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    Entries in 2017 World Cup (28)

    Saturday
    Sep162017

    World Cup, Round 5, Day 2: Aronian, So, and Ding Liren Advance; Vachier-Lagrave - Svidler Goes to Tiebreaks

    If there was a surprise in today's round, it was that everything one would expect came to pass. Levon Aronian had to work to neutralize Vassily Ivanchuk's attempts to get revenge with White, and he succeeded in that task. Ivanchuk played a long time, but never came close to winning the game. Favorites Wesley So and Ding Liren drew easily with Black on Friday, and used the white pieces today to defeat Vladimir Fedoseev and Richard Rapport, respectively. Finally, the most evenly matched pairing, between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler, finished in a second straight draw, so they'll go to tiebreaks tomorrow.

    A complication with the tidy narrative: while the MVL-Svidler game was short, there was an exchange of errors on Black's 19th and White's 20th moves. White had a crude but powerful tactical idea at his disposal, and had he found it the match most likely would have come to an end, and the show would go dark tomorrow. Instead, the action continues.

    The players finally get their first official, universal rest day on Monday, which means that Aronian, So, and Ding Liren will have two days off to get ready for the semi-final. Aronian won't know the identity of his opponent until the MVL-Svidler tiebreak concludes, while So and Ding Liren will prepare for each other - and no doubt already are.

    Games here.

    Friday
    Sep152017

    World Cup, Round 5, Day 1: Aronian Crushes Ivanchuk, Svidler Misses a Chance

    With 120 of the participants gone, the tournament has a much quieter, almost lonely feel to it now, and all the more so considering that two of today's four games were drawn before move 20. Richard Rapport didn't exactly pull out all the stops against Ding Liren, offering a draw (which was accepted) after his 11th move, and Vladimir Fedoseev didn't exactly put Wesley So's Petroff out of business. That barnburner lasted a whopping 19 moves. (Or 18 and a half, but who's counting?)

    Levon Aronian's game with Vassily Ivanchuk wasn't a marathon either, clocking in at just 24 moves. The Sofia rules aren't relevant, however, as the offer a handshake was Ivanchuk's resignation. An English turned into a sort of odd Open Catalan where Black made all his queenside moves, but without developing his kingside. If the goal was to achieve ...c5, it was a smashing success. Unfortunately, keeping one's king in the center can have adverse consequences, and Aronian ripped open the center before Black's king could scurry off to safety. Between Black's bad king and White's powerful, passed d-pawn, Ivanchuk was in all kinds of trouble. In the final position Black's king was relatively safe and material was still even, but White was likely to win 1-3 pawns on the queenside in the very near future. Black's kingside was still an uncoordinated mess, and White's d-pawn pinned down Black's army. It was a nice, high-energy game by Aronian, but a poor game by Ivanchuk; at a minimum a case of poor preparation.

    The last game to finish was Peter Svidler's battle against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Svidler enjoyed a serious advantage thanks to Black's weak pawns on the queenside, and he maintained a healthy advantage until 32.Rc6?! (or maybe '?'). This allowed Vachier-Lagrave to survive with the help of a little trick, 33...Nb5! White's pressure quickly dissipated, and the game was agreed drawn just after the time control, on move 41.

    The games, with my comments, are here.

    Thursday
    Sep142017

    World Cup, Round 4, Day 3 Tiebreaks: MVL, So, Svidler, Fedoseev, and Rapport Advance

    It was an exciting day of tiebreaks, though it was disappointing that only one match made it past the two 25-minute games, and it was settled in the 10' + 10" round. We need to see at least one Armageddon game before the tournament ends!

    Anyway, to the round. Peter Svidler had the easiest time of it, beating Bu Xiangzhi 2-0. In the first game, Svidler won with Black after Bu got tangled up in the center. White tried to bail out with an exchange sacrifice, and it almost worked. Bu was about to esacape until he played 40.Ra5??, walking into a lethal self-pin. Walking into mate in one on the next move didn't help, but the damage had already been done - even 41...Rb4 would have done the job. In the second game, Bu tried the Dutch, hoping for a complicated position, but when he met the Improved Lisitsyn Gambit by turning the game into a Philidor Counter-Gambit he got in trouble - fast. He was already clearly worse by move 7 (maybe by move 5, but let's be generous), and after a huge error on move 9 he was completely lost. Svidler may not have played in the most incisive way, but he didn't have to, and he coasted to victory.

    Wesley So was also a smooth winner, outplaying Baadur Jobava in their first game with the white pieces, demonstrating the power of the bishop pair (and later of bishop vs. knight) to grind out a victory. Game two was an "I'll make you an offer you can't refuse" draw: So was better from early on, and could have played for a win had he needed to. Instead, he allowed Jobava to draw by repetition in a position where he was still better, but the problem for Jobava was that varying from the repetition would lose on the spot.

    In one of the matches featuring underdogs, Evgeniy Najer held an edge in his white game with Richard Rapport until his ill-advised 23.Bxh6, which should have been met by 23...Rxf3. For a while after that Najer had good chances to win, but Rapport gradually clawed his way back to equality and a draw. The second game was completely crazy, and Rapport handled the complications much better than Najer to win deservedly. There was one big hiccup near the end, however. 45.Rb7+ followed by 46.Re2 won comfortably, but after his 45.Rb6? Najer had 45...Re1+ first, and only after 46.Kg2 was 46...Nb4 correct. In this case he would have equalized. Now White can't play Re2, and if he takes on a5 Black has an immediate perpetual with his rook going to e2, e1 and/or e3, as needed.

    In the other battle of the underdogs, Vladimir Fedoseev defeated Maxim Rodshtein 2-0, though unlike Svidler's 2-0 victory it wasn't easy. First of all, it's a mystery why Rodshtein didn't play 37...Qxc3 in the first game, leading to a dead draw after 38.Rxc3 Bxf2 39.Nxe6 Rxc3 40.Bxc3 fxe6. Even after 37...Bxc7 39.Bxc7, trading queens would have given him excellent drawing chances in the opposite-colored bishop ending. The draw wouldn't be guaranteed on account of the rooks, but keeping queens on as well made it harder, not easier, for him to defend. Eventually the queens came off, but under more favorable circumstances for Fedoseev. It still wasn't easy for White to win until Rodshtein's 69...Kf7, allowing White to play 70.Rf8+ and 71.Rf6. After that, the conversion was routine. Rodshtein did a great job of creating a complicated mess in game two, and he had good chances to win as soon as the early middlegame. The game went back and forth, and Rodshtein missed a very good chance on move 33, when taking on b5 followed by d6 would give him a winning advantage. From there on, he played too passively, and Fedoseev took over the initiative. White had to play 41.Bg2 to stay alive, and after missing that chance he resigned three moves later.

    Finally, in a match that would have been better as a semi-final or even a final, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alexander Grischuk had a heavyweight battle in keeping with their ratings. They drew the 25-minute games, and saved the best for last. In the first 10-minute game, Grischuk's attempt to solve his strategic problems with tactics failed. In particular, 28...Rg6, going for counterplay, was strongly met by a great pawn sacrifice from MVL. From 30 to the end of the game, Vachier-Lagrave blew his opponent off the board with one threat after another in a great display of the power of the initiative. The second game was a battle between the initiative - again, on MVL's side - and static goods. Grischuk's 10.Bxc6 wrecked Black's queenside structure, but at the cost of the bishop pair, weak light squares, and a few moves later, a badly sidelined queen. Vachier-Lagrave found a great exchange sac, but misplayed it a few moves later and wound up in an inferior ending. After two further inaccuracies, he wound up in a lost ending with bishop and pawn against Grischuk's rook and pawn. Grischuk made a very serious practical error when he didn't play 44.h3, after which proving a win with hardly any time on his clock was as good as impossible, and MVL advanced to the fifth round.

    The games are here, but I've only annotated the second Svidler-Bu Xiangzhi game, along with the two MVL-Grischuk 10-minute games.

    Tomorrow the quarter-finals begin, with these pairings (in bracket order): Svidler - Vachier-Lagrave, Ivanchuk - Aronian, So - Fedoseev, Rapport - Ding Liren.

    Will Svidler continue his question to reach his fourth consecutive Candidates event? (Admittedly, once he was the organizer's wildcard pick, but the other two times he qualifed through the World Cup.) Or will Vachier-Lagrave stay alive as he hopes to reach the Candidates for the first time in his career? Can Ivanchuk survive the top remaining seed, Aronian, and show that his glory days are still going? And will the young upstarts Fedoseev and Rapport (22 and 21 years old, respectively) be put in their place by their elderly opponents (So and Ding Liren; 23 and 24 years old, respectively)?

    Wednesday
    Sep132017

    World Cup, Round 4, Day 2: Aronian, Ding Liren, and Ivanchuk Advance

    There were three decisive games today, and there are three players advancing to round 5, but there isn't a one-to-one correlation between the two "threes". Ding Liren defeated Wang Hao in a good game with White in a Catalan, but if Wang Hao had known about an earlier game - or simply found the right idea on move 22 - the game probably would have finished in a draw, and they'd be off to tomorrow's tiebreaks.

    Levon Aronian also won, defeating Daniil Dubov in a long game. Aronian reached a theoretically won ending, and while he had time at the start to figure out how to win it, he didn't hit on the right plan. Over the course of the next many moves, he even allowed Dubov numerous chances to draw, but Dubov - who had the time and ability to work out his drawing opportunities - thought it was the better strategy to keep blitzing Aronian. It backfired. It took Aronian seemingly forever, but around 40 moves later than he could have won, he finally hit on the right strategy - though he still managed to give Dubov one more (missed) drawing chance after that. Should Dubov have taken his time? The problem is that if he did, at a moment when he didn't have a draw, it could very well have given Aronian the chance to work out the winning plan. So I think Dubov was generally right to blitz - given his correct assumption that the ending was generally lost. But there were several positions where it looked like he could have an escape, and that's where it would have made sense to slow down and look. It's a risk, but there I think it's worth taking. Anyway, he's out, and Aronian advances.

    The day's third winner was Maxim Rodshtein, who leveled his match with Vladimir Fedoseev. The game was an odd echo of the previous day's game: both won with Black after creating complications starting with a dubious ...g5 pawn sac. Fedoseev seemed too intent on playing for a draw - certainly in the opening - and it allowed Rodshtein to make lots of trouble for him. His reward: tiebreaks tomorrow.

    The third player to advance is Vassily Ivanchuk, who was beating Anish Giri today, too, but he made Giri an offer he couldn't refuse: allow an immediate repetition or be dead lost. Giri chose to keep most of his rating points, and called it a tournament. Ivanchuk, meanwhile, will play Aronian in the quarter-finals in the only match that's set so far.

    The other four games finished in draws and will result in tiebreaks. Alexander Grischuk vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was a 13-move draw; apparently Grischuk is reverting to his gruesome but effective strategy from Kazan Candidates matches a few years ago, where he would draw all his classical games with White without a fight and then hang on desperately with Black, aiming to reach the rapid and blitz tiebreaks.

    Bu Xiangzhi vs. Peter Svidler was also a short draw, but this doesn't seem to have been by design. Bu was outplayed in the opening, and was pulling on the emergency brake before things got out of hand.

    Baadur Jobava outplayed Wesley So and had him on the ropes, but So saved the game by creating a fortress in the ending.

    Finally, Evgeny Najer and Richard Rapport had a hard-fought draw. It looks like Najer generally had the better chances, but Rapport was never at death's door.

    Games, with mostly brief comments, here.

    Tuesday
    Sep122017

    World Cup, Round 4, Day 1: Ivanchuk and Fedoseev Start with Wins

    The last couple of rounds have seen lots of draws in the classical games, with players preferring to try their luck in the rapid and blitz tiebreaks. In today's action, at least, this was not the case: everyone playing White tried to make something of it, though only one player succeeded.

    That player was Vassily Ivanchuk, who defeated Anish Giri, though the connection of his win to his possession of the white pieces was tenuous. He did obtain an advantage against Giri's Petroff, but his weird 15th and 17th moves flipped the evaluation, and he was in serious trouble. But then Giri started doing strange things, and frankly both players made lots of errors, possibly due to time trouble. The last serious error was 34...Qf4+, allowing Ivanchuk to trade queens and reach an easily won rook endgame. After Ivanchuk's 41st move, the players had time to take stock, and Giri gave up.

    The day's other winner was Vladimir Fedoseev, who defeated Maxim Rodshtein (who may have been a little rusty and emotionally out of sorts after receiving a de facto walkover thanks to "Shortsgate". As with Ivanchuk-Giri, there was no logical line between the opening and the first player to achieve an advantage and the game's result. After Fedoseev's dubious pawn sac on move 22 Rodshtein was better, but White's repeated decision not to initiate the exchange of rooks eventually let his advantage slip away. Even after that the game remained in a precarious balance until Rodshtein's 35.Nc4? missed a nice tactic that had been looming for a while. Fedoseev spotted it, and that clinched it. Again as in Ivanchuk-Giri, once the winner had made his 41st move and time trouble was no longer a factor, it was time to resign.

    The other six games were drawn, but all were interesting. Peter Svidler played the Bishop's Opening against Bu Xiangzhi (to avoid the Petroff), but couldn't achieve an advantage and the game was eventually drawn; if anything, Black was a little better through a fair chunk of the middlegame.

    Wesley So vs. Baadur Jobava was a Petroff, and Jobava was well-prepared. So's 11.h4 was a rare move, and it was well-met by Jobava's new move, 11...Bc5. It's not clear if there's any advantage to be had for White; if so, it's not with 12.Bd3. Jobava had no problems, and while both players fought well and tried to make something happen, the game never got out of balance.

    Richard Rapport and Evgeniy Najer played the longest game of the round. When there were chances, Najer had them, and after Rapport's 44.Nf1 Najer's winning chances were very good. Perhaps 45...Bd3 would have led to a win, and 46...Kf6 would also have given him good chances for the full point. By White's 49th move, however, the draw was an inevitability, provided Rapport stayed alert - and he did.

    In all the draws thus far, Black has done very well, and that was also the case in Daniil Dubov - Levon Aronian. Dubov's 20.d5 was too optimistic, and had Aronian played 22....Bd5, or later 30...Qd7, or especially 34...Rxb2, it's quite likely that he would have won. Luckily for Dubov, Aronian played 34...Qf6??, and two moves later the game was drawn.

    Wang Hao and Ding Liren played a "correct" draw. Ding was well-prepared on the black side of a Meran, and made a comfortable draw.

    Finally, the draw between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alexander Grischuk was anything but comfortable. Vachier-Lagrave went all-out for the attack, sacrificing a rook. The idea was sound, but his 28th move was objectively an error, though not one that was easy to refute. Grischuk very understandably looked for a way to achieve safety, and he found it. He returned the material, with a little interest thrown in, to achieve an easily drawn rook and two pawns vs. rook and three pawns ending, with all the pawns on the same side of the board.

    Here are the games, with my comments.

    Tuesday
    Sep122017

    World Cup, Round 3, Day 3 (Tiebreaks): Most Favorites Advance, but not Caruana, Nepomniachtchi, or Li Chao

    What a brutal third round it was for the favorites! Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Li Chao are all out of the tournament. (The 2700-rated David Navara and Maxim Matlakov are as well, but they lost playing up, to Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian, respectively.) The first three lost during the classical stage, the last three in today's rapid and blitz playoffs.

    Let's begin with the biggest upset, Caruana's loss to Evgeny Najer. Caruana drew the first rapid game on the black side of a 5.Re1 Berlin without any real trouble. So far, so good for his fans in the U.S. and Italy. In game two it was another Ruy, and since Caruana failed to get anything against Najer's Open Ruy in the first game of the match, he switched to 5.d3 this time around. Najer seemed to be better prepared in this game as well, and was soon fighting for an advantage. Caruana's decision to give up the right to castle was playable but dangerous, and it soon backfired on him. Najer had the advantage from move 17 on, and while his play was occasionally imperfect his sustained initiative was more than his opponent could manage. In a position that was already hopeless Caruana blundered into mate in one, and was eliminated from the competition.

    Nepomniachtchi also left the competition after a blunder in his second tiebreak game against Baadur Jobava. He had been suffering all game, but wasn't too far from escaping with a draw when he blundered a rook to an elementary two-move combination. Score one for the home team, as Jobava is the only remaining Georgian in the competition.

    Li Chao also exited, but without making any gross blunders. His 27th move in game one was an error, and from there Richard Rapport slowly took advantage, winning after another 88 moves. Rapport was winning the second game as well, but allowed Li to save some rating points with a mercy draw. (Normally I'm not a fan of such draws, but the game had been equal most of the way and Li could have forced an immediate perpetual on moves 29 or 30. The match situation forced him to play something absurd, so Rapport's action could be seen as an acknowledgement that his advantage wasn't due to anything relevant to the players skill or understanding in that game. I'm not sure I agree with the decision, but I'm not sure that it's inappropriate, either. Maybe someone will persuade me one way or the other in the comments.)

    Another match that was decided on a blunder was that between Ding Liren and Vidit Gujrathi. The Chinese super-GM stood better, but Vidit didn't have to make the win so easy by allowing the obvious combination beginning with 19.d5. Perhaps he thought that his mass of central pawns would afford him good compensation, but White didn't have much trouble blockading them.

    Grischuk and Navara went to the second round of tiebreaks, and the former did a better job of navigating a long tactical flurry to win the last game and the match.

    Aleks Lenderman's impressive run was ended by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The first game was a good rock 'em, sock 'em battle that was headed for a draw until Lenderman tried too hard to squeeze something out of the position. The second game was drawn, so Vachier-Lagrave moves on.

    Anish Giri was lucky to make it to the tiebreaks, and even reaching them didn't end the drama. He beat S.P. Sethuraman in the first rapid game, but was clobbered in the rematch. Giri kept coming, though, and he won the next two games to advance.

    Finally, Levon Aronian had all he could handle against Maxim Matlakov. They drew the two rapid games, and then exchanged victories in the next set of tiebreaks. Aronian finally got through after the next pair of games. Matlakov remained optimistic with White a little too long in the 5th tiebreak game, and Aronian kept control to draw in the 6th.

    Top players have not been doing well, to put it mildly - have a look at all the red at the Live Ratings page. Some favorites remain, for now; let's see what's on tap for round 4. In bracket order, we have these matches:

    • Bu Xiangzhi - Peter Svidler
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Alexander Grischuk
    • Vassily Ivanchuk - Anish Giri
    • Levon Aronian - Daniil Dubov
    • Wesley So - Baadur Jobava
    • Vladimir Fedoseev - Maxim Rodshtein
    • Evgeny Najer - Richard Rapport
    • Wang Hao - Ding Liren

    I'm guessing that no one on the planet predicted this bracket for round 4. For a closer look at some of the carnage, have a look here, at some annotated games.

    Sunday
    Sep102017

    World Cup, Round 3, Day 2: Carlsen, Kramnik, and Nakamura Out

    If you're not a fan of Magnus Carlsen or Vladimir Kramnik, Vassily Ivanchuk is your man. While it has never been safe to root for him directly - his nerves have killed him at some crucial points in his career, most especially at the end of his 1991 Candidates match with Artur Yusupov and in the finals of the 2002 FIDE Knockout World Championship against Ruslan Ponomariov - but when it comes to ruining other people's events he's got a special knack. Since 2013, he has practically become Carlsen's and Kramnik's personal angel of death. First he beat both players at the end of the 2013 Candidates, and he has beaten Carlsen at least three more times in rapid and blitz tournaments since then. (His draw with Kramnik at the end of the 2015 World Blitz Championship prevented Kramnik from taking second or maybe even first - I forget how the tiebreaks stood.)

    Today, it was Kramnik's turn to get punished by Ivanchuk. Kramnik had White and got a bit too ambitious. He overextended on the queenside and lost a pawn, and Ivanchuk ground out the victory in 71 moves. Having done his duty, Ivanchuk can now lose in the next round, probably to Anish Giri, who was dead lost against S.P. Sethuraman but eked out a draw to make it to tomorrow's tiebreaks.

    Carlsen is also out. The damage was done yesterday, but if he could win with Black against Bu Xiangzhi he could push the match to tiebreaks. It didn't happen: Bu played well and kept Carlsen safely at bay.

    Another big gun heading for the exits is Hikaru Nakamura. The Spanish Four Knights is probably underappreciated, at least as an occasional weapon, and with a very few exceptions its theory is largely unexplored. Nakamura played an unusual line on move 6 and a novelty on move 7. Was it intentional, and if it was, could he have possibly remembered his preparation? Whatever the case, he was lost or at least much worse after a mistake on move 10. It wasn't a straight line win after that, but White was always better, and eventually Fedoseev broke his opponent's resistance.

    Yet another big name that took it on the chin today was Levon Aronian. He was crushed by Maxim Matlakov in a Semi-Tarrasch, but as he had won the day before they're headed for tiebreaks.

    Other decisive games: Wang Hao beat Yuriy Kuzubov with Black, Daniil Dubov beat Vladislav Artemiev with White, and Peter Svidler ground down Alexander Onischuk on the white side of an Anti-Marshall.

    Americans: Wesley So is through, drawing with Francisco Vallejo Pons today after beating him yesterday. Nakamura and Onischuk are out, and Fabiano Caruana and Aleks Lenderman will play tiebreaks tomorrow after drawing both their games against Evgeny Najer and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, respectively.

    Headed for round 4: Bu Xiangzhi and Peter Svidler (who will play each other), Vassily Ivanchuk, Daniil Dubov, Wesley So, Vladimir Fedoseev and Maxim Rodshtein (they'll play in round 4; Rodshtein, recall, was the recipient of a couple of points due to Shortsgate), and Wang Hao.

    Tomorrow's tiebreaks: MVL-Lenderman, Grischuk-Navara, Giri-Sethuraman, Aronian-Matlakov, Nepomniachtchi-Jobava, Caruana-Najer, Rapport-Li Chao, Ding Liren-Vidit Gujrathi

    Finally, here are a few of today's games, with comments.

    Saturday
    Sep092017

    World Cup, Round 3, Day 1: Mostly Draws, But Carlsen Lost

    As is usual on days when classical chess is being played at the World Cup, the drawing percentage is very high. Today 12 of the 16 games were drawn, and one of the decisive "games" was Anton Kovalyov's forfeit (discussed in the preceding post). Overall though, the draws were livelier than in round 2 - even the three shortest draws looked like real games and not play-acting on the way to tiebreaks on Monday.

    The three decisive games all involved top players: Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, and Levon Aronian. Aronian outplayed Maxim Matlakov, inducing weaknesses all over the board. After Matlakov lost a center pawn he indirectly defended a pawn on the queenside, only to resign in danger of getting mated on the kingside.

    So had an easy time of it against Francisco Vallejo Pons, winning quickly with Black. Vallejo played a hyper-aggressive line against the Caro-Kann that the computers dislike and that scores badly, and his "improvement" led to his being lost after 13 moves. It's possible that he mixed up moves somewhere, but even so, it's hard to see what he had in mind or why he chose the line. Maybe his idea could work in a short time control game, but in a slow game So had plenty of time to make sure that everything was covered.

    Finally, Carlsen had White against the first of China's super-prodigies and 2700-level GMs, the half-forgotten Bu Xiangzhi. He'll be remembered after this game, especially if he manages at least a draw tomorrow with White and thereby eliminates Carlsen from the Cup. Bu went for a Marshall Gambit-style pawn sac in the Italian Game, followed immediately by a piece sac. Both were sound, and the proper result with best play would have been a draw. Carlsen's 21.Bxd5? was a big mistake, and while Bu gave Carlsen a chance to save the game after 29...h5?, Carlsen returned the favor on the next move and was well and properly dispatched.

    Here are the three decisive games, plus the draw between Vassily Ivanchuk and Vladimir Kramnik.

    Saturday
    Sep092017

    Anton Kovalyov's Short(s) Story

    Canadian GM Anton Kovalyov had enjoyed a great World Cup so far, defeating American GM Varuzhan Akobian in round 1 and former World Champion Viswanathan Anand in round 2. Unfortunately, things came a-cropper for him in round 3. Did Maxim Rodshtein crush him with some great preparation? Did Kovalyov self-destruct in time trouble?

    No and no. Kovalyov didn't play. He didn't oversleep or get to the board late; no, his infraction was wearing shorts. (Long shorts, but shorts nonetheless.) This was apparently in violation of FIDE's regulations, and that reference to this was in the contracts all the players signed.

    When I first read this, I assumed that Kovalyov was completely at fault, and simply didn't read the contract. But in fact the regulation doesn't say, "No Shorts." The contract says that players are to note the requirements of Article 8.1 of FIDE Regulation C.01 "in respect of their dignified appearance at all times during the World Cup", and Article 8.1 says this:

    The image of the chess player should be a dignified one, and dressing properly would not only show respect for the game, but also to sponsors, potential or otherwise, to make it worth their while to spend their money.

    For example, some federations have barred slippers, sleeveless T-shirts and vests in their tournaments. Those with unkempt and greasy hair should be admonished, as well as those wearing old or torn jeans and battered attire generally.

    Nothing about shorts! That makes it a judgment call, and while it still seems surprising to me that Kovalyov could consider wearing shorts to be "dignified", professional attire, some sort of warning would have been appropriate.

    Here's what happened: Kovalyov, who had worn the same shorts in the first two rounds, was in the playing hall 10 minutes before the games were to start. Chief Arbiter Tomasz Deluga noticed the shorts (but hadn't noticed the two previous rounds - not implausibly, given the greater number of players) and spoke with Kovalyov about this and then contacted Zurab Azmaiparashvili. Kovalyov left the playing hall and didn't come back, forfeiting the game. In theory he could come back and play tomorrow, but it seems he's going home if he hasn't already.

    The first question: why didn't Kovalyov just go to his room, put on a pair of pants, and come back? The first answer is that he apparently didn't bring any - he had gained some weight, his pants were too tight, so he only brought shorts. (This is from Kovalyov himself.) This doesn't explain why he didn't buy some new ones, but it does show that he had a problem today.

    But the second and biggest problem, at least according to Kovalyov, is that Azmaiparashvili acted like a horse's rear end - though that expression is a slander to horses, who don't have free will. Here's Kovalyov:

    Then came Zurab, he was very agressive, yelling at me and using the racial slur "gypsy" to insult me, apart from mentioning several times that I will be punished by FIDE. I told him that I had asked before at the previous world cup if what I was wearing was OK and I was told by somebody from the organization that yes. Zurab, in a prepotent way, said he doesn't care, he's the organizer now. At this point I was really angry but tried not to do anything stupid, and asked him why he was so rude to me, and he said because I'm a gypsy.

    If this is correct - and I'm not aware of any corroborating or disconfirming information about this - then Kovalyov was put in a very difficult spot. His choice was to leave the event, which is unfortunate for all the players involved. Azmaiparashvili has not been a stranger to controversy, and that's putting it mildly, but by itself it doesn't mean that he did anything wrong on this occasion.

    Anyway, you can see a fuller discussion, with video statements by Deluga and Azmaiparashvili and the full Facebook post by Kovalyov, here.

    Friday
    Sep082017

    The 2017 World Cup, Round 2, Day 3: More Upsets in the Tiebreaks

    Most of the absolute top players survived today's tiebreaks, but quite a few of the top players are gone. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost to Yuriy Kuzubov, Wei Yi lost to Richard Rapport, Radoslaw Wojtaszek was ousted by Alexander Onischuk, Yu Yangyi was beaten by Baadur Jobava, Pentala Harikrishna was defeated by S.P. Sethuraman, Teimour Radjabov lost to Vladislav Artemiev, and Boris Gelfand lost to Wang Hao. That's a lot of big names joining Viswanathan Anand and Sergey Karjakin at the airport heading home.

    The Americans almost all did their jobs, joining Aleks Lenderman in round 3. Hikaru Nakamura dispatched Lazaro Bruzon in the first set of tiebreaks, and so - unexpectedly - did Onischuk, taking advantage of Wojtaszek's self-destruction. Sam Sevian drew his first game with Li Chao, but blundered horribly in a drawn ending in the second game. Fortunately, he was the only player from the U.S. to be ousted in this round.

    In the second round of tiebreaks, Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana both blanked their opponents (Matthias Bluebaum and Luka Lenic, respectively) to qualify. For Caruana, it must have been as much a relief as anything else, as he could have lost in the second game of the first round of tiebreaks.

    Two matches made it to the 5-minute games, but again, sadly, there were no Armageddon games.

    I haven't analyzed all of today's games - there were 64 in all - but I have offered varying degrees of comments to 20 of them. Enjoy.

    Now for the round 3 pairings, given in bracket order: 

    Carlsen - Bu Xiangzhi
    Svidler - Onischuk
    Vachier-Lagrave - Lenderman
    Grischuk - Navara
    Kramnik - Ivanchuk
    Giri - Sethuraman
    Aronian - Matlakov
    Dubov - Artemiev
    So - Vallejo
    Nepomniachtchi - Jobava
    Nakamura - Fedoseev
    Kovalyov - Rodshtein
    Caruana - Najer
    Rapport - Li Chao
    Kuzubov - Wang Hao
    Ding Liren - Vidit Gujrathi