World Cup: Two Americans to the Quarterfinals!

The good news: two Americans have reached the quarterfinals of the 2023 FIDE World Cup

The bad news: they're paired against each other!

We left off as round four headed into tiebreaks, with GM Hikaru Nakamura facing GM Praggnanandhaa R and GM Leinier Dominguez Perez against GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek. Caruana had already qualified. 


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Nakamura resigns the second rapid game (courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE)


The upset of the day was when Nakamura lost both rapid games against "Pragg," in what had to be a delightful one-day-belated 18th birthday present to the Indian prodigy. The first game quickly slipped away from Nakamura after one imprecise handling of the move order:



From there, he had to play riskier chess in the second game than he would have liked. Pragg never gave him a chance:




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Carlsen congratulates Pragg on his upset. Carlsen knows he won't have to face Pragg until the finals, so he can afford to be nice to him for a few more days. (courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE)


Dominguez drew both of his rapid games, as well as the first 10-minute game (with 10-second increment). But despite deep prep from Wojtaszek in a variation of the Sicilian where Dominguez had struggled before, he came through with a key victory.



In the round of 16, Caruana had a tough pairing in defending World Cup champion GM Jan-Krzystzof Duda. After being held to a draw (and letting a possible advantage slip against Duda's Petrov Defense), Caruana struck back in the second classical game.




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Caruana knocks out the defending champ! (courtesy Stev Bonhage/FIDE)


Dominguez also had a difficult pairing, facing the Russian grandmaster — GM Alexey Sarana — who just knocked out GM Wesley So. But in the first classical game, Dominguez took his time in another sharp Sicilian and caught Sarana off-guard in an incredibly rich tactical position. 




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Dominguez's calculation was impeccable against Sarana (courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


With only eight players remaining, Caruana and Dominguez will play each other. The winner will play the winner of the all-Indian match-up between Pragg and GM Arjun Erigaisi.

The stakes are particularly high, as the top three finishers earn spots to the 2024 Candidates tournament. It is possible that even the fourth-place finisher could qualify, though, as GM Magnus Carlsen is still in the World Cup and might not play the Candidates.

The chances of a fourth-place finisher qualifying for the Candidates did get smaller, however, when GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (who has already qualified as the 2023 World Championship runner-up) was eliminated in the tiebreaks today by Indian GM Vidit Gujrathi. This makes Gukesh the third (!) Indian player in the final eight. Oh, and that's not all:



Play resumes tomorrow, Tuesday August 15, at 6:00 a.m. CDT.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this article mistakenly said that Nepomniachtchi was eliminated by GM Gukesh D. Gukesh defeated GM Wang Hao, and Nepomniachtchi was knocked out by GM Vidit Gujrathi.