Africans at the World Cup 2021: Round 3.1

The number of games at the World Cup is becoming less and less as more and more players are getting knocked out. A lot of the favourites are making great progress to the coveted World Cup, but there have also been a handful of upsets. Bassem Amin is leading the way for Africa against former Candidate Etienne Bacrot from France, who overcame Ravi Haria in the tiebreaks.

GM Bassem Amin | Image from Official Website Anastasiia Korolkova

Solid draw with black

Etienne Bacrot is a world-class player who ranked as high as number nine in the world at his peak. Although his rating has taken a bit of a dip in recent times, he is still a really strong and experienced player. He is also known for being the current second of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Today Bassem Amin started with the Black pieces and made a draw, which is a good start for him in this match that promises to be a great battle.

GM Etienne Bacrot | Image from Official Website Anastasiia Korolkova

Bassem Amin really believes in the Breyer system of the Ruy Lopez. He is one of the world’s leading experts in this system, but the downside to only playing one opening is that people are able to target your lines. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is another player who has a very narrow repertoire. He is an expert in his openings, but he is also really easy to prepare against and this showed in his recent classical tournaments where he scored 0/3 in his favourite Poisoned Pawn Najdorf. Amin is very aware that people will prepare for him, but he believes that his vast experience in this opening will help him to get out of any trouble. So, this is a high risk, high reward strategy.

White has gained a comfortable advantage out of the opening. He has more space and has possibilities for a kingside initiative, however Black also has his own trumps, namely he can create some counter-play with his central pawns. Therefore, White needs to take some care to maintain his advantage here.

The position has developed a bit more and both sides have made some progress. Black has probably made more progress than White, but for the moment he needs to answer the question to the d5-pawn. How can he solve this problem?

Black has been under pressure for the last couple of moves and with time trouble approaching, Amin tried to exchange some pieces, but unfortunately there is a tactical refutation here.

Black’s king is under a lot of pressure now, but with both players in time trouble, Bacrot missed the best way to continue here, and the game just traded down to an opposite-coloured bishop ending. Can you improve on Bacrot’s play?

Dr Bassem Amin in action | Image from Official Website Eric Rosen

not the only one?

It turns out that Bassem Amin is not the only African left in the event. We also have IA, FM, FI Stephen Kisuze from Uganda in Sochi, who is working as an arbiter in the event. If the pictures are correct, it seems that he was the arbiter in the Armageddon game between Olga Badelka and Ana Matnadze in the round 2 tiebreaks, which devolved into chaos as the time ticked down.

IA Stephen Kisuze with IM Ana Matnadze | Image from Official Website Eric Rosen
Armegeddon chaos in IM Olga Badelka-IM Ana Matnadze | Official Twitter page

This is a great opportunity for the Ugandan arbiter to gain invaluable experience at the highest level of chess. Dr Marape Marape from Botswana is also listed as one of the FIDE officials in Sochi, as a member of the FIDE Medical Commission.

caruana returns!

Fabiano Caruana was given the green light to continue in the tournament after winning his round two match due to forfeiture of his opponent because of a positive COVID-19 result. There were fears that Caruana would be unable to continue but after two negative test results, he has been allowed to continue. There have been no other COVID-19 related incidents since the drama with Levon Aronian and the Indonesian team, and I am sure that the organizing committee is trying their utmost to prevent a similar incident from occurring.

Stay tuned tomorrow as Amin will try to put some pressure on Bacrot with the White pieces.

Scheduled to take place from July 12th (Round 1) to August 6th (finals), the 2021 FIDE World Cup will gather together in Sochi (Russia) 309 of the world’s best chess players, with 206 of them playing in the Open World Cup and 103 participants in the first ever Women’s World Cup.

The top two finishers in the tournament, aside from World Champion Magnus Carlsen who is also participating, will qualify for the 2022 Candidates Tournament, in addition to winning the 110.000 USD first prize (80.000 USD for the runner-up).

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