There were an amazing 28 decisive games and just 20 draws as Round 3 of the FIDE World Cup began, with Magnus Carlsen among the winners after tricking Aryan Tari in time trouble. Major upsets saw world no. 6 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lose the fastest decisive game of the day, to Haik Martirosyan, while Yu Yangyi (vs. Tabatabaei), Jorden van Foreest (Piorun), Salem Saleh (Brkic) and Matthias Bluebaum (Ivic) must all win on Monday to stay in the World Cup. 17-year-old Carissa Yip scored the standout win of the women’s section, beating Nana Dzagnidze with Black.

The best news we could get at the start of Round 3 of the FIDE World Cup was that no more players had dropped out and all 48 games would be played. You can replay them with computer analysis here on chess24:  Open | Women

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Laurent Fressinet. 

No draw death of chess at the FIDE World Cup

Vishy Anand held a draw in the final game on Sunday to clinch victory in the No Castles match against Vladimir Kramnik in Dortmund, but the whole premise of that match — that we need a slight change to the rules of chess to avoid the draws that are inevitable with the current depth of opening theory — was undermined by events in Sochi. Despite the rating gap between the players having reduced for Round 3, we saw a big majority of the first games ending decisively, with only MVL-Paravyan and Cheparinov-Svidler ending in quick draws — it was understandable Ivan wanted a quick day at the office after playing Armageddon the day before.

Of the 19 wins in the Open section, 12 were for the favourites, with World Champion Magnus Carlsen scoring his 3rd win in three games, though it was a case of Norwegian no. 2 Aryan Tari spoiling a well-played game. Magnus in more time trouble at the end, and perhaps that encouraged Aryan to play too optimistically for a win, with 37…a5?! a misstep before the logical continuation 39…a4? threw away the game. Magnus pounced with 40.Ne7+!


Suddenly it’s all over. If the king goes to the h-file 41.Rh5# is checkmate. If it goes to f8, then 41.Nc6! wins the bishop, since e.g. 41…Rd7 would run into 42.Rb8+ and it’s mate next move.

World no. 2 Fabiano Caruana felt a bit disappointed not to get more than a draw against Rinat Jumabayev after the Kazakhstan grandmaster spent 40 minutes on a dubious novelty Fabi described as “free-styling in the opening”, but the main thing was that the US no. 1 played his first full game of the event. In some countries Fabi would have been forced into isolation after his Round 2 opponent Susanto Megaranto tested positive for COVID-19, but Fabi was able to play.

I feel good. I hear that question a lot but I was tested twice after the second match. I always felt fine, I haven’t had symptoms or anything.

There were convincing wins for big names such as Sergey Karjakin (vs. Grigoriy Oparin), Harikrishna (vs. Constantin Lupulescu) and Nikita Vitiugov, who surprised Alexei Shirov early on with the near novelty 14.Qg4 and went on to win a tricky endgame. 

Alexander Grischuk followed up defeating Argentina’s Federico Perez in Round 2 by defeating Alan Pichot in the first game of Round 3. He pointed to the moment after 16…g4.

I think I quickly got a very big advantage, he missed 17.Bf4!, which I think was the critical detail, and after this I’m close to the winning.

After 17…gxf3 18.gxf3 White would win back the piece with a dominant position.

Another favourite to win was Dmitry Andreikin, who inflicted a first loss on Nihal Sarin in the 23 games that will currently count towards the next rating list for the 17-year-old Indian chess prodigy. 

The opening move was not the usual recommendation of Nihal’s coach…

 …but the opening went well for Nihal until Dmitry equalised and then began to take over. Soon Dmitry had a good bishop against a bad bishop, but 35.f4! still might have been enough for Nihal to set up an impenetrable fortress. Instead after 35.Bc2!? f5! 36.Bb1? (36.gxf5! had to be tried) it was suddenly all over.

36…f4+! offered a pawn to invade with the king. Nihal tried to decline the offer with 37.Ke4, but 37…Bc6+! forced 38.Kxf4 Kd4 and shortly after the time control Nihal resigned.

In the final position there are many ways for Black to win, including the trick Be6-Bxb3, and then promoting the a-pawn. The white king is on the wrong side of the board to help out.

There was better news for Indian prodigies as 15-year-old Praggnanandhaa outplayed 57-year-old Michal Krasenkow in an ending, while the big clash between the Indian “veterans” Vidit and Adhiban was decided by a puzzling moment.

Here Adhiban played 19…e4? and after 20.Bxf6! Bxf6 21.Bxe4 Vidit was a crucial pawn up and went on to win the game. It turns out it really was just a blunder, with Vidit commenting:

I would guess it’s roughly equal, I’m very slightly better, if anybody’s better, and then he played this e4 move, which was really strange, because it just gave up a pawn in one move, and I asked him after the game — it was just an oversight from him.

The most impressive win for a favourite was Daniil Dubov’s victory over Vladimir Malakhov. The younger Russian played one of his favourite structures and pushed his e-pawn to e6 early on, provoking Vladimir into drastic measures.

It was remarkable how easily Daniil achieved total dominance, with 24.Bf4! one of a number of quietly crushing moves.

The knight on d5 is pinned, the e7-pawn is hanging, the e6-square is a gaping hole in the position to be occupied by a knight or rook, and most of Black’s pieces are stuck on the wrong side of the board. In what followed Malakhov was able to pick up a couple of white pawns, but it did absolutely nothing to improve his position before it was time to resign on move 40.

Mamedyarov and Yu among the stars to lose

It was a good day for most of the surprise stars of the previous rounds. Jakhongir Vakhidov followed beating Levan Pantsualaia and Leinier Dominguez by taking the lead against Pavel Ponkratov, and if 15-year-old sensation Javokhir Sindarov didn’t win this time after his victory over Alireza Firouzja, his draw against Jorge Cori was still a good result, in the circumstances. 

As he commented in a Russian interview:

I thought I was playing with the white pieces and prepared for White, and I arrive, look and it’s Black! Two minutes to the start, Black, and I was in shock. Of course then I got out of the opening normally, in fact I think I was much better, but I couldn’t convert the first game.

18-year-old Serbian Velimir Ivic followed knocking out Spanish no. 1 Paco Vallejo by winning an impressive (if not flawless) attacking game against Germany’s Matthias Bluebaum, while Croatia’s Ante Brkic followed beating Yuriy Kryvoruchko with a big win over Salem Saleh.

The stand-out win of the day on paper was for 21-year-old Armenian grandmaster Haik Martirosyan against world no. 6 Shakhiryar Mamedyarov. The Azerbaijan no. 1 was ready to sacrifice an exchange.

Haik here went for 16.Bd2!? rather than taking on a8, which was a decision that got Shakh thinking for the first time in the game. In fact it went perfectly for Haik, since later on Shakh blundered with 23…e5?, overlooking that his f7-pawn would be much weaker than White’s f2-pawn. By the end Mamedyarov was two pawns down and had seen enough.

The next biggest shock was one of the very few Chinese players in Sochi, Yu Yangyi, falling to a brilliant attack by 20-year-old Iranian GM Amin Tabatabaei.

Already having given up a piece, 26.Rbe1! seems to give up another one.

Taking on d2 isn’t recommended, however, since 26…Qxd2 27.Qh6+ Ke7 28.Rxe5+ sees the white queen on h6 pick up the black queen on d2. For one brief moment in what followed after 26…Nd5, Yu Yangyi might have survived, but in the end Amin picked up a deserved win.

There’s work to do for one of the semi-finalists of the previous World Cup in 2019.

Jorden van Foreest is another top player with work to do after he fell to Poland’s Kacper Piorun, who beat Markus Ragger in the previous round. The loss felt very much like self-inflicted punishment for Jorden, who lived to regret his decision on move 37.

For now the pawn on c2 looks harmless, but it was time to take it with 37.Qxc2! and after e.g. 37…Qxb5 38.Qc7+ Kg6 39.Qd6 White has a healthy advantage. Instead after 37.bxa6!? Qb1! the pawn survived and, after some tactical misadventures for Jorden, would go on to queen and win the game for Kacper.

That brings us to one result that was formally an upset, though Swedish no. 1 Nils Grandelius beating 20-year-old 2019 World Cup quarterfinalist Jeffery Xiong was nothing out of the ordinary. What was extraordinary was the game, which reached a key moment on move 51, when most of the day’s action was over. Down to seconds, Nils found the correct punishment for Jeffery not giving a check before he took the white knight on b3.

From there on it seems it was winning for White, but it was a fiendishly difficult ending, with little time for either player. This is the position after 63.f8=Q.

Here Xiong gave up his knight with 63…Qf5+, which was the start of 27 consecutive checks by Black! It’s not world record territory, but by the end of the sequence Nils had reached a position with two extra connected passed pawns that he was finally able to win with relative ease… though the game only ended on move 120!

Carissa Yip wins again

Top women’s seed Aleksandra Goryachkina, like Magnus Carlsen, has now won all three classical games in Sochi, after grinding down Olga Badelka, who could have done with an easier opponent after surviving a crazy Armageddon game the day before. Aleksandra is now up to 2616.6 on the live rating list, with Humpy Koneru’s lifetime live best of 2625.4 potentially in danger during the event.

The day’s sensation, however, was 17-year-old Carissa Yip continuing the momentum of winning her two tiebreak games the day before to take down the formidable Georgian no. 1 Nana Dzagnidze. 

It was a wild game that could have gone either way.

22.Nxg6! was winning for Nana after e.g. 22…Kxg6 23.h3 Nxe3 24.Qxe3 Kh7 25.Rf7!, but 22.Rf7?! Nce5 23.Rxg7+ seems to have been an unsound sacrifice. Nana still had one last chance in the complications, but Carissa went on to pull off an impressive win.

Things once again largely went the way of the favourites in the Women’s World Cup, but Valentina Gunina beating Harika Dronavalli was an upset, at least given the players’ current ratings.

34.Nh5! was the kind of move Valentina might play just for fun even if it didn’t work, but here it was also powerful and Gunina went on to score a crushing victory.

That spectacular day’s action in Sochi means that no less than 28 players, including many star names, must now win on demand to force playoffs on Tuesday. Wednesday is a rare luxury for the World Cup format — a universal rest day!

Don’t miss all the action starting from 14:00 CEST! Open | Women

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