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Reports Jul 24, 2021 | 11:33 AMby Colin McGourty

FIDE World Cup 4.2: Hari, Xiong & Pragg knocked out

Harikrishna fought for 115 moves but couldn’t find a way back on Friday against Iran’s Amin Tabatabaei, whose clash with fellow giant killer Haik Martirosyan is the only Last 16 match already determined. Jeffery Xiong was beaten 2:0 by Vidit, while Praggnanandhaa lost a spectacular game to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. There are no less than eight tiebreaks in the open section, including Carlsen-Wojtaszek, after Magnus failed to wrap up what should have been a crushing win. Top seed Aleksandra Goryachkina hit back on demand to force one of four tiebreaks in the women’s event.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ended Praggnanandhaa's World Cup campaign | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

You can replay all the games from the 2021 FIDE World Cup with computer analysis and live commentary here on chess24: Open | Women

And here’s Jan Gustafsson and Laurent Fressinet’s commentary on Day 2 of Round 4.

Eight of the matches are over in Round 4 of the Open section, with another eight going to tiebreaks — so far we know just one Last 16 match, Martirosyan vs. Tabatabaei, with the winner reaching the quarterfinals and a guaranteed place in the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix series.


The last player to qualify for Round 4 of the FIDE World Cup was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who had to come through an Armageddon game against David Paravyan. It was all change in Round 4, as after drawing the first game against Praggnanandhaa he crashed through in the second to become the first player through to Round 5.

A tough loss for Praggnanandhaa, but the 15-year-old will have many more World Cups to come | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

15-year-old Praggnanandhaa was perhaps unfortunate to have tested Maxime in a line where the Frenchman said afterwards that his team had done 15 hours of work, adding, “I was very confident in my preparation”. Black’s compensation for a pawn was stranding the white king in the centre, so it was understandable Pragg played aggressively, but his 21…e5!? and 24…Nd5!? didn’t do anything to reduce White’s advantage. Things got dramatic with 25…Rfc8:


Black is planning Rc2+ and hunting the white king, but here Maxime quickly and calmly gave up his queen with 26.Rac1! Rxc5 27.Rxc5. He explained afterwards:

To be honest it just came naturally to me — I wouldn’t really call it a queen sacrifice when you get rook, bishop and this passed d-pawn. My king was so safe as well, so it comes naturally. It’s clear that it’s very difficult to defend, and I’m not even sure there’s an actual defence, because the d-pawn runs so fast. So in the end it was a convincing win.

The d-pawn can’t be captured because of 27…Bxd5?? 28.Rxd5 Qxd5 29.Bc4!, and after 27…h6 28.d6! it was hard to stop, though it seems after 28…Bxg2 29.Rd1 the Indian prodigy had to try 29…Bc6. After 29…Qe4? 30.Bc4+ Kh8 31.d7! there was no hope, and Pragg resigned when the pawn queened two moves later.

The only other match where a player drew the first game and won the second saw Jan-Krzysztof Duda defeat Iran’s Pouya Idani with the black pieces.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda is through to Round 5 | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

The second fastest player through to Round 5 after MVL was Vladimir Fedoseev, who wrapped up a 2:0 win over Vladislav Kovalev. He credited the second win to some opening preparation that he’d cooked up with with fellow Russian GM Maksim Chigaev. Vladislav, meanwhile, wrote on Instagram:

So that’s the tournament over. It’s sad, off course, that there wasn’t a real fight in this round. I’ve played a lot of games against Vladimir Fedoseev over the course of our careers, from junior years onwards. Our score is roughly equal, so I was aiming for a fight. To be honest, I don’t recall losing so quickly. It can probably be explained by the lack of match practice and a training process for a long time. I only learned that I’d be playing the World Cup literally two weeks before the start and didn’t managed to prepare properly in order to get into top form.

Of course I apologise to my fans that I didn’t live up to your expectations in the fourth round, but I think that nevertheless my result at the World Cup is excellent. Thank you, friends, for being with me the whole way during the World Cup. I can feel your support. I believe that the best is still ahead!

There was no way back this time for Jeffery Xiong | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

The one other 2:0 whitewash came for Indian star Vidit, who built on his thrilling victory against Adhiban to knock out 20-year-old US talent Jeffery Xiong. Xiong is a specialist in World Cup comebacks, but his position collapsed when Vidit quietly manoeuvred his queen to pick up the loose black pawn on h5. There was nothing quiet about the finish.

It was a mixed day for the rising chess powerhouse of India, since Harikrishna fought for 115 moves but was unable to get the win he needed to force tiebreaks against Iran’s Amin Tabatabaei. 86th seed Tabatabaei will now play 59th seed Haik Martirosyan, who also got the draw he needed to knock out Croatia’s Ante Brkic.

Sam Shankland succeeds where Caruana failed | photo: Eric Rosen, official website

Two more players who won on the first day got draws on the second to go through. Sam Shankland admitted he lived a little dangerously against Rinat Jumabayev, but in the end he comfortably held a draw to “get revenge” for Rinat knocking out his US colleague Fabiano Caruana in the previous round.

Poland’s Kacper Piorun also held a draw to end the World Cup hopes of 15-year-old Javokhir Sindarov, who is nevertheless a player we can expect to see a lot more of in the coming years. Piorun has also impressively knocked out both Markus Ragger and Jorden van Foreest…

One player with an interest in this part of the bracket is Magnus Carlsen, who, if he got to the quarterfinals, would face the winner of the match between Kacper Piorun and either Pavel Ponkratov or Etienne Bacrot, for a place in the semi-final. It’s an either/or situation, since Ponkratov hit back to level the score against Bacrot in a powerful game, even if one that couldn’t quite reach the crazy heights of the day before.

The other player to come back in the open section was 16-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov, whose decision to play the Philidor Defence against Vasif Durarbayli looked inspired.

This game was pretty much in my control because in the opening he misplayed very badly and I quickly got a winning position

Nodirbek admitted his conversion could have been better, but he ended with some powerful moves for a deserved win.

The final king move is a last twist of the knife, threatening mate-in-1 with Re3+.

Durarbayli will now have to come back for tiebreaks against Abdusattorov | photo: Eric Rosen, official website

As well as Bacrot-Ponkratov and Abdusattorov-Durarbayli we have another six tiebreaks on Saturday.

  • Carlsen-Wojtaszek
  • Dubov-Esipenko
  • Grischuk-Korobov
  • Ivic-Andreikin
  • Artemiev-Karjakin
  • Vitiugov-Svidler

All those matches saw two draws in classical chess, but that didn’t mean a lack of action. Only Grischuk-Korobov and Dubov-Esipenko featured quiet second games, while there were rumblings of potential drama in the heavyweight all-Russian clashes Artemiev-Karjakin and Vitiugov-Svidler. Ivic-Andreikin was almost the game of the day, with the Serbian Grandmaster not giving away too much info about himself afterwards.

I’m from Belgrade, Serbia. I’m 18, a grandmaster. I try to play well — that’s about it!

His game against Russian knockout specialist Dmitry Andreikin was spectacular, however, and it’s worth watching his analysis. His 14.d5!? pawn sacrifice was creative, while he moved in for the kill after 22…Rxd1?


White is better after simply capturing back the rook, but Ivic instead ignored it with 23.Qg5+! Kh8 24.Qf6+ Kg8 25.Re4! and was on course for a spectacular win and a place in Round 5. Instead Dmitry used all his experience to seize a chance to get back in the game and force tiebreaks.

Carlsen-Wojtaszek has been a highly-entertaining match so far | photo: Eric Rosen, official website

The last match to mention in the Open section is Carlsen-Wojtaszek, which became a thriller. At first it seemed as though Radek Wojtaszek’s pawn grab on c4 was going to backfire badly since Magnus had a lethal attack on the other side of the board. So it proved, at least until 24…Rxf5.


“It has to be mate”, was the verdict of our commentators, with Laurent correctly suggesting 25.Rxh7!, while 25.gxf7+ is also sufficient. Instead Magnus played 25.Bc2?!, with the suspicion being that he was dreaming of 25…Rf2? 26.Rxh7! Rxg2 27.Nf6+!! gxf6 28.gxf7#


If that was the case, 25…Qf2! must have come as a very cold shower. Suddenly there was no mate, and with Black a couple of pawns up there was no option of bailing out by exchanging off queens.

Magnus got down to 3 minutes, while Radek had 16, before playing 26.gxf7+ Kxf7 and was down to a minute when he went for 27.Bxf5. The computer says the only way to keep an edge was 27.Qe4!, but the complications there aren’t something anyone would want to try and navigate in time trouble.

It was suddenly equal, and it was even Radek who rejected the first draw by repetition on offer. He may have felt his chances against a shaken Magnus Carlsen low on time were higher than in tiebreaks, but soon there was no avoiding the draw.

Goryachkina hits back on decisive day

The FIDE Women’s World Cup has been a lot quieter than the Open, but on Friday no less than six of the eight games were decisive. As in the Open section only one match-up, in this case for the quarterfinals, is known — Alexander Kosteniuk will take on Valentina Gunina.


The wins for Kosteniuk and Gunina were both upsets, but also very convincing, with Alexandra getting to play two exchange sacrifices in quick succession against Mariya Muzychuk.


21…Qf6! 22.Bxg8 Rxg8 23.Bg5 Rxg5! Alexandra commented:

I’m not sure, of course, about my exchange sacrifices - I sacrificed two of them, but I just thought her attack was a little bit premature, at least I hoped so, because her king also is quite exposed and I have counterplay… It looked very powerful and I hoped I had enough compensation.

She certainly did, even if she’d broken her own rule:

There is a rule of thumb: if you can win without sacrificing then you should follow this rule, especially in knockout events.

As Mariya leaves the event she can still support her sister Anna Muzychuk, who ground down Elisabeth Paehtz in 71 moves to reach the quarterfinals, where she’s joined by Tan Zhongyi, who overcame Sarasadat Khademalsharieh. 

When Aleksandra smiles you know she's had a very good day at the office | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

There were two impressive comeback wins. Winning on demand, even with the white pieces, is tough, but Aleksandra Goryachkina had more reason than most to feel confident — she’s now won eight classical games with White in a row, including all her games in the formidable Russian Higher League.

Goryachkina is on a great run | source: 2700chess

Sure enough, Antoaneta Stefanova was simply wiped off the board, with Aleksandra commenting afterwards, “I think I was dictating in both of the games, but in the first game I just went a little crazy!”

The other win saw Nana Dzagnidze could back from a loss in the first game just as she did against Carissa Yip in the previous round. This time Polina Shuvalova lived to regret 16…Qxd4?, though the game had already gone off the rails by then.


Nana’s 17.Bxh6! was the most spectacular winning move, with 17…gxh6 18.Rad1 Qxc4 19.Qh5! lethal — the main issue with the queen on c4 is that Re4!, preparing Rg4, will also hit the queen.

Polina tried 17…Bd7 but after 18.Rac1 gxh6 (18…f5 would at least give the queen a square on g4, but it doesn’t help) 19.Red1 the black queen was lost. A total massacre!

Saduakassova-Kashlinskaya was a quiet game, but the match must be decided in tiebreaks on Saturday | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

Stefanova-Goryachkina, Saduakassova-Kashlinskaya, Shuvalova-Dzagnidze and Lagno-Assaubayeva will all be decided in tiebreaks on Saturday, alongside eight Open matches. Don't miss all the action from 14:00 CEST: Open | Women

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