Carlsen Strikes Back, Caruana In Last 16 Of FIDE World Cup

Carlsen Strikes Back, Caruana In Last 16 Of FIDE World Cup


World number-one Magnus Carlsen won on demand to keep his 2023 FIDE World Cup hopes alive despite gifting GM Vincent Keymer a huge chance to seal their match. GM Wesley So is out after failing to mount a comeback against GM Alexey Sarana, while GM Fabiano Caruana is the first top seed through to the Last-16.  

GM Humpy Koneru also hit back in the Women’s section, where only GMs Aleksandra Goryachkina and Tan Zhongyi, and IM Polina Shuvalova, are through to the quarterfinals without tiebreaks.

The round four tiebreaks begin Friday, August 11, at 7 a.m. ET / 13:00 CEST / 4:30 p.m IST.

   How to watch the 2023 FIDE World Cup

Despite double the number of games in the Open section, just three were decisive compared to four in the Women’s event, but it was a day when the Carlsen vs. Keymer game alone was enough to keep chess fans on tenterhooks. In total, 15 matches have gone to tiebreaks on Friday.

Open Section: Carlsen Avoids Humiliation, Caruana Through

Carlsen has never won the World Cup and shared how he felt after losing to Keymer in the first game of round four: “If I bust out tomorrow that’s going to be another humiliation in the World Cup, and I know that I’ll forget about it in a couple of days, but still, it’s less than ideal.”

For game two, the former world champion had the white pieces and stuck to his routine of arriving at the last moment, just after the clocks had been started.

The opening went about as well as Carlsen could hope, as he got Keymer out of preparation, but when he pushed 16.a3? Magnus suddenly understood that his World Cup adventure could be over in a couple of moves.

He explained:

He kind of flinched when I played 16.a3?, and then I thought, ‘Oh, what’s the problem?’ and then I immediately saw Nxe4, and I thought, yeah, that’s the World Cup! So I just went to the bathroom more in disbelief than anything else, and when I came back he played 16…Bxc3, I took back (17.Qxc3), and I expected that to be that, but then he took on c3 (17…Qxc3?) and honestly, I was so shocked!

I thought, yeah, that’s the World Cup!

—Magnus Carlsen 

The shock was captured for all to see, and caught the attention of the 13th world chess champion, GM Garry Kasparov.

“That was some serious breaks for me today,” Carlsen summed up, and from what was very close to an equal position he went on to outplay his young opponent in our Game of the Day.

Keymer had a tough day at the office, but can still win the match in tiebreaks. Photo: Stev Bonhage/FIDE.

GM Rafael Leitao has annotated the game below.

Carlsen confessed afterward that he’s fighting some inner demons in Baku: “Progressing in the World Cup is one thing… Honestly, almost since day one, I’ve been wondering, what am I doing here? Why am I spending all this time playing classical chess, which I just find stressful and boring? It’s also not a good state of mind!”

Why am I spending all this time playing classical chess, which I just find stressful and boring?

—Magnus Carlsen

At least the five-time world champion now has the chance to play some rapid and blitz in the tiebreaks, which is more than can be said for So, whose World Cup ended not with a bang, but a whimper. From what the three-time U.S. Champion had said in his interviews it felt hard to imagine him risking all to win on demand with the black pieces, and in fact he played the Grunfeld, got a position where all he could do was defend, and offered a draw on move 30. Sarana gratefully accepted his spot in the Last-16.

That draw at least preserved So’s place in the top-10 on the live rating list, while winning on demand is tough for anyone. No one but Carlsen managed in the Open section, with GM Ruslan Ponomariov thwarted by the super-solid French of GM Ferenc Berkes.

No-one ever accused Ponomariov of not playing on until the bitter end. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

GM Nils Grandelius went through in 31 moves against GM Jaime Santos Latasa, with the Swedish GM afterward giving his tips for World Cup success.

In the World Cup this is one of the most important things: to always stay in the moment and not be thinking back and so on. For instance today, I had a completely fine position after the opening, and suddenly I missed one of his ideas and it was a little bit unpleasant. What I usually do in such a situation is I’m telling myself, how could I make such a stupid decision, why did I allow this, now I have to suffer, and so on, but actually today I managed to think about this maybe for five seconds, and then just kept playing the position.

The boldest attempt to win on demand was unsurprisingly made by French GM Etienne Bacrot, who engaged GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi in a huge fight. It was entertaining to watch, even if Naroditsky described the position as “nauseatingly complex.” Vidit managed to remain on top for most of the game and was ultimately able to force a draw. The final position was striking, with the Indian star having five pawns to his opponent’s zero.

Two players drew their first games and won the second, with 19-year-old Indian GM Arjun Erigaisi shrugging off his failure to convert a winning position with the white pieces the day before and outplaying 17-year-old Uzbek GM Javokhir Sindarov in a rook endgame. Arjun will now play Grandelius in the only last-16 match not to be dependent on tiebreaks.

Erigaisi has now eliminated GM Vladimir Fedoseev and Sindarov without the need for tiebreaks. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other win was a spectacular effort by Caruana, who won a 27-move miniature against his fellow U.S. GM Ray Robson.

Caruana is through to the last-16 of the World Cup for a 3rd time, though he’s never made it past the quarterfinals. If he’s going to get to that stage he’ll have to beat defending champion GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda or GM Parham Maghsoodloo, with Caruana telling the story of how when he played Maghsoodloo in Wijk aan Zee, “I’ve never seen someone want to beat me so much!” He talked about his potential opponent’s “naked ambition.”

We came close to getting a confirmed Caruana-Maghsoodloo pairing, since the Iranian had real winning chances in a rook endgame against Duda.

Maghsoodloo was described as showing “naked ambition” by Caruana. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

GM Dommaraju Gukesh could have punished GM Andrey Esipenko for over-ambition, while both GM Daniele Vocaturo and GM Saleh Salem pulled out all the stops to try and win in an 85-move marathon, but overall players were willing to make relatively quiet draws and take their matches to tiebreaks.

GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu also made a draw on his 18th birthday against GM Hikaru Nakamura, but their clash continued to be enthralling. The way the Indian prodigy developed his bishops is not something children’s chess coaches will want their pupils to see, while 11.0-0-0 sent Nakamura into an almost 40-minute think. 

Praggnanandhaa called it a “very interesting game”, and his opponent agreed. The world number-two goes over his thoughts in his daily recap.

Nakamura and Praggnanandhaa will now continue their battle in tiebreaks, where they’ll be joined by another 18 players in the Open section.

Round 4 Results: Open

Fed Player Rtg Fed Player Rtg G1 G2 TB
GM Vincent Keymer 2690 GM Magnus Carlsen 2835 1-0 0-1 .
GM Vasyl Ivanchuk 2667 GM Vahap Sanal 2585 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Wang Hao 2709 GM Rasmus Svane 2625 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Gukesh D 2744 GM Andrey Esipenko 2683 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Peter Svidler 2688 GM Nijat Abasov 2632 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Saleh Salem 2661 GM Daniele Vocaturo 2609 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Vidit Gujrathi 2719 GM Etienne Bacrot 2662 1-0 ½-½ .
GM Ian Nepomniachtchi 2779 GM Nihal Sarin 2688 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Ray Robson 2689 GM Fabiano Caruana 2782 ½-½ 0-1 .
GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2732 GM Parham Maghsoodloo 2719 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek 2676 GM Leinier Dominguez 2739 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Wesley So 2769 GM Alexey Sarana 2685 0-1 ½-½ .
GM Nils Grandelius 2684 GM Jaime Santos 2656 1-0 ½-½ .
GM Javokhir Sindarov 2659 GM Arjun Erigaisi 2710 ½-½ 0-1 .
GM Ferenc Berkes 2615 GM Ruslan Ponomariov 2664 1-0 ½-½ .
GM Hikaru Nakamura 2787 GM Praggnanandhaa R 2690 ½-½ ½-½ .

All Games: Open Round 4.2

Women’s Section: Humpy Hits Back

The Women’s section will also contribute no fewer than five tiebreaks, after number-three seed Humpy managed to hit back on demand against GM Bela Khotenashvili.

Humpy shrugged off a tough loss the day before to beat Khotenashvili. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

It was a dramatic back-and-forth game, perhaps summed up by the final position.

White is threatening mate-in-one, but Humpy has got there first with checkmate on the board.

That canceled out the only decisive game from the first day of round four, but three players did win to seal their spots in the quarterfinals. Number-two seed Goryachkina continued to draw with Black and win with White as she comfortably beat GM Nino Batsiashvili

Goryachkina continues to avoid tiebreaks. Photo: Stev Bonhage/FIDE.

Tan, who won the 2017 women’s world championship in a 64-player knockout, won the all-Chinese battle against WGM Zhu Jiner, while Shuvalova ended the fine run of Serbian IM Teodora Injac. Shuvalova admitted she’d suffered in the first game, but in the second was able to crush her opponent with the help of some fine preparation.

You won’t see many top-level games where White gets such a dominant position with almost all the pieces still on the board.

The remaining games were drawn, and in the case of GM Elisabeth Paehtz vs. World Champion GM Ju Wenjun in just over five minutes of play. That just means more action, however, since five matches go to tiebreaks on Friday.

The other games were just starting when Paehtz and Ju drew lots for tiebreaks on Friday. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

You can play through all the games below.

Round 4 Results: Women

Fed Player Rating

Fed Player Rating G1 G2 TB
GM Ju Wenjun 2564 GM Elisabeth Paehtz 2471 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Anna Muzychuk 2504 GM Mariya Muzychuk 2511 ½-½ ½-½ .
IM Teodora Injac 2415 IM Polina Shuvalova 2496 ½-½ 0-1 .
IM Medina Warda Aulia 2409 IM Nurgyul Salimova 2355 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Humpy Koneru 2553 GM Bella Khotenashvili 2475 0-1 1-0 .
WGM Zhu Jiner 2498 GM Tan Zhongyi 2523 ½-½ 0-1 .
IM Eline Roebers 2419 GM Harika Dronavalli 2500 ½-½ ½-½ .
GM Nino Batsiashvili 2474 GM Aleksandra Goryachkina 2557 ½-½ 0-1 .

All Games: Women’s Round 4.2

The tiebreaks on Friday will see 15 players eliminated, so that by Saturday just 24 players will remain in the 2023 FIDE World Cup.

The 2023 FIDE World Cup and Women’s World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, are big knockout events that will determine six spots in the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournaments. The action begins July 30 and ends August 24, with a combined $2.5 million prize fund.

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