Daniil Dubov beat Sergey Karjakin 3:0 for the 2nd time in three days to set up a Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge semifinal against Ding Liren. The world no. 3 and Chinese no. 1 had to dig himself out of a hole after losing the 2nd game of the day to Yu Yangyi, but he hit back straight away and went on to win the tie in Armageddon. Dubov-Ding Liren will be played alongside Carlsen-Nakamura as the 3-day semifinals begin on Thursday.

Dubov and Karjakin managed to make it 11 games without a single draw in their quarterfinal, while the all-Chinese Ding vs. Yu contest continued to be incredibly close:

You can replay the day’s live commentary from Peter Leko, Tania Sachdev and Alexander Grischuk below:

And here’s Pascal Charbonneau’s video recap of the day’s action:

Dubov 3:0 Karjakin

Daniil Dubov should have wrapped up victory over Sergey Karjakin with a day to spare on Monday, but he first needlessly allowed a tactic in the 4th game of the day and then failed to win a won position in Armageddon. It seemed he wasn’t hit too hard by that, however. Partly it was because he didn’t feel he’d even really blundered in the 4th game – he’d just assumed his opponent made one move (Qf6) when Sergey in fact made another (Qe5), and then he moved automatically without calculating. There was also another factor:

Obviously it was very disappointing to lose such a match, but still I thought if you win sometimes in 12 moves you’re probably capable of winning one more match!

Daniil’s ability to bamboozle the usually bulletproof Karjakin in the opening was on display again in the 1st game of the day as he went for 8.g4.

Sergey spent over two minutes before replying, which puzzled Daniil:

The first game I did not really get what he wanted, because this g4 and everything, it’s not mainstream, but it was played by many strong players. I think it was played in Grischuk-Caruana, maybe, and I have played it myself even, so I don’t know what he wanted exactly, but in general I thought this g4 is a very, very promising plan for White and then he started to think, which probably means he was out of book.

Sure enough, by move 12 Dubov was doing very well, and it soon began to look like showing off.

White could simply take the knight on c3, but Dubov went for 24.Rfh1 instead. That was a full piece sacrifice, since 24…Nxe2+ 25.Qxe2 came with check, but Sergey himself opted for the queen sacrifice 25…Qc6+ 26.Kb1 Qxh1+ to stop mate and stay in the game. That showed ingenuity and fighting spirit, which made it all the more surprising when he suddenly resigned after 30.Qh2:

Daniil later commented, “What I actually didn’t get is why he resigned, to be honest, because in the final position I thought he can play 30…Rf6”.

Play might continue 31.Rh8+ Kf7 32.Rxc8 Nxc8 33.Qc7+ Ne7 and while Daniil said he wouldn’t enjoy playing such a position himself, “if you’re Karjakin you try to hold the fortress forever… it’s definitely not a position where you resign”.

So Daniil was leading in the match and faced the dilemma of what to play with the black pieces. His thought processes are always entertaining:

Then the 2nd game was actually a very weird game. I decided that if it’s our last match then it’s probably the time to play something reasonable, because I have played 1.e4 Nc6 and then I played the Scandinavian [1.e4 d5], so I decided let’s go Philidor [1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6]. Out of my options the Philidor is the most solid one, so you play the Philidor when you need to be safe and you play all the rest when you just have fun.    

Needless to say, we got a very unusual position anyway, but one in which it was Sergey who was soon having all the fun. Daniil admitted he was outplayed in the middlegame and had switched to playing for tricks when one of them unexpectedly paid off after 31…Qg6+:

32.Kf1?? was met by 32…Qa6+ and the loose rook on b7 was lost. After 32.Kf3! White is still completely winning, since 32…Qc6+ can be met by 33.Qe4+. Daniil commented:

This is basically the only part of the match where I was lucky, but yesterday I missed like 10 opportunities to finish it, so I probably deserved to be lucky one time!

Sergey Karjakin was trailing 2:0, and although if anyone was going to come back it was him (“Sergey is a great fighter – I think he won the most must-win games in the history of chess” – Grischuk) that was always an unlikely scenario. Dubov was objectively better for almost all of the 3rd game, though he needed to be very careful not to allow any tricks at the end:

Victory there completed a remarkable quarterfinal. All 11 games were decisive and though the match had gone to a third day Dubov noted that he’d scored +6 in rapid chess against his Russian rival. He gave an extensive interview to Tania Sachdev afterwards:

He was asked what the qualifying for the semi-finals meant for him:

First of all, as far as I know, I think it basically means that I qualify for the next thing, which is already inspiring, obviously, because with this COVID we don’t have many things to do.

The “next thing” is the 3rd event in the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, the Online Chess Masters, which is set to take place from June 20 – July 5 and feature a guaranteed place for the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge semifinalists.

Dubov wasn’t feeling so confident about the semifinals, however, since he knew he’d be facing a Chinese player:

I normally do badly, like really badly against the Chinese. So my main problem was just that on Day 1 of the round-robin I played three Chinese and then I scored -2. That was basically the last time when I had to play the Chinese, so then I started to get some points. I even won against Magnus. Magnus is obviously brilliant, but at least against him sometimes I get chances, but I lose all the games against the Chinese. And now… I’ll have to play the Chinese again so I’m sort of pessimistic. It feels like it was a very nice adventure…

Why does Daniil fare so badly against the Chinese? We got an explanation when he was asked if the Chinese players battling so hard against each other would affect them in Thursday’s semi-final:

I don’t think they really care, to be honest – that’s the problem! In general all the things I’m doing are sort of provocative. You play the Scandinavian, you play 1.e4 Nc6, you play the Philidor, so you basically say ‘ok, I can play like this and still it won’t be easy for you,’ but I don’t think guys like Ding or Yu will even think about it this way. ‘This guy played e5 d6, now I’m slightly better, we go on’. They just don’t think about this psychological stuff and I also blunder against them very often, because even in the Steinitz Memorial, where I finished 2nd right after Magnus, even there I managed to lose 2:0 against Bu.

Would he prefer to play Ding Liren or Yu Yangyi?

I don’t really care, to be honest. I feel like they’re both capable of doing something bad to me!

Would he even prefer to play Magnus? Yes, he explained, going on to note how much he’s been enjoying the chance to play Magnus three times in the space of a week (winning twice!). It’s good experience:

If you believe in yourself or you just want to get experience you’re happy about playing so many games. That’s definitely my case. I’m ok with winning or losing, but I just like to play.

Once again, there was that proviso about playing the Chinese:

But when you play the Chinese it’s a sort of masochistic experience – they beat you and you go home!

Does Daniil feel playing online is different to playing over-the-board?

I actually don’t see it, to be honest. When I watched this Magnus Invitational it was obvious that there should be some difference – people played so badly and so on and they sort of failed to adjust, and I was pretty sure it will be difficult for me. But somehow for me personally I just don’t feel like there is a very big difference. I think people normally started to play much faster than they normally do and as for me I even started to slow down a little bit, so I had much more time trouble in this tournament than I normally have in rapid games, but when you think about the position it shouldn’t be a very bad sign… So for me there is basically no difference. I’m kind of ok and I feel like I sort of adapted.

Daniil can’t help standing out from the crowd, and more displays like we’ve seen here are only likely to grow his fan club:

Ding Liren 2.5:2.5 Yu Yangyi (Ding wins in Armageddon)

The question of which Chinese player Dubov would face was unclear until the very last moment. The tense first game saw Yu Yangyi gain a big positional grip, with Black’s king stranded in the centre of the board, but he was unable to make anything of it and ended up forcing a draw by repetition.

If Yu Yangyi was disappointed he didn’t show it, as in the next game he had a decisive advantage in 26 moves. The idea of 26.Kf3?, attacking the e4-knight which defends the c5-bishop, was good, but 26.Qd3! was the way to do it. In the game Ding’s move was instantly punished by 26…e5!

Suddenly the black queen’s path to h3 is opened up and there’s nowhere for the white king to hide. The game was over five moves later.

World no. 3 Ding Liren reaching the semi-finals was once again in serious doubt, but then he hit back immediately in the next game. He had the black pieces but fearlessly grabbed a pawn on move 19 and then found a great tactical resource:

25…Qxc3? 26.Bh7+ Kxh7 27.Rxc3 is winning for White, but Ding spotted that the zwischenzug 25…Rd5! makes all the difference. After 26.Qh4 (where else?) the same line now works for Black: 26…Qxc3! 27.Bh7+ Kxh7 28.Rxc3:

The difference is the queen is no longer defending the e2-square, so Black has the sting in the tail 28…Ne2+ and all it required was some elementary caution for Ding to wrap up a victory in 54 moves:

Game 4 was tense, with a disagreement among our commentators about just how desperate Ding Liren was to win with the white pieces. Dubov thought he was pretty desperate:

I think he understands he’s dead in the Armageddon. It’s quite obvious he’s slow, like me, by the way, because I was playing with a touchpad, and how can you compete with people with a touchpad?  So when you have no increment you are basically dead.

Ding had lost the first mini-match after losing on time in a won position in Armageddon, but Alexander Grischuk didn’t think this would be a repeat of the final game of the 2010 Anand-Topalov World Championship match. Back then Veselin had been so keen to avoid tiebreaks against Vishy that he committed “chess suicide” by pressing too hard for a win. Grischuk felt Ding would still trust himself, knowing that it was only a matter of a few seconds either way and the first Armageddon could easily have had a different outcome.

In the end Grischuk was proven right, or at least Ding accepted a draw in the 4th game and eventually went on to get the draw with Black he needed to win the Armageddon and the match. That’s not to say it was plain-sailing!

25…Qb6! meant Black could limit the damage, and after a tense phase with mutual inaccuracies we reached a position where Yu Yangyi had a queen against a rook and knight. Soon it was all about the clock, and any online blitz tricks either player wanted to try. Ding wasn’t going to make the same mistake again and this time kept a healthy edge on the clock before the game ended in a repetition:

So the three players who qualified for the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge by finishing in the Top 4 in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational (Caruana decided not to play due to the overlap with Clutch Chess) had made it to the Final 4 again, where they’re joined by Daniil Dubov. 

The semi-finals start on Thursday, as the same best-of-three “sets” matches. Needless to say, all eyes will be on Carlsen-Nakamura, a repeat of the Magnus Invitational final!

If you think you can predict what’s going to happen don’t miss out on our Fantasy Chess Contest – you can enter here.

There’s also Banter Blitz to look forward to. At 14:30 Chinese prodigy Wei Yi will be playing (and speaking Chinese), while after the main action we’ve got Banter Blitz with 16-year-old Alireza Firouzja.  

Then tune into the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge from 15:30 CEST right here on chess24!

See also:


https://chess24.com/en/read/news/lindores-abbey-rapid-challenge-qfs-day-5-dubov-ding-liren-reach-semis