Goryachkina wins Women’s World Cup, Muzychuk reaches Candidates

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/22/2023 – Aleksandra Goryachkina clinched gold at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Baku after beating Nurgyul Salimova in rapid tiebreaks. The Russian grandmaster entered the tournament as the second seed, and needed to show great technique to take down the over-performing Bulgarian underdog. Anna Muzychuk also reached the podium, as she beat Tan Zhongyi in the match for third place. Thanks to this win, Muzychuk gained a spot in the 2024 Women’s Candidates Tournament. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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Salimova puts up a great fight

Aleksandra Goryachkina entered the second edition of the Women’s World Cup as the second seed, only behind Ju Wenjun, who came from successfully defending the Women’s World Championship title just a week before the start of the event in Baku. While Ju was knocked out by Elisabeth Paehtz in the fourth round, Goryachkina made it to the final and clinched the gold medal after beating Nurgyul Salimova by 2½-1½ in a hard-fought match.

On her way to tournament victory, Goryachkina only needed to play rapid and blitz tiebreakers twice, first against Harika Dronavalli in the quarterfinals and then against Salimova in the final. At 24, the Russian grandmaster is already a seasoned professional, having won the 2019 Women’s Candidates (as a 20-year-old) and having fallen just short of beating Ju in the match for the world crown shortly before the pandemic started in 2020.

Her 8/12 performance in classical games in Baku gained Goryachkina one rating point, as she now stands in third place in the live ratings list, only two points behind Ju. The Russian had already qualified to the 2024 Women’s Candidates by getting second place in the 2022-23 FIDE Grand Prix.

Goryachkina bagged US$ 50,000 for her triumph, while Salimova took home US$ 35,000. Anna Muzychuk, who beat Tan Zhongyi in the match for third place, gained US$ 25,000. Thanks to her win over Tan, Muzychuk secured a spot in the 2024 Women’s Candidates Tournament.

Aleksandra Goryahckina

Aleksandra Goryachkina | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Much like Magnus Carlsen in the open section, who is set to play 31st seed Praggnanandhaa in the tournament’s final, Goryachkina faced an over-performing underdog in Salimova.

Before reaching the final match, the 20-year-old from Krepcha, Bulgaria knocked out Polina Shuvalova (rated 2496) and Anna Muzychuk (2504) in the previous two rounds. Salimova showed great poise throughout the event, getting over a painful defeat against Shuvalova in quarterfinals and bouncing back in the first pair of rapid tiebreakers against Muzychuk.

Against Goryachkina, Salimova missed chances both in the second classical game and in the first game of the tiebreaks.

With her strong connected passers on the queenside, White was well-advised to keep the rook on the board with 35.Rb1 here, when good technique would still be required to push the dangerous pawns down the board. Importantly, though, having the initiative is especially relevant in rapid games.

Salimova’s 35.Kxh2, on the other hand, was replied by 35...Qxf1 36.Qxf5 Qc4, and soon after White could not prevent her opponent from saving a draw by perpetual check.

Nurgyul Salimova

Nurgyul Salimova | Photo: chess.com / Maria Emelianova

In the rematch, Goryachkina demonstrated her experience by patiently looking for a way to break through in a balanced knight vs bishop endgame.

White is a pawn up, but with her active king and flexible bishop, Black has excellent chances of holding a draw.

Goryachkina knew she had nothing to lose, though, and proceeded to torture her opponent with speculative knight manoeuvres. From the position above, 14 moves passed before White pushed her f-pawn, while Salimova only lost the thread on move 89.

The eventual champion was rewarded for her patience with a 103-move win that gained her the title of Women’s World Cup champion.

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Time to interview the new champion | Photo: chess.com / Maria Emelianova

Mariya Muzychuk, Anna Muzychuk

Mariya Muzychuk celebrating with her sister Anna — the Ukrainians moved to Spain due to Russia’s invasion of her country | Photo: chess.com / Maria Emelianova

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Final and match for third place - Women’s

Replay games from all round at Live.ChessBase.com

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.