Jan-Krzysztof Duda wins the 2021 FIDE World Cup

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/6/2021 – Thanks to a 30-move victory over Sergey Karjakin, Jan-Krzysztof Duda was crowned champion at the 2021 FIDE World Cup in Sochi. The Polish grandmaster had an undefeated performance in the 24-day event and knocked out none other than world champion Magnus Carlsen in the semifinals. Carlsen, who had high praise for Duda, beat Vladimir Fedoseev for a second day in a row to claim third place. | Photos: David Llada

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


“The tournament of my life”

Jan-Krzysztof DudaJan-Krzysztof Duda earned his title the hard way, knocking out Alexander Grischuk, Vidit Gujrathi, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin in the final four rounds of the lengthy event while remaining undefeated. Talking to Nigel Short after beating Karjakin with the white pieces, a visibly exhausted Duda called this the tournament of his life “at least in classical chess” — the Polish star won the 2014 European Rapid Championship and got second place at the 2018 World Blitz Championship, when he finished half a point behind Carlsen.

In a final interview with FIDE press officer Michael Rahal, it was Carlsen himself who provided perhaps the best description of Duda’s performance in Sochi:

Huge congratulations to Duda for winning the World Cup. Considering the line of opponents he beat in the last four rounds, never losing a game — then obviously never being in a must-win or desperate situation — is a massive achievement. So, he is a richly deserved winner.

Besides taking home the $110,000 first prize and 18.2 rating points, the 23-year-old grandmaster gained a spot in the next edition of the Candidates Tournament. Clearly an ambitious sportsman, he now stands as a clear contender to become the next challenger to the world crown. In fact, Rahal asked him if he sees himself fighting for the World Championship in 2022. A confident Duda responded:

Yeah, why not? If I have such a good form like here, I’m probably unstoppable in such case.

The list of potential contenders for the world crown continues to grow, and we can only celebrate the fact that such an unpretentious yet determined player received the kind of confidence boost that might end up becoming a turning point in his professional career.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen looking at the position from the neighbouring board after 24.Re5 | Photo: David Llada 

In the deciding game of the tournament, Duda faced Karjakin’s Semi-Tarrasch Defence. Theory was followed until move 12, when the Polish deviated from a 2011 game between Anish Giri and Wang Yue. Already two moves later, Karjakin spent almost 20 minutes trying to find the best continuation.


As in many other lines arising from the Queen’s Gambit Declined, White has a small positional edge, although a defender like Karjakin should not consider this position with black to be a failure by any means. However, as Duda noted, the Russian was visibly tired, a factor that soon became evident.

The game continued 14...Bxb2 (not a mistake, but 14...a6 seems to be more precise) 15.Ke2 Bf6 16.Rhd1 Rac8 17.Bc4  


Karjakin went for 17...Qb4, when 17...Na5 or placing a rook on d8 are better tries, and the queens were exchanged: 18.Qb3 Qxb3 19.Bxb3


Again 19...Rfd8 or 19...a6 looked like reasonable continuations, while 19...Nb8 is more of a concession. White naturally responded with 20.g4


This is when Duda considered that Karjakin made the crucial mistake in the game, going for 20...h6, weakening his kingside, instead of 20...Na6, preparing to cement the knight on c5 with a ...b6-push later. 

White had a clear advantage and, although Duda’s conversion was not flawless (he missed 27.Rxd8 for example), he never seemed to lose control of the situation — among other nice moves, the Polish grandmaster found the good-looking 25.Rd7.

The ever-fighting Karjakin resigned on move 30. Most importantly, the 2015 World Cup winner qualified to the Candidates, a tournament he won back in 2016.


Replay all the games from the World Cup at Live.ChessBase.com

Two in a row

Carlsen had high praise for Duda, but he also performed remarkably well in Sochi, losing only two rapid games and obtaining an 11/14 score in classical chess, which gained him 8.4 rating points — a great achievement for the man who has a 56-point advantage over the second-highest rated player in the world!

The Norwegian finished the tournament in style, getting back-to-back victories over Fedoseev — managing to fully dominate his opponent’s pieces twice in a row. By move 36 in game 2, Carlsen had amassed a large advantage.


Here the world champion uncorked 36.Rxf7. Much like in Duda’s game, after 36...Kxf7 37.Qxe6 Black was suffering along the a2-g8 light-squared diagonal. Carlsen repeated moves a couple of times to reach the time control, and then found a way to leave his opponent’s army completely stuck for a second consecutive day.


Fedoseev resigned in this position. The black rook cannot move without making a major concession, while the white king is ready to calmly infiltrate along the light squares. It was yet another brilliant showing by the strongest player in the world!


Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Fedoseev

Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Fedoseev | Photo: David Llada


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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register