World Cup Highlights – Part 1

by Joshua Doknjas
7/28/2021 – The 2021 FIDE World Cup in Sochi, Russia has narrowed down the 206 starting participants to just 8 remaining players. Canadian FM Joshua Doknjas analyzes some of the most interesting games from the first half of the event. | Photos: Anastasiia Korolka (FIDE)

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Dubov – Malakhov

Daniil Dubov played a brilliant attacking game against Vladimir Malakhov in the 3rd round of the event. Dubov had the opportunity to play one of his favourite opening setups against the Slav, which led to him seizing the initiative early in the middlegame. The double pawn sacrifice that followed provided Dubov’s pieces with excellent outposts and forced Malakhov to defend passively for the entire middlegame.


Carlsen – Wojtaszek

The Round 4 matchup between Magnus Carlsen and Radoslaw Wojtaszek featured two incredibly tense and complicated classical games. Both games saw Carlsen create attacks with the kings castled on the same side of the board. He achieved serious chances in both games, but Wojtaszek’s resourcefulness led to two draws and brought the match into tiebreaks.

The following game is the second classical game of their match, where Carlsen introduced a dangerous new idea against Wojtaszek’s Sicilian. Interestingly, the day after this game was played, Svidler successfully employed the same opening idea in his match with Vitiugov and advanced into the final 16.


Ivic’s Attacking Play

Compared to previous World Cups, there are quite a few lower rated players in the remaining 16. One of these players is Velimir Ivic, who has scored three upsets in a row by winning his matches against Francisco Vallejo Pons, Matthias Bluebaum, and Dmitry Andreikin. Ivic’s games with the White pieces have been especially impressive because he demonstrated strong preparation in sharp lines of the French and Caro-Kann and launched crushing attacks.


Velimir Ivic | Photo: Anastasiia Korolka (FIDE)

Tabatabaei – Yu Yangyi

In Rounds 3 and 4, Amin Tabatabaei scored two upsets against Yu Yangyi and Pentala Harikrishna by winning the classical portion of both matches 1.5-0.5. His two wins against these 2700+ Grandmasters had a completely different character. The game against Yu Yangyi was won with a very aggressive style, as Tabatabaei chose a sharp variation of the Italian opening and sacrificed a piece to create a decisive kingside attack. In the following match, the Iranian Grandmaster outplayed Harikrishna in an endgame and exploited a mistake on move 30 to take the full point.

Tabatabaei’s win against Yu Yangyi is analyzed below.


M. Amin Tabatabaei | Photo: Anastasiia Korolka

The second part of this article will follow soon and examine the most interesting games of the remaining players.


Joshua Doknjas is a FIDE Master from Canada and the author of two books on the Sicilian Najdorf and Ruy Lopez. He enjoys teaching, following, and writing about chess. Joshua is especially interested in the role of engines during opening preparation and understanding how AI has influenced modern chess.


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