Former World Champion Magnus Carlsen has accomplished a significant milestone in his illustrious chess career by capturing his inaugural World Cup title, the only tournament that was missing from his immense collection of victories
All three top-placed players have qualified for the 2024 Candidates tournament which is due to take place next April in Canada. If Carlsen officially declines to take part – he has hinted in the interviews that he might not be interested in playing in the event – then Nijat Abasov, who finished fourth, will replace him.
After a quiet draw in the second game of the finals, Carlsen – who is recovering from food poisoning – defeated the 18-year-old Indian prodigy R Praggnanandhaa in the tiebreaks. It took just two tiebreak games and about one and a half hours.
Crucial was the first rapid tiebreaker which Carlsen won with black pieces. The two sides were evenly matched in the Giuoco Piano. Prag organised an attack on the black king but misplayed in the process. Still, the position was even. In an open and sharp endgame, where both sides had to calculate very carefully, Prag landed in time trouble and blundered with move 42.a6. While Carlsen did not respond in the best fashion, Prag continued to err in the next two moves and after his 44th move, White was completely lost. On move 47, Prag resigned.
Game two was much quieter with Carlsen (playing as White) forcing exchanges in a better position. A draw was agreed as early as move 22, securing first place for the Norwegian.
The World Cup is the only major event that Magnus Carlsen hadn’t won in his career. The closest he came was in 2021 when he finished third. Now, with this feather added to his cap, the world’s highest-rated player proved that he is the ultimate force majeure of chess.
The match for third place finished with Fabiano Caruana’s victory. After losing in game one of the regular match, Caruana made a comeback in a complicated and tough game on day two and reached the tiebreaks. Nijat Abasov – the Azeri star who surprised everyone with his exceptional performance in his native Baku – broke in the rapid, losing both tiebreak games.
First, Caruana defeated Abasov with the black pieces in the Trompowsky Attack. Gaining the initiative in the early stages of the game, Caruana gradually increased the pressure and by move 22 Black was on the verge of victory. White’s king finally ended up in a mating net where he could only delay the inevitable for a bit, but nothing more.
Reinvigorated by two consecutive victories, Caruana pressed on in the second game as well, this time with the added advantage of white pieces. Abasov opted for the Sicilian but Caruana again played sharply and fiercely, creating a better position early on. By move 15, White was winning.
A great outcome for Caruana who seemed to be faltering after being knocked out by Praggnanandhaa in the semis and losing the first game to Abasov.
All in all, this was a sweet and short day for the initial tournament favourites – Caruana and Carlsen.
Text: Milan Dinic
Photo: Stev Bonhage
About the event
The FIDE World Cup 2023 is taking place from 29 July to 25 August 2023 in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In the Open tournament, 206 players were eligible to take part and 103 in the Women’s event.
There will be eight rounds in the Open and seven in the Women’s tournament. Each round will be played under a knock-out system, consisting of a 2-game match. In the case of a tie, the players will play a rapid and, if necessary, a blitz tiebreak until the winner is determined.
The winners of the top three places in both sections will qualify for the 2024 Candidates tournament.
In both events, the time control for each game is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move 1.
The prize fund for the entire event is 2.5 million US Dollars, with $1,834,000 in the Open and $676,250 in the Women’s tournament. The 2023 FIDE World Cup has the largest prize fund for any chess tournament ever played.
More information about the event: worldcup2023.fide.com/
Open tournament: handbook.fide.com/files/handbook/WorldCup2023Regulations.pdf