Februar 25, 2024

FIDE World Cup Round 7 Day 1: Carlsen and Muzychuk start with wins

Magnus Carlsen is off to a good start in the semi-finals after defeating Azerbaijan’s Nijat Abasov in a very sharp game. Goryachkina and Salimova draw in the finals of the Women’s

In the second semi-finals of the Open, Fabiano Caruana drew with white pieces against Praggnanandhaa in the longest game of the day.

In the first duel of the Women’s finals, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina drew as White with 150 points lower rated Nurgyul Salimova in what was largely a calm game. Anna Muzychuk defeated former World Champion Tan Zhongyi in the first game of the match for third place.

 The Open Tournament Highlights

Magnus Carlsen defeated the Azeri surprise Nijat Abasov in their first semi-final game. Playing as White, Carlsen went for the Rossolimo attack against the Sicilian. In a very sharp game requiring both sides to play extremely precisely, Carlsen grabbed the initiative. However, at one point he dropped his advantage and could have ended up in trouble had Black played the right move. Abasov did not find this continuation and misplayed. Carlsen then went for a dangerous plan after which Black could have equalised. But Abasov missed that chance as well and, instead, landed his king in a mating net. A huge success by Carlsen, making his first step towards reaching the finals of the World Cup – something he has never done before in his career.

In the second game of the semi-finals, Fabiano Caruana and R Praggnanandhaa played until the bare kings were left on the board. In the main line of the Giuoco Piano, Caruana (White) got some initiative and pushed on the queenside. The two transitioned into a rook endgame in which Pragg smartly traded his two queenside pawns for White’s a-pawn, to reach a drawish position. The two played until move 78 when just the two kings were left standing.

 The Women’s Tournament Highlights

The first game of the Women’s World Cup finals, played between Aleksandra Goryachkina as White and Nurgyul Salimova (who secured her GM norm!) as Black, ended in a draw. In the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Black (Salimova) gave up one pawn and then offered another, without visible compensation. Goryachkina accepted the frist gift but declined the second. She instead opted to exchange the queens and the two entered into a position where White had a weaker pawn structure on the queenside but could hold. In a knight vs bishop endgame, the two agreed to split a point on move 33.

In the duel for third place, Anna Muzychuk was better with white pieces against former World Champion Tan Zhongyi, outplaying her in the finish of the game. In the English Opening, Muzychuk gained the initiative early on and was better on at least two occasions. In the endgame, where the position was even, Tan misplayed and allowed White to advance her king and b-pawn, before ending up without a bishop, in the end.

 The games continue on Sunday, 20th of August.

A closer look at the games from today’s round will be published on the following link shortly: worldcup2023.fide.com/en/news

Here follows a closer look at some of the top games from the semi-finals of the Open and the finals in the Women’s World Cup:

Magnus Carlsen’s game against Nijat Abasov saw a lot of sharp twists and turns, requiring both sides to calculate various combinations and branches very precisely before deciding which path to follow.

Carlsen went for the Rossolimo attack and suggested that his opponent was “clearly caught out” in the opening. White had an throughout the game then let it slip away and then made a serious mistake that could have cost him dearly.

The best choice for White was to put his king to c3, securing his position a bit further. Instead, Carlsen went for 34.Qh2??.

The top seed and his opponent missed 34…Qf1! – Black penetrates White’s camp and has a chance to soon bring his rook down and make serious threats against White.

Abasov, however, missed this and soon blundered ending up weaker after both traded inaccuracies in subsequented play

34…Rg6? 35.Bf4 Rf6 36.Be3 Bf5? 37.Bc5 Qg6? 38.Kc3 Re6? 39.Rh4 Bg4 
White is clearly better again, but now Carlsen made a mistake with 40.Bxa7? Qg3 or Qf4 were preferable options.

40…Qg7+ followed by Qg5, threatening to get to c1 offered Black equality. Instead, under time pressure, Abasov played 40…Qf6+? It turned out that there was a huge difference between the checks from g7 and f6 as on g7 the queen covers the c7-square. 41.Kb4! And now the white king escapes, wheras with the queen on g7 Black could have captured 41…Kxa7

41…Re6 42.d4 Qe7+ 43.c5 And Black will either have to give up a rook or face checkmate. 1-0

Caruana was pressuring Praggnanandhaa from the opening and trancisioned into a favourable rook ending.

40.Rc6? with this control move Fabiano missed a chance to pose some serious problems for Black. After 40.Ke3! Rc7 41. Kd2 Pragg would have had to demonstrate accuracy.

As played, the young Indian quickly liquidated into 4:3 drawish rook endgame – 40…Rd7! 41.Rxa6 c3 42. Rc6 Ra7 43.a6 c2 44. Rxc2 Rxa6 – and reached a draw on move 78.

The first game of the day to finish was between GM Aleksandra Goryachkina and the surprise of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, IM Nurgyul Salimova.

The game did not bring about much excitement save for one point where White, according to the engine, had a chance to secure a sizable advantage:

White is a pawn up. In the only previous game this position emerged (Malek – Bartel, 2023) Black opted for 12…Nc6 and got some compensation. Instead, Salimova sacrificed another pawn with 12…c5. The engines can’t not see any clear compensation for Black for the two pawns after simple 13.Qxc5.

When asked about this after the game, Salimova said that she did not see anything wrong with the move and did not expect Goryachkina to take on c5, adding “there’s no way a human can play like this”, adding that White was significantly behind in development.

Still, after thinking for 10 minutes, Goryackina decided not to accept the pawn, possibly fearing some home preparation from the Bulgarian.

Instead, she decided to exchange the queens which led to an even position without many opportunities for either side:

13.Qxd8 Rxd8 14.d5 Bxc3 15.bxc3 Rxd5 16.Ne2 Rd6 17.Rd1 Rxd1 18.Kxd1 Nc6 19.Kc1 Rd8 20.Nf4 Bf5

Black has a slight edge in initiative, but nothing substantial. The game ended with a draw on move 33.

In the post-game interview, Salimova said that she felt “Black was better throughout the game”, and that she was “pressing”.

At the end of the interview, Salimova was asked to name a favourite male and female player. Somewhat surprisingly – she said Goryachkina, her opponent from today. Among men, Salimova’s said she looks at “all of their games” and could not name anyone specifically.

Anna Muzychuk playing with the white pieces defeated former World Champion Tan Zhongyi in the first game of the match for third place in the World Cup.

The endgame with opposite-coloured bishops is even. It is very hard for White to make any progress if Black simply moves her bishop along the f1-a6 diagonal, keeping her rook on the eight rank. For some reason Tan decided to trade her b-pawn for the opponent’s g-pawn, giving White a dangerous b-passer.

After 32…Be6 33.Rxb5 Bxg4 the position was still holdable but a few moves down the road Tan started to make mistakes which eventually resulted in her defeat

That was the last moment Tan could still have held her ground with precise 40…g5! sacrificing a pawn but giving her king some breathing space. Instead the Chinease GM played 40… Ra1? 41.b5 g5 42.hxg5 hxg5 43.b6 Ra8 44.Kd4 Bh3 and White is completely winning. 1-0


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