Jan-Krzysztof Duda has qualified for the 2022 Candidates Tournament in spectacular style by beating Magnus Carlsen to reach the final of the FIDE World Cup. The victory was utterly deserved, with Duda yet to lose a game at the World Cup and never in real danger against Magnus, while the World Champion could have escaped but found himself under immense pressure in the second rapid game. Duda now plays fellow Candidate Sergey Karjakin, while Magnus faces a 3rd place match against Vladimir Fedoseev. Tan Zhongyi took 3rd in the women’s event after easily overcoming Anna Muzychuk.
You can replay the day’s games from the FIDE World Cup using the selectors below.
And here’s the commentary on the Round 7 tiebreaks from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler.
Polish no. 1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda comes from the town of Wieliczka, just outside Krakow, which is famous for its Salt Mine, but if he continues like this it may have another claim to fame. Duda had convincingly beaten Alexander Grischuk and Vidit to get to the semi-finals of the FIDE World Cup, but facing World Champion Magnus Carlsen was another challenge entirely. Duda was the man to end Magnus’ 125-game unbeaten streak in classical chess, but could he win a match against the World Champion?
The classical games gave Polish fans every reason to hope. Duda came under some pressure with the black pieces and admitted to blundering one tactic, but he found sharp, resourceful defensive ideas and was never objectively in danger. Then with White he had Magnus on the ropes, torturing the World Champion in a difficult ending.
Nevertheless, we know this story — plucky challenger matches Magnus blow-for-blow in classical chess, but in rapid the Norwegian takes over. True, that hadn’t exactly been the case against Andrey Esipenko, but it was clear Magnus was now the favourite, and the first rapid game didn’t significantly alter that assessment.
Magnus played boldly with the black pieces in an Anti-Berlin, and on move 19 showed that he was tactically alert.
Here he went for 19…b4!, with the point that 20.Bxb4 runs into Ncxe4!, a move possible since White can’t take three times on e4 due to Rxa1 deflecting the white queen.
Duda seemed to have seen it in advance and quickly went for 20.Bb2, with the game remaining extremely sharp after 20…b3! 21.dxc5 bxc2 22.Qxc2 dxc5. The climax arose after Duda’s inventive 28.Qa7!?
28…Qxc3?? would lose to 29.Qxf7+, but if Duda was hoping to rock Magnus he would have been disappointed to see the best reply 28…Qb3! blitzed out. Magnus’ point, apart from defending the f7-square, was that after 29.Qxc5 he had 29…Nf4!, threatening forks on e2 or d3.
According to the computer there was strictly one good move for White, which made the tension huge as Duda ate up 2 minutes and 20 seconds on his clock before finally making the move, with just two seconds to go!
Magnus at this stage had four minutes, but also used up his remaining time as he failed to find anything better than repeating moves with 30…Qd1+ 31.Re1 Qb3 32.Re3 for a draw.
It felt like a sensible decision, since trying to fish in murky waters with e.g. 30…Qb1+ 31.Re1 Qb7!? could backfire, while the direct try 30…Bxe5 31.Bxe5 Qd1+ 32.Kh2 Ne2 doesn’t seem to give anything.
Duda would be forced to sacrifice the exchange with 33.Rxe2 Qxe2, but White should hold easily with the extra pawn and powerful queen + bishop combo.
So both sides had impressed in Game 1, while Magnus had White in Game 2. That should have made him the favourite, but as Duda noted afterwards, “my coach expected him to play something simple with White” and had predicted 3.Bb5+ in the Sicilian. There was to be no Najdorf, with Najdorf incidentally the last Polish player to qualify for a Candidates Tournament, almost 70 years ago in 1953, though by then he was representing Argentina (you can argue about Polish-born Samuel Reshevsky, who played a Candidates in 1967, though he wasn't yet 10 when his family moved to the USA — Najdorf was almost 30 and playing the Olympiad for Poland in Argentina when World War II began).
Duda said they expected Magnus to go for a Maroczy Bind c4, e4 structure rather than the c3-d4 plan he picked in the game, but Duda still managed to get Magnus thinking by going for the almost never played 12…Bb4 instead of 12…Be7.
It’s a theme of the game that Magnus might have started play on the kingside already here with 13.h4!?, with our commentators later feeling that the World Champion got a position demanding a kingside attack but failed to get it rolling until it was too late.
Instead 13.Bf4 0-0 14.Qd3 was a somewhat awkward setup, with Duda happy he “combined pretty well threats with defence” and got to play 19…a6, 20…Qb5!, driving away the white queen.
It seems that Duda then correctly identified 25…a4 as a key moment.
He suggested 26.bxa4!?, while the computer comes up with the clever 26.Rb2!? Bxa3 27.Ra2 Be7 28.bxa4. In both cases, a lot of the tension in the position is released and it feels like the kind of territory where Magnus would be able to bail out without too much difficulty.
Instead he went for 26.b4?!, with Duda explaining:
b4 is like a double-edged sword, of course, but on the other hand, the queenside is closed, and he was obviously counting on an attack.
There was little time to waste with the attack, and after 26…h6 the computer suggests the immediate 27.g4, while after 27.Be3? Na7! in the game it was giving Black as borderline winning.
28.Bd2!? was an example of Magnus’ flexibility and willingness to admit mistakes during a game — reversing a previous move can be one of the hardest things to do in chess — and he also showed huge determination as he tried to limit the damage. Duda regretted getting his queen somewhat trapped on c4 (the computer agrees e.g. 29…Qa6! was better), but still, whatever the objective evaluation of the position, Magnus was hanging on by a thread.
Here he went for 33.g4!? (33.Qf1! and the computer was almost happy about life).
If it didn’t look great immediately, it might have paid off if Magnus had later gone for g5 one move earlier than he did.
42.g5! After 42…hxg5 43.hxg5 the point is to meet 43…Rxa3 with 43.Rd1! and suddenly it’s a draw.
In fact if Black makes one careless move such as 44…Rb3?, Magnus would be winning after 45.Rh1! and, with the white queen ready to join the attack, it’s the black king that’s doomed.
Instead Magnus tried to keep things tight for one move longer, but after 42.Ra2? Bd8 43.g5 hxg5 44.hxg5 he was hit by the kill-joy 44…Qc4!
You can see now how unfortunate the rook is on a2, since it means the white queen can’t go to f3 or g4, as in the previous variation, while of course Ra1-h1 is also not an option, with the queen hanging on e2.
Objectively speaking this should have been game-over, but here Duda admitted afterwards to making a conceptual mistake when Magnus captured with 45.Qxc4. Duda played what he believed was the strongest move 45…dxc4!?, but realised afterwards that 45…Rxc4 would have been much easier. Material is equal, but it’s good bishop vs. bad bishop with simply too many weaknesses in the white camp.
Instead 45…dxc4 allowed 46.d5!?, which, while not objectively the strongest move, was one that suddenly sowed mayhem in mutual time trouble. Duda said he’d calculated Rd2 first to prepare d5, but had overlooked it could be played immediately. After 46…exd5 47.Rd2 Duda played 47…Rd3!?, explaining:
I thought that Rd3 and going into this bishop endgame was a very practical choice, because there is no way I can lose it, simply, and also I’m pressing, probably even winning, but I don’t know what was the evaluation — it was very shaky.
Remarkably, just two moves later Black had just one very tricky move to win!
Duda “missed" 49…f6! here, and on the next move, and suddenly Magnus had what seemed a relatively easy draw, but even great champions can struggle to keep a cool head after such a gut-wrenching game. 55.b5?! seemed to create an unnecessary weakness, but the match might still have headed to 10-minute games if Magnus had played 62.Bd4! Instead he went for 62…Bc1? and there were no more twists… except for the one Duda revealed afterwards.
62…Bc3! was the key move and the march of the d-pawn is decisive. 63.Be3 is too late to stop it, with 63…b6+! 64.Kxb6 d4 the clearest win. In the game we saw 63.b6 d4, but Duda admitted that he’d played the winning idea while unable to see why he wasn’t losing!
At some point I even gambled I think, because I played Bc3, and I didn’t see what to do after Kb7 b6. Only some seconds later I spotted that there is d2, and I can take on f4 and e5, which would be winning for me.
It seems he was referring to the line 63.Kb6 d4 64.Kxb7 d3 65.b6.
The only move to win — and not to lose — here is indeed 65…d2! with 66.Bxd2 Bxd2 67.Kc8 Bxf4 68.b7 Bxe5 and Black is in time to win back the new queen and score a trivial win in the pawn endgame. A round of applause for Duda’s intuition and courage, while in the circumstances we can forgive his calculation!
In the game it was all easy for Jan-Krzysztof, with the final position one in which the simplest win is just to play Bg3, Bxf4 and march one of his pawns to victory.
It was a truly thrilling game and the best possible way to qualify for the Candidates, a tournament offering the chance to earn a World Championship match against Magnus. It may take some time to come to terms with.
It was so complicated it’s difficult to say something clever now, and I’m also kind of shocked right now and also kind of exhausted, to be honest!
Jan-Krzysztof has always talked about the World Championship title in interviews, but until now it seemed he was still struggling to break into the absolute elite — though it’s noteworthy that the only player younger and higher-rated than the 23-year-old is Alireza Firouzja.
Before thinking about the Candidates, however, Jan-Krzysztof has the small matter of a World Cup final against Sergey Karjakin to take care of. There’s prestige and of course money at stake.
He’s obviously a very difficult opponent, but I hope I will be kind of relaxed once I have qualified to the Candidates. We’ll see what is going to happen, but I think Magnus is of course the most difficult player on the planet.
Duda was also congratulated by the Polish Prime Minister.
A historic success for our compatriot! Jan-Krzysztof Duda beat Norwegian World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the semi-final of the Chess World Cup. Fingers crossed for the final!
For Magnus it means the World Cup is one tournament he still hasn’t won, having made the semi-finals twice — he lost to Gata Kamsky as a 17-year-old back in 2007. Reaching so far in a tournament where top seeds dropped like flies (it’s 10th seed vs. 12th in the final) is still an impressive achievement, however, and Magnus was gracious in defeat.
In terms of practice, playing Vladimir Fedoseev for 3rd place could be looked on as almost ideal for facing Ian Nepomniachtchi in the World Championship match. Fedoseev is another extremely gifted Russian who loves to try and bamboozle his opponents by playing (sometimes too) fast and trickily.
The FIDE Women’s World Cup came to an end on Tuesday as Chinese former Women’s World Champion Tan Zhongyi fully justified her decision to play, unlike most of her compatriots. She would say afterwards:
I cherish this opportunity to play, because in two days I’m going to go back to China and there will not be any more competitions.
The 3rd place tiebreak turned on the first game, where Tan Zhongyi thought it was a mistake for her opponent to go for the Petroff, where Zhongyi was very well-prepared. Anna Muzychuk’s early attack would backfire.
13.h5!? Nxh5! didn’t work out well.
The problem for Anna was as much the clock as the position on the board, with the hyper-aggressive 24…b5!? for Tan seeing Anna make her next move with three seconds to spare while her opponent still had 17 minutes in reserve.
In those circumstances it was almost impossible to hold, and Tan took the lead.
That left Anna needing to win with the black pieces and she picked the Albin Countergambit 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5!? They were following a game Daniil Dubov won against Sam Shankland with it in the Opera Euro Rapid, but as Peter Svidler revealed, it seems Daniil had done that against the advice of his second only after a meal in which some alcohol and dares may have been involved! In addition, in the following position Dubov correctly played 6…Ng6!
Anna must have mixed something up with 6…b5, since she was lost after the standard reply 7.a4!
The game did at least last a lot longer than our commentators expected, with Tan Zhongyi admitting that she forced a draw in a winning position at the end because she was worried what her coaching team would have to say about her if she’d played on and lost.
So that means on Wednesday there are just two matches in progress in the FIDE World Cup: Duda vs. Karjakin in the final and Carlsen vs. Fedoseev for 3rd place. Don't miss all the action live here on chess24 from 14:00 CEST!
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