FIDE World Cup: Gukesh sets up Magnus Carlsen face-off in quarters

August 14, 2023

ChessFIDE World Cup


India’s highest-rated chess player Gukesh D has set up a much-awaited quarterfinal clash against five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen in the FIDE World Cup in Baku on Sunday.

The 17-year-old Gukesh, who has a live rating of 2761 making him the seventh highest-rated player in the world, played solidly with white pieces to pull off a much-needed draw against China’s Wang Hao for a 1.5-0.5 victory.

Carlsen on the other hand, defeated Ukrainian legend Vassily Ivanchuk to show signs that he is peaking at the right time.

The quarterfinal will be played on Tuesday.

In his post-match interview, the former world champion said Gukesh is one of the world’s top players, so it’s no surprise he made it to the quarterfinal.

“We are in the quarters, so you expect to play the top guys. The way he is playing now, Gukesh is one of them,” the Norwegian said.

Carlsen is absolutely on point. Should his form continue, Gukesh possesses a realistic chance of being the youngest player to cross 2800, a record currently held by GM Alireza Firouzja (18 years and 166 days).

Just 10 days ago, Gukesh went past Viswanathan Anand as the highest-rated Indian player and while that wasn’t a surprise, beating Carlsen in a Classical over-the-board game will be a huge boost to the youngster. He’s beaten Carlsen in an online game – the youngest player to do so – but Carlsen is a different beast when it comes to over-the-board games.

The youngster from Chennai though seems headed in the right direction. Last month, he edged Carlsen to become the youngest chess player to cross the 2750 ratings mark.

While Carlsen is known to keep his cards close to his chest, Gukesh will definitely know a thing or two about his thought process, having been a part of his team at the inaugural Global Chess League held in June this year.

Three Indian prodigies Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi, and R Praggnanandhaa were part of Carlsen’s team SG Alpine Warriors and the players have said that the Norwegian had gone out of his way to make them feel comfortable. The Indian Express reported how their lunch and dinner sessions were converted into a tutor program much to the delight of the Indian youngsters.

Carlsen had only words of praise for Gukesh and the rest.

“A player like Gukesh, who has broken into the world’s elite at an early age, is going to be the trend rather than the exception. I think India has a lot to look forward to,” Carlsen had said, adding, “It’s awesome to see the huge amounts of young Indian players that are taking over the chess scene. India is producing GMs at a higher level than ever before. I think we’re just at the beginning of a chess revolution.”

Other Indians in the fray

India’s other teen sensation Praggnanandhaa also made it to the quarterfinal of the FIDE World Cup after his win over Hungarian Ferenc Berkes. An Indian is guaranteed a semifinal spot as Praggnanandhaa will face compatriot Erigaisi in the last eight.

In the last game to finish, playing white, Praggnanandhaa ended Berkes’ resistance in 49 moves after gaining control on the 21st move. So dominant was Praggnanadhaa’s position that the outcome of the game became a foregone conclusion much before Berkes resigned.

More importantly, the win saw Praggnanandhaa reach a career-high live ranking of 24 with a live rating of 2720.2 and become the fourth Indian in the elite World’s top 25.

While Praggnanandhaa was delighted with the win, he wasn’t so happy that his next opponent was Erigaisi.

“He (Erigaisi) is not a pleasant opponent to face for sure as we are very good friends. After each game, we play table tennis, walk, or play some other games and just relax together. I would like someone else, any other opponent,” he said.

The other two Indians in the fray Vidit Gujrathi and D. Harika drew again to book their spots in Monday’s tie-breaker.

Vidit proved equal to fourth seed Ian Nepomniachtchi in 49 moves while Harika matched second-seeded Aleksandra Goryachkina for 60 moves.

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