Netherlands’ Anish Giri has landed himself on the brink of exiting the 2015 FIDE World Chess Cup at Baku. The Dutch grandmaster played with white and still lost, when he made some tactical errors against the experienced Peter Svidler of Russia. It has put Giri in a must-win situation playing with black on Monday. Until Sunday, Giri has had a smooth progress in the tournament, beginning with a 2-game victory against his first round Ugandan opponent Arthur Ssegwanyi. Giri needed rapid games after both his classical second round games were drawn against Motylev. But Giri’s class was evident in rapids. In the next round, Giri faced a big challenge from Peter Leko but brushing aside expert opinion and prediction, the Dutchman defeated Leko in the second classical game and sealed the match. Giri reached the semifinal by beating French grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the second game of the quarterfinal. Just when Giri looked solid and the favorite, he lost the first game to Peter Svidler, who played with black pieces. In the other semifinal, Russia’s Sergey Karjakin drew the first classical against Ukraine’s Pavel Eljanov, who looked like having reached a winning position at one time.
Anish Giri surprised Peter Svidler with his 1.e4 opening move. The Russian expected the closed opening like in their previous encounters. However, Svidler defended with the rare line of Zaitsev Ruy Lopez. After the first few moves, Giri moved his pieces towards the enemy king, whereas Svidler used a counter-play tactic of attacking Giri’s queenside. All of a sudden, Giri sacrificed two pawns without gaining anything in return. The Black king was in a solid position and never came under attack. A little while later, as they reached the time control, Giri resigned. For Peter Svidler, it was literally a gift as he won with black pieces. Now in the second game tomorrow, the onus will rest on Giri, who has reached a must-win situation playing with Black pieces.
In the other semifinal, the contest was between two members of the Ukrainian team that won the 2004 Olympiad. Those days, Eljanov and Karjakin were reserved players behind Vassily Ivanchuk, Ruslan Ponomariov, Andrei Volokitin and Alexander Moiseenko. While Karjakin has moved to Russia in later years, Eljanov still represents Ukraine. On Sunday, Sergey Karjakin believed in defending with Queen’s Indian. He had an isolated pawn that was quickly advanced and exchanged. At this point, Pavel Eljanov had a chance to claim an extra pawn (a7) but he missed the opportunity. They continued with an approximately equal position but white was still pressing. Finally Eljanov was poised to win a pawn but time control was quite close. Karjakin had two choices for the end of play and he chose to keep the rooks and knights on board, when white had an extra a-pawn. Black managed to maintain sufficient counterplay and the first game ended in a draw. In Monday’s return game, Karjakin will have the advantage of playing with White but nothing is guaranteed because Eljanov has played magnificently all through the tournament and has not lost a single match.
Of the four players still left, Anish Giri is the only one, who doesn’t face the Candidates’ pressure because he can still qualify on rating points like Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen have done. But he would not like to lose regardless. It is another matter that he lost today in Game-1 and weakened his position a great deal as Svidler needs to play for only a draw to enter the final.