World Cup: Keymer stuns Carlsen

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/10/2023 – Vincent Keymer beat Magnus Carlsen for the first time in his career and now only needs a draw on Thursday to knock the world number one out of the World Cup. The other big upset of the day saw Alexey Sarana brilliantly defeating Wesley So with the black pieces. In the women’s section, 7 out of 8 games finished drawn. Bella Khotenashvili scored the one win of the day, as she beat third seed Humpy Koneru. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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Carlsen blunders, Keymer converts

The most dominant chess player of this era is a draw away from being knocked out of the FIDE World Cup. Magnus Carlsen lost his first game of round 4 against German prodigy Vincent Keymer and needs a win (with white) on Thursday to remain in contention. Famously, the Norwegian ace has yet to win the World Cup, one of the few achievements that have escaped him during his illustrious career.

Keymer achieved a minimal strategic edge out of a Queen’s Gambit Declined with an early exchange on d5, and later saw his famed opponent erring in a technical endgame. Each side had a rook, a knight and four pawns when Carlsen failed to defend his queenside weakened pawns properly.

Black’s pawns on the queenside are somewhat vulnerable, albeit defensible. If given this position as a puzzle, Carlsen will surely notice that 36...Nd6 or 36...g6 are both good defensive moves — and, more importantly, moves that are completely necessary under the circumstances.

On the contrary, 36...Nc7, as played in the game, leaves Black in deep trouble after the natural 37.Nd6, which Keymer played almost instantly.

From the resulting position, White only needs good technique to convert his extra pawn into a win. Peter Leko, who has coached Keymer in the past and is working as a commentator, noted that only nerves could stop the 17-year-old from winning, since he had never defeated Carlsen in the past.

The prodigy from Mainz did not falter, though, as he found the correct continuations at every turn, even when natural-looking alternatives could have thwarted his plan.

Only 54.Ne5, as played by Keymer after a bit over a minute, wins for White here. The ‘automatic’ 54.Kc3 would have spoiled the win due to 54...Nxe4+ 55.Kxb3 Kc5, and Black holds!

This was Keymer’s fourth victory in Baku (in five games), as he scored 1½/2 against Daniel Dardha in the first round and then beat Amin Tabatabaei 2-0 in round 2. The youngster has gained 19.4 rating points in the event, and has climbed to number 24 in the live ratings list.

Vincent Keymer

The man of the hour | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Check out IM Robert Ris’ excellent analysis of the game!

Sarana’s bold approach pays off

Wesley So has not been able to display his usual — solid yet remarkably effective — style in this event. After surviving a few times in the previous rounds, the US grandmaster was unable to escape against an inspired Alexey Sarana on Wednesday.

Sarana, now representing Serbia, played a novelty with black as early as on move 9, creating a double-edged battle from the get go. So had been surprised and played an imprecision in the early middlegame. In the ensuing position, Black had a dangerous bishop on the long diagonal and strong chances of creating an attack against the short-castled white king.

Both players erred a few times in the struggle leading to this position, but as it often happens in such situations, the player with the initiative nevertheless emerged in the driver’s seat.

Here, Sarana could have gone for the good-looking 29...Bxg2, when 30.Kxg2 fails to 30...Qd5+ and the queen is creating all kind of nasty threats (including Qg5, with a potential double-attack against the rook on c1).

Sarana played the more reasonable 29...Nh5 and went on to score an outstanding 34-move victory. The 23-year-old knocked out the up-and-coming Kirill Shevchenko in round 3.

Alexey Sarana

Alexey Sarana is a draw away from knocking out Wesley So | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Vidit on the attack

An exciting day of chess also saw Vidit Gujrathi obtaining a great attacking win over Etienne Bacrot. Out of a Taimanov Sicilian, the Indian’s 16.f6 created havoc on Black’s position.

Engines point out that 16...Bxf6, intending to respond to 17.Rxf6 with 17...Nxd3, is the correct way to defend with Black. The ensuing lines are very sharp, though, and Bacrot failed to find all the manoeuvres that would have allowed him to escape, and thus went for 16...gxf6 instead.

After the text, 17.Bf4 pins the knight and prevents Black from getting rid of the all-important light-squared bishop. Shortly after, Vidit got to play 19.Bxh7+, and proficiently proved that White’s attack is winning. Bacrot resigned on move 30.

It is worth noting that Vidit obtained this win after needing seven tiebreak games to knock out Matthias Bluebaum on Tuesday.

Etienne Bacrot

Etienne Bacrot (standing) needs to win in the rematch against Vidit to remain in contention | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Two more winners, Pragg draws Naka

There were five players who got ahead on the scoreboard in round-3’s first day of action. Besides the aforementioned games:

  • Nils Grandelius beat Jaime Santos with white in a hard-fought game lasting 101 moves. Santos came from upsetting Teimour Radjabov in the previous round.
  • Ferenc Berkes beat Ruslan Ponomariov with the white pieces. Berkes already eliminated two higher-rated players in previous rounds: Boris Gelfand and Nikita Vitiugov.

Meanwhile, one of the most exciting pairings of the round saw Praggnanandhaa holding Hikaru Nakamura with black in what turned out to be a tense, double-edged battle.

Pragg accepted Nakamura’s draw offer here, in a position with dangerous passers for both sides. Engines show that Naka got an advantage earlier in the game, but extreme precision would have been needed to make the most of it.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Round 4 games - Open

Replay games from all round at

Women’s: Khotenashvili beats Humpy

The contenders in the women’s section are already fighting to reach the quarterfinals, as 12 out of the 16 participants still in contention were the favourites to reach this stage in each of their sections.

Out of the eight games played on Wendesday, only one finished decisively. Bella Khotenashvili defeated third seed Humpy Koneru with black. The Indian star chose not to grab Black’s pawn on b5 early in the encounter.

Evidently, Khotenashvili’s 6...b5 surprised Humpy, who spent over 13 minutes before replying with 7.a4 instead of the natural 7.Nxb5 — most likely fearing to enter a sharp line which had been heavily prepared by her opponent.

Choosing to avoid the most critical line backfired, though, as Khotenashvili later gained the initiative and went on to get a valuable 42-move victory.

Bella Khotenashvili

Bella Khotenashvili | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Meanwhile, Eline Roebers almost obtained her seventh straight full point in Baku. However, she failed to find the correct path forward in a pawn endgame with six pawns per side.

50.f4 instead of Roeber’s 50.Kd3 is winning for white. Harika Dronavalli demonstrated that the ensuing position, which led to a pawn race, was drawn by force.

Eline Roebers

Eline Roebers | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

Round 4 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.