World Cup: Carlsen wins brilliantly, Gukesh up to world number 7

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/13/2023 – Five out of eight games ended decisively at the start of the round-of-16 in the open section of the World Cup. Rating favourites Magnus Carlsen, Dommaraju Gukesh, Leinier Dominguez and Arjun Erigaisi all won, while Nijat Abasov was the one rating underdog to grab a full point. In the quarterfinals of the women’s section, Tan Zhongyi and Nurgyul Salimova obtained wins on Saturday. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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As good as it gets

The round-of-16 in the open section of the World Cup kicked off with a brilliant day of top-notch, entertaining chess. Five out of eight games finished decisively, as the motivated grandmasters showcased their fighting spirit at the luxurious premises of the Marriott Hotel Boulevard in Baku.

  • In the most anticipated matchup of the round, Magnus Carlsen outclassed Vasyl Ivanchuk in a strategic battle.
  • Dommaraju Gukesh climbed to world number 7 in the live ratings list after beating Wang Hao with the black pieces.
  • The one rating underdog to score on Saturday was local representative Nijat Abasov, who got the better of Salem Saleh in a tension-filled encounter.
  • Leinier Dominguez, in typical style, entered a principled line, spent 48 minutes on a single move, and ended up beating Alexey Sarana.
  • Playing black, Arjun Erigaisi outplayed Nils Grandelius in an endgame with rooks and knights to get ahead on the scoreboard.

Leinier Dominguez, Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Fabiano Caruana and Jan-Krzysztof Duda played an interesting 47-move draw — Leinier Dominguez checks out the position | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

Carlsen manoeuvres his way to victory

Social media influencer Mr. Dodgy shared on Twitter once it was known that Carlsen would face Ivanchuk in the round-of-16:

A tiny part of Magnus has gotta be thinking, “Ivanchuk winning would be cool”.

Given Ivanchuk’s track record not only as a competitor but also as a chess fanatic, such a statement is not at all outrageous. Not to mention the fact that Carlsen was one of six top grandmasters who signed a letter sent to Ukraine’s Minister of Youth and Sport asking for Ivanchuk to be given permission to participate in the World Cup.

After struggling in the previous round, Carlsen honoured his esteemed opponent by playing a brilliant strategic game, though. Ivanchuk put up a great fight out of the opening, as he found a remarkable pawn push to neutralize all of White’s most immediate threats.

14...e5 was praised by commentators and pundits alike, but an inspired Carlsen nevertheless went on to show his class in the ensuing positional struggle.

White’s light-squared bishop played a vital role in the game.

In the ten moves that followed from the position above, the bishop went from f1 to d3 to b1 to a2 and back to b1, as Carlsen skilfully created subtle threats from afar against the somewhat weakened position of the black king.

IM Robert Ris shared expert analysis of the remarkable game!

Gukesh beats Wang, climbs to world number 7

If both Gukesh and Carlsen manage to make the most of their early leads in the round-of-16, we will get to a see them facing each other in the quarterfinals — in what would surely be an enticing confrontation for chess fans all over the world.

By beating Wang, Gukesh not only increased his chances of gaining a spot in the next Candidates Tournament, but also surpassed Anish Giri in the live ratings list, as he climbed to world number 7 and now stands only 15 points behind fellow prodigy Alireza Firouzja (at the start of the year, Firouzja had a 60-point advantage over Gukesh).

Gukesh’s passer on the c-file was the decisive factor in his latest victory.

34...Rd2 already creates direct tactical threats intending to materialize Black’s big positional edge. After 35.h3 Nd3 Wang was forced to exchange his all-important rook on the second rank.

White’s defences collapse: 36.Rxd2 cxd2 37.Rd4 Rc1+ (the other black rook was perfectly placed to join the attack) 38.Kh2 Nxf2, and Wang resigned.

Black is now a piece up, but even after 39.Rxd2 there is 39...Rh1+ 40.Kg3 Nxe4+, grabbing the rook. Game over.

Dommaraju Gukesh, Wang Hao

Unlike in other sports, chess grandmasters are not focused on celebrating after a win — here Gukesh shares an idea with Wang Hao right after the game | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Round-of-16 games - Open

Replay games from all round at

Women’s: Tan and Salimova score

The women’s World Cup has already reached the quarterfinals, with seven out of eight players belonging to the top-16 in the tournament’s starting rank.

Bulgarian IM Nurgyul Salimova is the clear underdog, both rating-wise and insofar she is not a frequent participant in FIDE’s World Championship cycle events. These factors did not prevent her from making the most of Polina Shuvalova’s strange blunder in a rook and knight vs rook and bishop endgame, though.

47...Kf6 is both the most natural and the correct way to continue with Black here, as the king defends the g5-pawn and prevents the white knight from jumping to e6. Shuvalova, however, surprisingly opted for 47...Ra1 after thinking for 3 minutes.

Salimova grabbed the pawn on g5 and went on to convert her material advantage into a crucial 77-move victory.

Nurgyul Salimova

Nurgyul Salimova | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Former women’s world champion Tan Zhongyi also got off to a winning start. She was two pawns down — but was putting a lot of pressure on Bella Khotenashvili — when the critical sequence of the game was reached.

33.Rxe6 is not immediately winning, but it does force Black to find an only move to keep the balance. 33...fxe6 is bad due to 34.Qe7+ Kg8 35.Qxd8+. Thus, in order to threaten ...fxe6, Black could play 33...h5, creating an escape square for the king. (In fact, pushing the h-pawn is the one move that does not lead to a losing position).

Khotenashvili was already in time trouble, though, and failed to find the precise continuation. Her 33...Rhf8, with the same idea, is not as strong, since after 34.Re5+ Black does not have 34...Qd1+ 35.Kg2, when ...h5-h4 — creating couterchances — would have been possible had the pawn been pushed on move 33

Tan coordinated her major pieces, and Black’s defences crumbled rather quickly.

Resignation came after 41.Rxg6+, with a forced mating attack.

Elisabeth Paehtz, Fabiano Caruana

Elisabeth Paehtz and Fabiano Caruana strolling during Saturday’s round; a Ukrainian flag in the foreground | Photo: FIDE / Anna Shtourman

Quarterfinals’ 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.