Xiong Draws in World Cup’s First Quarterfinal Leg

It has been 13 days since the first moves were played at the 2019 FIDE World Cup. 120 of the 128 competitors have been eliminated, and the eight quarterfinalists that remain have played a minimum of 10 games against elite competition. American Jeffery Xiong tops the list with 20 games (including playoffs) in Khanty-Mansiysk coming into Monday’s play.

But the players keep fighting. While today’s first leg of the quarterfinal round saw four draws, only one – Xiong-Radjabov – could be considered largely bloodless.  The other three saw varying degrees of complexity and gusto.

Vachier-Lagrave had to play precisely to get to a drawn opposite-colored bishops ending against Aronian. Vitiugov had to survive a tough opening and a dynamic exchange sac from Yu Yangyi to split the point. And Ding Liren essayed a fascinating exchange sac of his own against Alexander Grischuk, the bishop pair proving more than strong enough to hold the draw.

After a grueling playoff on Sunday, Jeffery Xiong chose a quiet sideline in the Open Catalan against Teimour Radjabov. With pieces leaving the board at a rapid pace, the players repeated moves and drew at the 30 move mark. IM John Watson annotates the game exclusively for CLO.

Post-match interview with Radjabov and Jeffery Xiong:

Levon Aronian tried to topple Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s Grunfeld, but it continues to be a tough nut to crack!

Certainly the highlight of the day was the game between Alexander Grischuk and Ding Liren. Grischuk appears to have intended to sac an exchange on the 15th move, but Ding beat him to the punch with 14…Rb6!?, after which the game became immensely difficult to parse. The key ideas seem to have amused Ding, as this video tweet from Olimpiu Urcan clearly shows.

IM John Watson has done his best to make sense of the complications in these notes for CLO.

Vitiugov-Yu Yangyi (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)

The final game to end was the battle between Nikita Vitiugov and Yu Yangyi. Vitiugov tried the quiet 6.g3 against Yu’s Najdorf, and managed to get a decent position before Black began to generate counterplay with his bishops. The computer does not care for Yu’s plan after 32…Rxf2, but his exchange sacrifice gave  him a powerful bishop pair and enough compensation to share the point.

Tuesday’s second leg features reversed colors, where a win will advance someone to the semifinals.

Ding Liren – Grischuk
Radjabov – Xiong
Vachier-Lagrave – Aronian
Yu Yangyi – Vitiugov

Play starts at 6am EDT, and live coverage is available at the FIDE YouTube Channel.

FIDE World Cup Quick links

2019 World Cup Official Webpage

Pairings and Results

Live YouTube Coverage (daily, 6am EDT)

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