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    Entries in 2013 FIDE World Cup (24)

    Monday
    Sep022013

    2013 World Cup: Finals, Day 4: Game Drawn, Kramnik Wins The Event

    There was some possibility of a decisive result in the fourth and last (classical) game of the final round of the World Cup, but it was only Vladimir Kramnik who might have won. Instead, he took a draw from a position of strength, and so he won his match with Dmitry Andreikin with a 2.5-1.5 score and with it, the World Cup as a whole.

    Both he and Andreikin have qualified from this event into the next Candidates' tournament, where they will be joined by the following players:

    Levon Aronian & Sergey Karjakin (ratings qualifiers; Karjakin because Kramnik's World Cup success vacated a rating spot).

    The loser of the Viswanathan Anand - Magnus Carlsen match coming this fall.

    Veselin Topalov and either Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Alexander Grischuk or Fabiano Caruana as Grand Prix qualifiers. If either Grischuk or Caruana takes solo first in the final Grand Prix event in Paris, he will take that second spot; if not, then Mamedyarov goes through.

    A wildcard to be selected later.

    Sunday
    Sep012013

    2013 World Cup: Finals, Day 3: A Short Draw

    The 2013 FIDE World Cup isn't over just yet. Vladimir Kramnik didn't manage to keep an opening advantage, and with 14.Na4 invited a long series of exchanges that resulted in a handshake before move 30. Game 4, the final classical game, will be tomorrow, with Dmitry Andreikin in a must-win situation as Kramnik leads 2-1.

    Saturday
    Aug312013

    2013 World Cup: Finals, Day 2: A Slightly Perplexing Draw

    The second game of the World Cup finals was drawn, keeping Vladimir Kramnik in the lead with 1.5/2 in this best-of-four game match. Dmitry Andreikin had White, and once again a Queen's Gambit Declined appeared on the board, albeit this time with a Bf4 rather than Bg5. Both players were quickly out of their preparation - to judge by their clock times Andreikin was on his own after 6...b6 and Kramnik was out of prep after 8.Qc2.

    It was probably at this point, and definitely on move 11, that Kramnik calculated the line that went through White's 23rd move and led to a pretty easily drawn ending, at least for a player of his technical skill. The calculation was very nice and involved at least three or four cute tactical points, most notably 14...Bxa3!, 15...Qe8+! and 18...Nce4! All of that was necessary to justify 11...e5(?), but it wasn't sufficient, as it appears that White would have had a meaningful advantage after 15.cxd7. Why Andreikin avoided it and Kramnik didn't fear it is at this moment a mystery to your faithful scribe, as the live broadcast ended before the players could make it to the commentary room. As the game led nowhere special for White, and Nigel Short, Garry Kasparov and the engines all concur on the value of 15.cxd7, it is a mystery indeed.

    Kramnik has a chance to end the match tomorrow; in the meantime, you can replay today's game, with my notes, here.

    Friday
    Aug302013

    2013 World Cup: Finals, Day 1: Kramnik Wins

    Both Vladimir Kramnik and Dmitry Andreikin are seeded into the next Candidates' event by virtue of reaching the finals (in fact Kramnik was already seeded there, as mentioned many times in previous posts), but bragging rights, rating points and a good chunk of change will keep them both motivated to do their best in this, the final round of the 2013 World Cup. Unlike the previous rounds, this one is a best-of-four, and after the event's only rest day the players got back to the board today for the first game.

    Kramnik had White, and Andreikin played the Tartakower variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. For many decades that was an almost automatic choice in the QGD, but nowadays it's even a bit unusual for top level chess. A further slightly unusual aspect of the game was the pawn structure that emerged, one more characteristic of the Semi-Tarrasch than a QGD. White enjoyed slightly more comfortable play as a result thanks to his extra space in the center and the possibility of pressuring Black's isolated b-pawn, but the game was close to even for a long time.

    The big moment came when Kramnik broke in the center with 28.d5. Andreikin swapped, 28...exd5 29.exd5, and now faced a major moment of decision...though he might not have realized it. In Kramnik's view, the safest way would have been 29...Bd7, which leaves White with a somewhat better because more active position after 30.Qe4. So why allow that? Andreikin played 29...Re8, and was surprised by 30.dxc6! White wound up with a rook, bishop and a dangerous passed c-pawn for the queen, and while the evaluation may be equal according to Houdini, proving it for a human is another story.

    Before the final move of the time control Kramnik was certainly better, but after Andreikin's 40th move that advantage had grown, and perhaps he was even winning. 40...Qd8 allowed the exchanging variation 41.c7 Rxc7 42.Rxc7 Qxd5, and this ending is not drawn. There are all sorts of endings that are drawn when all the pawns are on one side of the board, but this is not one of them. The rooks can gang up on the pawns, and the side with the queen must either shed material or give up the queen and one pawn for the rooks. Since that would render a pawn ending with White a pawn up, that strategy would have been hopeless here, and sure enough Kramnik managed to convert his advantage and win. Incidentally, it's not the first time Kramnik has won such an ending - he also did so against Peter Leko in game 1 of their 2004 World Championship match.

    With that, Kramnik also managed to stop the negative momentum in their head-to-head matchups and avoid "castling queenside" against his young opponent - a definite plus for him if they're going to meet in the Candidates' next year. However, this event isn't over, and we'll see what Andreikin can do with the white pieces in a few hours. Stay tuned!

    Wednesday
    Aug282013

    2013 World Cup: Round 6, Day 3: Kramnik & Andreikin Reach Finals; Andreikin & Karjakin Qualify for Candidates

    Today's tiebreak session at the World Cup was a short one, as two 25-minute games were enough to determine the match winners. In the first session Evgeny Tomashevsky and Dmitry Andreikin had a fairly quick draw, but theirs was the marathon of the round. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played like he had lost his mind in his white game against Kramnik, and had to resign after just 22 moves. After 16 moves of that game the position was level and sharp, and here Vachier-Lagrave's decision to bring the rook into play with 17.Re4 quickly backfired. After 20...Bf5 White was already in some trouble and the c-pawn looked likely to fall after a subsequent ...Bd3. That would have been a dream scenario for the Frenchman compared to what actually happened. After 21.Rh4?? Bc2 White's best would have been to surrender an exchange for less than nothing with 22.Qe2 Bd3 23.Qd1. Instead, he uncorked the even more disastrous 22.Qxc2??, hoping for 22...Qxc2 23.Be4. That also loses to 23...Qxd2+ 24.Bxh7+ Kh8 25.Bc2+ Qh6, which will leave Black a rook up, but Kramnik's 22...Nxf3+ was even simpler, winning the house.

    In the rematch Kramnik was a little slack, and his whole plan to swap everything with 13.d5, 14.Ne1 and 15.Nxd5 gave Vachier-Lagrave a little pull, but when Black played the premature 23...b5 the game started to tip back in Kramnik's favor. By the end Kramnik was close to winning, but took the opportunity to draw by repetition. That won him the match and a trip to the finals, but it didn't win him a ticket to next year's Candidates' tournament. That's because he had already qualified. What it did do was switch his ticket. Rather than qualifying by rating he qualifies as a World Cup finalist, and that means that the player who was the #3 finisher (and thus non-qualifier) on rating has now qualified: Sergey Karjakin.

    Today was an interesting day for Kramnik, and it's not clear that he really benefited. There's the prestige of making it to the finals of the World Cup, and even more if he wins it. There's the added payday, too. On the other hand, his score against Karjakin isn't fantastic, to put it mildly. Since 2010, taking all time controls into account, the score is 7-1 for Karjakin, not counting five draws. Even just taking classical games into account it isn't good news for Kramnik: 2-0 for Karjakin, plus four draws.

    Meanwhile, the other semi-final was also bad news for Kramnik. Kramnik did lose a blitz game to Tomashevsky last year, but their classical record shows that Kramnik has won both of their games: one in 2004 and one in 2012. As for Andreikin, Kramnik has lost both games they've played, both in the last couple of months.

    So who advanced? Andreikin, of course. Tomashevsky was doing pretty well with Black into the middlegame, but it all went downhill after 28...Re1? He apparently missed 30.Qd2 after the trade of rooks, and after that Andreikin whipped up an initiative that quickly decided the game. Tomashevsky should have traded queens with 28...Qxd3 and after 29.Rxd3 played 29...Re6 so as to defend the f-pawn if necessary. The position would have remained equal and the match unclear.

    Tomorrow is the one and only absolute day off in the entire event, and then the best-of-four game final begins on Friday.

    Tuesday
    Aug272013

    2013 World Cup: Round 6, Day 2: Two More Draws

    The pain, the pain! At least that's how Vladimir Kramnik must feel, and it's a pain surely shared by his fans (if only to a lesser extent). The game between Evgeny Tomashevsky and Dmitry Andreikin was richer than yesterday's 16-move draw, but it was still relatively short and uneventful. In the other game, though, Kramnik ground away in a pawn-up ending with rooks and knights and all the pawns on the kingside.

    Objectively it should have been a draw, but Maxime Vachier-Lagrave failed to handle the tension and blundered with 58...Rf1+?? What he should have played was 58...Nd6. Black's position would remain tenable, though Kramnik could keep trying indefinitely. Instead, after 58...Rf1+?? 59.Ke3 it was no longer possible to play 59...Nd6 (or 59...Nxg5, for that matter) on account of 60.Ng6+ Kf7 61.Rf8+, skewering the king and rook. At death's door, Vachier-Lagrave found the only way to continue: 59...g6! 60.fxg6 Kg7! 61.gxf7 Kxf7. With a rook, knight and pawn against Vachier-Lagrave's bare rook White's position was winning, but one bit of work remained. White's pieces were poorly coordinated, and his knight and pawn were a little vulnerable. If Kramnik could re-establish the harmony of his forces his opponent could resign, and then Kramnik would be in the final and qualify for the Candidates' tournament via the World Cup, leaving the second automatic rating qualification spot for the Candidates' to Sergey Karjakin.

    I was watching the live coverage at this moment, and several thoughts ran through my mind. First, I remembered Kramnik's complaint during this tournament that he would have various lapses in concentration, when he would prematurely relax, and wondered if this too might be such a moment. Indeed, Kramnik has had such problems throughout his career, going back as far as the mid-1990s (several examples are mentioned in his best games book, co-written with Damsky). As a fan I hoped he would bear down and solve the final puzzle of the game, and was both spooked by and a made slightly hopeful by game 4 of his match with Kasparov. The same material balance existed there, and there too Kramnik's knight and pawn were rather awkwardly placed. In that game he failed to find the win - the spooky part - but I hoped that the process of having analyzed that game and a realization of the potential trickiness of the ending would place him in good stead for this game.

    Nope. The key variation Kramnik needed to work through started with 62.Nd7 (natural enough, but the critical moment comes later) 62...Rf5 63.Rf8+ Kg6 64.Rg8+! Kf7 and now 65.Ke4!! This clever in-between move is most likely what he missed, with the further crucial point that 65...Ra5 66.Ne5+! saves the pawn, as 66...Kxg5 67.Rf5+! wins the rook: 67...Kh4/Kh6 is met by 68.Nf3+/Ng4+ and 69.Rxa5.

    With more time on the clock or more energy, Kramnik (or any other strong grandmaster, and probably some "weak" ones too) would almost definitely be able to find that variation and work it out to the finish. There are some subtle moves, but in general the line is forcing enough that one won't get lost in a maze of variations. Whether from fatigue or a lack of time Kramnik didn't manage to find this one chance, and Vachier-Lagrave managed to achieve a fortress. White's forces were completely tied down, and the only way to attempt progress was to surrender the pawn and hope to win with rook and knight vs. rook. That ending is a fairly easy draw as long as the defender's king doesn't start out in a (very) bad position, and Vachier-Lagrave saved it without too much trouble. (The game is here, with the my comments above reproduced therein.)

    Both matches are therefore going to tiebreaks, and we'll see if the "tie-break beggars" as Anish Giri labeled both Andreikin and Vachier-Lagrave (for their willingness to throw away the white pieces and then hold on with Black to try their chances at the faster time controls) manage to achieve success.

    Monday
    Aug262013

    2013 World Cup: Round 6, Day 1: Two Short Draws

    The semi-finals of the World Cup are underway, but despite the fans' high hopes the games were fast and they were short, both drawn in fewer than 20 minutes and in less than 80 minutes. They had a somewhat different feel to them, however. The first game to finish was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Vladimir Kramnik, a Kasparov Variation Nimzo-Indian that already managed to flame out in just 16 moves. Of Kramnik's 15 moves, the first 14 were preparation, and only the last move forced him to do some thinking. He considered 15...e4 but chose the more accurate 15...Nc6 instead, after which the game would liquidate into a very clearly and easily drawn position even had they been forced to continue play.

    Although the game was short, it had content and some little traps. One nice idea Kramnik pointed out afterwards would appear in case White played the uncircumspect 13.h3. Black has a nasty rejoinder: 13...Bxe2! 14.Kxe2 Qd3+ 15.Ke1 a6 16.Nd6 (16.Rd1 axb5!) 16...Nd4! and White is not going to have a good day, as after 17.Bxd4 exd4 a crushing check on the e-file is on its way.

    For Vachier-Lagrave, the draw gives him a little extra rest after having played yesterday (and indeed, having played the previous six days) while bringing him closer to the rapids where his chances probably improve. For Kramnik it was a comfortable draw with Black, giving him the chance for a little more rest and to go all-out for a win tomorrow.

    The other game was less justifiable. Dmitry Andreikin achieved a perfectly playable position with the white pieces against Evgeny Tomashevsky, but drew in just 14 moves with a board almost entirely full of pieces. This looks like the "Grischuk strategy" in action again, and while it is rational it's also so cynical that I hope it's punished tomorrow when Tomashevsky has the white pieces. We'll see, and whatever happens let's hope the games last a while longer.

    Sunday
    Aug252013

    2013 World Cup: Round 5, Day 3: Andreikin, Vachier-Lagrave Advance on Tiebreaks

    The tiebreaks at the World Cup are getting shorter. There were Armageddon games in the first two rounds, while rounds 3 and 4 made it through the 5" minute games. (And with an 80-90 minute "ten minute" game in round 4 it took longer than a normal series making it to the Armageddon game.) Today, the tiebreaks finished as quickly as possible; to wit, after the initial pair of 25-minute games.

    Dmitry Andreikin was the first one through, and a very convincing winner over Peter Svidler. In the first game Andreikin played one of his typical low-theory lines, in this case a Tromp-turned-Torre Attack, and it was a twofold success. Andreikin did obtain a small advantage, and Svidler was forced to solve problems over the board rather than relying on prep or anything like it. Svidler did manage to equalize at one point and perhaps got a bit too bold. 20...f5 seems to me a very risky move to make in a rapid game, as it offers White various opportunities to open the game up when Black will be short of time. A safer way was 20...Ne7, aiming to trade all the rooks on the c-file and go for the quick handshake. That inaccuracy was compounded by 23...Nxa2 - 23...Rxc1 and only then taking on a2 seems more accurate, as Svidler's version allowed 24.Rxc8 Rxc8 and now, as advertised, 25.e4. After 28.Re6 Black was still objectively okay but as a practical matter it was starting to look dangerous. 28...Kg8 was an error, and after 29.Qg3! Black has some annoying threats to deal with like 30.Nh5 and 30.Rxh6. Svidler's reply, 29...Nd5 was natural and logical...and an absolute blunder. After the sneaky shot 30.Qb3! there was nothing for Black to do but resign, as the knight is lost - at least it is unless Black wants to lose the queen, e.g. 30...Nxf4 31.Re7+.

    The rematch didn't go any better for Svidler, except insofar as he received a charity draw offer in the end. For a few moments Svidler looked as if he might get to enjoy a relatively safe extra pawn in another Advance Caro-Kann with 3...c5, but the critical moment came on move 18. Had Svidler played 18.a3 he would have enjoyed some advantage. He chose 18.Nf3 instead, and while this is a move White wants to play it's too soon. After 18...axb4 19.cxb4 Ra3! followed soon by ...Qa6, ...Rd3 and ...Qa3 Black managed to infiltrate and regain the material (with positional interest) without allowing White any real attacking chances on the kingside. Had Andreikin needed to win he probably would have played differently on move 34; instead, it was enough to force a draw with 34...Rg4 35.Rf2 Qe1+ 36.Rf1 Qe2 37.Rf2 Qe1+. The draw was agreed and the match was over, earning Andreikin the chance to play his friend and teammate Evgeny Tomashevsky for a shot at the finals and an automatic berth into the next Candidates' event.

    In the other quarter-final Vachier-Lagrave was a nominal underdog against Fabiano Caruana, but the former's play in both the classical and rapid disciplines in the event rendered the rating difference immaterial. In the first game Caruana had White and was the one pressing, at least in theory, but Vachier-Lagrave defended so accurately that Caruana never came close to a genuine edge. In game 2, however, the Frenchman called the tune from early on. Caruana played the Dutch, which isn't normally part of his opening repertoire, and while both players occasionally seemed a little unsure of themselves Vachier-Lagrave's play came across as more purposeful and coherent. There was never any question about who stood better, only whether White's advantage would grow into something major. Practically speaking, the decisive error may have come at move 33 when Black played 33...Bf6. The upshot was that after 34.b3 Black's knight could no longer safely retreat to d6, and after 34...Na5 the misplaced knight and Black's weak dark squares were a serious problem. The last chance, objectively speaking, came on move 48. Caruana, who was very short of time and way behind on the clock, needed to take the knight. Vachier-Lagrave would soon regain the piece and maintain an advantage, but it was a small chance for Caruana. He declined the sac with 48...Qg7, and the rest was a rout. In the final position the d-pawn can't be captured without allowing the h-pawn to queen, and if 66...Kf8 67.Kd4 Kg7 68.Kc5 Kh6 69.Kxb5 Kxh5 70.Kb6 followed by 71.Kc7 leads to the knight's elimination and the d-pawn's promotion. That means that Vachier-Lagrave will face Vladimir Kramnik in the other semi-final.

    Who will win these matches? At this point it's crazy to pick against any of these guys. Kramnik is surely the strongest player of the four, but he's also the oldest and possibly the most tired. He has less motivation, as he has already qualified for the Candidates', and if it comes down to tiebreaks one might wonder if he's (that much) better than Vachier-Lagrave in rapid and blitz. In the other semi Andreikin has been an absolute assassin in the rapid tiebreaks, going 3.5/4 against Sergey Karjakin and Svidler combined - and it could have been 4-0. On the other hand, his play in the classical games hasn't been as out of this world, while Tomashevsky has been playing like a super-hero, rising to the occasion every time. I am going to go with Kramnik and Tomashevsky, with a codicil: if they don't win in the classical stage I think they will lose in the tiebreaks.

    Sunday
    Aug252013

    Kasparov On The World Cup

    Garry Kasparov - or more likely, I suspect, his amanuensis - has been commenting on the World Cup on his Facebook page. (But not only on the World Cup, so depending on when you look some scrolling may be in order.) No analysis, but some predictions and general impressions; good, light reading, in other words. Enjoy, and if you're a fan of his politics (which we won't discuss here!), you'll enjoy it all the more.

    Sunday
    Aug252013

    2013 World Cup: Round 5, Day 2: Kramnik, Tomashevsky(!) Advance

    The classical stage of round 5 of the 2013 World Cup has finished, and two of the four matches have been decided. Vladimir Kramnik defeated Anton Korobov on day 1 of the round and needed only a draw on day 2 to advance, and that's just what he got - with great difficulty. The games Peter Svidler - Dmitry Andreikin and Fabiano Caruana - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were both drawn and the four players will proceed to tiebreaks tomorrow. Finally, Evgeny Tomashevsky caught out Gata Kamsky in mutual time trouble and won with the black pieces to advance to the semi-final round.

    Kramnik has been pleading a bit of tiredness lately, and it has shown up in the form of little lapses of concentration and intensity. He came out of the opening in good shape; such good shape, in fact, that with a couple of accurate moves in the early middlegame his position was so healthy that Korobov said he was going to offer a draw. Either 18...Bd3 19.Nc1 c4 or 18...g5 19.Bg3 Qc6 would have been fine; instead, "at the last moment" he was attracted by the immediate 18...Qc6, thinking he could play ...g5 later. The problem was that by not first driving the bishop back g3 remained available to White's knight, and after 19.Ng3 Bh7 20.h4 Korobov was back in the game. A few more inaccuracies by Kramnik left him fighting to stay alive in a very bad ending with opposite-colored bishops.

    Now it was Kramnik who was thinking of giving up the struggle - in this case resigning - but it was Korobov's turn to start slipping. One error came on move 41, immediately after the time control, when Korobov played 41.Kf3. The problem with this move is that it allowed Black's king to start heading over to the queenside, where it could help defend against White's soon-to-be-passed a-pawn. The point shows up after 41.Kf3 Kf8 42.Bb4+ Ke8 43.Ra8+ Kd7 44.Rf8 Bg6. Here 45.f5 can be met by 45...Bh5 check; had the king not gone to f3 but remained for the moment on a dark square that resource would be unavailable and Black would lose serious material. On move 49 Korobov probably should have played 49.Bb4 followed by 50.Kc3; that would at any rate have been a more effective way of implementing the idea he wanted in the game. Finally, 52.Rf6 gave up any remaining hopes. In reply the immediate 52...Rf5 wouldn't have worked because of 53.Rd6+ and 54.Rd4, but after the zwischenzug 52...Rb5! it's an easy draw. Giving up the a-pawn renders a dead draw, and 53.Rb6 Rxb6 is an easy draw as well. Korobov played 53.Bc3, but now that the bishop no longer covered the d6 square Kramnik's 53...Rf5 made the draw an easy one. White can either give up the f-pawn as he did in the game (note that 53.Bd2 would have protected the pawn but allowed 53...Rb1#) or trade into a dead opposite-colored bishops ending. (Black's king stays in the a8 corner and he drops his bishop back to h7 after White plays f4-f5, eventually sacrificing it to eliminate all the kingside material. The result is a standard wrong bishop and rook's pawn combo.) After Kramnik's 58th move Korobov shrugged and offered a draw, which was of course accepted, and Kramnik went through to the semis, where he'll await the winner of the Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave match.

    About the game between Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave, its character, though not its result, was determined on move 17. Had Vachier-Lagrave played 17...Bf8 the position would have been fully equal and perhaps the game would have ended in a short draw. Instead, Black played 17...Bd6, but after 18.Nb6 Black was forced to surrender the bishop pair and needed to suffer for almost another 40 moves before the draw was secured. Good defense by the young Frenchman.

    The other draw was a short one - 20 moves - between Svidler and Andreikin, but despite its brevity there was quite a lot of content. Andreikin played 3...c5 in an Advance Caro-Kann, and White seemed to come out of the opening with an edge. The position was very complex, with Svidler up first one pawn and then two, but with Black taking aim at more than half of White's pawns in one way or another. Ultimately Svidler failed to maintain his pawns and his edge, and so they're off to tiebreaks as well, where the winner will play tournament Cinderella Evgeny Tomashevsky.

    The young Russian (and economics Ph.D.!) has had an amazing run. He won the last two games of his first round match against Alejandro Ramirez, including an Armageddon game, to squeak out with a narrow victory. He won "normally" against Wesley So before playing and beating the top seeded Levon Aronian. He then won a harrowing match against Alexander Morozevich and this time it was Gata Kamsky who was shown the door. Kamsky played the Anti-Marshall line with 8.h3, but here too Black can sac a pawn with 8...Bb7 9.d3 d5. In fact, like Andreikin, he even went two pawns down for a while, but both his general prep for similar positions and the engine indicate that his compensation was sufficient. Indeed, he probably could have forced a draw starting with the tactical 18...Nxc2 19.Qxc2 Qxf3 20.Nd2 Bh2+. For example: 21.Kf1 Qxh3+ 22.Ke2 Qe6+ 23.Ne4 f5 24.Qb3 Qxb3 25.Rxb3 fxe4 26.fxe4 Re8. That would have been a nice finish, but then he would have missed out on the chances he got in the game.

    Even after he regained one of the pawns the evaluation was the same - equal - and it remained that way after Black's 34th move. White was up a pawn and had a nice looking d-pawn, while Black had the better structure, a safer king and a passed h-pawn. That pawn didn't look so dangerous, but it was. White should have played 35.Qd4 or 35.Re4, in both cases aimed against the possibility of ...h4. After 35.b4? h4 36.Qd4? h3 White was completely lost, and resigned after both players made the time control on move 40. Although Tomashevsky's last move was good enough, sliding the rook over one more file would have been even better: 40...Rh6 forces an immediate mate, spite checks aside.

    Two tiebreaks in the morning, and then it's on to the semi-finals, which are a finals of a sort. The two finalists, properly speaking, are automatically seeded into the Candidates, so the most important thing (except for Kramnik, who has already qualified by rating) is getting to the final, which in turn means that the main prize is winning in the semis.

    A curiosity: if Vachier-Lagrave wins his quarter-final tiebreak against Caruana, then no matter what a player born in 1990 will be in the next Candidates' tournament. V-L would play Kramnik, with the following implications. If Kramnik wins, then he qualifies for the Candidates not by rating but by being a World Cup finalist. That would mean that the next highest-rated player (based on average ratings over a certain time period) after Kramnik would take his rating spot, and that player is Sergey Karjakin. On the other hand, if Vachier-Lagrave beats Kramnik, then he would qualify for the Candidates from the World Cup, while Kramnik would qualify by rating. (Karjakin would be left out unless he was awarded the wildcard spot.) Both Vachier-Lagrave and Karjakin were born in 1990, so Q.E.D. (That was quite the year: Andreikin was also born then, as was Ian Nepomniachtchi. And...above all, Magnus Carlsen.)