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Aronian, Ding Liren, Ivanchuk Through To Quarterfinals

Levon Aronian, Ding Liren and Vassily Ivanchuk have qualified for the quarterfinals of the FIDE World Cup. Ivanchuk had a winning position but forced a draw vs Anish Giri, Ding Liren slowly ground down compatriot Wang Hao and Aronian won a difficult ending vs Daniil Dubov after 97 moves.

Three of the eight matches in the round of 16 were decided after two days. Aronian, Ding and Ivanchuk can enjoy a well-deserved rest day and maybe watch the tiebreaks in the other fives matches.

Levon Aronian wasn't sure his endgame was winning, but he pulled it off anyway. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.
Aronian and Ivanchuk are in fact paired against each other for the next round. Ding plays the winner of Najer-Rapport.

After their fantastic battle in the first game, Alexander Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had enough of it and agreed to a draw as early as move 13. That happened after Grischuk spent an hour over his moves 11, 12 and 13 so apparently he wasn't feeling so confident anymore by that point.

Around the same time Bu Xiangzhi and Peter Svidler drew, after the latter equalized without problems. They played 17 moves. So these four players go to tiebreaks, and the winners will face each other in the semifinals.

The draws in Jobava vs So and Najer vs Rapport had a bit more content, with Jobava pressing (again!) and Rapport having an edge for a short while.

There was one draw that should have been a win, but nonetheless decided the match. Vassily Ivanchuk only needed a draw vs Anish Giri, but got a winning position with the black pieces rather quickly. Everyone expected him to become the first player to win, but then something else happened. Ivanchuk saw a perpetual, and took it.

"I don't know about my position in the opening, but he missed 35...b4," Ivanchuk told Chess.com. "He defended quite well, and in the end I was quite happy to make a draw with perpetual! In this position I felt it can be dangerous somewhere. His king active, the d5-pawn is strong..."

Despite calling his play in both games "embarrassing," Levon Aronian managed to advance to the next round. Where he missed a win in yesterday's game ("I totally forgot about Ne8"), he "missed" a win 10 times today—but more about that later.

"First of all my opponent played a very suspicious line in the opening and instead of playing very solidly for some reason I decided to play for mate," Aronian said about the first phase. "I blundered a couple of things. First of I forgot that he threatened to exchange queens, and if it wasn't enough, I also blundered 17...f6."

Aronian, who felt he was in trouble, made a practical draw offer which Dubov declined by making a mistake. According to Aronian Black should have played 19...Rac8 instead of taking the pawn. After 23...g5 24.f4! it was Aronian who declined a draw offer.

Eventually he won an exchange, and a complicated endgame appeared on the board with rook vs (light-squared) bishop, and g-pawns for both. It was similar to Aronian's blitz game vs David Navara in St. Louis last month, where the pawns were on h4 and h5, when it's a draw (as Navara showed).

For this exact position, Aronian wasn't even sure if it was a win or a draw. As Dejan Bojkov wrote, how complex this ending is, was revealed during the live transmission of the game. Neither commentator GM Ivan Sokolov knew, nor was super GM Vassily Ivanchuk sure about the evaluation. Actually they both guessed it should be a draw!

"I analyzed it a long time ago but I couldn't find the win. It was so embarrassing," said the winner. "Probably people are sitting there with tablebases and laughing at me!"

He did have a very plausible explanation for the fact that both he and his opponent made 10 "tablebase errors" in this game. "In this tournament players do not show their best play because there's so much at stake, especially for me as I am trying to qualify for the Candidates', so it's very stressful."

In the background of all this, the soft speaking Ding Liren quietly played a gem of a game. The Chinese player outplayed his compatriot Wang Hao beautifully and won in textbook style. The famous principle "don't rush" (which gets a separate chapter in Mikhail Shereshevsky's classic "Endgame Strategy") especially comes to mind.

"Difficult game," said Ding. "I was pressing throughout. I think I played very well. I am very satisfied with my performance."

Maxim Rodshtein did something quite impressive as well: winning a must-win game, with the black pieces, vs Vladimir Fedoseev. His nothing-to-lose strategy seems to have worked: "Of course it's very hard but I didn't really care about playing for the result. I said I will to my best, I will play aggressively and we will see. If I don't manage, which is very likely, then OK, what to do."

Rodshtein called his mixture of Queen's and King's Indian "quite bad," but that's also the word he used for describing his opponent's play. "I equalized quite easily, but then I realized I had to take some risks."

The Israeli grandmaster wasn't sure from what point he was winning. "The whole endgame looks quite risky for White."

Author: PeterDoggers, Chess.com
Source: https://www.chess.com/news/view/aronian-ding-liren-ivanchuk-through-to-1-4-finals
Source: https://www.chess.com/news/view/aronian-ding-liren-ivanchuk-through-to-1-4-finals

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