Carlsen, Arjun, Goryachkina Score In Day Of Big Fights And Black Wins


GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Arjun Erigaisi won in their typical styles against GM Dommaraju Gukesh and GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa in the first game of the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIDE World Cup Open section. While Carlsen outwitted his young opponent with a trademark squeeze from a long rook endgame, Arjun unleashed tactical complications in mutual time trouble to outwit Praggnanandhaa with imaginative tactics.

GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Nijat Abasov escaped with draws in well-fought games against GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Vidit Gujrathi, respectively, from endgames of different levels of difficulty.

In a heavyweight clash of the 2023 FIDE Women’s World Cup, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina won comfortably in the endgame when GM Zhongyi Tan seemed to be off-color in the first game of the Women’s semifinals. IM Nurgyul Salimova with the black pieces continued her creditable run by holding GM Anna Muzychuk from a spot of bother in the middlegame.

The second games of round six will begin Wednesday, August 16, at 7 a.m. ET / 13:00 CEST / 4:30 p.m IST.

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Open Section

A noteworthy point of the quarterfinals was obviously four Indian players making it to the stage on what turned out to be the 77th Independence Day of the country, and former world champion GM Viswanathan Anand termed it a “historic moment for Indian chess” during a speech at an event:

The round also had various perspectives to offer: the 32-year-old Carlsen playing the 17-year-old Gukesh; two tiebreak specialists in Vidit and Abasov playing each other in a match of the maximum Elo difference; the irony of the only two Americans left in the fray facing each other at this stage, that too with Dominguez having been a second of Caruana in the past; and finally two friends in Arjun and Praggnanandhaa playing each other.

It was a day of well-fought games, with a delightful tactical skirmish and three complicated endgames.


Just as the games started, the wittiest quip of the day came from GM Vallejo Pons on the top two best players of the world in classical chess:

Carlsen confessed after the game that he “felt really really good, before the game I was in a fighting mood for sure.” So, it was a motivated Carlsen turning out for the first game, after all:

Playing obscure opening systems, arriving at difficult-looking middlegame decisions with ease, and squeezing out wins from almost-drawn endings have all been hallmarks of Carlsen’s play, making the “Carlsen doing Carlsen things” phrase a near-outdated cliche.

A motivated Carlsen: the best player in the world in classical chess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

It was another day of such a Carlsen show, starting with the opening where a rare position was reached as early as the fourth move:

Interestingly, from his interactions with Carlsen during the early rounds of this very World Cup, commentator Howell revealed Carlsen’s view on Gukesh’s play: “Oh Gukesh! He never gets much out of the opening, but he always plays with so much energy.”

Howell felt that Carlsen “must be very happy that he has taken some of the energy out.” It looked very much the case when Carlsen seemed to diffuse typical Gukesh aggression early in the middlegame:

Though White’s play looks mildly intimidating, Carlsen simplified to the endgame with 10…Nxd5 11.Qxg7 Qf6, after which it was the start of a complex endgame, Carlsen’s territory:

Young Gukesh, caught in a Carlsen specialty. Photo: Maria Emelianova/


Just as the games began, Howell pointed out an important detail: “Abasov arrived ….there, a couple of minutes late, which is actually against the regulations of the tournament.” He was referring to the specific regulation below:

4.4.3. A player who arrives in the playing area after the actual start time of his/her game shall have five hundred (500) USD deducted from his/her prize money. A player who arrives in the playing area more than 15 minutes after the actual start time of his/her game shall lose his/her game by default, but without financial penalty.

From what has been verified with the Chief Arbiter, a player stands to be penalized US $500 for every day of being late to the game, which would include Abasov. Interesting!

Abasov came up with impressive preparation but might lose some dollars along the way. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Abasov has had a great run at the World Cup 2023 so far, having prevailed over higher seeds GM Laurent Fressinet, GM Anish Giri, GM Peter Svidler, and GM Salem Saleh, the first three of them through tiebreak games. Comparatively, Vidit had prevailed over only a single higher seed in GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in a sensational result, but he too had to go through tie-breaks in three of his four matches before reaching the quarterfinals. Also, on paper, Vidit has a rating difference of 87 Elo rating points from his opponent. All considered, an interesting match-up. 

Abasov seemed to have come well-armed for the game when he uncorked a theoretical novelty as early as the eighth move:

In an obscure variation of the Sicilian defense Rossolimo variation, Abasov’s 8…Nh6 seemed to give him equality as the middlegame progressed. Howell observed, “With a series of great prep[aration] and engine moves, I guess he has found his way to a reasonable position.”

However, commentator Leko came up with a profound judgment of the position after White’s 21.e4:

Leko observed: “Abasov—in the long term, he has strategical problems. So, to justify his position, he needs to be energetic.”

As the game progressed, Vidit seemed to be making considerable progress in exploiting the weaknesses in Abasov’s position, but it proved to be a long struggle, for a full 109 moves:


The most interesting game of the day by way of content was the one between two friends. Talking after the game, Arjun explained his discussions with his opponent during their regular long walks the previous day:

The game was progressing on a long, maneuvering character when suddenly it sprang to life, crucially as both the players were approaching mutual time pressure:

Arjun smelled his chances and changed the character of the game with 34…d4! followed by 35.e4 Nxg3!? when all hell broke loose.

“Wow! Arjun Erigaisi is a superstar! What a move!” exclaimed Howell. 

“Unbelievable power performance by Arjun,” gushed Leko.

Wow! Arjun Erigaisi is a superstar! What a move!

—David Howell

This fascinating game is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Dejan Bojkov:

Arjun the superstar. Photo: Maria Emelianova/


The matchup between these two fellow countrymen gets more interesting when one recalls that, apart from clashing over the board innumerable times, Dominguez had been Caruana’s second too, during the latter’s world championship match against Carlsen in 2018. Dominguez had voiced before the game: “Obviously he is the favorite, but I don’t think too much about that. I have chances and I will try to do my best and to use my chances.”

Dominguez definitely used his chances well, especially after he was surprised by a typical Caruana innovation as early as the seventh move in a theoretical position of the Italian Game:

Black simply aims to play …c7-c5 to control the center, thus paving the way for fresh positions for playing out in this crucial game, where Caruana might have an upper hand, being the innovator of a fresh concept. However, Dominguez responded soundly and Leko praised his play in the subsequent transition between the opening and middlegame phase:

Leko praised Dominguez’s 22.Qb2, predicting that the pressure on e5 was bound to give White an upper hand in the ensuing struggle. Dominguez proceeded to play sound chess and soon seemed to be exerting considerable pressure on Black’s position:

Dominguez-Caruana, an intense clash between fellow countrymen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Quarterfinals Results: Open

All Games: Open Quarterfinals

Women’s Section:


Salimova seemed to be under pressure against her higher-rated and fancied rival, and the game turned out to be a test of her nerves from the word go. 

Muzychuk seemed to have caught Salimova hesitant in the opening stages, taking considerable time to decide especially on 6…Bg4 and 9…Nb6, an unusual opening choice by Black.

By the 12th move, Muzychuk was about 30 minutes ahead on the clock. By 16th move, it increased to more than 40 minutes. By this time, the commentators sounded skeptical of Salimova’s chances in the game, Howell declaring: “That’s the name of the game for Salimova: to survive.”

However, Salimova displayed excellent spirit in the middlegame, where she fought valiantly under pressure:

Down a pawn and with seemingly disjointed pieces, Salimova mounted counterplay with 21…h5, which proved to be the saving grace for Black in the position. The game ended in a draw after an intense struggle:

In the final analysis, Black seemed to have survived White’s assault successfully and she hadn’t been in any considerable danger in the opening unlike assumed. This meant that Salimova seems to be in quite a good form in the event and the second game will be even more interesting to watch.

Muzychuk-Salimova, a fascinating struggle. Photo: Maria Emelianova/


In a fashionable variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined with a Carlsbad structure, White played both 9.h3 as well as 12.f3, an unusual way to handle the position. Goryachkina’s energetic 18…h5! proved to be the turning point when Black surely captured the initiative:

Black was threatening to dislodge the white knight with 19…g6, and went on to tighten her grip on the position, but missed a seemingly comfortable win in the middlegame. Still, she went on to win after Tan erred in a level endgame.

Semifinals Results: Women

All Games: Women’s Semifinals

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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