FIDE World Cup R6.1: Carlsen, Shankland Strike
Sam Shankland giving Sergey Karjakin "the stare." Photo: Eric Rosen/FIDE.

FIDE World Cup R6.1: Carlsen, Shankland Strike

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

Using a positional queen sacrifice, an inspired GM Magnus Carlsen started his FIDE World Cup quarterfinal with a win against GM Etienne Bacrot. GM Sam Shankland might eliminate another former World Cup winner as the American GM defeated GM Sergey Karjakin in the first game.

The two other games in the quarterfinals of the open section ended in draws. The women's tournament had a rest day on Wednesday.

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Although Bacrot and Carlsen had come from a tough day of tiebreaks, both players didn't back down in their first game in four years. It was a full-blooded fight with ups and downs for Bacrot but almost only ups for Carlsen, who played one of his best games at this World Cup so far.

"Of course, I was really tired yesterday evening as well, but I had a decent night's sleep," said Carlsen. "I didn't know what to expect, to be honest, since Etienne had played four tiebreaks in a row, so I thought he would need a rest. Frankly, I thought he was just going to try and force a draw to give himself a rest day and then to play sharply as Black."

Etienne Bacrot Carlsen 2021 FIDE World Cup
A smiling Etienne Bacrot after the game. Photo: Eric Rosen/FIDE.

That sharp game came immediately in the first, where Carlsen seemed to be heading for a Marshall, and Bacrot chose the 8.a4 Anti-Marshall with the somewhat rare 10.Bd2. At that moment, Carlsen spent 28 minutes on his reply to avoid the most drawish type of positions. A few moves later he would be down 40 minutes on the clock.

Carlsen: "I thought, if he goes for one of these side lines, I shouldn't be too worried, so I thought I'll play something, and I'll probably be a bit worse but we'll get a game. And that's fine by me. But it's easier said than done."

His 16th move was a key moment, where the world champion decided to sacrifice his e-pawn, thus playing in Marshall style after all.

Here Carlsen played 16...Rad8.

"I decided that I had to give up a pawn," he said. "I know that Etienne has played these positions so many times as Black, so he'd be more comfortable as Black than as White."

Bacrot Carlsen 2021 FIDE World Cup
Bacrot-Carlsen. Photo: Eric Rosen/FIDE.

Bacrot took the pawn and tried to put up a solid pawn structure on the kingside but also seriously weakened the light squares around his king with his light-squared bishop being miles away. He couldn't avoid some inaccuracies and, under heavy pressure, decided on the good practical try 28.d5.

Here Bacrot played 28.d5.

"28.d5 was, in general, a shock to me," said Carlsen, who then went for a positional queen sacrifice with 28...Qxd5 29.Rad1 Rxe4!?. That wasn't objectively the strongest continuation but too tempting not to play: "I didn't see a win after the queen sac, but I thought it would be very difficult for him."

Carlsen's judgment turned out to be correct: it was too hard for Bacrot to defend. The French GM initially found several computer-accurate queen moves but went astray on move 39. Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

After toppling World Cup giant GM Peter Svidler, Shankland could be eliminating another former winner in the next round. The American grandmaster managed to beat Karjakin with the white pieces, putting the Russian player in a must-win situation for his white game.

In a topical line of the English Opening, Shankland's sixth move was not the main line, but it had been played twice by Svidler—as if the American GM wanted to show some more respect to his opponent of the previous round.

Shankland Karjakin Sochi 2021
Shankland-Karjakin. Photo: Eric Rosen/FIDE.

Karjakin was prepared for it and when the queens were traded on move 12, the queenless middlegame that followed was almost equal. Almost.

Shankland put a bit of pressure on the light squares, and his position seemed a bit more pleasant to play. Still, this shouldn't have been too difficult to hold for Karjakin, who has been nicknamed Minister of Defense. His 38...f5 move, however, was a mistake.

Here Karjakin played 38...f5.

It looks positionally desirable to fix all of White's kingside pawns on the color of the bishops and place the knight on the blockading e6-square, but there were concrete problems: White was getting the d5-square for his own knight, which gave him the possibility of a breakthrough on the queenside. Shankland executed this perfectly:

Shankland 2021 FIDE World Cup
The smile of a happy man. Photo: Eric Rosen/FIDE.

The other two games ended relatively quickly in draws. GM Vidit Gujrathi couldn't demonstrate an opening advantage in his game with GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and the point was split on move 33.

"It was one of those boring Catalans, which you see from time to time," said Vidit. "I felt like optically White was slightly better; I have two bishops, maybe some squares. I don't really know exactly what I could have done better."

Vidit Duda Sochi 2021
Vidit-Duda. Photo: Eric Rosen/FIDE.

Not long after, GM Vladimir Fedoseev drew his game with GM Amin Tabatabaei. Afterward, Fedoseev said the game went "pretty bad" for him because he felt he had a promising position out of the opening but then got under pressure.

He decided to sacrifice a pawn on move 29, but to his surprise, Tabatabaei didn't accept it, and then Fedoseev could "kill" the game immediately with a few trades.

Tabatabaei-Fedoseev Sochi 2021
Tabatabaei-Fedoseev. Photo: Eric Rosen/FIDE.

The return games are played on Thursday with Bacrot and Karjakin having to win on demand. The women's tournament resumes with the first game of the semifinals.

Quarterfinals | Results

Fed Player Rtg - Fed Player Rtg G1 G2 TB
GM Carlsen, Magnus 2847 - GM Bacrot, Etienne 2678 1-0 . .
GM Karjakin, Sergey 2757 - GM Shankland, Sam 2709 0-1 . .
GM Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2738 - GM Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 2726 ½-½ . .
GM Fedoseev, Vladimir 2696 - GM Tabatabaei, M. Amin 2613 ½-½ . .

2021 FIDE World Cup results

The FIDE World Cup takes place in the Galaxy Leisure Complex in Sochi, Russia, until August 6, 2021. Each round consists of two classical games and, if necessary, a rapid/blitz tiebreak on the third day. The open section began round two with 128 players and the women's section, 64.

Previous reports:

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