For the tiebreaks of the second round, the stage of the Kehrwieder theatre was set for two players and a high-ranking visitor.
As Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Alexander Grischuk and Jan-Krzysztof Duda qualified through the classical portion of the knockout round, the remaining spot of the semi-final would either go to Daniil Dubov or Peter Svidler based on the results of the tiebreaks played with shorter time control.
Mr Darion Akins, the Consul General of the United States of America, ceremonially opened the first rapid game between the two Russian grandmasters. Mr Akins showed a great understanding of the royal game, which he used to play in college. Afterwards, fascinated by the two grandmasters, he stayed for half an hour to follow the moves.
The players repeated the same line from their first classical game until Svidler deviated on move 10 by pushing his pawn to b6. Dubov reacted with a rarely played advance of the h-pawn. Svidler continued perfectly by bringing his queen to h4 and completing his development. In a critical situation after move 20, Dubov allowed an excellent tactical shot by Svidler to force an endgame with a bishop and two pawns against a rook. The older of the two Russian grandmasters pushed for a win, but Dubov was able to save the half point.
Svidler opened the second encounter with 1.c4, but the game transposed into a sharp line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Dubov decided on a risky setup that involved weakening his kingside and castling queenside. After both players finished their development, Svidler had the upper hand due to his better control of the centre. He managed to win a pawn, but Dubov, who was playing much faster, started to attack the white king on f2.
Svidler controlled the course of the game. He exchanged a piece and even threatened mate in one with his queen. Dubov blocked the mate and Svidler could have gone for a second pawn. Instead, he preferred to continue the attack, but Dubov found a tactical way to complicate matters. The players reached a queen and rook endgame with White being a pawn up. Svidler had a weak king and Dubov created enough counterplay to hold the balance. In the end, it was a question of nerves. The game turned in favour of Svidler, but in severe time trouble, he allowed a perpetual after having a winning position for several moves.
After starting the day with two draws, the tiebreak rules demanded two further rapid games with a time control of 10 minutes + 10 seconds per move.
Svidler avoided theory by playing a rare line of the Queen’s Pawn Opening but soon found himself in a worse position. After finishing his development, Dubov was in total control of the game. He won a central pawn and was ahead on the clock with four minutes against three minutes. He forced rook endgame that was winning due to his four vs two pawn majority on the queenside. White could not salvage his position and soon threw in the towel.
In a must-win-situation, Svidler chose the Dutch Defense with Black. Dubov offered the chance to simplify the position in the opening, but this was not Svidler’s intention. Instead, he undertook risky and dubious manoeuvres. Dubov was on the verge of winning this game as well but offered a draw after 18 moves that Svidler accepted.
Round 2, tiebreak results:
Daniil Dubov – Peter Svidler 2,5-1,5
The pairings for the semi-finals:
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Alexander Grischuk
Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Daniil Dubov
Time control tiebreak:
25‘+10‘‘ in the first two games. The next game will always start ten minutes after the end of the session. If the scores are level after the match (i.e. the overall result is 1:1), we will draw the colours for the first game of the next match immediately after the game. We will continue with two games 10‘+10‘‘if needed. Further stages will be two games 5‘+3‘‘ and finally a sudden death game 5‘ against 4‘ with 2‘‘ increment from move 61, if needed. The player who draws white for the armageddon game immediately chooses his colour.