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A close scrape for Carlsen

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021 – Seven tiebreak matches were contended this afternoon in the Galaxy Centre – six in the open section and one in the women’s group – all of them very evenly matched, to qualify for the sixth round (quarter-finals) of the World Cup.

Many surprises occur each day: after Grischuk’s elimination, the World Champion Magnus Carlsen is the only player left in the top ten FIDE rating list.

As usual, all eyes were focused on the board one match between GM Magnus Carlsen (2847) and GM Andrey Esipenko (2716). The two classical games ended in draws, and it seemed that in general Esipenko was having the better part of it.


But Carlsen is a beast in rapid and blitz games, several times World Champion in all the disciplines, in addition to a huge amount of recent online rapid event wins in his track-record. Even so, the two 25/10 rapid games finished in a draw, and although Carlsen won the first 10/10 game, Esipenko bounced back with his own win, something that generally doesn’t happen when Magnus scores first.


The Blitz games 5/3 is where the World Champion went for the kill, with great technique in the first and tactical efficiency in the second, all within the last few seconds. Witnessing this display of chess in person in the playing venue is a joy for all chess fans.


Visibly tired, but clearly content, Carlsen came down to the press centre to give us his opinion on the match and comment on tomorrow’s quarter-final pairing with Etienne Bacrot.


The Carlsen-Esipenko match was the last to finish. Meanwhile, three other matches ended much earlier, in the 25/10 rapid games.

The first of them to finish was the encounter between GM Haik M. Martirosyan (2632) from Armenia and GM M. Amin Tabatabaei (2613) from Iran, which was absolutely crazy.

Martirosyan won the first classical game and came very close to winning the match outright: he only needed to find one or two simple moves in a knight and pawn ending in the second game.


However, nerves, tiredness and a miscalculation all came together and a fatal exchange left the match 1-1. Today’s first rapid game was madness again: up and down, left and right, anything could have happened, but the game ended in a draw.

The second rapid game was all Tabatabaei and the Iranian phenom discussed it with us in a brief interview.


The amazing player of the tournament has clearly been GM Velimir Ivic (2582). Only 18 years old, he has surprised many of us with his fresh approach and huge strength. But his run came to an end today. His opponent GM Vladimir Fedoseev (2696) was unmatched in the rapid games, winning clearly with a 2-0 score.


The first game was a nice technical win with Fedoseev with White. Although Ivic had some advantage in a messy position in the second game, ultimately Fedoseev took it down. Fedoseev will face Tabatabaei in the quarterfinals. He gave us his thoughts in a brief postgame interview.


The third match to finish in the first two rapid games was GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda (2738) from Poland who defeated GM Alexander Grischuk (2778) from Russia, not a huge surprise but without doubt one of the most important eliminations of the round.


Duda took us through the key moments of the match and gave us his views on the upcoming quarterfinals pairing with Vidit.


Two matches were still tied after the first two rapid games and went on to the 10/10 rapids. After five consecutive draws in which, to date, has been the most equal match-up, former World Cup winner GM Sergey Karjakin (2757) from Russia pulled through with a win in the second 10/10 game and will now face Sam Shankland in the quarterfinals.


In the post-game interview Karjakin talked about the games and revealed that he had never played against Shankland before.


Finally, French GM Etienne Bacrot (2678) defeated his opponent GM Kacper Piorun (2608) from Poland. Although he lost the first rapid game, he was able to recover in the second, winning on demand. Piorun was unable to regroup and lost both of the two 10/10 rapid games.

The pairings for the quarter-finals of the open world cup, schedule to start tomorrow Wednesday 28th July are: Carlsen-Bacrot, Duda-Vidit, Fedoseev-Tabatabaei and
Karjakin-Shankland

Yesterday’s results in the women’s group left just one game for the tiebreaks, the exciting match between GM Anna Muzychuk (2527) from Ukraine and GM Nana Dzagnidze (2523) representing Georgia.


The first of the two 25/10 rapid games ended in a clear win for Muzychuk: her opponent played a rare side-line in the Sicilian Najdorf, which was promptly refuted by Muzychuk, who opted for an aggressive opposite-side castled kings’ setup. Although she could have probably decided the game earlier, her attack plus material advantage eventually was too much to defend against.


In a must-win scenario, the second game didn’t go well for Dzagnidze. Her opening setup with White was slightly dubious and it didn’t seem that Muzychuk was in danger at any point during the game. After a few mistakes, the Ukrainian grandmaster won and will now face Aleksandra Goryachkina in the semi-finals.


Anna was kind enough to come to the press centre and give us her thoughts on both of the games and also discussed her track-record against Goryachkina.


The pairings for the semi-finals of the women’s world cup, schedule to start on Thursday 29th July are: Goryachkina-Muzychuk and Kosteniuk-Tan Zhongyi (tomorrow the women’s group enjoy a well-deserved rest day)

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.

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