How Did Jan Krzysztof Duda win against Magnus Carlsen

How Did Jan Krzysztof Duda win against Magnus Carlsen

Written by: Emadeldin Teama

The chess world cup started in the 10th of July 2021. It has been a thrilling fight for all players after a long time of inactivity due to the Covid situation.During this down time at the lockdown, many grandmasters started working hard on their skills to improve their play.In this article we are going to focus on one of the most promising players in the world the polish grandmaster Jan Krzysztof Duda.

GM Duda showed a great performance defeating so many strong players with an outstanding skill during the world cup tournament. He successfully knocked out strong grandmasters such as the young American Grandmaster Samuel Sevian and the Iranian grandmaster Pouya Idani. After a strong struggle over the board he was able to qualify for the quarter final and his next match was decided to be against the world champion Magnus Carlsen!

In the first game, Duda showed calm nerves playing a standard opening the queens gambit declined getting an easy equal position and using tactical tricks to force a draw with the black pieces!. It seemed like the wisest move in the first game of the match to not risk a loss.

Here is a Link to the game :

The second game Duda had the white pieces. The strategy was totally different. He wanted to go for a win against Carlsen so he played the aggressive Ruy lopez opening. He showed a deep level of study playing the best moves against Carlsen fake attacks on the kingside till move 17. He was able then to convert his advantage with his accurate play into a better endgame by move 20 where he sacrificed a beautiful exchange to get more active pieces and more control all over the board. he also had two solid pawns for the exchange as seen here.

screenshot of chess worldcup game

As the game progress, it became obvious that Duda studied endgames very well and worked hard on his endgame technique. With every move it felt as white is outplaying the world champion!

Black tried to make use of his rook pair by putting both rooks on the 7th rank which is usually a very powerful positional advantage but not here!!
White had everything under control.He took almost all the black pawns which reduced Carlsen chances to win literally to zero. with this practical and accurate endgame play from Duda Carlsen was really in trouble!. White can calm down and think of how to exploit his pawns to get a win against the world champion if it is possible, if it is not then he can have an easy draw due to the fact that black doesn’t have any passed pawn to promote!

screenshot of chess worldcup game

However, the world champion Carlsen is simply the best chess player in the world and arguably that he is the best of all times. He didn’t just give up on the position and tried all the possible endgame tricks that he master to give white as many problems as possible. By move 45 through a microscopic mistake from Duda that only deep computer engines can detect, Carlsen snatched a pawn from white making it more difficult to win.
He then simply repeated the position as he knew a draw would be fine for this game. It was obvious for the super elite grandmasters that black is in trouble and the white pawns on the kingside are a real problem. By move 54, black has achieved a minor victory by exchanging the last pawns.He had only one pawn island to worry about instead of two.this reduced white chances to win dramatically.

screenshot of chess worldcup game
The next move that was played by Carlsen quickly and confidently, is the only move to force an easy draw. 54-..Rd6!

The thing is, When there is a side with two rooks and another side with a rook and a minor piece (bishop, knight) . Exchanging rooks is good for the side with the two rooks. The minor piece will be alone without another piece to work with and that action would show the minor piece weakness against the rook.
In addition to that import rule,in this current position the Rd6 move either forces draw by repeating through Rc7+ then Rd7 or exchange of rooks. Duda had no choice but to try to play for a win with knight and two pawns against rook, sadly the activity of the rook is too huge and black was able to draw easily.Carlsen survived this round barely!

Here is a Link to the game :

Duda was a bit disappointed after this round as he was so close to beating the world champion.However with two draws it meant that they players will go into the next two rounds playing two rapid games.

The next day the rapid game started. Duda had the white pieces while Carlsen had the black pieces. Duda showed confidence in his opening preparation playing the Ruy Lopez again asking Carlsen and his team about their preparations and analysis after his first game against him!.
Carlsen in this game changed his setup and played a different formation based on an old game by the former world women champion Hou Yifan against grandmaster Sasikiran Krishnan. In our game, Carlsen made an improvement for black on Hou Yifan game playing aggressively in the queenside with the move 13-..c5!?.

screenshot of chess worldcup game

This approach is absolutely practical and sound from Carlsen specially in a rapid game. Black tries to have a passed pawn on the queenside supported by the bishop on g7. Black actually succeed in doing so getting an impressive position. However, Duda shows a great tactical ability and with very accurate calculations, he ends up winning black pawn on the queenside being a pawn up. Carlsen quickly forces a draw by repetition to keep the result under control. After all he was playing with the black pieces and the next round he could have a better position with the white pieces!

Here is a Link to the game :

In this last epic round, things became so intense. If the game ends in a draw the players would have to play Armageddon game. The rules for this type of game is simple. If black gets a draw it means black win the match. White MUST win this game In order to win the match. However, white is given also more time on clock usually 5 minutes for white vs 4 minutes for black. This type of game is absolutely hard. The pressure was rising on both players to try to end the match in this rapid round in order not to go into Armageddon where luck can be more important than skill!

The fourth round started, Carlsen chose 1-e4. He simply wanted an open fight where he can get more winning chances .Duda answered with the aggressive Sicilian defense 1-..c5. it was clear to the audience that both players want to get the result of the match in this round. They are not going for the boring equal positions of the 1-e4-e5 Berlin defense or other drawish openings.they are going for the win or lose senarios!

Carlsen chose to play the Moscow variation against the Sicilian which is a sideline that is known to be modest, yet very tricky. Through the game white achieved a space advantage in the center and the kingside having the French pawn structure. However with black exchanging the light square bishop it became obvious that Duda has no problem after the opening. White also has a slightly bad dark square bishop.

screenshot of chess worldcup game

In this position white played 11-Nbd2 to exchange black strong knight and after the exchanges the game is equal. However, Duda played a novelty move right after the exchanges which is 12.Bb4!?

In this situation Carlsen had a golden chance to exchange his bad bishop for black good bishop. Carlsen decided to avoid the simplification and keep this bishop. A decision that he regretted for the next 60 moves as the game progress black slowly exchanging pieces leaving white stuck with a bad bishop.

After a long struggle Carlsen realized that Duda position is solid. He is not able to attack Duda king or propose any real threat to black position while in the process, he got stuck with many queenside weaknesses and a bad bishop. Carlsen tried to trick Duda in the endgame with the time pressure by move 47.Rd2? Offering the exchange of pawns which is winning for Duda. However Duda chose to simplify the position and to go into a bishop endgame where it is easier for him to play for a win with no risk! Duda managed to outplay Carlsen very nicely in the bishop endgame due to the fact that all the white pawns where on same color of his bishop. White bishop had no targets to attack as well and was only forced to defend his weak pawns. This led to a decisive advantage for Duda that he converted professionally into a full point achieving an amazing win against the current world champion!
Here is a Link to the game :

Duda was able to win this match outplaying the strongest player in the world Magnus Carlsen. He advanced to the next round to play against The Russian Sergey Karjakin for the title to win the Chess world cup for 2021!. Duda said in an interview afterward that he is happy about his performance and he hopes to keep improving his chess skills and keep playing good chess as he is eyeing for the world champion title.The whole polish nation is proud of their young talented grandmaster who is solidly achieving a win after a win in his chess career.

Update: Duda Won the world Cup after beating the Strong Russian Grandmaster Sergey Karjakin after this match! a well deserved win and an outstanding performance. We will write about the games in the next article so stay tuned!