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02 Oct

Svidler On The Roof

Shout it loudly from the rooftops.  Peter Svidler, who is good-natured and self-deprecating, often describing himself as lazy, looks set late in life to turn in the biggest win of his career, as the likeable St. Petersburg grandmaster got off to a perfect start in his Fide  Word Cup final match-up in Baku with fellow countryman Sergey Karjakin, by surprising fans and pundits alike after winning the first two games.

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Game one was all Svidler, all the way, as a flawless performance from the St. Petersburg grandmaster (not to mention a series of pins) led Karjakin into a bad position that went rapidly downhill. In game two today, however, Karjakin took the advantage and was edging towards a good position, only to see it all spectacularly backfire after a simply horrendous blunder dramatically turned the tables to give Svidler what now looks like an unassailable 2-0 lead in their best-of-four-game final.

Reaching the World Cup final is an achievement, winning it would be a bonus, but talking ahead of the final, Svidler stated that he was just glad to get there, as both finalists get an automatic spot into next year’s Candidates tournament — and at 39, Svidler feels this will more than likely be his last chance to challenge for Magnus Carlsen’s world title.

Yet the record-breaking seven-time Russian champion is not your stereotypical elite grandmaster. He has no full-time coach, spends less time on preparation, and has a wide range of non-chess activities including a passion for cricket (unheard of in a Russian!), British television, rock music and the cultural life of St. Petersburg. He plays fast, creatively and intuitively, and colleagues think that only a dilettante approach has kept him from the absolute world top.

Despite this, it is clear that to have achieved what he has already in chess, is the mark of an extraordinary natural talent. The editor of the Russian chess magazine 64, Mark Gluhovsky, summed it up nicely, once saying that while most top chess players are characterised by an iron will and work ethic: "Very few can get by on pure genius, like Svidler."

The full brackets showing the path to the final for Svidler and Karjakin (and including the latest scores in the final) can be found by clicking here.

Peter Svidler - Sergey Karjakin
FIDE World Cup Final, (1)
King’s Indian Attack
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 e6 4.0-0 Be7 5.d3 0-0 6.Nbd2 c5 7.e4 Bobby Fischer once said of the King's Indian Attack, "This used to be my favorite." Indeed, there are numerous examples throughout his career of his using this opening. The young Bobby often played this against the Caro-Kann, French defense and occasionally even the Sicilian. 7...Nc6 8.Re1 b5 9.exd5 The "Closed" variation with 9.e5 is arguably the most popular line here at club-level, and also when Fischer played it, scoring many spectacular wins by storming the Black king. And both players also went down this route last year: 9...Nd7 10.Nf1 b4 11.h4 a5 12.Bf4 a4 13.a3 bxa3 14.bxa3 Ba6 15.Ne3 Rb8 16.c4 dxc4 17.Nxc4 Nb6 was seen in Svidler-Karjakin, Russian Team Ch., 2014. 9...Nxd5 More usual from Karjakin here is 9...exd5 which is fine for Black. It seems likely that Karjakin feared Svidler and his team may have put some work into this, so he diverged - but by what happens, it looks as if Svidler had made plans for this also. 10.Ne4 "You're supposed to play 10.a4 b4 11.Nc4 but then Black simply develops with Qd8-c7, Bc8-b7, Ra8-d8 and I am not sure what is my plan, " explained Svidler in his post-game interview. 10...Bb7 11.c3 a6 Prophylaxis may have been better here. Svidler suggested instead 11...h6 to rule out Bc1-g5 and to keep the pawn on f7, thus depriving White of any targets. And after 12.d4 cxd4 13.Nxd4 Nxd4 14.Qxd4 he explained that minus the dark-squared bishops on the board his position would be better; but here there's no visible weaknesses to exploit in the Black camp. And if anything, Black has a small advantage. 12.a4! White first weakens Black's queenside before launching into any sort of attack. Soon, the strain begins to tell for Karjakin's position. 12...b4?! Perhaps 12...h6 followed by Qc7 was the better way to play this. 13.Bg5 f6 If 13...Bxg5 14.Nfxg5 and suddenly White is looking at attacks with Qh5 and Bh3. 14.Bd2 e5 15.Rc1 The signs are all there for alarm bells to be going off now in Karjakin's head: White's rooks and minor pieces are centrally developed, there's potential x-ray attacks on d5 and b7, and Black also has problems with his queenside pawns - and all of this quickly leads to Karjakin's rapid downfall. 15...Rf7 16.d4! The opening up of the game now can only lead to a big advantage for Svidler, with all his pieces ideally placed. 16...bxc3 17.bxc3 cxd4 18.cxd4 Nxd4? Keeping a set of knights on with 18...exd4 may well have been much better, as it wouldn't have allowed Svidler to quickly profit from his fianchettoed bishop on g2. 19.Nxd4 exd4 20.Qb3 Now b7, d5 and f7 is feeling the heat. 20...Rb8?! Wiser might have been 20...Qd7 and accepting its going to be a tough endgame defence. 21.Rb1! Pin and win! Svidler keeps the pressure up by pinning yet another piece, this time the rook on b8. Something has got to give here, as Karjakin's position begins to more resemble a pin cushion. 21...Qd7 If 21...Rf8 22.Bf4 soon exploits the pin on the d5 knight, and should quickly win. 22.Rec1 Qe6? The final mistake in a tough position to defend, according to Svidler. He was more concerned with 22...h6 and he couldn't for certain see the way to win, although he realised that after 23.Nc5 Bxc5 24.Rxc5 Nc3 25.Bxc3 dxc3 26.Bd5 Bxd5 27.Qxb8+ Kh7 he was better, but there was still lots of play left in the position, and Karjakin was not without saving chances here. 23.Nc5 Bxc5 24.Rxc5 Rd8 25.Ba5! Rd6 26.Qc4 (See Diagram) White has total domination here. 26...Nc3 27.Rxb7 Also winning was 27.Qxe6 Rxe6 28.Bxc3 Bxg2 29.Rc8+ Rf8 30.Rxf8+ Kxf8 31.Bb4+ Kf7 32.Kxg2 and Black can resign. 27...Qe1+ 28.Bf1 Ne2+ 29.Qxe2 1-0 Black's position is hopeless. If 29...Qxe2 30.Rc8+ Rf8 31.Rxf8+ Kxf8 32.Bxe2 and he's two pieces down. 

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