Fighting chess at the World Cup

Friday, July 16th, 2021 – The second game of round two at the World Cup began this afternoon with a huge absence: world’s number 5 player, GM Levon Aronian, decided to withdraw from the event preventively after having felt unwell for a few days.

As a result, his opponent GM Bobby Cheng advanced directly to the third round. Aronian took to social media to explain his decision:

Cheng was kind enough to pop-in to the press centre to give us his thoughts on the match with Aronian and his upcoming third round encounter.

At 3pm sharp, Fight Night MMA promoter Kamil Gadzhiev played the first move for GM Magnus Carlsen on Board 1, clearly a prelude of what the round was eventually going to bring. Although some matches went to the tiebreak, most players came to the Galaxy Center with a clear idea in mind: fight until the end to seal the deal.

The World Champion, who won the first game of the two yesterday with Black, displayed once again his fantastic technique grinding down his opponent in a tricky knight vs bishop endgame with an equal number of pawns.

Although it was probably a draw at some point, these endings are generally quite tricky and GM Sasa Martinovic blundered first with 53…Bh6 (53…Kd7 giving up the pawn is a draw even a pawn down), and then 54…axb5? which is definitely losing. The computer holds the endgame with 54…Kd7 but it’s not easy at all for a human player.

Carlsen will now face GM Aryan Tari in the third round, in a match between Norway’s top two players.

One of the first games to finish was GM Maxime Vachier-Lagraeve’s win over GM Elshan Moradiabadi. As the first game ended in a draw, the world-class French player needed a win to advance to the next round.

In a fine positional game, Vachier took advantage of a few small mistakes in his opponent’s set-up. After 13…Nb6 (instead of …Ne7) Moradiabadi was already under serious pressure, and the nice manoeuvre 15.Bf4! e5 16.Be3 secured the d5 square for White. A few moves later Black’s position crumbled.

Maxime was kind enough to explain his thought-process in a brief postgame interview.

Other favourites to qualify directly to the third round are GM’s Fabiano Caruana, Alexander Grischuk, Anish Giri and Sergei Karjakin, while top players Mamedyarov, Firouzja, or Lenier Dominguez among others will have to return tomorrow for the tie-breaks.

In the women’s group most of the rating favourites advanced to the third round by scoring an on-demand win today after their first game draw in the match. Pre-event top-seed GM Aleksandra Goryachkina (2596) scored a clear 2-0 against WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova and advanced to the third round, while second seed Kateryna Lagno (2558) also qualified by defeating WIM Teodora Injac by 1.5-0.5. Both of them will face strong +2400 opponents in their next games.

Also qualifying to the third round was top-rated Russian GM Alina Kashlinskaya, who defeated Cuba’s IM Lisandra Ordaz in a fine positional game.

It seemed that Ordaz, with Black, had equalised after the opening, but she lashed out with the thematic pawn-lever 13… c5? at the wrong moment. Kashlinskaya captured the d-pawn and went on to grind down her opponent in a technical ending with an extra exchange.

In her post-game interview, Alina gave us her thoughts on the game and her upcoming third round challenge with WGM Alisa Galliamova, who is also from Russia.

One of the best games of the afternoon in the women’s group was player by GM Alexandra Kosteniuk who defeated her second-round opponent WGM Deysi Cori in a wonderful ending.

Although an exchange down, Kosteniuk manoeuvred her two bishops and created a passed centre pawn. Her opponent was powerless, unable to stop detain the advance of the pawn, while Kosteniuk used her bishops and active king to block the long-distance attacks by Cori’s lone rook. A great display of technique!

Kosteniuk gave us her thoughts in the post-game interview.

Unfortunately, both of the Indonesian players, Medina Warda Aulia and Irine Kharisma Sukandar, although feeling well and having had negative testing, decided to withdraw from the second round as a safety measure with regard to the rest of the players.

As a result, their opponents, GM Harika Dronavalli from India and GM Valentina Gunina from Russia, also advanced directly to the third round.

Pairings of the second round tiebreaks, to be played tomorrow afternoon, 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”