World Cup: All set for Carlsen and co. to join the fray

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/2/2023 – Round 1 is over at the World Cup in Baku. A total of 33 matches (24 in the open and 9 in the women’s section) were decided in rapid and blitz tiebreaks. Now that the first round has been completed, all the players who received byes — the rating favourites — will join the fray on Wednesday. Magnus Carlsen will face Levan Pantsulaia (Georgia, 2564), while Ju Wenjun will face Eva Repkova (Slovakia, 2312). | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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Shooting for the stars

Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi are four of the fifty players who will begin their runs at the FIDE World Cup in Baku. Out of the four, only Nakamura will face a contender who advanced in round 1 without needing tiebreaks.

The open section saw 24 matches going to rapid and blitz tiebreaks in the first round, and 16 of those were decided in the first pair of rapid games (25+10 time control). The longest match of the round saw Aydin Suleymanli (Azerbaijan, 2586) and Xu Yinglun (China, 2531) drawing nine games in a row, before the Azerbaijani finally managed to break the deadlock and thus secure a spot in the next round — where he will face Iranian star Parham Maghsoodloo.

In contrast, Vahap Sanal (Turkey, 2585) and Zdenko Kozul (Croatia, 2532) played eight decisive games in a row, with the 2-time Turkish champion finally emerging victorious in the blitz (5+3 time control).

FIDE Chess World Cup 2023

Vahap Sanal and Zdenko Kozul | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

The top pairings for round 2:

  • Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 2835) vs. Levan Pantsulaia (Georgia, 2564)
  • Hikaru Nakamura (United States, 2787) vs. Karthik Venkhataraman (India, 2565)
  • Fabiano Caruana (United States, 2782) vs. Mikheil Mchedlishvili (Georgia, 2561)
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE, 2779) vs. Vugar Asadli (Azerbaijan, 2567)

Smirin does it again

After bouncing back in style from his game-1 defeat against Santiago Ávila, Ilia Smirin showed yet another nice finish in the fifth game of the tiebreaks.

The exciting match saw the fighting contenders drawing both 25-minute games and exchanging wins with white in the 10-minute encounters.

And then came the Israeli’s brilliant finish.

30.Rg6 threatens mate on h6, while 30...fxg6 fails to 31.fxg6#. Ávila simply resigned, but failed to bounce back in the next encounter — it had been Smirin who twice scored in must-win situations to keep the match going.

The experienced grandmaster will face Kirill Shevchenko in the second round. See below IM Robert Ris’ excellent analysis of Smirin’s classical win from Monday:

Round 1 games - Open

Women’s: Only one match goes to 10-minute tiebreakers

No tiebreaker in the women’s section reached the blitz phase, with 8 out of the 9 matches being decided in the first pair of rapid encounters.

The one match that needed the contenders to play four games was the confrontation between Pauline Guichard (France, 2384) and Assel Serikbay (Kazakhstan, 2139). A 2-time French champion, Guichard prevailed over her lower-rated opponent in the end.

The top pairings for round 2:

  • Ju Wenjun (China, 2564) vs. Eva Repkova (Slovakia, 2312)
  • Aleksandra Goryachkina (FIDE, 2557) vs. Lisandra Ordaz (Cuba, 2318)
  • Humpy Koneru (India, 2553) vs. Priyankka Nutakki (India, 2293)
  • Kateryna Lagno (FIDE, 2552) vs. Mary Ann Gomes (India, 2326)

Deysi Cori

Deysi Cori (Peru, 2369) advanced to round 2 despite losing the first classical game against Julia Alboredo (Brasil, 2208) | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Karina Cyfka

Karina Cyfka (Poland, 2356) twice beat Melissa Castrillón (Colombia, 2235) in rapid to make it through to the second round | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage 

Round 1 games - Women’s

Full schedule | Pairings and results

All games with computer analysis: Open | Women’s


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.