World Cup Final: Tactical Mayhem

Sergey Karjakin won the World Cup in Baku after a series decisive games, including a tragic blunder by Svidler in the blitz. Both qualify for the Candidates. Vanessa analyzes key moments.
Karjakin and Svidler, Photo 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

White to move.

Karjakin has just played 22...Qe6, which Svidler considered, "the last mistake".

How did he take advantage?

Show Solution

23. Nc5! Targeting the knight on d5. This move opens up White's bishop on g2. It also attacks both of the black knight's defenders: the queen on e6 and the bishop on b7. 23...Bxc5 Black has no choice, but to eliminate this well-posted knight. 24. Rxc5 The knight is replaced by another attacker against d5. 24...Rd8 25. Ba5 Svidler continues to add to the pressure, attacking another one of the knight's defenders.  25...Rd6 26. Qc4 According to Karjakin, this is the move he missed. Svidler threatens to capture Black's key defender, the bishop on b7, with his rook. After which, the knight on d5 would finally fall. For example, 26...d3 27. Rxb7 Rxb7 28. Bxd5 and because so many of Black's pieces are caught on the white diagonal, 28...Rxd5 is forced. 29. Rxd5 and White ends up a piece ahead. Instead, Karjakin tried: 26...Nc3 which loses the piece immediately to 27. Rxb7

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

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?

Show Solution
37...Kh8 Simple, but effective. Svidler removes his king from the pin. Now if Karjakin captures the rook with 38. Bxf7, his rook falls as well to 38...Qxb5. Instead, Karjakin made an additional blunder: 38. Rd5, which loses an entire rook to 38...Nb6 and White resigned.
  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

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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29...Rxf2 White's queen finds itself overworked. If 30. Qxf2, the other white rook falls to 30...Rxe1+. 30. Qc3+ d4 and White resigned. If 31. Qc1, 31...Qg3 is checkmating. And if 31. Qc7+, 31...Rf7 wins even more material by attacking both the white queen and rook.

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

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?

Show Solution
43. Nc5 The knight is headed for d7 to win the pinned bishop. Additionally, it gains a tempo by attacking the black rook. 43...Rd2+ 44. Ke1 Giving Black no time to save the bishop. 44...Rb2 If 44...Rg2, 45. Nd7. 45. Rxb2 Bxc5 and Svidler was able to convert his material advantage into a win.

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

[White "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Black "Svidler, Peter"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2753"]
[BlackElo "2727"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3
d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d3 Bd6 13. Re1 Bf5 14. Qf3 Re8
15. Rxe8+ Qxe8 16. Nd2 Qe1+ 17. Nf1 Bg6 18. Bc2 b4 19. c4 b3 20. Bd1 Nb4 21.
Bd2 Qe5 22. Bc3 Qc5 23. Bxb4 Qxb4 24. Bxb3 Qb6 25. Re1 Bc5 26. Ba4 Rd8 27. Rd1
Qxb2 28. Bxc6 Bh5 29. Rb1 Qxb1 30. Qxh5 Bxf2+ 31. Kxf2 Qb6+ 32. Ne3 Qxc6 33.
Nd5 Qd6 34. g3 h6 35. Qe2 Rb8 36. Kg2 Kh8 37. h4 Qa3 38. Kh3 Qc1 39. Nf4 Qb2
40. Qe7 Qb7 41. Qe5 Qd7+ 42. Kh2 Kg8 43. Qxb8+ 1-0


Visibly dismayed by this, Svidler was not able to recover in the match.

Here is the final game:

Blitz Game #2

[pgn][White "Svidler, Peter"]
[Black "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2727"]
[BlackElo "2753"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 a6 6. Bxd7+ Bxd7 7. c4 Nf6 8.
Nc3 g6 9. O-O Bg7 10. Qd3 O-O 11. a4 Rc8 12. Rb1 Bc6 13. Re1 Nd7 14. b4 Nb6 15.
b5 Bd7 16. Nd2 Be6 17. Nd5 Nxa4 18. Ba3 Qd7 19. h3 Rfe8 20. Rb3 a5 21. Qc2 Bh6
22. Nf3 Bxd5 23. exd5 Nb6 24. Re4 Nxd5 25. Bb2 Nf6 26. Bxf6 exf6 27. Rxe8+ Qxe8

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.