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Chess World Cup Has Ended: Duda and Kosteniuk Rising Above the Rest

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The huge event that is the 2021 FIDE Chess World Cup in Sochi has ended, with a lot of unexpected games and results, and a number of players establishing themselves on the global stage – with the winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda chief among them.

Running from July 12 and finally reaching its conclusion last August 6, the international chess event was a grueling single-elimination campaign for its 206 players – masters hailing from almost every part of the world. From crowd favorites such as Magnus Carlsen, Evgeny Bareev, and Tatev Abrahamyan to rising world favorites like Duda and Andrey Esipenko.

At the end of the 24-day Sochi tournament, it was Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda against the Russian GM Sergey Karjakin, with the younger Duda emerging as the first winner of the Chess World Cup from Poland. If you somehow missed almost a month of intense face-offs and elimination among the world’s best in chess, here are a few highlights to get you up to speed.

Who Gets to Play at the Chess World Cup?

chess world cup qualifiers
There are millions of chess players around the world. And for an event like the Chess World Cup, there are some pretty strict standards on who gets to play.

The 2021 Chess World Cup is an invitational event, which includes a variety of noteworthy participants who have distinguished themselves either from world events or continental events. FIDE has released the official list of qualifiers as well as the grounds for qualification for the tournament. Out of the 206 players in the recent Chess World Cup, 89 of them are from continental events across Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. Additionally, the reigning world chess champion (Carlsen) and women’s world chess champion (WWC, Ju Wenjun) are also reserved slots for the tournament. Ju Wenjun declined to play, with her slot going to Russian GM Dmitry Jakovenko 

Also, the 2019 World Junior Champion for the under-20 (U20) division was also granted a slot, but Ukrainian GM Evgeny Shtembuliak declined and his slot went to Russian GM Vladimir Malakhov. The Top 4 players from the previous world cup, the Chess World Cup 2019, are granted slots: 

  • Chinese GM Ding Liren, who was unable to play due to travel restrictions, was replaced by Ukraine’s Anton Korobov.
  • Azerbaijani GM Teimour Radjabov, who already had a wildcard slot for the 2022 Candidates, was replaced by Israeli GM Boris Gelfand
  • French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
  • Chinese GM Yu Yangyi

Slots were also reserved for the top thirteen (13) players with the highest ratings from averaging 12 rating lists from July 2021 to June 2021. There were also 91 Federation Slots for each of the FIDE’s affiliated chess organizations, for their 10 highest players. The FIDE President was also entitled to four nominees, and the organizer has 2 additional nominees.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Chess World Cup saw a mix of in-person and online chess gaming events. Both gaming formats had an arbiter to supervise the games.

GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s Flawless Run

chess world cup quarterfinals duda-vidit
Polish Grandmaster and eventual 2021 Chess World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda (L) faces off against Indian Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi in the quarterfinals.

Perhaps the best story to take away from the 2021 Chess World Cup is the victory achieved by Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who blazed his way through the tournament without losing any games in both the classical chess bouts or in his rapid tiebreakers.

The 23-year-old chess player breezed through the first four rounds, toppling Iranian GM Pouya Idani in the fourth round to advance to the next half of the tournament. He started facing Russian GM and three-time world blitz champion Alexander Grischuk, then the Indian GM Vidit Gujrathi, before facing the Norwegian GM Magnus Carlsen. The two semifinalists started off with a series of draws, but the Polish GM broke out of the lock with a win by Black, capitalizing on a low-key opening with Sicilian. The game posed significant challenges for both players although Duda started asserting his position and finishing 2½ over Carlsen’s 1½.

As for the finals, it was time for Jan-Krzysztof Duda to face Sergey Karjakin once more after the two have previously faced in the 2018 Speed Chess Championship semi-finals, where Duda also won but lost to the eventual winner Wesley So. In their latest bout, Duda asserted his position for a convincing victory, exploiting a blunder made by Karjakin who was pressed against the clock.

The first-ever Polish grandmaster to win the Chess World Cup takes home $88,000, followed by Karjakin with $64,000, Carlsen with $48,000, and Russian GM Vladimir Fedoseev with $64,000 coming in at fourth. Additionally, Duda and Karjakin are already qualified for the 2022 Candidates Tournament, an upcoming event to determine the next World Championship challenger. Also, other quarterfinalists aside from incumbent World Champion Magnus Carlsen, are qualified for the FIDE Grand Prix 2022, which would allow them a slot for the Candidates Tournament.

Alexandra Kosteniuk at the Inaugural Women’s Chess World Cup 2021

women's world chess cup winner
Alexandar Kosteniuk, Russian Grandmaster and winner of the Women’s Chess World Cup 2021.

This year’s World Cup also saw the inaugural women’s only version of the single-elimination tournament, with 103 chess players fighting for the top spot. It followed a seven-round knockout format with the Russian grandmasters Alexandra Kosteniuk and top seed Aleksandra Goryachkina facing off in the finals. Kosteniuk also made a spectacular run at the Women’s Chess World Cup, dominating the knockout tournament without ever going through a rapid tiebreaker. Her streak included passing through notable opponents such as Peruvian Women Grandmaster (WGM) Deysi Cori, Swedish GM Pia Cramling, and Ukrainian GM Mariya Muzychuk in the first four rounds.

For the quarterfinals, she towered over fellow Russian GM Valentina Gunina with a 2-0 victory before facing seventh seed and Chinese GM Tan Zhongyi. In the finals, experience prevailed as the 37-year-old Kosteniuk won over the 22-year-old top seed. With a victory in the first game and a draw in the second one, Kosteniuk secured the top spot in the tournament.

The site explains that Kosteniuk had her first big fight in a knockout final at only 17 years old in 2001, winning another in 2008. Both events were women’s world championships, making Kosteniuk the first female player to clinch two of these critical events. The only other player to do this is Armenian GM Levon Aronian.

For the inaugural Women’s Chess World Cup, Kosteniuk finished first, followed by Goryachkina, Tan Zhongli in third, and Ukrainian GM Anna Muzychuk ending in fourth. The top three finishers are now qualified for the Women’s Candidates Tournament 2022.

Related Questions:
Who won the 2021 Chess World Cup?
The Polish grandmaster Jan-Krzysztof Duda won the 2021 Chess World Cup after beating Russian GM Sergey Karjakin, making him the first chess player from Poland to win the tournament.

Where is the 2021 Chess World Cup held?
The 2021 Chess World Cup was held in Sochi, Russia, starting from July 12 and ending on August 6, 2021.

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