FIDE Chess World Cup 2021 – Semi Finals

FIDE World Cup 2021

The semi-finals of the FIDE World Cup was held on the 1st of August, where all the eight players returned to compete after a rest day.

Magnus Carlsen and Jan-Krzysztof Duda displayed extraordinary skill on the first board, where the game started with the Queen’s Gambit declined opening, and Duda replied to Carlen’s d4 with Nf6. Carlsen played an interesting Nc3 on the fourth move, which allowed the variation to transpose into the Queen’s Gambit accepted variation, where White sacrifices a pawn to promote development.

Duda kept the situation calm by giving the lost pawn back to Carlsen to maintain the pawn structure. Carlsen played aggressively in the end game, trying to work towards a win. However, Duda played an extremely defensive game forcing the Rook ending into a draw. 

Second Board

The second board had an all Russian semi-final with GM Vladimir Fedoseev (2696) and GM Sergey Karjakin (2757) playing against each other. The game began with the Queen’s Gambit Semi-Tarrasch variation, and the two players exchanged their minor pieces early into the game.

They then played using their Queens and Rooks for quite some time, and they then went into a Rook ending with Karjakin being a pawn down in the end game. Although Karjakin was a pawn down, he had a passed pawn which caused the game to end as a draw on the 69th move.

Simultaneously we had the Grand Finale of the Women’s Category between two Russian Grand Masters, Aleksandra Goryachkina (2596) and Alexandra Kosteniuk (2472). Goryachkina began the game with the Queen pawn opening, which transposed into the Catalan Opening.

Goryachkina played a surprising move on the 7th move, and Kosteniuk was able to maintain a balance in the game while simultaneously having a good pawn structure. Unfortunately, Kosteniuk made a blunder on the 20th move, which won Goryachkina a pawn.

Goryachkina gained more advantage through the course of the game but was low on time and misplayed the ending, allowing Kosteniuk to convert this game into a victory for herself. 

The match for third place was taken place on the second board in the Women’s Category between China’s GM Tan Zhongyi (2511) and GM Anna Muzychuk (2527), representing Ukraine, and this game started with the Queen’s Gambit Declined Semi-Tarrasch variation. The game saw a few exchanges and progressed towards a Queen ending that led to a draw. 

Second Game Of The Semi-Finals

The second game of the semi-finals of the Open category and finals of the Women’s category was held on 2nd August 2021. On the first board, the game between Duda and Carlsen began with the King Pawn Opening and the game transposed into the anti-Marshall variation of the Ruy Lopez Opening. Carlsen then deviated the game into a variation Duda was not prepared for and Carlsen followed this by playing an even further surprising move on the 9th move, which was d5.

The two later exchanged Queens and progressed to an equal end game, and everyone expected the game to end as a draw. However, Duda sacrificed his Rook for a Knight and a pawn. Unfortunately, neither opponent had a clear advantage, and the game resulted in a draw.

On the second board in the Open category, GM Sergey Karjakin and GM Vladimir Fedoseev began the game with the Ruy Lopez Opening, where Fedoseev played the Zaitsev variation which usually leads to a draw by threefold repetition after the 11th move.

However, Karjakin had different plans, and on the 13th move, Fedoseev drifted from the mainline, and on the 20th move, after 25 minutes of thinking, Karjakin came up with h4, a great move, trying to control Black’s Kingside development. Fedoseev blundered on the next move, which allowed White to play e6, which put immense pressure on Fedoseev.

Under such pressure, Fedoseev initiated exchanges, and after Karjakin played d5 on the 31st move, it was clear that the game was completely in his favour, making Karjakin the first player to enter the Grand finale of the FIDE World Cup 2021. 

The first board in the Women’s Category saw a crucial match where Goryachkina was under tremendous pressure to win this game, and she began the game with the French Defense. She then played an excellent move on the 12th move, which led to an unbalanced game.

On the other hand, Kosteniuk played it safe by exchanging the Queen and Rooks. The game progressed to an end game between two opposite coloured Bishops and equal pawns. Goryachkina succumbed to this pressure, and the game came close to a queen ending where Goryachkina was at a complete disadvantage.

At this point, Kosteniuk graciously offered a draw which Goryachkina accepted, making Kosteniuk the winner of the Women’s Category of the FIDE World Cup.

In the match taking place on the second board, for the third place in the Women’s Category, Zhongyi began the game with the Petroff Defense. Twenty moves into the game, the game displayed an equal position which resembled an exchange variation of the French Defense.

Muzychuk had two Bishops while Zhongyi had a strong Knight, and as the game reached the end game, Zhongyi had a better position, but Muzychuk put up a strong defence which led to a draw on the 49th move. The two fought for third place in the final tie break, held on the following day.

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