Africans at the World Cup 2021: Round 3 Tiebreaks

Every chess lover would probably agree that the third round tiebreaks of the World Cup were completely worthy of International Chess Day. There was drama, there were upsets and, in general, it was just a great day of chess. Unfortunately, Africa’s journey at the World Cup has come to an end with Bassem Amin being the last one to be knocked out. We started off with 22 players, only 2 progressed to the second round, and only Africa’s number one managed to jump over that hurdle into the third but fell just short from the uncharted territory of the fourth round.

Dr GM Bassem Amin deep in thought | Image from Official Website Eric Rosen

fine margins

We mentioned in our last article that the match between Etienne Bacrot and Bassem Amin would be decided by very fine margins and so it was. Just as their match in 2019 at the Karpov Trophy, both players showed great fighting spirit and very interesting play. The games were filled with sacrifices and tactics. Let us have a look at how Bacrot managed to come out the victor:

The battle of giants! | Image from Official Website Anastasiia Korolkova

Game one

Amin decided to continue with the King’s Indian Attack, although he changed his move order from the first game. The position we have here is already quite tactical and Bacrot went for an interesting exchange sacrifice, after 14…dxe4 15.bxc6 exf3 16.cxb7 fxg2 18.bxc8Q, relying on creating some initiative on the kingside. However, the initiative he wished to generate never took shape, and Amin was just left with an exchange.

The position has simplified greatly, but White still has his exchange and he is now going to try and grind out this ending.

Bacrot managed to create some tricks here with the move …f5-f4. It is very unpleasant to deal with such a move with only a couple of seconds on the clock. Amin played 44.Rg5, but this allowed Bacrot to activate his rook via the c-file. 44.Rc1 and 44.gxf4 were better options, but under severe time pressure, it is difficult to even consider 44.gxf4 because after 44…Bh6, it looks like White is in trouble.

White had to give up his extra exchange, but he still managed to achieve the above position, where he just needs to come up with a good plan to seal the victory. Amin correctly evaluated that the rook endgame after 51.Bd4 would not give White an advantage. Instead, he played 51.Rb7 which allowed 51…Rf5, after which Black had enough counterplay to draw the game. What was a better way of continuing here?

Bassem Amin disappointed not to have been able to convert | Image from Official Website Eric Rosen

Game Two

The second game of the tiebreak, surprisingly, did not feature a Ruy Lopez Breyer, but instead a Fianchetto Gruenfeld. The decision for Amin to play the Gruenfeld is quite a curious one since he is mostly a King’s Indian player, however, this decision is not a new one from him. He also played the Gruenfeld against Amin Tabatabaei in the 2019 World Cup. Both players followed the theory up till this point, but now Amin played 11…a5!? sacrificing his e7-pawn in hopes of gaining the initiative.

Black has achieved sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn, but now Bassem takes another risk and sacrifices even more material with 20…Qxb2. However, with best play, Black will not achieve the desired compensation for the piece. Similar to the last game, the player with the black pieces made a dubious sacrifice in hopes of generating counterplay, and in both games, these sacrifices, although unsound, had sufficient practical inertia to cause the opponent to not respond in the best way.

The position has simplified a great deal and Black won back an exchange in the process. Black’s a-pawn gives him good chances for a draw, although he will have to defend for a while. However, if he loses this pawn, White will have great winning chances.

White was able to win the a-pawn and Bacrot played accurately from here on out to convert this advantage into a ticket to the fourth round.

As we can see from these games, Amin narrowly missed out on becoming the first African to reach the fourth round of the World Cup. He will be disappointed, but we can be sure that this defeat will spur him on to reach even greater heights for African chess.

till next time

As mentioned earlier, we started off with 22 registered African players for this event. Only 21 managed to make it to Sochi as Amir Zaibi from Tunisia was unable to travel due to a positive COVID-19 test. Those that made it fought tooth and nail in every game, but unfortunately all of them were knocked out from the event. However, they can hold their heads up high knowing that they represented their respective countries, and Africa as a whole, with dignity and grace. This was an invaluable experience for all of them and we can be sure that they will return home to review their mistakes and weaknesses. They will investigate the cause of their losses in order to come back even stronger.

The last African to say goodbye in Sochi | Image from Official Website Anastasiia Korolkova

As the last of the African delegation bows out, the rest of the world’s participants move on. The favorites of both sections, Magnus Carlsen and Aleksandra Goryachkina, are still in the event and are eager to prove why they are considered the favorites. However, it will be a difficult task as equally motivated opponents await them in every round.

Who will win the World Cup? We will have to wait and see…

You can continue to follow the action on these platforms:

The Chess drum continues providing excellent print coverage of this event. The games of the FIDE World Cup can also be found here: Open | Women. Chess.com provides daily commentary on Chess.com/TV and Twitch.tv/chess with GM Hou Yifan, GM Ben Finegold, IM Danny Rensch, GM Viswanathan Anand, and other guests. Other sources with all the games with computer analysis and commentary on Chess24Open | Women, the Official website and FollowChess.

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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