World Cup: Sindarov knocks out MVL, Ju escapes and wins

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/7/2023 – Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Dommaraju Gukesh were among the players who advanced to round 4 after two classical games at the FIDE World Cup in Baku. The biggest upset of the round was achieved by Javokhir Sindarov, who knocked out Maxime Vachier-Lagrave by winning with black on Sunday. In the women’s section, world champion Ju Wenjun was inches away from being eliminated — however, she not only survived, but ended up winning against Ulviyya Fataliyeva. | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

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Nineteen matches go to tiebreaks

While top seeds Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura advanced to round 4 somewhat comfortably, more than half the matches in the open section of the World Cup will only be decided in tiebreaks. The likes of Fabiano Caruana, Ian Nepomnaichtchi, Anish Giri and Wesley So will need good performances on Monday after having only drawn their matches against their nominally weaker opponents.

As for upsets, Daniele Vocaturo (Italy, 2609) obtained the draw he needed to knock out 21st seed Daniil Dubov, whom he had beaten in the first game of round 3.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Javokhir Sindarov (Uzbekistan, 2659) got the better of 10th seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, a player who twice reached the semifinals in previous editions of this event. In the 2021 World Cup, Sindarov had also over-performed, as he eliminated an already formidable Alireza Firouzja.

In a sharp, imbalanced middlegame, MVL could have consolidated his slight advantage instead of going for an attack.

Engines here suggest 22.Qa5, offering a queen swap and gaining a tempo to perhaps later play 23.Be3, protecting his central pawn. However, MVL’s decision to further complicate matters with 22.Qf5 is understandable, as 23.Ng5 was played next, with threats against the black king.

The decisive mistake came a few moves later, though. Uncharacteristically, the Frenchman missed a tactical shot when he grabbed the black bishop with 26.Nxd4

Sindarov thought for 6 minutes before playing the crucial 26...Rxa6, when 27.Rxa6 fails to 27...Qxa6 28.Kg1 Re1#. MVL replied by 27.g3, but then came the good-looking 27...Qb7, threatening mate on h1.

Most likely aware of the mistakes he had made, MVL tried to muddy the waters by going for a speculative attack against the black king. Sindarov had calculated how to escape, though, and went on to grab material and consolidate his position until prompting MVL’s resignation on move 34.

Sindarov will face fellow prodigy Arjun Erigaisi in the fourth round. Arjun knocked out the very strong Vladimir Fedoseev in round 3.

Arjun Erigaisi

Arjun Erigaisi | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Daniele Vocaturo

Daniele Vocaturo knocked out Daniil Dubov | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Caruana’s rollercoaster game

In another wild encounter, Fabiano Caruana found himself in deep trouble playing black against Turkish GM Mustafa Yilmaz.

White has four pieces in wonderful attacking squares. Here the strongest is 33.Rxh6, not fearing 33...Ng3+ due to 34.Qxg3 Qxg3 35.Rh8+ Kxh8 36.hxg3, and the other rook will join the attack next.

Yilmaz instead transferred the rook to the kingside at once with 33.Rdg2, a natural-looking move that is in fact a mistake. This moved entirely changed the evaluation, as Caruana was suddenly in the driver’s seat. The US star failed to make the most of his chances, though, and a draw was signed five moves later.

IM Robert Ris analysed the very exciting game in detail!

Round 3 games - Open

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Women’s: Ju advances as Fataliyeva misses huge chance

Coming from winning a hard-fought match for the World Championship, it would be forgivable for Ju Wenjun not to be extremely motivated in Baku. On Sunday, she found herself facing what looked to be an imminent elimination against Azerbaijani IM Ulviyya Fataliyeva. Shockingly, though, the world champion not only survived but ended up winning after her opponent blundered in a technical rook and knight vs rook endgame.

Our in-house endgame expert, GM Karsten Müller, analysed the fatal mistake.

Ulviyya Fataliyeva

Ulviyya Fataliyeva | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Ju will face Elisabeth Paehtz in the next round. Paehtz remarkably knocked out Kazakh rising star Bibisara Assaubayeva. The winner of the Ju vs Paehtz match, in turn, will face one of the Muzychuk sisters, as both Anna and Mariya advanced to round 4 on Sunday and were paired up against each other.

No major upsets were seen in the women’s category, with Aleksandra Goryachkina, Humpy Koneru and Polina Shuvalova also reaching to the next round. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Dutch star Eline Roebers continues her perfect run in Baku, as she has scored 6 points in as many games so far in the event!

Elisabeth Paehtz

Elisabeth Paehtz | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Round 3 games - Women’s

Replay games from all round at

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.