Wojtaszek holds Carlsen to a draw

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021 – A total of 301 players competed in the first round of the World Cup ten days ago, but only 48 of them returned this afternoon for the fourth round, among them the world champion Magnus Carlsen, still in full contention. There are still 32 players left in the open group and 16 in the women’s group.

The ceiling & wall panels of the playing venue allowed the organisation to resize the game area in order to create a superior game-space ratio for the players, avoiding uncomfortable situations that had occurred on previous editions of this same event.

At this stage of the World Cup all the players are world class candidates, many of them the best players of their countries: it’s impossible to find an “easy” game in this round. As usual, all eyes were focussed on the board one game between Poland’s number two player Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Magnus Carlsen.

The key moment of the game was move 25 for Black, when 25…Nxe5! initiates a long variation in which Black sacrifices a lot of material for a direct attack on White’s king.

One can never know with world-class players but maybe Carlsen couldn’t see a direct win and preferred the game line, which is also strong but allows White’s defensive queen sacrifice idea, which kept the game more or less balanced. After a few moves a draw was agreed although the final position is still quite complex.

Wojtaszek went through these variations for us in a brief post-game interview.

In another tremendously exciting game, French top grand master Etienne Bacrot was able to pull ahead in the mini-match by defeating his opponent, the tough Russian 2630 player Pavel Ponkratov.

The key position occurred after 2.Ne5! Rxb2 with total chaos on the board. White was nearly always winning but it was quite tricky. After the fireworks faded, Bacrot took home the point and came to the press centre to give us his thoughts on the game.

Afterwards, he popped into the studio with FIDE World Cup commentator GM Almira Skripchenko to go over the variations in a must-see video clip.

Another very strong player that hasn’t been mentioned yet in these reports is Iranian number three, M.Amin Tabatabei who took down India’s number two Pentala Harikrishna - who out-rates him by more than 100 points - in a very nice positional game which ended in a well-played knight ending.

However, in his post-game interview Amin was very cautious about the rest of the match as he knew that tomorrow would be a very tough game.

The last game to finish produced an unexpected result. After a tricky move order from his opponent in the opening, USA grand master Sam Shankland came out on the worse end and was even close to losing. However, he eventually equalised and the game was heading for a draw.

But suddenly his opponent, Rinat Jumabayev – who defeated Caruana in the previous round – player too ambitiously and fell into a difficult position. Shankland’s well-known endgame technique did the rest.

Even though he was visibly exhausted he was kind enough to find time to give us his impressions in a brief interview.

In general, this afternoon’s round was very exciting, with hard-fought games. Although many of them ended in a draw pending tomorrow’s rematch – quite a few high-rated players had Black today - some other players were able to chalk up their first win and will return to the board tomorrow with a big advantage to qualify for the next round.

Together with Bacrot, Shankland and Tabatabei the following players scored the full point: Vasif Durarbayli, Vladimir Fedoseev, Haik Martirosyan, Kacper Piorun and Gujrathi Vidit.

The fourth round in the women’s section was quite peaceful although most of the games were hard-fought. Without a doubt, the surprise of the round was top-seed Aleksandra Goryachkina losing to former female World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova.

Although the rematch has yet to be played tomorrow, the Bulgarian grand master has a good opportunity to go through to the quarter-finals, at the same time eliminating the number one player of the section.

The key moment of the game was the tactical mistake made by Goryachkina on move 26…Qxc5?? (26…Re5 was probably equal). After 27.Rc1 the knight on c4 is pinned and will be lost.

Again, one can only speculate on what the top Russian grand master missed: maybe that after 27…Re-d3 (played quickly) the knight can’t be captured because of 28…Rd1 winning, but both 28.Kh1 and also 28.b4! are winning for White. Chess is such a difficult game!

Stefanova happily went through the game for us in a brief interview.

The only other decisive game in the women’s group was Polina Shuvalova defeating Nana Dzagnidze. All the rest of the eight games ended in draws and will be decided between tomorrow and the tie-breaks on Saturday.

Pairings of the second game of the fourth round, live games and PGN files can be found on the World Cup website alongside a great amount of other interesting information such as daily videos, a complete photo collection and other useful data.

About the tournament:

Scheduled to take place from July12th (Round 1) to August 6th (finals), the 2021 FIDE World Cup will gather together in Sochi (Russia) 309 of the world’s best chess players, with 206 of them playing in the Open World Cup (and 103 participants in the first ever Women’s World Cup.

The top two finishers in the tournament, aside from World Champion Magnus Carlsen who is also participating, will qualify for the 2022 Candidates Tournament, in addition to winning the 110.000 USD first prize (80.000 USD for the runner-up).

Organisers: International Chess Federation (FIDE), Chess Federation of Russia, Russian Ministry of Sports, and Government of Krasnodar Krai.

Gazprom– general partner
Nornickel– general partner
PhosAgro– general partner
Chessable– event’s partner
Rosatom– event’s partner
Aeroflot– CFR’s partner
Educational centre “Sirius”