FIDE World Cup 2017: World No.35 eliminates World No.1

by Sagar Shah
9/11/2017 – Magnus Carlsen made the bold decision to play in this unpredictable knock out format of the World Cup, and on Sunday he was eliminated by world number 35 Bu Xiangzhi of China. Along with Magnus, also Kramnik and Nakamura have had to book their return tickets. Out of the top ten players in the world that were playing at this event, only one has qualified to round four. Five have been knocked out and four will play the tiebreaks. We have a huge round three, game two, report from Tbilisi. | Photos: Amruta Mokal

Chess News

Kramnik and Nakamura also out

World Cup

The World Cup 2017 started with all the top ten players in the world (in fact 19 out of the top 20). After just eight days of chess in Tbilisi only one player out of these top ten has booked a spot in the fourth round. That's the super solid Wesley So. Five of the players (Carlsen, Kramnik, Mamedyarov, Anand, Nakamura) have been eliminated and four others (MVL, Aronian, Caruana, Grischuk) are going to fight it out in the tiebreaks. What's going on? How is it that the top players are getting knocked out by players rated nearly 100 Elo points below them.

Some people say that the World Cup is a lottery format. One mistake and you are out. Well, shouldn't the higher rated player be making fewer mistakes? I find the following reason to be much more convincing: the lower rated players, or the so-called underdogs, hardly ever get a chance to play these top players. In the tournament when they do get an opportunity, they have nothing to lose, while the elite players have a lot of pressure to perform. As a result the underdogs play with all their energy and well above their actual level. Also most of the lower rated players are not used to getting paid just for playing at an event. They have to fight through nine rounds of an open tournament, play the tense final round and if successful, earn a prize. But here at the World Cup, they are paid a fixed sum. This amount keeps increasing as they qualify for the next rounds. The financial security is one of the reasons why the underdogs have a feeling of taking as much risk as they can. Also the general level of play and the methods of opening prepration have improved tremendously and the gap between a 2650+ player and a 2750+ is no longer as huge as it used to be.

In round three, Magnus Carlsen was knocked out by Bu Xiangzhi. Vladimir Kramnik was finished off by Vassily Ivanchuk and Hikaru Nakamura was eliminated by Vladimir Fedoseev. These were the three huge upsets of the day.

Bu Xiangzhi vs Magnus Carlsen

After losing the first game with the white pieces, Carlsen was in a desperate situation. He needed to win with black. Bu is a very solid player. He has been around the 2700 Elo mark for nearly ten years now. To create chances against him with the black pieces was not going to be easy. 

Magnus Carlsen getting ready for the most important game of his World Cup 2017

Everyone was quite surprised with Magnus' choice of going for the Meran. Maybe he should have played something more unorthodox in reply to Bu's 1.Nf3 with a move like 1...g6. The Chinese player mentioned after the game that he was expecting the Dutch and was quite comfortable facing it. Magnus equalized comfortably out of the opening and it seemed as if he would start squeezing the life out of his Chinese opponent, but then this happened.

 

It was extremely important for Magnus to play 14...Qc7. This would have kept the position complex and we would get to see quite some fighting chess. However, Carlsen missed a simple tactic and played the move 14...0-0. White was now able to show what exactly was wrong with the World Champion's decision. Bu found the move 15.Ne5! and after that the position was completely in White's favour.

 

I will celebrate tonight with my friends in the Chinese restaruant!

In the above interview when I asked Bu Xiangzhi whether he thinks he would qualify for the Candidates now that he has beaten the World Champion, he said, "I would just like to play happy chess." After the interview I asked Bu what he meant by happy chess. And he said, "Happy chess is playing chess with happiness and without worrying who your opponent is. You just make your moves and enjoy the game!" Well, if Bu Xiangzhi keeps winning I am sure we will get to hear a lot more about this concept of "happy chess"!

The hotel is filled with many chess fans who come to see the games! Bu Xiangzhi was, of course, the hero of the day

Vladimir Kramnik vs Vassily Ivanchuk

Guess the number of times these two guys have played each other including the formats of rapid, blitz and classical? 103! Vladimir Kramnik has 22 wins, Ivanchuk has 19 and the rest have been draws. The battle between two old rivals turned out to be very interesting. Kramnik chose the sedate exchange variation of the Caro Kann and developed his bishop to d3, followed by pawn to c3 and so on. He had a normal opening position, but then decided to mix things up with h4!?

 

Ivanchuk coming back to the board after visiting the washroom during the time pressure period

Ivanchuk played solid chess and didn't do anything silly. Very soon Kramnik moved his pawn to c4 and then to c5. This same pawn reached b6 and had to be defended by White's bishop moving to c7. Ivanchuk slowly surrounded the pawn and won it. Soon he was a pawn up. Using his extra material he could take the game into an endgame where he had his chances, but whether the pawn was sufficient for a win was unclear. Kramnik made some uncharacteristic errors in the endgame and was very soon lost.

Getting knocked out from the World Cup was a big setback for Kramnik, but he was a true sport on the board. He not only shook hands of Ivanchuk immediately after the game, but did so again (picture above) when they were about to leave the playing arena.

 

Kramnik likes to keep his nutrients during the game nicely lined up next to the board, but they didn't help him overcome Chucky!

Vladimir Fedoseev vs Hikaru Nakamura

Hikaru Nakamura was knocked out of the World Cup by Russian youngster Vladimir Fedoseev

Vladimir Fedoseev is a fearless player. He doesn't really care much for the stature of his opponent. He plays what he feels are the best moves and shows tremendous amount of self-belief. It is was this confidence that helped him beat a player as strong as Hikaru Nakamura and it the same quality that has helped him become number 21 in the world on the live ratings. Yes, the Russian now has an impressive live Elo of 2737!

Fedoseev chose the four knights and Hikaru mixed up his opening preparation. After just 12 moves we reached a position which Vladimir described as the most terrible position he had seen for black pieces! Hikaru defended staunchly and made the technical task of his opponent as difficult as possible. But the margin for error for White was quite huge. Fedoseev made a few inaccurate moves, but finally did manage to bring the full point home and eliminate his American opponent.

In an utterly lost position Hikaru Nakamura sat on the board for nearly ten minutes looking at the scoresheet and trying to think where was it that he had gone wrong. When he resigned he had overcome his grief of losing to some extent and then analyzed his game with his opponent.

Vladimir Fedoseev shows his entire game with analysis of what he thinks were the most critical lines against Hikaru Nakamura

 

The four knights opening that Vladimir Fedoseev chose can be good weapon to avoid lines like the Berlin, Petroff and also the main lines of Ruy Lopez and Giuoco Piano. In case you would like to add this opening to your repertoire GM Simon Williams has recorded quite a huge DVD on this topic with five hours of video training.

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Being a point down and able to make a comeback against a player like Aronian shows how strong you are

One player who was really impressive today was Maxim Matlakov. He had lost the first game to Levon Aronian after he got outplayed by the Armenian. Playing against an in-form Aronian in a must-win situation was not easy. But Matlakov delivered, and he scored an excellent win in just 27 moves.

As Matlakov said in an interview to ChessBase after the game, "Levon had easier ways to equalize the game, but I think he wanted to score another victory and hence chose a risky path."

Matlakov shows some nice ideas from his win over Aronian

 

Levon Aronian with his physical trainer and fans. Did you know, Levon is such a big celebrity in his country, that the Armenians living in Tbilisi come to the tournament hall to just watch him play and get a glimpse of him?

One player who has impressed everyone is GM Daniil Dubov. The match between Artemiev and Dubov was dubbed as the duel between two of the biggest rising stars of Russian chess. And the match surely lived up to expectations.

 

Dubov explains his strategy in this tournament, "I am here to gamble! I knew that my opponent had better technique than me. My best chance was to create complicated positions which would be difficult for him to handle. When my opponent was thinking for his move, I realized that I could play this sacrifice with 13.Bb5! I thought this would be the bravest bluff of my life and went for it. The positive part about it is that I had to no longer think about cheeky things like how to make a draw."

Artemiev was better at some point in the game and his opponent even offered him a draw. But after a long thought he decided to play on and went wrong. Dubov finished off his game with tremendous perfection. Check out the game to see some very wild variations and imaginative calculations:

 

Dubov is the man to watch out for! Next he faces the winner between Aronian and Matlakov.

Talking to press officer Anastasiya Karlovich Dubov said, "Before the tournament I visited Saint Petersburg where my good friend Maxim Matlakov lives. We met and we discussed how nice it would be to meet each other in round four. But for that I would have to beat Karjakin and he would have to get past Aronian. At that point we laughed it off. But now we are just one hurdle away from meeting each other. I hope Maxim beats Aronian and we play each other!"

Earlier I thought Wesley having his chair sideways is just a co-incidence. Now I realize that it is something that he does on purpose!

"I think this format suits me very much," said Wesley So in an interview after his match with GM Francesco Vallejo Pons. The American GM had won the match comfortably with a score of 1½-½. He is through to the fourth round where he would meet the winner of Baadur Jobava and Ian Nepomniachtchi. After a disastrous Sinquefield Cup, it seems as if Wesley has steadied his boat. He is right now the only top ten player in the world to enter the fourth round.

Wesley So speaks about his match with Vallejo Pons and more

Svidler knows he has to be in Tbilisi for a long duration, for which staying fit is a must!

Peter Svidler showed superior understanding of the d3 Ruy Lopez and beat his opponent Alexander Onischuk to advance to the fourth round. He will now face Bu Xianghzi. Peter will surely not underestimate his Chinese opponent especially after what he did to the World Champion. So it will be an exciting match to look forward to.

Wang Hao was able to beat Yuri Kuzubov and advance to the fourth round

The match between Sethuraman and Anish Giri was filled with many exciting moments. In the second game Sethuraman built up a winning position.

 

Sethuraman made one strong move after another and very soon had an advantage of three points around move 24. He carried this advantage for nearly 20 moves, where he had so many different possibilties of finishing the game. But, Sethuraman could not find the killer blow and Anish survived.

 

Clockwise from top left: Sethuraman dominating for nearly 90% of the game, Anish finally heaving a sigh of relief, Giri shows the win to his opponent, Sethuraman is devastated at having missed such a winning position.

Making the impossible possible — Anish Giri!

 

Near the elevator little Danny had a question to his dad!

"Danny, that was a pawn sacrifice for compensation. There are some things that you still don't understand!"

World Champion Magnus Carlsen is out of the World Cup 2017. The decision taken by him to play was very bold. It's true that he wasn't able to achieve his goal, but thanks to his participation this event became much bigger and grander than what it usually is. 

Results of Round 3, Game 2

Bu Xiangzhi 0.5-0.5 Magnus Carlsen
Peter Svidler 1-0 Alexander Onischuk
M. Vachier-Lagrave

0.5-0.5

Aleksandr Lenderman
David Navara 0.5-0.5 Alexander Grischuk
Vladimir Kramnik 0-1 Vasily Ivanchuk
Sethuraman 0.5-0.5 Anish Giri
Maxim Matlakov 1-0 Levon Aronian
Daniil Dubov 1-0 Vladislav Artemiev
Wesley So 0.5-0.5 Vallejo Pons
Baadur Jobava 0.5-0.5 Ian Nepomniachtchi
Vladimir Fedoseev 1-0 Hikaru Nakamura
Anton Kovalyov 0-1 Maxim Rodshtein
Evgenvy Najer 0.5-0.5 Fabiano Caruana
Richard Rapport 0.5-0.5 Li Chao
Yuri Kuzubov 0-1 Wang Hao
Vidit Gujrathi 0.5-0.5 Ding Liren

Overall score in the match

Players on the left qualifed for round 4 and players on right are eliminated

Bu Xiangzhi 1.5-0.5 Magnus Carlsen
Peter Svidler 1.5-0.5 Alexander Onischuk
Daniil Dubov 1.5-0.5 Vladislav Artemiev
Wesley So 1.5-0.5 Vallejo Pons
Vladimir Fedoseev 1.5-0.5 Hikaru Nakamura
Vasily Ivanchuk 1.5-0.5 Vladimir Kramnik
Maxim Rodshtein 2-0 Anton Kovalyov
Wang Hao 1.5-0.5 Yuri Kuzubov

Tiebreaks in round 3

Aleksandr Lenderman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Alexander Grischuk David Navara
Anish Giri Sethuraman
Levon Aronian Maxim Matlakov
Fabiano Caruana Evgenvy Najer
Li Chao Richard Rapport
Ding Liren Vidit Gujrathi
Ian Nepomniachtchi Baadur Jobava

Update on the Anton Kovalyov incident:

We published an article on how Anton Kovalyov was asked to change his shorts before the game. Following an exchange with the chief arbiter Tomasz Deluga and ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili, he did not turn up to the round and left the Hualing Hotel and the city of Tbilisi. His reasons have been mentioned in the aforementioned article. We now have some updates:

  • Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) are gathering signatures on a petition in protest of the actions of Zurab Azmaiparashvili
  • Azmaiparashvili clarifies about what he meant when he used he word "Gypsy" (video below)
  • Kovalyov's opponent Maxim Rodshtein speaks about getting two walkovers and advancing to round four

Zurab Azmaiparashvili clarifies about the context in which he used the word "Gypsy"

Maxim Rodshtein, the opponent of Anton Kovalyov, speaks about getting two walk-overs and advancing to round four

Replay the games of round three:

 

Links


Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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Pionki Pionki 9/11/2017 08:29
Champions falling like flies. I like that. What's the point of looking for the best of them anyway?
TMMM TMMM 9/11/2017 09:37
The real question is: how did Carlsen take the loss (draw)? Kramnik is very sportsmanlike, apparently Nakamura was also decent enough to analyze afterwards, but no mention of the world champion? And no photos of the last moments of that game? Did Carlsen show some grace after losing, congratulating Bu etc.? Or did he do his usual routine of making angry faces and gestures and walking away immediately?
hserusk hserusk 9/11/2017 10:22
@TMMM, The answer to that is in what is not reported (rather than what is), don't you think?
shakmatnyy dedushka shakmatnyy dedushka 9/11/2017 10:36
Well, although Ivanchuk definitely played an outstanding game I think Kramnik with his overambitious play (13. h4?!, 17. c5?! and 21. b4?!) helped him tremendously. Even more strange to me seemed the move 58. Nc5?? by Kramnik. How on earth could he miss the simple 58. ... e5? I think after 58. Nc1 Nxd4+ 59. Kd1! Black remains good winning chances. But as all pawns are one the same flank and for the moment Black's extra pawn is doubled White could have put up some serious resistence. Instead after 58. Nc5 it was a walk in the park for Ivanchuk. Nevertheless kudos to him and great to see at least one of the old guys progress to the next round..
Keesje Keesje 9/11/2017 10:55
In the top-20 of the live rating list, only one player gained Elo-points from this World Cup so far (Svidler). Most of the other top player are losing Elo-points! See: http://www.2700chess.com/

How can this be explained? Is there an error in the Elo-system?

Normally, the top players only play each other. This keeps the total amount of Elo-points the same in this group.
Funtime Funtime 9/11/2017 11:25
Zurab is such an oily politician!
Credit to the interviewer for asking the tough questions but Azmaiparashvili used the old politicians tactic of just talking and talking
until the poor interviewer couldn't work out whether the guy had actually answered the question not.

Hot tip for snap any interviewer in such situations. Ask the same question over and over until you get an answer.
kaareandersson kaareandersson 9/11/2017 11:59
Some spectators see this as an indication of rating inflation and that the top players isn't at all that good. However it is also the other way around. This World Cup shows the fierceness of the competition in chess today. And to have the true strength of a player you need a number of games sufficient enough to support your statistic conclusions. It is possible to get some perspective by checking loosing games of historical celebrities like Mikhail Tal. Many times Tal went down in a way that is rare for todays top players. Old timers tend to only consider the successes of historical chessplayers and focus more on losses when it comes to modern players. Not fair.
Arrakis Arrakis 9/11/2017 12:47
Shows what happens when these top players who are locked in their little cosy cocoon of invitational tournaments have to play the rest. Much more exciting as well!
Steven Gerrard Steven Gerrard 9/11/2017 05:48
Did my eyes deceive me. Svidler wearing shorts in the playing area! Quick get him!
rubinsteinak rubinsteinak 9/11/2017 07:02
And to think, this is the format that Carlsen suggests for the World Championship! The results of this tournament are exhibit A of why this format is NOT the best method.
KodiakChess KodiakChess 9/11/2017 07:18
These results lend credence to my theory that the top 10 or so players are becoming to insulated and are just used to playing each other so much that it is almost a "match play" environment that they are used to. Kudos to them all for playing in this tournament but this type of format returns Lasker's idea of "Struggle" to each game of chess.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 9/11/2017 08:15
Several persons think that 2700+ GMs are overrated, but what we see today is rather 2800+ GMs having problems with 2700+ GMs (elimination for Carlsen and Kramnik ; defeat in his second game and tiebreak for Aronian). Only Vachier-Lagrave is having some problems with a "2700- GM", Lenderman.
pocketknife pocketknife 9/12/2017 01:33
Azmajparashvil is the weakest link in the tournament. His style is horrible.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 9/12/2017 09:59
Carlsen's experiment has ended. The result is clear, but can be interpreted in two ways: we either think that Carlsen is a worthy World Champion and was wrong about WC being the right format to decide who is the best, or we think that Carlsen was right about WC being the best format in determining the best player, but then he is not a worthy World Champion. I invite all chess journalist to ask the following question to Magnus:

"Do you maintain that the World Cup should replace the World Championship Match?"

About the ÉLŐ system we need to clarify a few things:

1. The ÉLŐ system is dynamic. It answers to the question: how strong are the players now? The strength of the players changes, of course, lower rated players might improve, higher rated players might lose points.

2. Judging the ÉLŐ system by this tournament is flawed, since the situation in this tournament is different from the most frequent situation. In general, the higher rated player will want to defeat the lower rated opponent, who in turn will want to secure a draw, or find his or her luck and even defeat the higher rated player. In this tournament, however, the motivations are different. Players are focused on winning their matches. One is more motivated not to lose a classical game than to win it, therefore safety-first is a frequent aapproach. When both sides are playing in this manner, draws will occur. Higher rated players are frequently banking on their ability to play in the tiebreaks against their opponents. Carlsen lost to Bu, because he overpressed. He overpressed, because he will remain the World Champion even if he loses. Other players are fighting to become candidates, they will be more than happy for a draw if they are confident about their rapid and blitz abilities. If they are afraid of the tiebreaks, they will risk and possibly lose in the classical games. So, the context changes everything here.

3. Just the fact that something is not probable doesn't mean it is impossible. Given the number of games it would be surprising if surprises wouldn't happen.

4. Dubov, with his 2666 points is the lowest rated among the remaining players. If the ÉLŐ system would be flawed and this tournament would be the indicator, wouldn't we expect a lot of 2500s and 2400s?
lajosarpad lajosarpad 9/12/2017 10:11
I don't understand the approach of the arbiters. I do not believe that they did not observe for 3 days from 128 players Kovalyov with shorts and then for another 3 days from 64 players. The world was watching him when he has beaten Anand in their first game, but the arbiters missed it? I do not buy this fairy tale.

I have the impression that since he was called a dunderhead, Azmaiparashvili has a problem with shorts.

His explanation is ridiculous and offending to Gypsies. I am not a fan of political correctness, but:

1. I have seen a lot of Gypsies and none of them weared shorts like Kovalyov.

2. Gypsies are not necessarily clowns

3. If the problem is that someone dressed like a Gypsy, then there is a clear problem with the way Gypsies are dressing.

4. What would have happened if Kovalyov would have been a Gypsy? Would Azmaiparashvili tell him the problem is that he is dressing like a Gypsy?

5. Why did Azmaiparashvili use a comparison to Gypsies instead of pointing to the exact rules which were offended?

And the most important: if the dress code is so important - and I accept that it is important - then why did the organizers not prepare something to dress into for players missing that part? Why is dressing the wrong way automatically meaning going to the hotel, losing a lot of time and probably the game?
Aighearach Aighearach 9/15/2017 12:59
"What's going on? How is it that the top players are getting knocked out by players rated nearly 100 Elo points below them."

Easy to answer, 100 ratings points is a small difference, it doesn't mean you expected to win, it only means you're expected to be a little more likely to.

My own best upset was about 750 points.
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