Sam Shankland shines with loss in Chess World Cup knockout tournament

Sam Shankland’s secret is starting to come out.

Known for a long time as one of the best American players, the discreet Californian general manager is also starting to make a name for himself across the Atlantic. Shankland won the Prague Masters tournament in June in a world-class field and is coming off a strong run in the 128-man FIDE World Cup knockout tournament in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Shankland was the last American to compete in the event, reaching the quarter-finals and twice knocking out former world championship challenger GM Sergey Karjakin of Russia before losing their match in a playoff. quick playoffs. With his recent streak of success, Shankland has pushed his rating above 2720 and threatens to crush the party of the three longtime American chess greats – GMs Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So.

Unfortunately for one chess columnist, Shankland’s most interesting match at the World Cup was a crushing loss to Karjakin as the US GM needed only a draw to qualify for the Final Four. In what has often been a random event, Karjakin has now made the semi-finals a record four times in the FIDE World Cup knockout format, winning it all in 2015.

In must-have mode against Shankland, the Russian veteran demonstrated the adage that when both players are on the attack, bet on the side that’s attacking the king.

Karjakin opts for the King’s Indian attack and Shankland, to his credit, doesn’t bother to play it safe despite having a one-game lead. By 11. Nf1 b5 12. h4, the tracks of the game have been traced: White will go all out on the kingside, while Black will storm the queenside.

White is 18. Kh1! is the key to his plan – although Shankland’s attack seems to come much faster, the half-open g-file will prove a more critical asset. Black 21. d4 Na5?! (the strongest was 21…a3 22. Bf1 axb2 23. Kb1 Ra1 24. Kxb2 Nh7, with a better chance of neutralizing White’s onslaught) seems like one too many preparatory moves, as Karjakin prepares for a stunning breakthrough .

So 22. g5! Nc4 23. Qc1 hxg5 24. Bxg5 b3 25. Bxe7 Qxe7 26. Bf1 a3 (see diagram; White’s queenside collapses but kingside attack wins) 27. Rxg7+!! Rxg7 28. Ng4!, and suddenly Black cannot stop the attack even with an extra rook.

The endgame, which Shankland plays sportingly until mate: 28…f5 (there is nothing better; e.g. 28…axb2 29. Qh6+ Kg8 30. Nf6+ Qxf6 31. exf6 and then mate) 29. exf6+ Qxf6 30 .Nxf6 axb2 31 .Qg5+ Kf7 32. h6! Ng6 33. Nh4 bxa1=Q (Black’s attack cashes just as he is about to lose) 34. Qxg6+ Ke7 35. Qg7+ Kd6 36. Qd7 mate.

Karjakin clinched a place in the final on Tuesday, knocking out fellow Russian Vladimir Fedoseev. His opponent will be Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda, a surprise runner-up after beating Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen in a quick knockout in the other semi-final.


We wrote here last week about how difficult it is to keep up with the national and global chess scene these days, as tournaments multiply after a long hiatus imposed by COVID. As it turns out, we totally ignored the results of the 49th World Open, the Swiss July 4 weekend event in Philadelphia that has long been a highlight of the summer chess season in the United States.

General manager Hans Niemann (who won his first U.S. junior title a few weeks later) and general manager John Burke shared world honors this year, tied for first at 7½-1½. Niemann took top honors in a playoff blitz, but Burke showed pride with a last-round win over tough Ukrainian-born GM Ilya Nyzhnyk to take at least part of the top prize.

Even grandmasters can have a bad day at the office, and that seems to be what happened to Nyzhnyk, who was undefeated in his fateful last-round battle with Burke. Then things fell apart.

It’s not clear if Black got his front lines tangled up in this Petroff defense or just had a death wish that day, but things go downhill quickly after 9. Re1 Bb4?! (a strange move in a well-known position; there is no need to ask White twice to play a pawn for the attack) 10. Nc3 Bxc3 (10…Nxc3 11. bxc3 Bxc3 12. Bxh7+! Kh8 13. Bg5 Da5 14 . Bc2 Bxe1 15. Ne5 with a furious attack) 11. bxc3 Nxc3 ?! 12. Qc2 Ne4 13. Bxe4 dxe4 14. Qxe4.

For the trivial investment of a pawn, White has a massive lead in development, central file dominance, and even a winning exchange threat at pressure with 15. Ba3. Even a queen exchange after 16. Qe7! Re8 (there is no clear in 16…Qxe7 17. Bxe7 Re8 18. Bxf6 Rxe1+ 19. Rxe1 gxf6, in light of lines like 20. Re8+ Kg7 21. d5 cxd5 22. cxd5 b6 23. d6 Bb7 24 .Rxa8 Bxa8 25. d7 and wins) 17. Qxd8 Kxd8 18. Be7 Kd7 19. Bxf6 gxf6 20. Re8+ Kg7 21. Nh4 keeps Black in place and struggles to bring his queenside into play.

By 24. Kh8 Bb7 (Kg6 25. Kg8+ Kf6 26. f4, and Black is in a mate net) 25. Kxh7 Kg8 26. h3, White is two-pawned with a much superior position. Even Black’s passed c-pawn cannot deflect Burke from his well-deserved victory: 29. Re1 c3 30. Re5 Rg6 31. Ng3, and Black resigns to 31…Rg8 (c2 32. Ne4 mate) 32. Ne4+ Kg6 33 Teh5 c2 34. T5h6 mate.

Karjakin-Shankland, FIDE World Cup 2021, Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, July 2021

1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. Ngf3 Be7 5. g3 a5 6. Bg2 a4 7. a3 c5 8. OO Nc6 9. Re1 OO 10. e5 Nd7 11. Nf1 b5 12. h4 Bb7 13. h5 h6 14. Bf4 Qb6 15. Qd2 Rfc8 16. g4 Qd8 17. N1h2 Ra6 18. Kh1 b4 19. Rg1 Nf8 20. axb4 cxb4 21. d4 Na5 22. g5 Nc4 23. Qc1 hxg5 24. Bxg5 b3 25. Bxe7 Qxe7 26. Bf1 a3 27. Rxg7+ Kxg7 28. Ng4 f5 29. exf6+ Qxf6 30. Nxf6 axb2 31. Qg5+ Kf7 32. h6 Ng6 33. Nh4 bxa1=D 34. Qxg6+ Ke7 35. Qg7+ Kd6 36. Qd7 mate.

Burke-Nyzhnyk, 49th World Open, Philadelphia, July 2021

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. OO OO 8. c4 c6 9. Re1 Bb4 10. Nc3 Bxc3 11. bxc3 Nxc3 12. Qc2 Ne4 13. Bxe4 dxe4 14. Qxe4 Nd7 15. Ba3 Nf6 16. Qe7 Re8 17. Qxd8 Rxd8 18. Be7 Rd7 19. Bxf6 gxf6 20. Re8+ Kg7 21. Nh4 f5 22. Nxf5+ Kf6 23. g4 b6 24. Kh8 Bb7 25.8 Rxh7 Rg 26. h3 c5 27. d5 b5 28. f4 bxc4 29. Re1 c3 30. Re5 Rg6 31. Ng3 Black resigns.

• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at [email protected]

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