The 2015 World Chess Cup is not over yet. Despite Peter Svidler playing with White pieces and requiring just a draw, the dramatic third game has made Sergey Karjakin live another day. It was widely expected that the third game on Saturday would be the last at Baku’s Fairmont Hotel but Karjakin struck back to win with Black pieces and reduced the overall score to 1-2. The decisive results in all three games played so far; has made the 2015 Baku World Cup as the most exciting in history. Karjakin opted for the Sicilian opening and the third game reached its most complicated stage. Unexpectedly, Svidler made a mistake in the 28th move and followed that with a blunder in the 29th. Suddenly his position became untenable and he resigned on move no.30.
With both finalists having already secured their spots for the 2016 Candidates Tournament, it was generally expected that 2015 FIDE World Chess Cup would end with game 3. Peter Svidler had won the earlier two games with White and Black and he held the edge by playing with White again. In the second game, when the blunder was committed by Karjakin, he had nearly slipped down to the status of a runner-up before the start of the third game. On Saturday, it was the turn of favorite Peter Svidler to commit blunders as if to prove the adage; to err is human. Under normal circumstances, Svidler could be flying back home with the World Cup trophy in his cabin baggage.
When the two players arrived in Fairmont Hotel’s grand ballroom on Saturday afternoon, Sergey Karjakin had a monumental task at hand. He was down 0-2 and the only way he could stay in contention was to win with Black. Before the start of the match, Karjakin’s prospects looked too ambitious because his opponent had the Whites. Svidler began with the Chekhover Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Chess experts and Svidler fans were surprised since the St. Petersburg native had probably not played this variation in classical games for the last 16 years. The last time Svidler opened this way; was against GM Garry Kasparov at Linares in 1999. Svidler lost that game because Kasparov chose the main line with 4…Nc6. However, Karjakin didn’t want the board-pieces to vanish so early and therefore responded with 4…a6. That prevented the knights from being traded.
After 22. Qc5, Karjakin ran the risk of a mass exchange that would led the game to a draw, therefore he responded with 22….Rf6. It was an extremely risky decision but for the Muscovite, this was the only real chance that could have led him to victory. Under ordinary circumstances, Karjakin would have opted for something safer. But he didn’t want a draw and forced his way ahead. Once again, when Svidler played 23. b4, Karjakin’s response was 23…Ne5 and the next move was 24. cxd5 Nd3. This was a favorable position for Karjakin to regain the pawn on f2 and open up the white king. However, the move came with the possibility of Karjakin’s knight getting trapped but he had to play for broke under the conditions.
When Svidler played 28. Rxf2, he probably thought he was winning but this was his first mistake as Karjakin responded with 28…Qh4. Svidler had to defend his pawn and then he blundered by opting to play 29.Qd2, lost his knight on b6 and it was all over. On Sunday, Karjakin will have the advantage of playing with Whites and he needs another win. As for Svidler, he still has the 2-1 advantage and for him, a draw would be enough.