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    Entries in 2017 World Cup (28)

    Thursday
    Sep072017

    The 2017 World Cup, Round 2, Day 2: Draw Draw Draw Draw Draw Draw...

    There's so much drawing going on at the World Cup that art students can get class credit for watching the tournament. In round 1, with 64 matches, 21 went to tiebreaks; in round 2, with only 32 matches, 22 are going to tiebreaks! And it's not because of players making comebacks: only one of the players who lost yesterday managed to get revenge today. Most of the day's draws were short, too - often very short. Some draws were real games, but many weren't. At the extreme end, nine draws ranged in length from a high of 21 moves to an abysmal low of eight. Usually the higher-rated player had Black, but not always.

    And what is mind-boggling is when a player eliminates himself by taking a short draw, as Anton Demchenko did against Vladimir Kramnik. With White! (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 Nf6 5.c3 a6 6.a4 d6 7.0-0 Ba7 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.h3 Be6 10.Bxe6 and draw.) If Demchenko was rated 1645, then sure. Drawing with a legend like Kramnik would be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, something to tell the grandkids someday. But Demchenko is rated 2645; not a member of the absolute elite, but a great player, good enough to beat Kramnik on a day where everything goes well and Kramnik misses something. (Haven't we all beaten players 150 points higher-rated than we are, and lost to players 150 points below us?) How does someone not even try in such a situation, at least with White? (Unless he was ill. Another possibility, which isn't a good excuse but may be an understandable one, is that he had booked his flight at a time that would prevent him from playing a full game.) And if he loses, it only costs him three rating points - not usually a big deal.

    On to better things. Six players managed to win, starting at the very top with Magnus Carlsen winning his second straight 2-0 match. Aleksey Dreev is a great player, a former Candidate who has been rated over 2700, but Carlsen had little problem with him in either game. Carlsen is playing like a world champion, and in this form he's a favorite to qualify for the Candidates, where he will hopefully qualify for a match with himself.*

    The other absurd participant is out. Sergey Karjakin has also already qualified for a later stage in the world championship cycle - the Candidates, in his case, by virtue of his having reached the world championship match in the last cycle - so his getting bounced from the World Cup only means that he lost some rating points (approximately 15) and made some money ($10k, which will buy him some useful novelties come next year's Candidates tournament). Daniil Dubov, who seems to have been around forever but is only 21 years old, did the honors.

    While we're on the subject of world champions and world championship finalists, Viswanathan Anand only managed a draw today with Anton Kovalyov after his loss yesterday, so he is out of the World Cup, and for the first time in what seems like forever, won't be in either the world championship or even the Candidates in this cycle.

    Back to the winners. Ivan Cheparinov deserves credit for defeating David Navara, avenging his loss from yesterday and sending the match to tiebreaks. (I'm guessing the idea of offering a draw on move 10 never entered his mind.) Aleks Lenderman defeated A. Tari to qualify for a round 3 matchup with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. (The other five Americans will have to sweat it out in tiebreaks tomorrow.) In a couple of battles of 2700s, Francisco Vallejo Pons beat Evgeny Tomashevsky, while Maxim Rodshtein upset Michael Adams with Black.

    The 10 players to advance are: Carlsen, MVL, Lenderman, Kramnik, Dubov, Vallejo, Fedoseev, Kovalyov, Rodshtein (the last two will play each other in round 3), and Vidit. The other 43 guys and 1 gal (Hou Yifan) will duke it out tomorrow in rapid and (if necessary) blitz tiebreaks.

    Here are the decisive games from today's action.

    * Yes, I know that's not how it works. But it's fun to highlight the absurdity of FIDE's allowing his participation in the World Cup, so this may continue as a running joke as long as Carlsen stays alive in the event.

    Thursday
    Sep072017

    The 2017 World Cup, Round 2, Day 1: Mostly Business As Usual

    There were a lot of draws (many of them short) and not many upsets, but one of the two was a major upset. Le Quang Liem lost to Santosh Vidit in a relatively minor upset - the bigger surprise was that Le lost with White. But the second loss was huge: Viswanathan Anand lost to Anton Kovalyov - also with White. It's not just the rating gap, though it was significant - 142 points. It's that it was Anand, who is on the verge of his earliest ever exit from a World Cup or FIDE k.o. World Championship, and if he does not win the rematch it will be the first time he hasn't made it to at least the Candidates stage since the titles were reunified in 2007.

    The loss itself was rather strange: Anand was in good shape, pressing from the start, but he decided on a piece sac that left him with an initiative that at best might given him enough play for a draw, if things went well. As it was he was always worse, and Kovalyov was eventually able to reel in the full point.

    Since there weren't too many wins out of the 32 games, it's easy to list them all: Magnus Carlsen defeated Aleksey Dreev (with Black), Vladimir Kramnik beat Anton Demchenko (with White), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated Boris Grachev (with White), David Navara won against Ivan Cheparinov (with White), Vladimir Fedoseev defeated Ernesto Inarkiev (also with White), and that's it (adding the two upsets discussed above).

    The Americans - So, Caruana, Nakamura, Onischuk, Sevian, and Lenderman - all drew their games.

    Here, with brief comments, are the games Anand-Kovalyov and Hou Yifan-Levon Aronian.

    Tuesday
    Sep052017

    The 2017 World Cup, Round 1, Day 3: Tiebreaks

    There were very few substantial upsets today, unless I'm missing something big. (And sadly, no Armageddon games.) One 2700 was upended, and one former 2700 was also upset, and that's about it. In the other matches where the underdog won, the rating spread wasn't especially significant.

    The losing 2700 was David Howell, who lost to 18-year-old Norwegian GM Aryan Tari, and the losing ex-2700 was Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, who couldn't take advantage of yesterday's gift against the U.S.'s 16-year-old GM Sam Sevian.

    All the big dogs advanced, so let's turn to tomorrow's action, as round 2 begins. In the all-2700 department, there's Bacrot-Bu, Ivanchuk-Duda, Matlakov-Andreikin, Vallejo-Tomashevsky, Fedoseev-Inarkiev, Vitiugov-Najer, and Gelfand-Wang Hao. Other matches of note: Carlsen-Dreev (a former 2700 with a fine record in previous World Cups/FIDE k.o. World Championships) and Aronian-Hou Yifan.

    Finally, once again, a selection of games, noting both highlights and lowlights from the day's action.

    Tuesday
    Sep052017

    The 2017 World Cup, Round 1, Day 2

    Most of the favorites bounced back, while those who were ahead generally finished the job. But it was rarely easy, even for world champions!

    Magnus Carlsen finished off his FM opponent, but even he had to work hard! Carlsen had no advantage at the time control, but then, oddly enough, his opponent started making errors once he had some more time on his clock. Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand had even more trouble, surrendering draws to their much lower-rated opponents (and they both had White!), but in any case they too moved on to the second round.

    Other superstars struggled a bit as well, Wesley So and Shakriyar Mamedyarov likewise surrendered draws with White, but they too advanced. Rather than detailing all the top players who made it through, let's note the 2700s who still have work to do. The highest seed who must still play tomorrow is Sergey Karjakin, who drew quickly (with White) with 16-year-old Australian IM Anton Smirnov. Pentala Harikrishna will be playing tomorrow, which is good news for him: it means he managed to avenge yesterday's loss to Yuri Gonzales Vidal. Wei Yi also managed to win on demand against Bator Sambuev to stay alive; likewise Vladimir Fedoseev, who pulled even against Yusnel Bacallao Alonso.

    But Pavel Eljanov, one of the heroes of the 2015 World Cup, lost 2-0 to Aleks Lenderman. In the first game, as noted in yesterday's post, Lenderman was (more than) a bit lucky (though one can of course help one's luck along), but today it was something of a massacre. Of course Eljanov had to press hard with the black pieces, and Lenderman was more than ready for Black's insufficiently grounded attack.

    Here are the 2700s who were not trailing after the first game and are going on to tiebreaks; all but Francisco Vallejo Pons drew both games: Dmitry Andreikin (vs. Aleksey Goganov), Ian Nepomniachtchi (after a nine move draw with Mladen Palac), Vassily Ivanchuk (vs. Murtas Kazhgalaeyev), Michael Adams (vs. Tsegemed Batchuluun), Etienne Bacrot (who has nothing to fear but [Alexander] Fier himself), David Howell (vs. A. Tari), and Evgeny Tomashevsky (vs. Mikhail Antipov whom he should have defeated today in a pawn-up double rook ending). Vallejo Pons is the exception. He won game 1, but lost the rematch to Murali Karthikeyan.

    Americans: The big three advanced. So only drew, but that was good enough. Caruana and Nakamura both finished off their opponents to sweep their matches. As already noted above, Lenderman finished his upset of Eljanov by a 2-0 score, and as we know from the comments to yesterday's post, Alexander Onischuk advanced because Yaroslav Zherebukh (also representing the U.S.) didn't manage to get a green card in time for the event. (Why the U.S. has a player in that situation representing us is a mystery; at a minimum this should have been discussed much earlier, so that his spot could have been taken by another American player.)

    Two other Americans are out: Varuzhan Akobian needed to defeat Anton Kovalyov with Black to even the match, and in the end only managed a draw, with effort. Jeffery Xiong drew his white game against the favored Alexander Motylev the day before, but couldn't hold with Black in a 5.Re1 Berlin.

    Finally, Sam Sevian really, really should have qualified, with a winning position with Black against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, but he got a taste of his own medicine. Sevian is known for playing out lost positions more than a little too long, always hoping for a last cheapo. Today, he was the victim of the cheapo, as Nisipeanu swindled a draw. (A double swindle, I think, as it seems that even the "official" swindle fails to equalize.) Fortunately, the match remained even, and they'll continue to tiebreaks tomorrow.

    In all, 21 matches will go to tiebreaks, and then it's on to the round of 64 on Wednesday. In the meantime, here's a small selection of highlights - mostly lowlights - from today's action.

    Sunday
    Sep032017

    The World Cup: Round 1, Day 1

    The first sub-round of round 1 is in the books, and here is a selected round-up of the day's 64 - or rather, 63 - games.

    First, and unsurprisingly, the super-GMs - the Candidates/Grand Chess Tour group - generally did their job and defeated their much lower-rated opponents (not always easily, either; for example, Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian had some anxious moments) - with two exceptions. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was down a pawn for nothing against Muhammad Khusenkhojaev, but fortunately for MVL his opponent was happy to burn his white game and a clear advantage for the right to say that he drew the world's #2 in a classical game. Bad strategy from a competitive standpoint, but who among us wouldn't be tempted to do the same? The other super-GM was Sergey Karjakin's draw, also with Black, against Anton Smirnov. This one was justified by the position.

    The biggest full-point upsets were suffered by Wei Yi and Pentala Harikrishna. Wei Yi was already in serious time trouble after 20 moves against Bator Sambuev, and as a result he immediately went badly wrong, no doubt missing White's 23rd and/or 24th moves. Pentala Harikrishna played a Petroff (why?) against Yuri Gonzalez Vidal, a player 200 points lower-rated, and was in grave trouble early on.

    Ian Nepomniachtchi was the highest-rated player not to win with White (he drew with Mladen Palac). Other 2700s who failed to win: Yu Yangyi (drew with Black against Amierreza Pourramezanali), Li Chao (drew with White against Leandro Krysa), Radjabov (drew with White, in 15 moves[?!] against Helgi Dam Ziska), Le Quang Liem (drew with Black against Vitaly Kunin), Michael Adams (drew with White against Tsegmed Batchuluun), Pavel Eljanov (lost with White against Aleks Lenderman - more on this below), Vladimir Fedoseev (lost with Black to Yusnel Bacallao Alonso), Vassily Ivanchuk (drew with White, in 16 moves, but in a position where he's worse and has no active plan, against Murtas Kazhgaleyev), Nikita Vitiugov (drew with Black, in a crazy game against Kaido Kulaots: first he was winning, then losing, but his opponent took a repetition), Etienne Bacrot (drew with Black against Alexandr Fier, but he was completely lost for half the game), Evgeny Tomashevsky (short draw with Black against Mikhail Antipov), Dmitry Andreikin (drew with White against Aleksey Goganov, barely saving a game that was completely lost for a very long time), Wang Hao (drew with Black against Deep Sengupta), and David Howell (drew with Black against A. Tari).

    There are 40 2700s in all (at least using the event's ratings), which is a crazy number - I can remember when the number of 2700s could be counted on one finger! Their overall score: +22 -3 =15.

    America watch: There are nine Americans playing, two against each other. The Big 3 - Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana, and Hikaru Nakamura all did their jobs and won. As mentioned above, Lenderman was incredibly lucky against Eljanov. He was down two pawns in an endgame, trying to keep the passers blockaded. Eljanov first overextended, and then blundered a piece to a simple knight fork, losing. Lenderman was Black in this game, so he only needs a draw with White tomorrow to advance. Sam Sevian got nothing with White against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu's Petroff, and the game was drawn quickly. Alexander Onischuk won by forfeit against fellow American Zherebukh. I don't know if Zherebukh overslept, or maybe came late to the board and was forfeited under the zero-tolerance rules. A huge pity for him, especially to give away his white game. Jeffery Xiong drew quickly with Alexander Motylev, but with White. Finally, Varuzhan Akobian lost with White to Kovalyov, getting ground down a bit at a time in a QGA.

    For your viewing entertainment, here are three games with varying amounts of commentary: Sambuev-Wei Yi, Eljanov-Lenderman, and Areshchenko-Demchenko.

    Sunday
    Sep032017

    The World Cup Starts Today

    This gigantic 128-player knockout event starts in just a few hours today, Sunday, September 3, in Tbilisi, Georgia. The tournament is insanely strong, with 33 of the top 35 players participating - only Veselin Topalov (#16) and Leinier Dominguez (#23) are absent.

    Although the event is primarily a qualifier for next year's Candidates tournament, and although the Candidates is the event that selects the player who will challenge the world champion in the next Championship match, Magnus Carlsen - the world champion - and Sergey Karjakin - who has already qualified for the Candidates - are both playing. This is odd at best and inappropriate at worst, but the fault is FIDE's for allowing it, not Carlsen's and Karjakin's for taking advantage of it.

    The format is as follows: the 128 players are seeded by rating, and in the first round #1 (Carlsen) plays #128, #2 plays #127, and so on until #64 and #65 play. (The full bracket is here; tournament website here.) Seven knockout rounds are necessary to produce a clear winner (just as in tennis's Grand Slam tournaments). The first six rounds start with a pair of classical games, one per day, with rapid and (if necessary) blitz games on the third day in case the classical games finish in a 1-1 tie. The final match will be a best-of-four.

    The play starts at 3 p.m. local time in Tbilisi, which is 7 a.m. ET in the U.S.

    Speaking of the U.S., we are very well represented. What follows is the player's seed, his name, his rating (at least the rating as of the moment when the seeding was fixed), his opponent, and his opponent's rating:

    2. Wesley So (2810) vs. Joshua Daniel Ruiz Castillo (2377)

    3. Fabiano Caruana (2807) vs. Kenny Solomon (2398)

    7. Hikaru Nakamura (2792) vs. Abdullah Al-Rakib (2454)

    48. Alexander Onischuk (2682) vs. Yaroslav Zherebukh (2627) - Unfortunately.

    55. Varuzhan Akobian (2662) vs. Anton Kovalyov (2641)

    77. Jeffery Xiong (2633) vs. Alexander Motylev (2675)

    81. Yaroslav Zherebukh (2627) vs. Alexander Onischuk (2682) - Again, unfortunately.

    83. Samuel Sevian (2620) vs. Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu (2687)

    104. Aleksandr Lenderman (2565) vs. Pavel Eljanov (2734)

    Monday
    Aug212017

    Carlsen on Playing in the World Cup

    Here.

    Monday
    Aug072017

    2017 World Cup Pairings Are Up

    Oh the excitement! Will Magnus Carlsen succeed in his quest to earn a world championship match against himself? The first obstacle in his way is unrated Nigerian FM Oluwafemi Balogun, and assuming he wins that match there will be six more rounds of knockout matches before he qualifies for the Candidates. (The whole mess of pairings can be seen here in tree form, or you can go here for something that's a bit easier on the eyes.)

    The event runs from September 2-28, and the two finalists qualify for the Candidates. I assume - or at least I hope, for sanity's sake, that Carlsen will not be eligible for the Candidates. That would be amusing, but also kind of stupid, unless winning the Candidates means that he doesn't have to defend his title in this cycle in a world championship match. Anyway, on the assumption that he's ineligible for the Candidates (but then why does he get to play in the World Cup?), I guess that if he's a finalist the two players who lose in the semi-finals will have a match for the second Candidates' spot. (And if I'm wrong, I trust that someone will correct me.)

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