Magnus Carlsen skates on thin ice

Saturday, July 24th, 2021 – Artistic figure ice-skating and chess don’t seem to have much in common at first glance, but world-class performers of both disciplines share several common skillsets: high levels of pre-game concentration and constant technique improvement are just a couple that come to mind.

International ice-skating star Evgenia Medvedeva, two-times World and European Champion and two-times Olympic silver medallist was the guest of honour this afternoon in the Galaxy centre, performing the first move – 1.d4 – in the GM Magnus Carlsen (2847) vs GM Andrey Esipenko (2716) game on board one.

In a brief interview after the on-stage ceremony, Medvedeva summarized her sensations: “I sensed the tension, the "silent" adrenaline, the concentration in the playing hall. Figure skaters like me usually do more physical work before the start of the competition: we are always in motion, we warm up, listen to music, we even communicate to relax the nervous system and muscle tension. And here in the hall there was complete silence”.

The first game to finish in a draw was the top-level clash between GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2749) and GM Sergey Karjakin (2757). In a theoretical Berlin Ruy Lopez, the former 2015 World Cup winner bashed out his moves with Black at lighting speed, sacrificing a pawn for active piece play in the ending and forcing a three-fold draw repetition with more time on his clock than he started with.

The second match to finish was precisely the game one bout between GM Magnus Carlsen (2847) and GM Andrey Esipenko (2716), both of them back to the playing hall after a tough tiebreak yesterday. Carlsen went for a Catalan opening and Esipenko chose the “hanging pawns” set-up with Black, that left him with quite a decent position.

The World Champion wasn’t able to create any momentum and decided to offer a three-fold repetition which Esipenko accepted.

After the game, the young Russian quickly checked the computer to assess a specific position before our daily interview, in which he gave us his thoughts on the first game of the match.

Unbelievably, we hadn’t had a chance to talk to GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda (2738) yet. However, the opportunity came today, after a tough draw against GM Alexander Grischuk (2778).

The Russian grandmaster sacrificed a pawn in the opening and got a nice attack going, with many pieces on the kingside looking to finish-off Duda’s weakened castled king.

But Poland’s number one player had it all under control: solid defence and a couple of sacrifices to force a perpetual leaves the match totally open for tomorrows rematch. Duda was kind enough to accept our invitation and give us a brief postgame interview.

The only decisive result of the round in the open group occurred in the game GM Haik M. Martirosyan (2632) against M. Amin Tabatabaei (2613). The young Armenian, who is having the tournament of his life – Brkic and Mamedyarov are his two most important match victories – was able to convert the extra pawn that Tabatabaei lost in the middlegame.

Visibly tired, he still came along to the press centre to pinpoint the key moments of the game.

The rest of the games ended in hard-fought draws that leave all the matches open. GM Peter Svidler (2714) was pressing with White most of the game against GM Sam Shankland (2709) but the American defended carefully and a draw was agreed on move 47. GM Nigel Short, official commentator and also member of the Appeals Committee, went over the game with Svidler.

The other results of the round were:

GM Vladimir Fedoseev (2696) 0.5-0.5 GM Velimir Ivic (2582)
GM Etienne Bacrot (2678) 0.5-0.5 GM Kacper Piorun (2608)
GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (2726) 0.5-0.5 GM Vasif Durarbayli (2625)

In the women’s group GM Aleksandra Goryachkina (2596), playing with the White pieces, had a small advantage most of the game against IM Dinara Saduakassova (2483) but the Kazakhstan number one women’s player defended tenaciously and a draw was agreed.

The last game of the round to finish was the incredible fight between GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (2472) and GM Valentina Gunina (2437). Gunina, with Black, had a clear advantage for most of the game and could have won on move 37 (…Rf4) and then again on move 42 (… Qg1 instead of …Kh6).

But in these tough matches with everything on the line one must close the games. After saving these two match-balls Kosteniuk went on to win an opposite colour bishop ending in great style, and now leads the match going into the second day.

The other two games ended in a draw and will be decided in the rematch.

GM Nana Dzagnidze (2523) 0.5 – 0.5 GM Anna Muzychuk (2527)
GM Tan Zhongyi (2511) 0.5 – 0.5 GM Kateryna Lagno (2559)

The second game of Round 5 is scheduled for tomorrow Monday July 26th at 3 pm. Pairings of the 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”