Vidit Beats Nepo; 4 Indians In World Cup Quarterfinals

Vidit Beats Nepo; 4 Indians In World Cup Quarterfinals


GM Vidit Gujrathi outplayed number-four seed GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in round-five tiebreaks to reach the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIDE World Cup, so that half of the remaining field now hails from the rising chess powerhouse of India.

IM Nurgyul Salimova is the shock semifinalist in the Women’s section after overcoming IM Polina Shuvalova in just two games. She’s joined by GMs Anna Muzychuk and Aleksandra Goryachkina, who survived rollercoaster tiebreaks against GMs Elisabeth Paehtz and Harika Dronavalli respectively. 

Round six—the Open quarterfinals and the Women’s semifinals—begins Tuesday, August 15, at 7 a.m. ET / 13:00 CEST / 4:30 p.m. IST.

How to watch the 2023 FIDE World Cup

Seven of the eight players in the quarterfinals of the Open section were already decided on Sunday, giving them a rest day to gather strength for the battle ahead. Top seed GM Magnus Carlsen was taking a leaf from the book of his golf-fanatic coach GM Peter Heine Nielsen.

Two players, however, faced tiebreaks to decide who would qualify.

In the Women’s event, meanwhile, only GM Tan Zhongyi had booked her spot in the semifinals, with six players needing to go through the ordeal of rapid, and potentially blitz, tiebreaks.

Vidit 4-2 Nepomniachtchi

20th-seed Vidit came into this match against world number-five Nepomniachtchi as the clear underdog, but there was no arguing with his assessment of how it went: “I think I played very good chess and I was never really in trouble in any games, actually.”

Vidit pointed out that he missed a big chance in the first classical game, and the first two 25-minute tiebreak games showed that the Indian star had come very well-prepared, both chess-wise and mentally.

The first showed the shocking depth to which the top players can prepare openings. 31.g3! was a move that had to be foreseen when going for this whole extraordinary adventure against Nepomniachtchi’s Petroff Defense.

A rook down, Vidit offers his bishop on d2, though it’s true that taking it would be inadvisable, since pushing the pawn to h4 would then be checkmate. The two-time world championship challenger did everything right as well, and though his 31…Bg6 was the computer’s second choice after 31…h4, it proved sufficient to trade down into an equal rook ending that was soon drawn.

Nepomniachtchi chose a bold T-shirt. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The second 25-minute game was a similarly heavyweight struggle, though a less spectacular one, and it ended in a draw on move 45 after flawless play by both sides.

That meant 10-minute games would follow, and Vidit got in the mood with some pre-game meditation.

His routine worked to perfection, as he went on to win a nerve-wracking but brilliant game. The moment Vidit turned to afterward was when he correctly rejected a draw by threefold repetition after spotting a defense he’d initially missed.

The first two rapid games were very level, so I’m very relieved that in the 10-minute section I managed to win this game with Black, rejecting the draw, because we were almost repeating three times, and then I had like 30 seconds.


That clash is our Game of the Day, which has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao.

This is the moment Nepomniachtchi resigned.

That left Nepomniachtchi facing the tough task of winning with the black pieces. He chose maximum violence, playing a wild Dutch Defense with an early g5, but Vidit played a near-perfect game, combining taking advantage of his opponent’s liberties with never losing control.

Here are the final moments.

That result was extraordinary in a number of ways. Personally for Vidit it meant that he’d done something only Carlsen had managed—qualified for the quarterfinals in both 2021 and 2023. It was also astonishing on an international level, since four Indian players had reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup, a feat only managed before by Russia. As if to emphasize the point, this was the first time in the history of either the World Cup or similar knockout world championships that no Russian player had made it to this stage in the Open section.

Round 5 Results: Open

Vidit commented on the other Indian qualifiers:

It’s absolutely amazing, and also one of them for sure will go to the semis. We’re doing very well, what can I say? I think everybody is showing very high-level play. Pragg defeated Hikaru, which is not easy, Arjun was very clinical with his wins, especially against Sindarov. Gukesh won with Black against Wang Hao, which is never easy. All of them are playing really good chess, so that’s why I think they’re deserving to be here.

On paper Vidit now has the easiest path to the semifinals, since he takes on the 69th-seed, GM Nijat Abasov. Vidit revealed he knows his opponent well:

Actually he’s a good friend. Whenever I come to Azerbaijan, we hang out together. He has shown me one very nice Indian restaurant, which I keep going to.

It won’t be easy, however, since Abasov has left a trail of destruction in his wake as he’s taken on higher-rated players to reach this stage.    

Salimova 3-1 Shuvalova

The underdog in the Women’s section is 29th-seed Salimova, but the 20-year-old Bulgarian believed in her chances: “I really prepared very seriously, and this year is going well for me since the beginning of the year, so of course nobody will expect something like this, but for me it wasn’t something impossible, and I’m of course very happy!”

She managed to wrap up victory in just two tiebreak games.

The match turned on the first, where Shuvalova was on the verge of a win with the black pieces before a couple of moves changed everything.

For the next must-win game Shuvalova repeated the opening she’d played in the second classical game with 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4, about which Salimova had a confession to make.

Yesterday I was the most mad about this, because in my head, when she played this opening, I mixed it up with some other opening, and I played 3…c6!? and then, when I noticed, I was shocked. How can I do this in the quarterfinal of the World Cup? But of course I checked immediately.

Salimova is one win away from qualifying for the Candidates. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Salimova this time went for 3…Nxe4, and though the outcome of the opening was mixed, when Shuvalova tried to attack on the kingside it backfired spectacularly. 

The other two tiebreaks in the Women’s competition stretched to six games.

Muzychuk 4.5-3.5 Paehtz

Muzychuk and Paehtz showed that being good friends…

…was no obstacle to putting up a huge fight on the chessboard.

When Paehtz won the first tiebreak game with a powerful kingside attack with the black pieces, Muzychuk was worried: “Today I lost the first game with White, and I thought, maybe it’s over for me.”

She needn’t have worried, however, since it turned out to be a match where having the white pieces brought only trouble. 

Muzychuk comfortably hit back to level the match, then took the lead by winning with Black, before blundering at the very end of the next game just when she seemed to have survived a powerful attack. That was nothing compared to the blunder in the next game, however, that gave the Ukrainian grandmaster something worth its weight in gold—a win with the white pieces.

After a flawless play by both sides, Paehtz blundered with 24…Qc6??.

25.Qxe4! was winning on the spot, since the queen can’t be captured without allowing a back-rank checkmate.

Muzychuk had seen the trap a couple of moves earlier, and explained she only thought for 16 seconds to make sure she hadn’t overlooked something. She hadn’t, and there was no way back for Paehtz.

Muzychuk survived some scares! Photo: Maria Emelianova/

There was still a last chance for Paehtz to hit back, but although she got a good position out of the opening it soon turned around until it was Muzychuk who made a draw from a position of strength and goes forward to the semi-finals.  

Goryachkina 4.5-3.5 Harika

After the first tiebreak game this match looked close to decided, but it turned into yet another thriller.

Goryachkina reached the final of the 2021 FIDE Women’s World Cup and was the highest remaining seed in the 2023 event after the loss of GM Ju Wenjun. She had also finished all her previous matches in classical chess, so that the last thing you needed to give her was a headstart. That’s just what Harika did, however, since, playing with the white pieces in an equal position, she made the disastrous blunder 55.Bxb3??.

55…Rc3+ simply won the bishop, and after 56.Kf4 Rxb3 57.Rxb3 Bxb3 Harika perhaps only played on for a while out of inertia.

When asked about now facing Tan, who beat her in this year’s Candidates matches, Goryachkina said she might stop giving interviews if they were only to remind her about bad moments in her life! Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Goryachkina now only had to make a draw with the white pieces to win the match, and in the interview afterward she was still clearly shocked that she hadn’t managed. Harika instead bounced back after her blunder to play a brilliant game.

That was the high point for Harika, since after two draws in the 10-minute games, a blunder once again cost her dearly in the first five-minute game.

That left Harika needing to bounce back again, but this time Goryachkina was able to close the position, and though the game lasted until a draw on move 95, the outcome of the match was never in doubt. That meant it fell just short of being a perfect day for Indian chess.

The Women’s semifinals look as follows.

Round 5 Results: Women

Two things are noteworthy. One is that three of the players, Muzychuk, Goryachkina, and Tan, also reached the semifinals in 2021.

The other is that Goryachkina has already qualified to play in the 2024 FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament, so that if she now finishes in the top-three her spot will instead be given to the highest-rated player on the January 2024 Women’s FIDE rating list. Currently that would mean a place for Indian GM Humpy Koneru, since GM Hou Yifan would be ineligible due to playing too few games.

These are exciting times for Indian chess, with Gukesh-Carlsen and Erigaisi-Praggnanandhaa on the menu for Tuesday.

Round 5 Tiebreak Games: Open & Women

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 began July 30 and ends August 24, with a combined $2.5 million prize fund.

Previous Coverage


Source link

Tinggalkan Balasan