World Cup: Pragg bests Naka, Carlsen to face Ivanchuk

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/11/2023 – One day after turning 18 years old, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu got to knock Hikaru Nakamura out of the FIDE World Cup. Other players who advanced to the round-of-16 by winning Friday’s tiebreakers were Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi and fan favourite Vasyl Ivanchuk. In the women’s section, Elisabeth Paehtz left world champion Ju Wenjun out of contention. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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A second memorable birthday in a row

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu beat second seed Hikaru Nakamura twice in a row in rapid games to reach the round-of-16 at the FIDE World Cup in Baku. The youngster’s remarkable achievement was obtained only a day after turning 18 years old. On the day of his birthday, right after drawing Nakamura with white, Pragg had told Michael Rahal that he is “also quite good in rapid”. Beating perhaps the biggest speed-play specialist in the world surely confirmed his assessment.

Once he had defeated Naka, Pragg was again interviewed by Rahal. When asked whether beating Naka was one of the best birthday presents he has received in his life, an incredibly level-headed Pragg noted that winning bronze medals with the Indian team last year had been, in fact, a better gift. Representing India-2, a formidable youthful squad, Pragg grabbed bronze medals both in the general standings and on his individual board.

Pragg nonetheless agreed that knocking out such a strong opponent was “one of the top [birthday gifts], for sure”. The Indian prodigy was particularly happy with his play in the first rapid game against Naka.

Out of a sharp English Opening, Naka gave up a piece for a pawn and quicker development. The American’s attacking chances were not enough to surmount the material disadvantage in the long run, though.

In the position above, Black had just played 21...Kf7, escaping the open g-file. Naka kept trying to gain momentum with 22.e5 (and 27.d6 later on), but Pragg never lost control of the situation, showing great tactical awareness until his opponent resigned the game on move 33.

Naturally, Naka opted for a risky approach in the rematch. A Pragg in brilliant form ably neutralized his opponent’s plans, though, and eventually got a major advantage, which he converted into a 41-move win. Notably, Magnus Carlsen congratulated Pragg on his victory while still playing Vincent Keymer on a neighbouring board.

Praggnanandhaa, Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura resigns game 2, Praggnanandhaa advances | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Carlsen to face Ivanchuk in the round-of-16

Perhaps the most exciting matchup of the round-of-16 will be the one facing world number one Magnus Carlsen against fan favourite Vasyl Ivanchuk. The 54-year-old legend had trouble getting permission from the Ukrainian government to play in the World Cup due to the participation of Russian players, but that did not prevent him from remaining undefeated after three rounds of play in Baku.

After knocking out Cristóbal Henríquez (4-2) and Wei Yi (2½-1½), the Ukrainian genius got the better of an in-form Vahap Sanal. After signing five draws in a row, Ivanchuk defeated his Turkish colleague in the second 10-minute game of the day.

Ivanchuk got a big space advantage on a board with all 16 pawns still on the board, and went on to showcase his strategic mastery to slowly but surely suffocate his opponent on both flanks. Sanal resigned the game on move 48.

Vasyl Ivanchuk

Vasyl Ivanchuk is undefeated in Baku, after 16 games | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Similarly, Carlsen beat Keymer in the fourth tiebreak game of their match. The former world champion came from getting considerable advantages in the first two encounters of the day — in game 2, for example, he failed to find a nice idea in a knight vs bishop endgame.

Carlsen’s 47...Nd2+ led to an equal position here, while 47...b3 was winning. However, to push the pawn, Black had to foresee that after 48.Kd3 the only winning continuation was the remarkable 48...Ne3 (diagram below), preventing 49.Kc3 due to the fork from d5.

An unfortunate miss that, luckily for Carlsen, did not cost him the match.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

Abasov upsets Svidler, and six more winners

Pragg was not the only player to upset a higher-rated opponent on Friday, as 28-year-old Nijat Abasov, the only Azerbaijani representative still in contention, got the better of Peter Svidler by a 2½-1½ score in their round-4 confrontation.

The remaining six players who made it through to the round-of-16 in tiebreaks:

  • In the longest match of the round, Wang Hao beat Rasmus Svane by a 5-4 score. The contenders signed eight draws in a row in this encounter.
  • Dommaraju Gukesh advanced to the next round after beating Andrey Esipenko 2½-1½.
  • After beating Daniele Vocaturo twice in a row in rapid, Saleh Salem gained a spot among the last sixteen.
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi also got a 2-0 victory over Nihal Sarin.
  • Defending champion Jan-Krzysztof Duda beat Parham Maghsoodloo 3½-2½ in a match that could have gone either way.
  • Leinier Dominguez advanced to the round-of-16 by beating fellow experienced grandmaster Radoslaw Wojtaszek.

Peter Svidler, Nijat Abasov

Nijat Abasov knocked out Peter Svidler | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

FIDE Chess World Cup 2023

Round 4 games - Open

Replay games from all round at

Women’s: Paehtz beats the world champ

All five matches that went to tiebreaks in the women’s section were decided after the first pair of rapid games. Rating favourite Ju Wenjun and third seed Humpy Koneru were knocked out by Elisabeth Paehtz and Bella Khotenashvili respectively.

Paehtz caught Ju in a mating net in the second game of the tiebreaks.

Black is already in trouble due to the active placement of her opponent’s rooks. At this point, giving up a pawn with 33...c5 was necessary — intending 34.Rxc5 Rgc6 — to keep the chances of survival alive. Instead, Ju’s 33...a4 gave way to 34.Rcc8 Rf6 35.h5, and Black was busted.

Resignation came after 35...g5 36.Rc7+, with mate next move.

After knocking out none other than the current women’s world champion, Paehtz is set to face Anna Muzychuk in the quarterfinals. Anna beat her younger sister Mariya by winning the first game (with white) of their tiebreaker.

Ju Wenjun, Elisabeth Paehtz

Ju Wenjun playing white against Elisabeth Paehtz | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

Nurgyul Salimova from Bulgaria eliminated Medina Aulia from Indonesia, who came from knocking out two higher-rated opponents in previous rounds. Meanwhile, Harika Dronavalli got the better of 17-year-old Dutch star Eline Roebers, who had not lost a single game in the event before being defeated by Harika in the second rapid encounter of the tiebreak.

By Thursday next week, we will know the names of the two finalists in the women’s section. Seven different countries are represented in the quarterfinals, as only Russia has more than one player still in contention — i.e. Aleksandra Goryachkina and Polina Shuvalova.

Harika Dronavalli, Eline Roebers

Harika Dronavalli got the better of Eline Roebers | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

FIDE Chess World Cup 2023

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.