World Cup: Pragg and Salimova win tiebreakers

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/18/2023 – Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu beat his good friend Arjun Erigaisi in a series of tense rapid and blitz tiebreaks to reach the semifinals of the FIDE World Cup. The 18-year-old all but secured a spot in the next edition of the Candidates Tournament. Meanwhile, in the women’s category, Nurgyul Salimova upset Anna Muzychuk to reach the final of the event. Salimova thus qualified to the Women’s Candidates, while Muzychuk will face Tan Zhongyi for a spot in the all-important event. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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An 18-year-old Candidate

A heartbroken Vidit Gujrathi shared the following message on Twitter after being knocked out of the FIDE World Cup by Nijat Abasov:

Was probably one win away from Candidates. Proud of playing some good games and reaching QF of World Cup, again, but disappointed to come so close and get knocked out.

The 28-year-old was well aware of the huge opportunity he had just let slip away. Out of the four Indian players who made it to the quarterfinals, up to three could have qualified to the Candidates Tournament, but in the end it was the second-youngest of the group who reached the all-important double round-robin: Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu.

Pragg was paired up against his good friend Arjun Erigaisi, and remarkably managed to tie the score on demand after losing the first classical game in the quarterfinals. Despite facing each other in such an important stage, Pragg and Arjun continued to take walks together at night. Commentator Irene Sukandar shared a photo of the two on Twitter.

Thursday’s rapid and blitz tiebreaks were nothing short of exhilarating. Two draws were agreed in the 25-minute encounters, and then Pragg took the lead by turning the tables (with black) from a clearly inferior position.

White has all the trumps in this position, with an extra pawn, a passer on the a-file three squares away from promotion, and the more active major pieces. Both 45.Qc6 or 45.Qb7, protecting the a-pawn, would have kept White’s advantage, while Arjun’s 45.Qc4, allowing a queen swap, prompted the engines to evaluate the position as balanced.

Unfortunately for Arjun, another mistake eight moves later allowed his opponent to take the driver’s seat. Pragg, unlike his friend, made the most of his chances and won the game.

Praggnanandhaa, Arjun Erigaisi

Two fierce competitors | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Arjun had no trouble bouncing back in the next 10-minute game. Two more wins with black followed, which meant the Indian prodigies would decide the match in the sudden-death games — a single win is needed from that point on to reach the next stage.

Amazingly, once the clocks were started (in a 3-minute game), Pragg was not sitting at the board. His mom looked worried as he speed-walked to what would turn out to be the final encounter of a tension-filled match. Pragg won with white to obtain the biggest achievement of his life, one that could potentially lead to him playing a match for the World Championship.

Official photographer Maria Emelianova captured a couple of heart-warming moments and shared them on Twitter:

So Pragg is set to face Fabiano Caruana in the semifinals, which start on Saturday after a very deserved rest day!

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu and his mom | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Quarterfinals’ games - Open

Replay games from all round at

Women’s: Salimova upsets Muzychuk

One match went to tiebreaks in the semifinals of the women’s tournament. Nurgyul Salimova, who came from upsetting Polina Shuvalova, faced ninth seed Anna Muzychuk. After beating the Ukrainian grandmaster, this is what Salimova had to say about her opponent:

I grew up watching Anna’s matches. She was like my idol when I was a kid, and still I respect her a lot, and of course she was the clear favourite. But I didn’t think about this, because it doesn’t help thinking about this. I just prepared for my matches.

Wins with black were traded in the first two 25-minute games, as Salimova found a nice tactical trick to score a full point in the first encounter of the day.

29...Bf5 invited 30.Qxb8, which Muzychuk played, failing to notice that now she either had to give up a lot of material or let her opponent go for a mating attack.

There followed 30...Kh7 31.Qf4 Bh6 32.Qf2 and it is mate-in-three for Black.

Muzychuk resigned after 32...Bc2+. In case of 33.Kc1 there is 33...Bd3 34.Kd1 Qc2#

In the 10-minute section, Salimova got ahead on the scoreboard by winning a remarkable game in just 23 moves. A draw in the final game gave the 20-year-old from Krepcha a ticket to the gruelling event’s final — and, perhaps more importantly, a spot in the 2024 Women’s Candidates Tournament.

Nurgyul Salimova

Nurgyul Salimova | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Semifinals’ 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.