Juni 23, 2024

World Cup Round 4 Tiebreaks: Hikaru Nakamura and Ju Wenjun are out

Round 4 tiebreaks saw another set of top players eliminated from the World Cup, including a shocking exit by one of the world’s top players, Hikaru Nakamura

In the Open tournament, Magnus Carlsen triumphed over Vincent Keymer after two rapid tiebreak matches. Hikaru Nakamura, one of the favourites in the event, was eliminated after losing both tiebreak games to the 18-year-old Indian prodigy R Praggnanandhaa.

In the Women’s tournament, World Champion Ju Wenjun was eliminated after losing to Germany’s Elisabeth Paehtz in the first tiebreaker (0.5:1.5), while Georgia’s Bella Khotenashvili defeated India’s Humpy Koneru.

The Open Tournament Highlights

Magnus Carlsen managed to qualify to the next stage but it wasn’t easy: the World Champion in Rapid had to play two sets of rapid matches against German prodigy Vincent Keymer who gave the Norwegian a nasty shock, defeating him two days ago.

The first tiebreak match ended with two draws, despite Carlsen having strong chances in both games. The second tiebreak match started with a draw where neither side managed to get an advantage. In the second game, Carlsen had a winning position by move 23. However, he first dropped the advantage but then regained it a few moves later. Carlsen continued to gradually improve his position until forcing Keymer to surrender after 68 moves in a queens’ endgame.

One of the strongest world players, including in rapid chess, Hikaru Nakamura, was knocked out of the World Cup today by R Praggnanandhaa who turned 18 just yesterday! The Indian defeated Nakamura in both of their rapid games during the first tiebreak. In both games, Praggnanandhaa emerged better from the opening and held the initiative until sealing the victory.

Surprisingly, as soon as Praggnanandhaa won, Magnus Carlsen, who was in the middle of his own game, stood up to congratulate the Indian player. Speaking after his victory, the 18-year-old Indian happily noted: “It is one of my best days”.

In another notable upset, Azerbaijan’s Nijat Abasov overcame the seasoned Grandmaster Peter Svidler, winning 1.5:0.5 in their rapid tiebreak. Svidler lost the second rapid game as White after blundering in an even position.

One of the top favourites, Ian Nepomniachtchi, defeated Nihal Sarin 2:0 in their rapid tiebreak match. Sarin had more chances in the first game and missed a win, while in the second his opponent dominated throughout the game.

Salem Saleh advanced into the round of 16 after defeating Daniele Vocaturo in both rapids finishing a great run of the Italian GM in Baku. Gukesh D is also through after beating Esipenko 1.5:0.5 in the first tiebreaker. Duda, Dominguez and Ivanchuk progressed to the 1/8 stage after winning in their second rapid matches of the day. 

The longest tiebreak duel of the day was played between China’s Wang Hao and Germany’s Rasmus Svane. After all four games in the two rapid tiebreak matches ended in a draw, it all came down to the Blitz. In time trouble, Wang Hao missed a winning opportunity in game one which ended in a draw. In the second game, the German finally broke in the endgame allowing Wang to win and proceed to the next stage.

The Women’s Tournament Highlights

The Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun has been knocked out of the Women’s World Cup after losing the second tiebreak game to Germany’s Elisabeth Paehtz. The tiebreaker saw a quiet draw in game one, but in game two Paehtz (playing as White) punished her opponent’s imprecisions made early on and converted her sizable positional advantage in a rook endgame.

In another big upset, Women’s fourth strongest woman player, Humpy Koneru, lost both of her rapid games against Georgia’s Bella Khotenashvili. The Georgian was clearly better in game one, but in the second duel, Harika blundered in an even position and ended up facing checkmate.

Bulgaria’s Nurgyul Salimova is through to the next stage, having prevailed over Medina Warda Aulia 1.5:0.5 in the first tiebreaker after the player from Indonesia blundered in a better position as Black in game two. Harika Dronavalli bested Dutch Women’s Champion Eline Roebers.

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

Round five starts on Saturday, 12th of August, at 3 PM local time in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Here follows a closer look at some of the top games of the round four tiebreaks:

In the first game of the tiebreak rapid match, Praggnanandha achieved a better position as Black as early as move nine after White played 9.a3

White should have  opted for 9.d4 as was played in numerous games but Hikaru mixed up his move order.

After  9…Ba5 10.d3 Nxd5! 11.cxd5 Nb8 (a seemingly unnatural but the right move) 12.dxe4 gxh4 13.Bh6 Re8 14.gxh4 Qxh4 15.Qc1 f6 16.Kh1 Nd7 and Black had little problem converting his extra piece. 33 moves, 0-1

The Indian prodigy outplayed Nakamura in their second game as well, justifying his place in the final 16.

Peter Svidler was out after misplaying in an even position, against Nijat Abasov.

The best option for White was 25.Bc7. Instead, Svidler played 25.Bg5? but overlooked a strong reply by his opponent.

25…Ne5! 26.Nd6 Nxd6 27.Bxb7 Bc5 and White resigned facing either losing his queen or checkmate attack he can not defend himself from. 0-1

Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun exits the World Cup without much to show. In almost all of her games – including those where she had the initiative of the first move – she played rather quietly and without much vigour. After making a relatively quick draw in an uneventful game where she was White, she got punished in the second one by Paehtsz.

Ju started making mistakes early on, and White kept picking up on them.

9…Qb6? A first mistake. 9…Nxe5 is better for Black.

10.0-0 Be7 11.Nxd7! Nxd7 12.Bxd5! In the case of 12…exd5 13.Nxd5 and the e7-bishop is falling with the king trapped in the centre awaiting an unpleasant end.

12…Qxb2 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.Qd3 0-0 White has a sizable advantage thanks to a better pawn structure and more active pieces.

By move 22, White was dominating. The best move for Paehtz was 22.Qa3 with the idea of Rb8, but she went for a different plan with 22.Bd6 Rd8 23.Rc7! Qa6 26.Qxa6 Rxa6 27.Bc5 e5 28.c3 exd4 29.cxd4 h6 30.Rbb7 White is now plundering Black’s seventh rank.

This is where Ju made her final error – 33…a4, underestimating the seriousness of the threats her king was facing.

34.Rcc8 Rf6 35.h5 Not allowing a vent for the black king.

35…g5 36.Rc7+ with checkmate in the next move. 1-0

One of the strongest Georgian chess players, Bela Khotenashvili, has qualified to round five after defeating the heavyweight Indian player, Humpy Koneru, in both of their rapid games. While in the first game, she took the initiative from early on, in the second, things were mostly around even or even to Humpy’s favour, but in the following position she completely misplayed:

Black had just placed her queen on b1, attacking the c2-rook and threatening to cause back-rank issues for White. By placing her rook on e2, White would have solved her immediate problem and would have had enough time to keep her opponent’s king in check. However, even such an outcome wasn’t working for Humpy, who needed a win. Unfortunately for her, she was lost after the following move:

40.Qa4?? Rd1 41.Kg3 Qb8+ 42.Kf2 42.f4 avoids a quick checkmate but the position is lost.

42…Qh2 43.Qxc4 Qh4+ with checkmate in the next move.

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