World champion Magnus Carlsen has been defeated by Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda at the semi-final in Sochi © International Chess Federation

Magnus Carlsen has never won chess’s biennial $190,000 World Cup knockout, and the No 1 was again eliminated by a lower-ranked opponent in Tuesday’s semi-final in Sochi, where Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda, 23, again proved himself a nemesis for Norway’s world champion. Duda meets Russia’s Sergey Karjakin in the final on Wednesday and Thursday (1pm BST start), with tie-breaks on Friday.

Last autumn, Duda was the player who ended Carlsen’s record 125-game unbeaten run and earned congratulations from his namesake Andrzej Duda, president of Poland.

This week’s victory earned the chess-playing Duda a place in the eight-player 2022 Candidates Tournament, which will decide the next world title challenger following Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi, who takes on Carlsen over 14 games in November-December in Dubai.

There were two significant aspects to Duda’s win, which came after three draws. He outplayed Carlsen strategically, as did the rising star Andrey Esipenko, aged 19, in his two 2021 wins against the champion. Moreover, Duda did it with the unfavourable black pieces.

The game opened with a Sicilian 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 when Carlsen chose the sideline 3 Bb5+ Bd7 4 Bxd7+ Qxd7. This should be level, but Carlsen erred with too many pawns on dark squares, the same colour as his remaining bishop. His position deteriorated further until time pressure in the 15-minute game played its part and a draw was likely until Carlsen blundered into defeat

Carlsen’s uncharacteristically subdued body language, lacking in energy and holding his head in one hand for much of the decisive game, may be significant. At 30, he is now around a decade older than Duda. Esipenko and other rising talents and yet continues with a punishing schedule of online and over-the-board events. 

Age difference worked in reverse in the all-Russian Women’s World Cup final where Alexandra Kosteniuk, 37, defeated the top-seeded Aleksandra Goryachkina, 22, by bold attacking play. Victory meant a lot to her: “When you’re young and you win, you don’t really appreciate it that much. When you become older, every win is like something unbelievable and you start to appreciate it much more.”

Puzzle 2430 

Yurii Khodko vs Alexander Gutenev, Russian team championship 2021. Black to play. Can you find Gutenev’s winning move?

*This article has been republished to correct one of the chess pieces on the board

For solution, click here

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article