Praggnanandhaa-Carlsen In Final; Goryachkina Takes Women's Title
Praggnanandhaa beat Caruana to reach the FIDE World Cup final. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Praggnanandhaa-Carlsen In Final; Goryachkina Takes Women's Title

| 69 | Chess Event Coverage

Indian sensation GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu will play world number-one GM Magnus Carlsen in the final of the 2023 FIDE World Cup after the 18-year-old defeated GM Fabiano Caruana 3.5-2.5 in a semifinal decided by a single tiebreak win.

GM Aleksandra Goryachkina picks up $50,000 as the 2023 FIDE Women's World Cup winner after IM Nurgyul Salimova let another wonderful chance slip in the first tiebreak game and was then ground down in 105 moves in the second.

The final matches start on Tuesday, August 22, at 7 a.m. ET / 13:00 CEST / 4:30 p.m. IST.

How to watch the 2023 FIDE World Cup
You can watch the 2023 FIDE World Cup broadcast on Twitch and YouTube. You can also find all the details for the Open and Women's sections on our live events platform.

The live broadcast was hosted by GM Simon Williams and IM Tania Sachdev.

309 players qualified for the World Cup, but by the round-seven tiebreaks day we were down to just two finalists deciding the Women's title, while one remaining spot was up for grabs in the Open final.

Goryachkina Wins 2023 FIDE Women's World Cup 

For 24-year-old Goryachkina the Women's World Cup final must have felt like unfinished business. In 2021 she reached the final in Sochi as the number-one seed, and she was winning the first game against GM Alexandra Kosteniuk before going on to lose both that game and the match. In 2023, as the number-two seed behind GM Ju Wenjun, she had the chance to make up for that defeat, especially since she was facing the 29th seed.

Salimova put up a huge fight, but Goryachkina stayed calm when it mattered. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

For 20-year-old Salimova this had already been a dream tournament, and by reaching the final she'd done something Goryachkina had already wrapped up before the event began—qualified for the FIDE Women's Candidates Chess Tournament 2024. The stakes were still high, however, since for Salimova it wasn't just about the difference between the $50,000 first and $35,000 second prizes, but the chance to earn the full grandmaster title. Usually that requires three "GM norms" and a 2500-rating, but the 2403-rated Bulgarian would skip those steps if she won the tournament.

Salimova had come agonisingly close to victory in the second classical game, but she shrugged off that disappointment to take the initiative again in the first 25-minute tiebreak game. She played the London System, and by the time she went for 20.b4! she was in complete control.      

Goryachkina couldn't capture twice on b4 without allowing the white queen to get to d7, as the commentators indicated on the board, when checkmate on f7 would follow.

The situation looked hopeless for Goryachkina, but she later explained that given the fast time control she hadn't realised quite how bad her position was. "My opponent helped me!" she added, with Salimova losing her way when complications suddenly arose and she was down to under a minute on her clock.

Salimova's disappointment at the draw by repetition was obvious.

It's notorious in sports that if you miss your chances your opponent tends to score instead, and for the first time in the match it was Goryachkina who gained a big advantage early on in the next game. Salimova gave up a pawn for nebulous compensation, and seemed to compound the error by swapping off queens.

Things weren't so simple, however, and some inaccuracies plus tenacious defense saw the Bulgarian on the brink of survival. At one point it was just a move away.

68...Bxe2! by Salimova would have drawn on the spot, since after 69.Kxe2?? d3+ Black even wins. 

Instead 68...Ba6 spoiled nothing, objectively speaking, but the game went on, and Goryachkina soon had two dangerous connected passed pawns. All it took was one slip, 89...Be2?, played with seven seconds on Salimova's clock, and White was winning.  

So Goryachkina took gold and the $50,000 top prize, while Salimova picked up silver and $35,000, though there was no display of emotion at the finish. 

GM Anna Muzychuk had already a day earlier sealed bronze, $25,000, and a spot in the Candidates Tournament.

Salimova (second), Goryachkina (first), and Muzychuk (third) made up the podium of the Women's World Cup. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The final Women's bracket looks as follows:

Praggnanandhaa Beats Caruana To Set Up Carlsen Final

"I didn’t really expect to play Magnus in this tournament at all, because the only way I could play him was in the finals," said Praggnanandhaa after he'd followed up his trick of knocking out world number-two (on the official FIDE list) GM Hikaru Nakamura by taking down number-three Caruana. He added: "I think this match it just goes to my defensive skills. I was almost losing in every single game!" 

Praggnanandhaa later qualified that statement, but he correctly pointed out he was on the defensive in both classical games, then lost in the first tiebreak game. Caruana missed a win in the middlegame (31.Bxe5!) but steadily built an advantage until a rook sacrifice gave him a winning endgame. Praggnanandhaa noted "with little time it's never easy," and 55.f4? let the win slip away in a single move. 

The most natural move in the position, 55.a6!, was winning, while after the move in the game, Praggnanandhaa didn't give his illustrious opponent a second chance.

The second 25-minute game was as close as we got to a quiet game in the match, since Praggnanandhaa's London System brought him a small edge, though one that fizzled out in a time scramble that was tense but where the balance never seriously swung to either side. 

Praggnanandhaa's stare is developing nicely. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

For the first 10-minute game, Praggnanandhaa again had the white pieces, and this time he followed Caruana in going for the Italian. It looked like it had brought nothing, but the U.S. star's 29...Bc5?! was a seemingly minor inaccuracy that somehow led, it felt almost by force, to defeat. The king on g2 soon went on a triumphant march to b7, and by the end White was delivering checkmate with an extra queen—an extraordinary transformation.  

The positions after 29...Bc5 and 63.Qg7+.

In his Game of the Day analysis, GM Rafael Leitao looks at how the 18-year-old picked up that crucial win.

That was Caruana's first loss in 17 games at the 2023 World Cup, but it immediately left him on the brink of defeat. He had to bounce back on demand and once again picked the Italian, but this time, by move 19, it was clear that Praggnanandhaa had solved all his problems.

Soon Black was completely on top, with Praggnanandhaa accurately summarizing what followed:

I thought I should win it very comfortably. I had a lot of time as well, and I had a very good position, but then I started to hesitate and I was trying to be cautious, which is never a good idea in such situations. Then I allowed a lot of counterplay. I think I was never in danger, but it could have been smooth.

It was only on move 82 that Caruana finally forced a draw that meant his 18-year-old opponent was through to the World Cup final.

That means that Praggnanandhaa, the youngest ever World Cup finalist, is already sure of $80,000, while if he wins the final he'll earn $110,000. To do that he has to take down another first-time finalist—five-time world champion and world number-one Carlsen.

Praggnanandhaa can focus on that task, since he's now wrapped up one of the eight spots in the Candidates Tournament without needing to worry about Carlsen potentially changing his mind about participation. The Indian commented:

To qualify among the first people to make it to the Candidates feels really good. I really wanted to fix the spot. I didn’t want to get in this fourth position and try to wait for Magnus’ decision, but this feels really good.

Praggnanandhaa's proud mother is his secret weapon. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Two people who still have work to do are Caruana and GM Nijat Abasov, who will fight it out for 3rd place, $60,000, and a guaranteed spot in the Candidates.

There's no rest day, so the action starts Tuesday, with no margin for error. Between 2005 and 2019 the World Cup had four-game finals, but in 2021 and now in 2023 the final matches are played over just two classical games. Will Carlsen win one of the last trophies to elude him in his career, or will Praggnanandhaa send out another signal that his time has come? We'll soon find out!

All Games: Round 7 Tiebreaks

The 2023 FIDE World Cup and Women's World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, are big knockout events that will determine six spots in the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournaments. The action began July 30 and ends August 24, with a combined $2.5 million prize fund.

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Colin McGourty

Colin McGourty led news at Chess24 from its launch until it merged with a decade later. An amateur player, he got into chess writing when he set up the website Chess in Translation after previously studying Slavic languages and literature in St. Andrews, Odesa, Oxford, and Krakow.

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