After Wednesday’s tiebreak round, where Hikaru Nakamura advanced to the second round of the 2019 FIDE World Cup while Sam Shankland was knocked out by Bilel Bellahcene, there remained five American players alive heading into today’s first leg of the second round.
It was a bit of a rough day for the home team.
Three players – Leinier Dominguez, Wesley So, and Jeffery Xiong – drew, while Hikaru Nakamura and Sam Sevian both lost. The result is that Nakamura and Sevian must win tomorrow to move to the second round playoff, although the good news is that both will take the White pieces when trying to even their mini-matches.
Nakamura made a critical mistake in the opening after Nisipeanu sacrificed his queen for a knight and rook. His 14. … e5 gave Nisipeanu two ways to gain a significant advantage, and soon White had both material and positional advantage. The game ended in 30 moves with Nakamura’s resignation.
Hikaru Nakamura (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)
Nakamura laments his error (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)
Nisipeanu (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)
For his part, Nisipeanu was pleased in the post-game interview, saying that he was worried after the queen sac because Nakamura responded quickly in the following moves. Tomorrow Nisipeanu “hopes to survive” against a motivated “beast” of an American champion.
Sevian fell to 2016 World Championship Challenger Sergey Karjakin in a long minor-piece endgame.
In the three remaining games, the Americans drew with varying degrees of difficulty. Dominguez’s game was ‘in book’ for 25 moves against Nijat Abasov, reaching a fairly lifeless position at theory’s end.
Leinier Dominguez (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)
Abasov-Dominguez (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)
Wesley So (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)
So neutralized (and then some) Demchenko’s London System, but after passing up a potential central break on move 22, pieces were swapped and the game was agreed drawn on the 34th move.
Jeffery Xiong (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)
Jeffery Xiong survived an Exchange-down middlegame against M.amin Tabatabaei, forcing his opponent to return the material on move 36. The resulting queen and pawn ending was complex, and while Xiong tried to win with his extra pawn, Tabatabaei always had enough counterplay to hold.
Tomorrow sees the following pairings for the American players:
Both Nakamura and Sevian must win to tie their mini-matches and advance to the rapid playoff day.