April 20, 2024

Goryachkina wins Women’s World Cup, Praggnanandhaa reaches finals

The 18-year-old Indian prodigy defeated the favourite Fabiano Caruana after winning the second tiebreak 1.5-0.5. Earlier in the day, Aleksandra Goryachkina defeated Nurgyul Salimova to clinch the title in the Women’s tournament

Baku witnessed an intense day as two nail-biting tiebreak matches unfolded. In the Women’s finals, Aleksandra Goryachkina won the title by defeating Nurgyul Salimova, however, the outcome could easily have been different. In a major upset, the favourite Fabiano Caruana was ousted by 18-year-old R Praggnanandhaa in the open category following two tiebreak rounds.

The Open Tournament Highlights

After two draws in the regular part of the semi-finals, former challenger Fabiano Caruana and the rising star from India, R Praggnanandhaa, met in the tiebreaks to decide who would go to the finals.

The initial two rapid tiebreak games ended in draws. Notably, Caruana had a winning position in the first tiebreak game but failed to capitalise, allowing Prag to evade defeat. In the second game, both sides were equal throughout.

Then, in the second rapid tiebreak match – where the time controls moved from 25 to 10 minutes each – Praggnanandhaa played significantly better in the first game, gaining the upper hand on the white side of the Italian Game. Caruana correctly sacrificed a pawn and reached equality but then played somewhat sluggishly and allowed his opponent to consolidate. Pragg then advanced his pawns, capturing one and subsequently launching an assault on Black’s Queenside, joined by the white king. Even though White promoted a second queen, Caruana continued to resist, hoping for a miracle. Unfortunately for the American, Pragg was confident in his execution and secured victory.

In the second game, Praggnanandhaa again achieved a better position (this time as Black). In the endgame, the Indian was completely winning, but he allowed White to make a comeback, and the game ended in a draw, thus eliminating Caruana.

This will be the first final for R Praggnandnhaa in the World Cup, where he will be facing Magnus Carlsen (who will also be playing his first World Cup final). Caruana will go up against Nijat Abasov in the battle for third place.

The finals of the Open World Cup, as well as the match for third place, will be held on Tuesday, 22nd of August.

The Women’s Tournament Highlights

In today’s tiebreak match, Goryachkina was completely lost in the first game. Playing the London System, Salimova (as White) had a clear advantage early on but then misplayed in a completely winning position, allowing Goryachkina to save a draw with a perpetual check.

In game two, in the Catalan, Goryachkina managed to secure an extra pawn on the queenside as her opponent did not demonstrate the necessary knowledge and accuracy in the opening. In the endgame, she was close to clinching victory on two occasions but allowed Black to make a save. After 89 moves, in time trouble – in a 2:1 pawn endgame for Goryachkina where White had a knight, and Black had a bishop – Salimova eventually cracked in a drawish position and made the decisive mistake.

White managed to penetrate with her king to the kingside to support her two passers that rushed towards promotion. Black resisted a bit more before resigning on move 105.

A great victory by Aleksandra Goryachkina who was the runner-up in the 2021 edition of the event. Additionally, she secured the first-place prize of $50,000.

Goryachkina has confidently played the entire event: out of six matches, in four she won in the regular part (against Odraz Valdes, Divya, Batsiashvili and Tan), and in two she won in the tiebreaks (against Dronavalli and Salimova).

Despite losing in the finals, Bulagria’s Nurgyul Salimova had a spectacular performance in Baku and is a huge surprise for the chess world. She defeated some of the strongest world players, such as Polina Shuvalova and Anna Muzychuk (who finished third in the Women’s World Cup).

Here follows a closer look at some of the top games of the day:

We begin with the tiebreak match between Aleksandra Goryachkina and Nurgyul Salimova. Goryachkina had a lucky escape in the regular part of the match, securing a tiebreak. Even today, as the match started, it seemed that Salimova was the better player. She completely dominated Goryachkina in their first rapid tiebreaker.

Diagram after 14.Bd2

By this point, the position was around even, but now Goryachkina made a series of moves, after which she ended up completely lost.

14…Be7? (14…f6! dislodging the white knight was necessary) 15.b3! Rc8 16.Rc1 c5? 17.Na5?! Qa6? 18.dxc5 Rxc5 19.Rxc5 Bxc5 20.b4

White is quickly advancing her queenside pawns, getting complete control over the position.

20…Bb6 21.b5 Qc8 22.Nac6 O-O 23.Qf3 f6 24.Nc4 Bc5 25.Be3! Nxe3 26.Nxe3 Kh8 27.Nxf5 exf5 28.Qd5

White is completely winning. However, Salimova was in time trouble and soon she started to err…

28…Bb6 29.a5 Bc7 30.Nxa7 Qb8 31.Nc6 Bxh2+ 32.Kh1 Qf4 All of the sudden Black has some threats. 

33.Qf3? The first big mistake by White. She should have just continued with 33.Nd4! Now 33…Qh4 is met with 34.Nf6, while 34…Qh6 fails to 35.Nxf5

33…Qh4 34.Qh3 Qc4 

35.Kxh2?? Another blunder. White was still winning after a precise 35.Rb1. Now it’s around even.

35…Qxf1 36.Qxf5 Qc4 37 a6 g6 38.Qd7 Qf4+ And now it’s perpetual.

39.Kg1 Qc1+ 40.Kh2 Qf4+ 41.Kg1 Qc1+ 42.Kh2 ½ – ½

Goryachkina made two consecutive saves in her match against Salimova. To win, she had to take control of the situation and not rely on luck. That is exactly what happened in the second tiebreak game, as Salimova started blundering early on.

This well-known theoretical position is around even, but Black did not play the main move 12…Bd5, tested on the highest level, but opted for less precise 13…c5 and after 14.dxc5 Na6 15.Qxc5 White emerged with an extra runner on the queenside.

Alexandra was gradually making progress and reached a winning position. 

White’s only problem is that her king is a bit restricted. With this in mind, Alexandra should have played 36.e3! removing Black d4 pawn. However, Goryachkina made several mistakes, allowing Black to equalise.

36.Be4 Nf6 37.Bd3 Bd7 38.h4 Nd5 39.Bc4 Nxb4 40.Bxf7 h6 41.Nc4+ Ke7 42.Ne5 Bf5 43.Bc4 Kd6 44.Nf3 Kc5 45.Bd3 Be6 46.Ne1 Nd5 47.Ng2 Now the position is equal. But not for long…

47…g5 48.hxg5 hxg5 49.Ne1 

49…Nf6? 49…Bg4 or Nb4 offered better prospects for Black. But now White regains the upper hand.

50.Nf3! g4 51.Ng5 Bd5 52.Bf5 Kd6 53.Nh7? Again, Goryachkina dropped her advantage. She should have played 53.Kd3. By this point, both were entering time trouble.

After precise 54…Be4 by Salimova, trading her bishop for the knight, Goryachkina didn’t want to accept a draw but tested her opponent in more than 30 moves. Finally, Nurgyul broke.

Black should have proceeded with 89…Bd7 or 89…Bd3 and would have maintained equality. Instead, she played 89…Be2?? and ended up completely lost: the white king penetrated the kingside, supporting his pawns on their way to promotion. Salimova could not stop that. 

After 90.Kf5 Bd3+ 91.Kf6 Black was doomed. 

The two played until move 105, but the outcome was clear – a victory for Goryachkina, which also secured her the title. 1-0

Fabiano Caruana had a good start to the tiebreaks and was on the verge of victory in the first rapid tiebreak game.

White is clearly winning by simply advancing his a-passer (55.a6 Rxf2 56.a7, etc), but Caruana played a seemingly accurate but erroneous move giving Pragg a precious tempi. 55.f4?? Now Black is just in time to save the game as his king quickly reaches White’s kingside pawns:

55…Kf5 56.a6 Rb2+ 57.Kc7 Ka2 58.Kb6 Kxf4 59.Bd5 Rxa6+ 60.Kxa6 Kg3 and Black sacrificed the rook but exchanged all kingside pawns and secured a draw. ½-½, 71 moves

The second game in the first rapid tiebreak was even. In the first game of the second tiebreak, however, Praggnanandhaa got a strong position after 35 moves:

36.d4! White starts pushing in the centre and is on his way to grabbing Black’s e3-pawn.

36…c5 (36…Qa3 offered more chances for resistance). 37.d5? White should have just taken on e3 now. 37…Bb8 38.Qxe3 Qf8?? (38…Qf6). 39.Bb5 Qd6 40.Bc6 Bc7 41.Kd3 

The rest was a smooth sail for White – his king marched to b5 to help the queenside push. Despite Caruana’s best efforts, he could not do anything more but resign in the end. 1-0, 63 moves. 

In the next game, Praggnanandhaa was also better, but let the advantage melt into a draw.

Text: Milan Dinic

Photo: Stev Bonhage 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/

Regulations

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

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

Schedule: worldcup2023.fide.com/schedule