Alexandra Kosteniuk is the 2021 FIDE Women’s World Cup Champion after offering a draw in a winning position to clinch victory against Aleksandra Goryachkina. Her feat of winning the title without needing tiebreaks once was a repeat of how she won the Women’s World Championship in 2008, while the 43 rating points she picked up took her back into the women’s Top 10. Elsewhere Sergey Karjakin reached the final and booked a spot in the Candidates after an opening disaster for Vladimir Fedoseev, while Magnus Carlsen and Jan-Krzysztof Duda will play tiebreaks after Duda pressed hard but couldn’t break through.
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.
37-year-old Alexandra Kosteniuk has repeated the knockout triumph she achieved in 2008 as a 24-year-old, when she won the Women’s World Championship title by defeating Atousa Pourkashiyan, Tatiana Kosintseva, Anna Ushenina, Pia Cramling and then Hou Yifan, all without the need for tiebreaks.
Back then Kosteniuk was seeded 9th, while this time she was seeded 14th but also won all her matches without tiebreaks, against Deysi Cori, Pia Cramling (as in 2008!), Mariya Muzychuk, Valentina Gunina, Tan Zhongyi and finally Aleksandra Goryachkina. She talked about what it meant to win such a knockout again:
A lot! When you are young and you win you don’t really appreciate it that much, and when you become older, well at least in my case, every victory is like something unbelievable, because you start to appreciate these victories much more and, of course, as time goes by you think more often about retirement and all this stuff. These victories motivate you to go on, and I don’t know for how long, but of course I’m very happy.
The final game was one that Kosteniuk only needed to draw after winning a crazy game the day before — she admitted while talking to Sergey Shipov after the final game that it had helped her that she simply hadn’t realised how bad her position had been in that game.
In the second game the opening was curious, with neither Kosteniuk nor Goryachkina seeming to make the optimal choices for their match situation.
Nevertheless, we got a tense position where any mistake might have been fatal. Instead, there were no clear mistakes, but certainly some questionable decisions.
Here Kosteniuk said afterwards that she thought 28.Qa6 was simply winning, but the practical choice would have been to play 28.Rxd8! Rxd8 (28…Qxe2?? 29.R1d7# is checkmate!) 29.Qxg4 hxg4 30.Rxd8 and the opposite-coloured bishop ending should have been a comfortable draw.
Instead things stayed tense, but in the end a move that Kosteniuk had missed for her opponent helped her clinch the title.
Here Goryachkina went for 38…Bxf4?! when Kosteniuk was forced to trade down on d8 into an opposite-coloured bishop ending, but one which turned out to be very good for White. Alexandra commented:
Closer to time trouble I missed Bxf4. I’m not sure about the evaluation of this endgame, but it suddenly became very double-edged with all these passed pawns running forwards. Luckily, I was just in time.
The game ended when Kosteniuk queened her a-pawn, and Goryachkina made a well-timed draw offer, since if she queened her own pawn she would likely have gone on to lose a queen ending three pawns down with her opponents being the first to give checks.
That meant that Kosteniuk picked up a mere 43 and not 48 rating points for an incredible tournament!
It was a richly deserved win for Alexander Kosteniuk, while Alexandra Goryachkina suffered final heartbreak not so long after also finishing runner-up in the Women’s World Championship. The 22-year-old is nevertheless showing consistency at a very high level and has done better than most top seeds have managed historically in these big knockout events.
The Women’s World Cup isn’t quite over, since the 3rd place match between Anna Muzychuk and Tan Zhongyi goes to tiebreaks on Tuesday. For a while it looked as though Tan Zhongyi would repeat her achievement against Kateryna Lagno of taking over and winning the second game with the black pieces, but this time she couldn’t quite find the finishing touches.
2015 World Cup winner Sergey Karjakin has once more reached the final after overcoming Vladimir Fedoseev in the 2nd classical game. The game was all but decided in a sharp opening that both players knew well. Anish Giri noted in earlier commentary that Sergey worked so hard on chess as a kid that whenever he decides to really focus again he can return to the very top level quickly.
That’s why on move 16 he wasn’t tempted by 16.f4?!, since he noted that as an 11-year-old he already knew the trap 16…Bc5+ 17.Kh2 Bc8! 18.fxe5? Ng4+! as he managed to play it against Gata Kamsky on the Internet Chess Club.
In fact until 19…f5 the game was still following Tari-Vidit from the 2018 Tata Steel Challengers and Oparin-Morozevich from the 2015 Nutcracker Tournament.
Sergey thought for 24 minutes before going for the new move 20.h4!? and it was here that Fedoseev’s strongest weapon in the 2021 FIDE World Cup — his speed of play — turned into his greatest weakness. He blitzed out 20…Be7 21.h5 Rf8? and, just like that, was all but lost.
The rook move had some logic — as Sergey pointed out it prepared Qe8 to attack the h5-pawn — but now Sergey first included 22.axb5 axb5 23.Rxa8 Bxa8 before playing a move he could also have made immediately, 24.e6!, opening a gaping hole on e5 for the white knight.
Too late, Vladimir sank into a 25-minute think, before making the sad retreat 24…Re8. He went down with a fight, sacrificing a piece on f2, but 31.d5! ensured Sergey kept complete control, and resignation came a couple of moves later.
As with everyone involved with the World Cup, Sergey Karjakin has been fighting exhaustion, and commented afterwards:
I’m very happy. I must say that when I played against Shankland I was somehow… of course I wanted to win, but at the same time I was feeling like if I win and then I lose to Fedoseev and then I have to play one more match, and then if I lose one more match, it will be just horrible, but fortunately it didn’t happen! Because I have a feeling that this match for the third place is somehow just pointless, and I want to win this match much more than any other match.
Sergey is not only in the final but already qualified for the 2022 Candidates Tournament, but in fact it’s quite possible that the 3rd place match will have more at stake than the final — if Carlsen reaches the final then Duda-Fedoseev would be playing for a place in the Candidates.
That’s a big if, however, with Jan-Krzysztof the player who came closest to clinching a spot in the final in a tense 2nd classical game on Monday. Magnus sprung a surprise in an Anti-Marshall with 8…Rb8!?
Duda paused but then responded confidently, and it would be curious to know if he’d been given any tips from his fellow Pole, and Vishy Anand’s long-term second, Grzegorz Gajewski.
In any case, Duda went for an absolute main line of the Marshall with the difference that Rb8 and exchanging pawns on b5 had been included. Our commentators suspected that it meant that a line that’s normally considered more or less harmless with Qf1 might suddenly have had more venom.
That impression was boosted by Magnus taking over 28 minutes to reply with 18…Qxf1 and after 19.Kxf1 Bf5 Duda played a move often seen in the Marshall:
20.Nd2! looks to have been a completely correct exchange sacrifice.
As the game ground on, Duda was doing what Magnus likes to do to his opponent, applying slow-burning positional pressure.
Our commentators couldn’t see any easy solution for Magnus.
If there was no easy solution, however, it seems Magnus found a tricky one, playing computer-approved moves that eventually steered the game to a clearly drawn position.
Magnus was visibly unhappy at the end.
Still, no harm was done, and now Magnus will play his 3rd tiebreaks of the World Cup, for a place in the final. It’s only the second tiebreaks for Duda, who is now the only unbeaten player in the overall World Cup.
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