Jan-Krzysztof Duda has bundled out reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen in a major shock at the semi-finals stage of the FIDE World Cup in Sochi.
Duda won the toss and opened the first 25/10 game with 1.e4. Carlsen replied with 1…e5, as in all of his games here, but went for the Berlin Wall variation with 3…Nf6 for the first time in the World Cup.
Play developed slowly, following a 2007 game between Hou Yifan and Krisnan Saskiran. Carlsen deviated with 13…c5 and after a few exchanges equalised the position completely. According to the engine, 19.c4 instead of 19.Qb1 might be an improvement but it still doesn’t seem very much.
The position remained balanced, although Magnus did have a small advantage on the clock. However, further exchanges left both players with no chance of fighting for a win and the draw seemed to be the most likely result.
However, Carlsen is a tricky player and he tried 27…Qc2 followed by 28…Qb3, sacrificing the c5 pawn for some fun tactics, just when both players were approaching the 5-minute barrier on the clock. But Duda found the solid solution (30.Re3!) and a draw was agreed by three-fold move repetition immediately afterwards.
In the second 25/10 game, Carlsen opted for the 3.Bb5+ side-line against Duda’s Sicilian defence. The opening soon transposed into a French-type pawn structure in which Black is generally fine, having exchanged light-squared bishops.
Duda tried out the relatively new 12…Bb4 novelty instead of the usual 12…Be7, but it’s not a big deal as long as White doesn’t exchange minor pieces. Both players began to manoeuvre on the queenside until Duda proposed the exchange of queen’s with 21…Qb5! which Carlsen declined. Meanwhile, Carlsen had started to expand on the kingside but it did seem a bit slow.
Finally, Duda went for light-square domination, starting with 27…Na7! and gradually out-played the World Champion by forcing the correct exchanges. With both of the players very low on time, the bishop ending was madness: the engine’s evaluation was going up and down on every move but it was always Duda who was pressing, due to Carlsen’s bad bishop combined with his pawn structure.
With hardly any time left, Carlsen made the final mistake by playing 62.Bc1? allowing Duda to force the zugzwang position. When the a-pawn was lost it was clear that Carlsen was in the ropes.
A few moves later he resigned and an ecstatic Duda advanced to the final, in addition to securing a spot in the 2022 Candidates tournament.
After two draws in the classical games, the tiebreak match for third and fourth place in the women’s group was also held last night. Ukraine Anna Muzychuk won the toss and played with White in the first game. Her opponent, Chinese GM Tan Zhongyi (2511) defended with the Petroff, her pet defence in this event.
Muzychuk went for the fashionable 5.Nc3 option, leading to a position with opposite-side castled kings. By means of 12.h4-h5 she launched a vicious attack on Tan’s king, sacrificing a pawn for the attack.
But Zhongyi Tan kept her calm, drove back the attack and gradually finished her development. The turning point was White’s 23.Qh2? (instead, 23.Bg5 was better, with a probable ¡draw by move repetition), and from there on it looked like Black’s attack on the queenside was stronger.
Muzychuk had already spent most of her time and was under serious pressure, both on the board and on the clock – at some point, Tan had seventeen minutes left against Muzychuk’s thirty seconds. After stabilizing the position and netting a second pawn, the Chinese GM started pushing her h-pawn passer. By a strange twist of fate, it was game over.
In a must-win situation, Muzychuk went for the double-edged Albin Counter Gambit in the second game. Her third move 3…Ne7 (instead of the regular 3…d4) is a blitz idea played by Aleksandr Shimanov.
However, 9….b5? was definitely a blunder and after a few moves, Muzychuk was already in trouble. On move twelve, with 12.Qxa7! she was already clearly winning, as Black loses too much material if the queen is captured.
Zhongyi Tan could have gone for the brilliancy prize if she had found 15.Ne5!! but her move repetition in a winning position was more than enough to seal the deal and win the third prize trophy in addition to direct qualification to the 2022 Women’s Candidates tournament.