Arjun Erigaisi played bravely and executed his plan brilliantly to overpower R. Praggnanandhaa in 53 moves in the first game of their clash in the FIDE World Cup quarterfinals in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Tuesday.
A little earlier, Magnus Carlsen recorded his fourth successive victory in classical time-format by punishing D. Gukesh for an error of judgement.
Vidit Gujrathi held a small advantage during the first half of his game against local hope Nijat Abasov but could not enlarge it enough. The game eventually ended in a marathon 109–move draw.
The all-American encounter too unfolded similarly, where Leinier Dominguez Perez tossed away a massive advantage and let World No. 2 Fabiano Caruana escape with a 71-move draw.
The foundation of Arjun’s first win over Praggnanandhaa in only their second classical time-control game was laid when he sacrificed a knight for two kingside pawns.
What shifted the balance in Arjun’s favour was Praggnanandhaa’s 37th move, when he ignored the danger posed by the black queen and played his bishop. Sensing his chance, Arjun calculated for three minutes and belted out the next seven moves in the space of 78 seconds to send a signal to his younger rival that he had calculated this winning line.
Praggnanandhaa delayed the inevitable by taking 21 minutes for the next move and eventually gave up in 53 moves after Arjun’s queen returned to the board.
Carlsen and Gukesh were evenly matched until the Indian teenager erred on the 34th move, by moving his rook to the queen’s side. At this point, the players had a rook and three pawns each.
Off the next move, Carlsen did not find the best continuation but Gukesh immediately offered his famed rival a second chance and that proved decisive.
Carlsen wasted no time in bringing his rook and king closer to Gukesh’s isolated kingside pawn and soon promoted a central passed-pawn to the seventh rank. A helpless Gukesh gave up after 48 moves.
In the opening games of the women’s semifinals, second seeded Russian Aleksandra Goryachkina tamed China’s Tan Zhongyi in 45 moves after Ukraine’s Anna Muzychuk drew with Bulgaria’s underdog Nurgyul Salimova in 32 moves.
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