in his hands.

First, Karjakin found a win in a pawn-up notoriously drawish opposite-color bishop ending. However, Svidler responded the next game with a win due to an active knight vs. a passive bishop battle, leveling the score.

Tactic #4

Peter Svidler vs. Sergey Karjakin, Rapid Playoff Game 2
Tactic 4 - Rapid Game 2.jpg

White to move.

Svidler's knight extends its influence throughout the board while Karjakin's bishop cannot move at all. How did Svidler turn his activity into a win?

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 The two players continued to battle it out in tiebreak games - with the time control becoming increasingly faster: 10 minute rapid and then blitz games.

In the first blitz game, Svidler blundered a rook:

Blitz Game #1


 
Visibly dismayed by this, he was not able to recover in the match. Here is the final game:

Blitz Game #2



Peter Svidler vs. Sergey Karjakin

 
After one month, 36 games, and 17 victories, Sergey Karjakin has emerged as the World Cup Champion.

Additionally, Karjakin and Svidler have secured qualification spots in the Candidates tournament in 2016.

Despite mistakes, the level of determination and endurance shown by both finalists is remarkable. Furthermore, all ten games were decisive - a notable achievement in fighting chess from both players.