Reports Aug 2, 2021 | 9:07 AMby Colin McGourty

FIDE World Cup 7.1: Kosteniuk close | Duda holds Carlsen

Alexandra Kosteniuk won a rollercoaster game against Aleksandra Goryachkina to put her a draw with the white pieces away from winning the 2021 FIDE Women’s World Cup. The first games of both semi-finals in the overall World Cup were drawn, with Jan-Krzysztof Duda finding some nice ideas to hold Magnus Carlsen to a draw with the black pieces. A curiosity of the day was that Fedoseev-Karjakin and the women’s 3rd place match Tan Zhongyi-Muzychuk were identical for the first 12 moves, though the balance was never seriously upset in either game.

Alexandra Kosteniuk, who won the 2008 64-player Women's World Championship by defeating Hou Yifan in the final, is just a draw away from winning the World Cup | photo: Eric Rosen, official website 

You can replay the day’s games from the FIDE World Cup using the selectors below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler.

Kosteniuk wins thriller

Aleksandra Goryachkina was on top for a long time, but lost her way in the complications | photo: Eric Rosen, official website

The game of the day in Sochi was a bruising battle between two Russian Alexandras, Kosteniuk and Goryachkina. Initially it was the 22-year-old who made all the running in a Catalan, with 19…f6 perhaps another case of “never play f3/f6”. 


After the game Kosteniuk commented:

She decided a few times to push, because she had a possibility to exchange pieces. For example, after f6 she could have played Nc4. She decided to go for a more complicated line and she won a pawn, but I had two bishops and I think in the time trouble she didn’t play correctly. 

That suggestion of 20.Nec4 is the computer’s 3rd choice, but in hindsight it makes a lot of sense, while Goryachkina played the second choice of 20.Nef3 (20.Nd3 gets top billing, but in all three lines the computer thinks White is doing well). Objectively there was absolutely nothing wrong with how Goryachkina played, though our commentators also felt that, for instance, the position after 29…c4, which the computer gives as almost winning for White, was still tricky to play. 

Up to a point, Goryachkina was in fact playing brilliantly, with 33.Ng5! a great move.

She invited 33…Qxf2+?! 34.Kh2 Qc2 35.e4! h6 and this was the major turning point of the whole game.


The key move was 36.Rd1!, with White bolstering the attack with a potential Rd6 to follow. It perhaps isn’t exactly “a computer move” — if you can, then seizing the one available open file makes sense, and the threat of Rd8+ ties down the black rook — but of course it’s a hard move to spot while you’re focused on the more direct action around the black king. The much more findable 36.Ne6! is also strong, while 36.Nf7+?! gave away the lion’s share of the advantage. 

It was still tricky to play for Black after 36…Kg8 37.Qd5, but 37…c3! was a strong move, and we came to another critical moment just around the time control. It turns out 40.Qh5+! would have forced a draw, and given Goryachkina 30 minutes to check everything, while 40.Ng5+ enabled Kosteniuk to grab the initiative.

She found 40…Kg6! and then burnt up most of her time after 41.Rh1, since she thought she must have a forced win. The computer claims she was winning, but suggests 41…c2 and 41…Qe3, with no immediate knockout blow. Alexandra was trying to make 41…Bc4!? work, but in the end opted for 41…Qd4, when after 42.Nh3! queens were exchanged and Goryachkina was in touching distance of surviving.

Kosteniuk kept up the pressure, however, until things again became critical.


Kosteniuk explained afterwards that now was the time to play the idea Goryachkina tried a few moves later of 53.Ke1! Rxd6 54.Bd1!, eliminating the last pawn to reach the drawn if difficult Rook vs. Rook + Bishop ending. Another flashy computer suggestion to achieve the same is 53.d7! Rxd7 54.Bg4! and again White wins the c2-pawn with the theoretical endgame. 

Instead after 53.Ke3? Rd3+! 54.Ke2 Rxd6 it was already too late. 

55.Ke1 Kd4! 56.Bd1 Ke3! caught the white king in a mating net, and after 57.Rxc2 Bxc2 58.Bxc2 Black was winning, though there was a brief scare for Kosteniuk’s fans.

After 58…Ra6! White has nothing better than to resign, since Ra1+ will win the bishop, e.g. after Bd1 Kd3 the king has to leave the defence of the pinned bishop. Instead Kosteniuk played 58…Rd2?! and the game went on, but five moves later the players had circled back to the same position and Kosteniuk did finally play 63…Ra6! Goryachkina thought for a while and resigned.

Goryachkina has been in this position before in the tournament, losing a first game she was winning to Antoaneta Stefanova before coming back, but this time the situation is tougher, since Goryachkina will have the black pieces on Monday. She must win or Kosteniuk will take the title!

Duda stands his ground against Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen arrived fashionably late | photo: Eric Rosen, official website

Jan-Krzysztof Duda had played two classical games with Black against Magnus Carlsen and lost them both, and he commented after the first game of their semi-final.

I’m obviously quite pleased to make a relatively easy draw against the World Champion, especially considering that with Black I have a terrible score against him, so it’s clearly an achievement.

The game followed a pawn sacrifice Vienna line that Grischuk had played against Duda earlier in the event, but 8.Qe2 varied from Grischuk’s 8.Qa4. In fact Magnus had also played 8.Qa4 on the way to beating Duda in the 2019 Tata Steel Masters. Our commentators pointed out that the position after 8…0-0 9.Bg5 was typical of modern chess, with White doing well despite seemingly being just a healthy pawn down.

Duda commented:

Of course I have to be precise with Black in this variation — otherwise I get checkmated! What can I add more?

Things got interesting when 11…Nc6!? seemed to catch Magnus off-guard, while there was a sharp position after 13…Bxh4.


Magnus went for 14.Bxc6 after 15 minutes’ thought, with Duda pointing out the alternative 14.Be4. That might have worked out well for the World Champion, since Jan-Krzysztof said he was planning to play 14…Be7 and meet 15.d5 with 15…exd5 16.Nxd5 Bd6!. That variation looks fine for Black, but it seems 15.Bb1! is much more testing. 

In any case, after 14.Bxc6 bxc6 15.Qc4 Duda showed he was ready for a fight with 15…Rb8!?

That was inviting 16.d5!? Bxf2+!? (the computer also points out 16…Bf6) 17.Kxf2 Rxb2+! and in the end Black emerges with four pawns for a piece.

Magnus wasn’t interested in such adventures, however, and played the rock solid 16.Nxh4 Qxh4 17.b3, with Magnus shortly afterwards surprising Duda by grabbing a pawn on c6. It allowed Duda to play 18…Bb7.


Here 19.Qxc7?! would run into an idea Svidler spotted in a flash, 19…Bxg2! 20.Kxg2 Rcb8, hitting the queen and the c3-knight, when Black would end up slightly better. Instead Magnus played 19.Qc5!, an idea Duda said he’d underestimated, and one which provoked him into forcing off queens with 19…Qg5 (threatening checkmate on g2). That left the following position.

Duda felt the same as Jan:

When I played this Qg5 I wasn’t happy to play like this against Magnus, because it’s easy to become paranoid in such slightly worse endgames against him, but I didn’t quite see the way. He proposed 19…a6 after the game, but I didn’t seriously consider that move. It was maybe slightly better for him, because he had a better pawn structure, but still I should be fine.

There was a moment of drama after 21.h3 Bd5 22.Re5 f6, when Magnus didn’t retreat the rook but played 23.Nxd5!?

It was a clever idea, but it seems objectively to have posed the fewest problems for Duda, who, after recovering from the shock, went on to play perfectly, including finding a nice little endgame trick that Peter and Jan were looking forward to from the moment they spotted it could occur. 

31.Rxc8 would run into 31…d2 and the pawn can’t be stopped (though, in passing, it’s not out of the question that 32.Rc7+ Ke8 33.Rxa7 d1=Q+ is a fortress!).

A draw was agreed a couple of moves later, with Duda once again at this World Cup seeming to live dangerously in the opening but confidently calculating his way out of any difficultly.

Magnus Carlsen would dearly love to win the FIDE World Cup, while for Duda the main goal is perhaps to qualify for the Candidates | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

Magnus will perhaps be eyeing the upcoming game on Monday a little nervously. Duda always plays for a win with White — and memorably ended Carlsen’s 125-game unbeaten streak in Norway Chess last year — and stakes will be high, with no-one wanting to fall at the final hurdle before the final. Magnus may also have in the back of his mind how close he came to an exit against Duda’s Polish colleague Radek Wojtaszek in the second game of Round 4.

A curious coincidence

Anna Muzychuk and Tan Zhongyi's game began identically to Fedoseev-Karjakin | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

The two other matches in Sochi on Sunday saw less drama, though it was curious that they both reached exactly the same Isolated Queen’s Pawn position after 12…Rd8.


Vladimir Fedoseev was taking on Sergey Karjakin and commented:

It was quite funny today because it looks like they’re just waiting for our moves and then play the same! But then she just decided to take on f6. I guess after taking on f6 White has absolutely nothing and I calculated this variation that happened in the Tan Zhongyi game against Anna Muzychuk to Rd6 at the beginning of our game… But I think I played better, and somewhere I got a promising advantage, but it’s so small because we exchanged so many pieces and the position was solid all the time. 

While it’s true that Tan Zhongyi’s 13.Bxf6 gave very little after 13…Bxf6 14.Nxd5 Qxb2 15.Nxf6+ Qxf6 it may have actually been a better option than Fedoseev’s 13.Nb5!?, since five moves later Sergey missed an opportunity. 


18…c5!? was the try, and it looks a question of whether Black is just comfortably equalising when he later pushes d4 or if he can try for more. 

Instead after 18…Ne4!? the c6-pawn never moved until it was eventually captured on move 44. The game itself continued until move 69, with Vladimir perhaps recalling his late win over Tabatabaei. Sergey never gave an inch, however, and never looked in danger. 

How long did you make me play? There were smiles all round at the end, with Sergey now having the white pieces on Monday as he aims for the final and the Candidates | photo: Anastasia Korolkova, official website

So the stakes couldn’t be higher on Monday. Aleksandra Goryachkina must win or Alexandra Kosteniuk will be the Women’s World Cup winner, while one mistake in Duda-Carlsen and Karjakin-Fedoseev could cost a player a place in the World Cup Final and, for everyone but Magnus, a spot in the Candidates Tournament. Don’t miss it! 

Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson again commentate live from 14:00 CEST right here on chess24: Open | Women

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