Juni 18, 2024

FIDE World Cup: Carlsen remains in the race, but Wesley So is out

The world’s highest-rated player won the second game against Vincent Keymer, to clinch the tiebreaks. American Wesley So has been eliminated, while Fabiano Caruana advances to the next round. Goryachkina, Shuvalova and Tan all go to the next round of the Women’s World Cup

Magnus Carlsen had a lucky break today surviving his “first serious scare” as he put it. Following a stunning defeat in the first game, he made an error in the first part of the second but wasn’t punished. In the end, he defeated Vincent Keymer with white pieces thanks to a better performance in the endgame. Fabiano Caruana is also through, while Wesley So is out after not being able to achieve more than a draw against Sarana.

In the Women’s tournament, among the top favourites, Alexandra Goryachkina and Polina Shuvalova qualified for the next round, while Ju Wenjun and Elisabeth Paehtz will decide the winner on the tiebreaks. Humpy Koneru won her second game against Khotenashvili, reaching the tiebreaks.


The Open Tournament Highlights

Magnus Carlsen made a comeback today as White after a loss in the previous game to Vincent Keymer. In the Ruy Lopez, Vincent Keymer held the position well but missed a brilliant chance on move 17…Nxe4!, which left Carlsen “shocked”. After that, Carlsen started to play “hesitantly at times” but was “completely fine”, according to the post-mortem by the winner. But in the endgame, the young German star started to err. First, right before the time control he gave Carlsen an easy and clear plan of pushing the a-pawn. In positional manouvering that occurred, Keymer could not find the best path forward and soon Carlsen’s king invaded and was winning.

In the post-game interview world’s number one player was very open about his feelings: „Progressing in the World Cup is one thing… but honestly, since day one I was wondering what am I doing here, why am I spending all this time playing classical chess which I just find stressful and boring. But it’s also not a good state of mind. First of all, you should try to do well. But these were my thoughts. If I lose, that’s gonna be another humiliation in the World Cup.“ You can watch the full interview on our YouTube channel

Wesley So has been eliminated from the race after drawing his second game with Sarana (having lost the first one). In the exchange line of the Grünfeld, the position was even throughout without either side managing to gain more chances. Having joined the race from round two, Wesley So’s performance in Baku was not at his own level, going through rounds only after tiebreaks and making lucky saves of significantly weaker positions. On the other hand, Sarana’s skilful victory over So in game one, as well as his performance in the previous games, suggests that he is someone to look out for.

Fabiano Caruana qualified after beating compatriot Ray Robson in 27 moves, following an effective attack on the black king. In the post-game interview, Caruana was very enthusiastic but noted that he is starting to feel more tired and has less energy to visit the gym, a habit he is following every day. 

The other players to qualify today are Vidit, Berkes (who knocked out Ponomariov), Grandelius and Erigaisi (who won after Sindarov blundered in an even rook endgame).

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez and 2021 World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda all head for the tiebreaks having drawn both of their round four games. Joining them there are heavyweights Svidler, Ivanchuk and Wang Hao.

Berkes goes to the Grand Swiss

Ferenc Berkes has won one of the three tickets for the FIDE Grand Swiss, reserved for players who reach the Round of 16 at the World Cup! The other two may go to Vahap Sanal and Daniele Vocaturo if they win the tiebreaks tomorrow. 

The Women’s Tournament Highlights

Aleksandra Goryachkina is through to the next stage after she defeated Nino Batsiashvili with white pieces. In the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Goryachkina was having more initiative from the outset and by move 15 was completely dominating.

Polina Shuvalova is also through after defeating Serbia’s Teodora Injac who blundered in the opening.

Humpy Koneru staged a comeback, defeating Bella Khotenashvili to clinch the tiebreaks. Despite being slightly better in the first part of the game, Khotenashvili allowed Koneru to improve her position and then gave her a huge advantage.

Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun had another draw today with Elisabeth Paehtz and the two will face each other in the tiebreaks. In the Berlin line of the Ruy Lopez, the two quickly exchanged pieces in the centre and went for a theoretical draw with a threefold repetition, ending on move 15. It seems that both sides feel they have better chances against one another in the tiebreaks.

Among other notable results, Tan Zhongyi qualified after a furious attack against Zhu Jiner. Sisters Marya and Anna Muzychuk drew their second game and will have to decide in the rapid who will move to the next round.

The full results of today’s round can be found here: https://worldcup2023.fide.com/pairings

Tiebreaks of round four will take place on Friday, 11th of August at 3 PM local time in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Here follows a closer look at some of the top games on the second day of round four of the World Cup.

Magnus Carlsen defeated Vincent Keymer with white pieces, to stay in the race for the next round of the World Cup. Although the position was even through most of the game, Carlsen had a lucky break after making an error early on.

The best move was to play the h1-rook to f1. Instead, Magnus played 16.a3??

Keymer proceeded correctly but missed the key move: 16…Bxc3 17.Qxc3 and now Keymer exchanged the queens. Instead, he should have played 17…Nxe4 and after 18.Qxe5 (If fxe4, then Qxe4) Rxe5 19.Nf4 Rf5 20.Ne2 Ng5 And Black is better.

This is how Carlsen summed up what had happened after he made the 16.a3 move: “At first, he [Keymer] twitched. And then I thought – ‘Oh, what’s the problem’ and then I saw Nxe4 and immediately thought that’s the World Cup [gone]. I went to the bathroom more in disbelief than anything else. When I came back he played Bxc3 and I expected that to be it. When he took [the queen] on c3, I was so shocked”, said Carlsen, noting that later on Keymer was playing a bit hesitantly.

In the endgame, Keymer made a mistake in manouvering which led to him entering a lost position.

White has a passer on the a-file and is slightly more active but Black has reasonable chances to hold. However, with a seemingly unsuspicious move, Keymer here entered a significantly weaker position:

52…Bg2 The best option was 52…Be2. However, after this move, White now clearly has the upper hand: 53.Rf5! Bh3 54.Rf4 Bf5 55.Kc2 Everything is now falling into place for Carlsen.

55…Ba3 White has a very clear and straight-forward plan to push his passer. Black’s position is already hopeless. 

56.Kb4 Ra2 57.Kb3 Re2 58.a6 Bh3 59.a7 Re8 60.Re4 Ra8 61,Re7 c5 62.Rb7 and Black had no other option but to resign soon.

Former World Champion Candidate Aleksandra Goryachkina is having a good run in Baku. She has won all three of her matches so far with 1,5:0,5, never going into the tiebreaks. In the game against Nino Batsiashvili today, she scored an impressive victory, dominating from early on.

The position is even although Black will have to be more precise after she opted for the line with g5. However, Nino took on d2 completely underestimating the threat on h7.

11…Nxd2? 12.Qxh7 Rg6 13.Kd2 Bf5 It is already difficult to advise a more resilient path for Black.

14.g4 Be4 15.f3! Bxf3 16.Bb5+ c6

17.Raf1 White decides the game by adding rooks into an attack. 17… cxb5 18.Rxf3 Nc4+ 19.Ke2 Nxe5 20.Qh8+ Bf8 and now White proceeds to pick up material.

21.Qxe5+ Re6 22.Qxd5 b4 23.Qxb7 Be7 24.Nd5 Rc8 25.Rhf1 f6 26.Nxf6! Bxf6 27.Rxf6 Rxf6 28.Rxf6 Rc2+ 29.Kd1 Qxf6 30.Qxe4 Qd8 31.Kxc2 and White is three pawns up and winning.

Polina Shuvalova defeated Seriba’s Teodora Injac (who ousted the 2021 Women’s World Cup victor, Alexandra Kosteniuk) after she made a mistake in the early stages of the game.

In the Semi-Slav the two reached the following position:

The position is even. Black should have proceeded with the natural developing move 13…Nd7 and continued comfortably. Instead, Injac was careless as she went for 13…f6?

14.e4! Striking Black’s strongest asset in the centre and opening the d1-h5 diagonal for the queen to jump in.

14…Nc7 15.Bf4 Nb5 16.d5 Nd7? Final mistake. Injac had to take on d5. Now: 17.dxe6 Nc5? 18.Qg4 g6 19.Rad1 Qe7 20.Nxc5 Qxc5 21.Be3 Qh5 22.Qf4 Be7 23.h4 g5 24.Qf5 Qg6 25.Rd7! Qxf5 26.gxf5. Black is completely paralysed and has nothing to play. After some thought, Injac conceded defeat.

Despite this loss, the Serbian player showed great performance in the World Cup, defeating stronger opponents. As for Polina Shuvalova – after three victories without the need for tiebreaks – she comfortably moves to the next stage.

Tan Zhongyi defeated Zhu Jiner with an effective attack. The precisely calculated finishing sequence was especially beautiful: 

42.Qd8! Rg8 43.Rxh7 Kxh7 44.Qh4+! Kg6 45.Qf6+ Kh5 46.Qf5+ Rg5 47.Qf7+ Kh4 48.Bxg5+ 49.Kg3 Nf2 and White is a pawn and a knight up and has the black king in a mating net.


After drawing in game one, Fabiano Caruana defeated Ray Robson in game two with an impressive attack on the black king’s fortress.

20.Bxh6!! Topical sacrifice clearly underestimated by Black. 20… gxh6 21.Qd2 Nf4 22.g3 N6h5 22…Kh8 was better.

23.gxf4 Nxf4 24.Kh1 Kh7 25.Rxa5 Bb6 26.dxe5 dxe5 27.Rxe5 and Black is in dire straits he cannot come out of.

Text: Milan Dinic

Photo: Stev Bonhage, Anna Shtourman and Maria Emelianova (chess.com)

About the event

The FIDE World Cup 2023 is taking place from 29 July to 25 August 2023 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

In the Open tournament, 206 players were eligible to take part and 103 in the Women’s event.

There will be eight rounds in the Open and seven in the Women’s tournament. Each round will be played under a knock-out system, consisting of a 2-game match. In the case of a tie, the players will play a rapid and, if necessary, a blitz tiebreak until the winner is determined.

The winners of the top three places in both sections will qualify for the 2024 Candidates tournament.

In both events, the time control for each game is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move 1.

The prize fund for the entire event is 2.5 million US Dollars, with $1,834,000 in the Open and $676,250 in the Women’s tournament. The 2023 FIDE World Cup has the largest prize fund for any chess tournament ever played.

More information about the event: worldcup2023.fide.com/


Open tournament: handbook.fide.com/files/handbook/WorldCup2023Regulations.pdf 

Women’s event: handbook.fide.com/files/handbook/WWorldCup2023Regulations.pdf

Schedule: worldcup2023.fide.com/schedule