Africans at the World Cup 2021: Round 3.2

After reaching a stalemate in their classical encounters, Bassem Amin and Etienne Bacrot are going to the tiebreaks! The African number one was unable to gain any ground today with the white pieces against the Frenchman and will be hoping to do better tomorrow in the tiebreaks. There is actually a bit of a history between these two players and rapid mini-matches, which will make the games tomorrow just a bit more spicy.

Dr GM Bassem Amin | Image from Official Website Eric Rosen

an Uneventful draw

Bassem Amin had the white pieces and was hoping to put some pressure on Etienne Bacrot today, but the Frenchman neutralised Amin’s King’s Indian Attack and from then on there was never really any other result than a draw on the cards.

Amin went for his favourite King’s Indian Attack. Bacrot responded with a rather rare line, after which Amin was unable to get anything substantial from the opening. They traded a couple of pieces and we got to this position. White can probably claim that his position is more pleasant here, but against an experienced player like Etienne Bacrot this almost counts for nothing.

This is probably one moment that is slightly interesting. If White can achieve the a5-a6 push, he can actually start playing for a win. Unfortunately, 21.a6 immediately would be answered by the strong 21…c5! Therefore, Amin went for 21.b4 to prevent this, but now Black can deal with the a5-a6 push and then there is not much in this position.

Bassem Amin drawing lots for the tiebreaks | Image from Official Website Eric Rosen

The opponent of the winner of this match is still not decided as Jakhongir Vakhidov, from Uzebekistan, and Pavel Ponkratov, from Russia, traded blows in their classical games and will also need more rapid games to separate them from each other.

a psychological advantage?

Going into the tiebreaks, Bacrot has the higher rapid and blitz ratings, with 2700 and 2673 respectively. Amin comes into the match with rapid and blitz ratings of 2620 and 2617. Although one important psychological factor going into this match is the fact that Amin beat Bacrot 2.5-1.5 in a 4-game rapid mini-match in 2019 at the Karpov Trophy in Cap d’Agde, France. Amin beat Bacrot to reach the finals of the event, where he lost against Alexey Sarana (who actually faced Olanrewaju Ajibola, our Nigerian representative, in this World Cup). That match will definitely play on the minds of the players and it will be important for both that they do not let it influence their play. Let us take a look at some of the interesting moments from that match to get a gist of what we can expect in their tiebreak encounter.

Game One

From another King’s Indian Attack, we reached this equal knight endgame. Amin actually managed to swindle his opponent here. He went after the weak h6-pawn and Bacrot went after the weak b2-pawn. Both achieved their objectives, after which it is still equal, but Bacrot lost concentration for one move and Amin was able to escort his h-pawn to promotion.

Game Two

White has gained a very nice position from the Breyer variation of the Ruy Lopez, and here Bacrot found a cute tactic that liquidated the position into a winning opposite-coloured bishop ending, which he was able to convert in order to level the score.

Etienne Bacrot | Image Chessbase
Game Three

Black is in huge trouble. White managed to gain a big attack from the Breyer, once again, but he now has a question to answer. How can White continue the attack in the best way? White had a move here that ended the game on the spot, Bacrot chose a less accurate option which allowed an endgame where White is an exchange up, but by no means clearly winning. Bassem managed to defend the position, and was even able to build up an initiative at some point, but the game eventually ended in a draw.

Game Four

White can obtain a winning advantage here from the King’s Indian Attack. What did Amin play here to win the match?

Will we see more Breyers and King’s Indian Attack or will they switch things up? Regardless of the opening, we can see that this match-up is bound to be full of tactics and swindles and the match will probably be decided by very fine margins.

fide World chess championships 2004

Some readers pointed out that Bassem Amin was not the first African to advance to the third round of the World Cup, but that Hicham Hamdouchi from Morocco achieved this in 2004, beating Grandmasters Alexander Motylev and Sergey Kudrin before losing to the eventual runner-up Michael Adams.

The esteemed Moroccan player Hicham Hamdouchi | Chessbase

We would just like to clarify that this great feat by Hamdouchi was achieved at the FIDE World Chess Championships and not the Chess World Cup, which only started in 2005. However, it is also important to mention this achievement by Hamdouchi in a very similar, but slightly different knockout format, as this set the groundwork for what we are now witnessing with Bassem Amin.

All the best to African number one, Bassem Amin, in the tiebreaks. The whole of Africa is behind you!

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).

One comment

  1. Respect and Thanks for these beautiful reports, Dante! I see that you are also a Chess reporting Wonder!

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