World Cup: Duda knocks out Carlsen, qualifies to Candidates

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/3/2021 – Jan-Krzysztof Duda advanced to the final of the FIDE World Cup and secured a spot in the next edition of the Candidates Tournament by knocking out Magnus Carlsen in the rapid tiebreakers of their semifinal match. Meanwhile, Tan Zhongyi got third place in the women’s event, thanks to a 1½-½ playoff victory over Anna Muzychuk. | Photo: Eric Rosen

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Shocked and exhausted

After achieving the biggest success in his career as a chess player, Jan-Krzysztof Duda confessed to be both shocked and exhausted. The Polish grandmaster had just beaten Magnus Carlsen with the black pieces in a 25-minute game to reach the final of the FIDE World Cup, which gained him a spot in the next edition of the Candidates Tournament.

In July 2017, a 19-year-old Duda joined the ‘2700 club’ and never looked back, with his rating oscillating between 2698 and 2758 during the last four years. The very next year, Duda played on top board for the Polish team that obtained a remarkable fourth place at the 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi. The man from Kraków faced 6 of the 10 top seeded players in the tournament, and obtained a crucial victory over Vasyl Ivanchuk in round 6.

Duda began to receive invitations to elite tournaments, in which he showcased his dynamic, fighting style against the strongest players in the world. In 2020, he proved to be a difficult opponent for Magnus Carlsen, as he defeated him twice with the white pieces — first at the Lindores Abbey Rapid online event, and then at the Norway Chess tournament, where he ended the world champion’s 125-game undefeated streak.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda

It’s time to celebrate | Photo: Eric Rosen

In both playoff games, Carlsen seemed to steer clear of highly tactical confrontations, at least in the opening and early middlegame. First, playing black, he had little trouble neutralizing his opponent’s chances, and then he took a rather positional approach against Duda’s Sicilian. A structure resembling a French Defence appeared on the board.


Black is for choice here, as the light-squared bishops have left the board — the crux of Black’s problems in the French — and White’s initiative on the kingside does not look particularly promising. Duda played 27...Na7, planning to later activate his knight via b5.

By move 42, Black had managed to exchange the knights, which meant he had the clearly superior minor piece plus full control over the open c-file.


Nonetheless, converting this into a win against the very best in the world and under such pressing circumstances is no easy task. The queens left the board shortly after, and eventually the players entered a pure bishop endgame. Carlsen was defending tenaciously, until he made the losing mistake on move 61.


In this technical ending, 62.Bd4 is forced and draws, while Carlsen’s 62.Bc1 allows Black to eventually provoke a zugzwang position. GM Karsten Müller sent us a detailed, instructive explanation — do not miss his annotations in the replayer below (second game).

Carlsen tweeted shortly after losing the game:

Losing today certainly hurts, but I am nevertheless happy with my progress in the tournament, and also getting great practice for later this year.


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Magnus Carlsen

World champion Magnus Carlsen will face Vladimir Fedoseev in the match for third place | Photo: Anastasiia Korolkova

Tan beats Muzychuk

After Alexandra Kosteniuk won the Women’s World Cup yesterday, all that was left to decide in the event was the third and fourth-place finishers. Tan Zhongyi and Anna Muzychuk came from drawing two classical games and kicked off the tiebreakers with the usual 25+10 rapid encounters.

Tan had the black pieces first, and opted for the Petroff Defence. Muzychuk launched her h-pawn down the board, attempting to create a kingside attack.


13.h5 Nxh5 14.Qh4 f6 15.Be3 f5 followed — although Black was left with an extra pawn, she also needed to permanently watch out for potential tactical tricks along the g and h-files.

The Chinese GM not only kept things under control on the kingside but also gained space in the centre and on the opposite flank. White’s initiative never amounted to much.

By move 31, Black had a clearly superior position.


White was clearly on the defensive at this point, and Muzychuk’s 31.Bxa5 was not the solution to her problems. Tan continued to create threats on the queenside, which allowed her to eventually grab White’s pawns on the other flank. Muzychuk resigned the game on move 49, which meant she needed to win the next game with black to keep the match going.

Looking for an imbalanced fight from the get go, Muzychuk decided to play the Albin Counter Gambit, but an early blunder on move 6 meant she had little to no chances to fight for a win. Tan kept her cool and made the most of her opponent’s mistake, while also avoiding unnecessary risks. A draw was agreed on move 27, giving Tan match victory.


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Tan Zhongyi

Former women’s world champion Tan Zhongyi | Photo: Eric Rosen

Alexandra Kosteniuk, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Tan Zhongyi

The prize ceremony of the women’s tournament — Alexandra Kosteniuk (1st), Aleksandra Goryachkina (2nd) and Tan Zhongyi (3rd) | Photo: Anastasiia Korolkova


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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