Magnus Carlsen plays in the World Cup

by André Schulz
7/24/2017 – Today, FIDE announced the list of participants for the World Cup 2017, which will be played from September 2nd to 28th in the city of Tbilisi. One name on the list was particularly surprising — Magnus Carlsen. Two years ago the World Champion revealed that he is a fan of the knock-out-mode. Now he's gunning for one title he does not yet have. | Photo: Anastasiya Karlovich, dubai2014wrb.com

"...the chess world should evolve... "

The FIDE World Cup is a knock-out-tournament with 128 players. The players first play a mini-match of two games with classical time-control. If these two games bring no decision a tie-breaker with rapid- and, if necessary, blitz-games will follow.

This format was introduced shortly after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov became FIDE President in 1995, and it was originally designed as a new format to establish the World Championship challenger. The first tournament with the new knock-out mode was played in 1997 in Groningen and it was won by Vishy Anand. Immediately after winning the knock-out competition Anand played a six-game-World Championship match against the reigning FIDE World Champion Anatoly Karpov in Lausanne which Anand lost in the tie-break.

From 1999 to 2004 FIDE organised all its World Championships in knock-out mode. But as part of the reunification process of the two rivaling World Championships FIDE returned to World Championship matches. The former knock-out World Championship became the "World Cup".

At first, the World Cup was always played in Khanty-Mansiysk but later the bidding process for the larger and historic Chess Olympiad included the stipulation that the host federation agreed to sponsor and organise the World Cup one year before.

Ugra Chess Academy

Ugra Chess Academy in Khanty-Mansiysk, site of countless FIDE events | Photo: ugra2017.fide.com

Who and how one qualifies for the World Cup is regulated down to the smallest detail. (Well, small, perhaps not the smallest, as we'll see below!) Most participants qualify because of their good results in the respective Continental Championships. The two players who played for the World Championship, the semi-finalists of the previous World Cup, the World Junior Champions 2015 and 2016 and the 18 best Elo-rated players are automatically qualified. FIDE and the organisers also have the right to give wildcards to players of their choice.

The World Cup offers players an opportunity to take part in the Candidates Tournament in Spring 2018 — the two finalists qualify for the Candidates.

Magnus Carlsen at the 2014 Tromsø Olympiad | Photo: Pascal Simon

In 2015 Magnus Carlsen surprised the chess world with the following statement, published on his Facebook page:

"In short, I strongly believe the chess world should evolve to a more just system. What does that look like? I have long thought that moving to an annual knock-out event, similar to the World Cup, would be more equitable. This change would in effect improve the odds of becoming World Champion for nearly every chess player, with the exception of the reigning World Champion, and potentially a few other top players who would no longer be favoured by the current format. Creating regional qualifying events combined with rating spots, the participation of all the top players in the world and the undisputed World Championship title at stake, I truly believe this would make the World Championship cycle more accessible to everyone. In conclusion, I strongly recommend FIDE look into modernizing the World Championship cycle format."

Apparently, the World Champion is a big fan of the knock-out mode. If it was up to Magnus Carlsen he would use this format to play every year for the World Championhip. Now he's putting his rating points where is mouth is.

Speaking of rating, Carlsen's participation has some interesting potential consequences for other would-be qualifiers for the Candidates, as one can assume that Carlsen will not play in the Candidates even if he qualifies. For instance, if Magnus reaches the Final match in Tbilisi, then a third qualifying spot from the FIDE Grand Prix would open up. This could potentially be filled by one of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Alexander Grischuk, Teimour Radjabov, Ding Liren, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The top two finishers after the final leg in Mallorca will automatically qualify.

Mamedyarov has finished his part of the Grand Prix and recently took time off to get married!

If either Sergey Karjakin or Magnus Carlsen reach the final in Tbilisi, then the 3rd place finisher in the World Cup would earn a spot, but to determine who is 3rd, the regulations call for a match to be played along side the final!

FIDE World Cup 2017 Regulations | Source: FIDE

Is your head spinning yet? Well, how about this: What if both Carlsen and Karjakin reach the final? It could happen of course! And at the moment it's not completely clear what the ramifications would be in the rules.

In any case, the World Cup now promises to be a super-strong and exciting event, with the top 15 players in the world all participating.

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

The Participants of the World Cup 2017

a) World Champion and World Cup 2015 semi-finalists

01. M. Carlsen (NOR)
02. S. Karjakin (RUS)
03. P. Svidler (RUS)
04. P. Eljanov (UKR)
05. A. Giri (NED)

b) Junior World Champions 2015 & 2016:

06. M. A. Antipov (RUS)
07. J. Xiong (USA)

c) From FIDE Rating List, 18 players, average 2/2016 up to 1/2017:

08. F. Caruana (USA) 2807.91
09. V. Kramnik (RUS) 2807.58
10. M. Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) 2799.50
11. L. Aronian (ARM) 2789.33
12. H. Nakamura (USA) 2786.25
13. Wesley So (USA) 2781.41
14. V. Anand (IND) 2774.33
15. Ding Liren (CHN) 2767.66
16. P. Harikrishna (IND) 2760.50
17. S. Mamedyarov (AZE) 2757.08
18. A. Grischuk (RUS) 2749.33
19. Li Chao (CHN) 2744.33
20. M. Adams (ENG) 2736.08
21. D. Andreikin (RUS) 2734.75
22. B. Gelfand (ISR) 2734.41
23. Yu Yangyi (CHN) 2732.50
24. I. Nepomniachtchi (RUS) 2732.33
25. R. Rapport (HUN) 2729.50
26. E. Tomashevsky (RUS) 2724.25

d) 46 players from European Championships 2016 & 2017

27. E. Inarkiev (RUS) 2016
28. I. Kovalenko (LAT) 2016
29. B. Jobava (GEO) 2016
30. D. Navara (CZE) 2016
31. F. Vallejo Pons (ESP) 2016
32. R. Wojtaszek (POL) 2016
33. K. Piorun (POL) 2016
34. L. Fressinet (FRA) 2016
35. A. Goganov (RUS) 2016
36. D. Dubov (RUS) 2016
37. N. Vitiugov (RUS) 2016
38. I. Cheparinov (BUL) 2016
39. E. Najer (RUS) 2016
40. R. Hovhannisyan (ARM) 2016
41. S. Zhigalko (BLR) 2016
42. M. Palac (CRO) 2016
43. I. Salgado Lopez (ESP) 2016
44. A. Dreev (RUS) 2016
45. D. Anton Guijarro (ESP) 2016
46. K. Stupak (BLR) 2016
47. L. D. Nisipeanu (GER) 2016
48. A. Tari (NOR) 2016
49. A. Demchenko (RUS) 2016
50. M. Matlakov (RUS) 2017
51. V. Fedoseev (RUS) 2017
52. D. Fridman (GER) 2017
53. A. Motylev (RUS) 2017
54. J. K. Duda (POL) 2017
55. D. Howell (ENG) 2017
56. M. Kravtsiv (UKR) 2017
57. A. Areshchenko (UKR) 2017
58. M. Bluebaum (GER) 2017
59. B. Grachev (RUS) 2017
60. V. Kunin (GER) 2017
61. B. Bok (NED) 2017
62. G. Jones (ENG) 2017
63. E. Bacrot (FRA) 2017
64. H. Melkumyan (ARM) 2017
65. D. Mastrovasilis (GRE) 2017
66. V. Artemiev (RUS) 2017
67. M. Rodshtein (ISR) 2017
68. A. Aleksandrov (BLR) 2017
69. V. Erdos (HUN) 2017
70. Y. Kuzubov (UKR) 2017
71. L. Lenic (SLO) 2017
72. J. Hjartarson (ISL) Nordic Zonal

e) 20 players from Americas

73. A. Onischuk (USA) Zonal 2.1
74. V. Akobian (USA) Zonal 2.1
75. Y. Zherebukh (USA) Zonal 2.1
76. B. Sambuev (CAN) Zonal 2.2
77. J. Ruiz Castillo (COL) Zonal 2.3
78. Y. Gonzalez Vidal (CUB) Zonal 2.3
79. J. Cori (PER) Zonal 2.4
80. F. El Debs (BRA) Zonal 2.4
81. S. Mareco (ARG) Zonal 2.5
82. L. Krysa (ARG) Zonal 2.5
83. E. Cordova (PER) Continental 2016
84. A. Lenderman (USA) Continental 2016
85. A. Kovalyov (CAN) Continental 2016
86. D. Flores (ARG) Continental 2016
87. S. Sevian (USA) Continental 2017
88. N. Delgado Ramirez (PAR) Continental 2017
89. A. Bachmann (PAR) Continental 2017
90. L. Bruzon (CUB) Continental 2017
91. Y. Bacallao Alonso (CUB) Continental 2017
92. A. Fier (BRA) Continental 2017

f) 20 players from Asia/Oceania

93. Sethuraman S.P. (IND) Continental 2016
94. Le Quang Lie (VIE) Continental 2016
95. Wei Yi (CHN) Continental 2016
96. Murtas Kazhgaleyev (KAZ) Continental 2016
97. Deep Sengupta (IND) Continental 2016
98. Pourramezanali Amirreza (IRI) Zonal 3.1
99. Mollah Abdullah Al Rakib (BAN) Zonal 3.2
100. Yeoh Li Tian (MAS) Zonal 3.3
101. Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (VIE) Zonal 3.3
102. J. Vakhidov (UZB) Zonal 3.4
103. Muhammad Khusenkhojaev (TJK) Zonal 3.4
104. Liu Guanchu (CHN) Zonal 3.5
105. Dai Changren (CHN) Zonal 3.5
106. Anton Smirnov (AUS) Zonal 3.6
107. Karthikeyan Murali (IND) Zonal 3.7
108. Wang Hao (CHN) Continental 2017
109. Bu Xiangzhi (CHN) Continental 2017
110. Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (IND) Continental 2017
111. Batchuluun Tsegmed (MGL) Continental 2017
112. Sadorra Julio Catalino (PHI) Continental 2017

g) 6 players from Africa

113. M. Haddouche (ALG) Zonal 4.1
114. E. El Gindy (EGY) Zonal 4.2
115. K. Solomon (RSA) Zonal 4.3
116. O. Balogun (NGR) Zonal 4.4
117. Amin Bassem (EGY) Continental 2017
118. D. Cawdery (RSA) Continental 2017
h) 1 ACP Tour Qualifier
119. V. Ivanchuk (UKR)

i) 5 nominees of FIDE

120. R. Ponomariov (UKR)
121. Hou Yifan (CHN)
122. B. Adhiban (IND)
123. K. Kulaots (EST)
124. H. D. Ziska (FAI)

j) 4 nominees of the local Organising Committee

125. L. Pantsulaia (GEO)
126. T. Radjabov (AZE)
127. M. Mchedlishvili (GEO)
128. N. Dzagnidze (GEO)

Total = 128 players

Prizefund (according to FIDE Regulations)

Loser of round 1: 64 x USD 6,000 (net 4,800) USD 384,000
Loser of round 2: 32 x USD 10,000 (net 8,000) USD 320,000
Loser of round 3: 16 x USD 16,000 (net 12,800) USD 256,000
Loser of round 4: 8 x USD 25,000 (net 20,000) USD 200,000
Loser of round 5: 4 x USD 35,000 (net 28,000) USD 140,000
Loser of round 6: 2 x USD 50,000 (net 40,000) USD 100,000
Finalist: 1 x USD 80,000 (net 64,000) USD 80,000
Winner: 1 x USD 120,000 (net 96,000) USD 120,000
Total: USD 1,600,000

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Masquer Masquer 7/25/2017 02:58
If Carlsen reaches the WCup final, then who gets the extra spot? 3rd place in the Grand Prix or 3rd place in the WCup?
The article keeps contradicting itself on this point, so it's not yet possible to answer this question... Quite disappointing.
tomohawk tomohawk 7/25/2017 03:41
"Speaking of rating, Carlsen's participation has some interesting potential consequences for other would-be qualifiers for the Candidates, as one can assume that Carlsen will not play in the Candidates even if he qualifies."

It would be a bad idea anyway if Carlsen were allowed to play in the Candidates, assuming he qualified for it. His results would have some impact on his WC opponent and even subconsciously he might be at least more motivated in the games vs "unpleasant" potential qualifiers.
BeFreeBusy BeFreeBusy 7/25/2017 03:40
"It would be a bad idea anyway if Carlsen were allowed to play in the Candidates, assuming he qualified for it. His results would have some impact on his WC opponent and even subconsciously he might be at least more motivated in the games vs "unpleasant" potential qualifiers."

Wait a minute. How does this not already apply for his playing in the World Cup as well? While it`s nice to have strongest possible tournament (and strongest ever, for that matter) there will be clear bias towards the world champion. Many of the top players have only this one tournament as a chance to qualify for the candidates, and therefore Carlsen might personally have a chance to drop some or many of them out from the cycle! For example, if he would face in the final matches players such as Aronian, So, Kramnik... etc. Ethically somewhat questionable situation.
BeFreeBusy BeFreeBusy 7/25/2017 03:49
Carlsen would not play in the candidates, we can assume. :-)

But FIDE has created a situation, where some of the top players in order to qualify to play against the world champion... need to beat the world champion first! Quite absurd huh.
tomohawk tomohawk 7/25/2017 10:52
@BeFreeBusy

I am thinking more along the lines of something like this:

Carlsen is paired vs Nakamura in the last round of the Candidates. If he beats Naka, then Giri has a chance to be the Challenger. So maybe Carlsen doesn't press so hard, Naka becomes the Challenger and Carlsen is relatively happy, maybe.
Not so much that he eliminates people from getting a chance but rather that he plays differently vs people he wants as Challengers vs those he doesn't.

Of course it could happen in the World Cup, but that would have only an indirect effect on who becomes the Challenger.
Bojan KG Bojan KG 7/26/2017 10:57
World Cup is a gruelling event and for many top players such Aronian or Nakamura a last chance to earn a spot in Candidates. So many games in short period of time is really hard for any player. I do not know why Carlsen decided to take part in WC but he will play without any pressure. Who knows, maybe after St Louis in August he will not be top rated player in the world.
Petrosianic Petrosianic 7/26/2017 10:53
Carlson is a great chess thinker, but not so good as a real life thinker. His argument is entirely circular, first arbitrarily defining the Knockout as a good thing, then arguing for it on the grounds that it is.

One could just as easily argue that the Knockout is wrong because you can't turn back the clock (thus begging the question right back at him.
Petrosianic Petrosianic 7/26/2017 10:55
The Knockout was notoriously unpopular back in the day. They weren't called The FIDE Lottery for nothing. Hopefully Carlson will be knocked out in Round 1 by a single defeat, and discover the problems for himself.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 7/27/2017 03:58
There may me some (and perhaps indeed much) reason "in Carlsen's madness" : nowadays, he seems to be much more successful in Rapid and Blitz than in Classical ; in the World Cup, it will be sufficient for him to draw in the Classical games (...to draw 2 successive Classical games musn't be to tall an order for a 2800+ GM...), and, afterwards, there is much chances that it will be a massacre for his opponents, given his present form in Rapid and Blitz. It still is a lottery, but in this given lottery, Carlsen has a significant advantage on his opponents in my opinion...
Resistance Resistance 7/31/2017 03:08
This is certainly a strange decision from Magnus. His participation in the World Cup can only hurt his peers, especially since he's playing the Classical World Chess Championship Match anyway. Though he seems to mean well (--he's invoking high concepts such as that of justice to support his decision--), his motivation seems to be, ultimately, rather petty in nature. He feels like playing in the World Cup, then he plays in the World Cup. Who cares about the consequences, right? Who cares if it is unfair to those who will have to face none other than the World Champion himself in order to keep their chances alive in a knock-out tournament whose only purpose is to sit down two more players at the Candidates Tournament, where the next challenger for the guy sitting right in front of you, and who is about to send you home, will be decided. And all of this because little Magnus wanna play in knock-out tournament now, a-goo, a-goo... (Oh, dear Magnus, is it because your match against Karjakin didn't go as well as you expected, that you wanna change the system now? Are you afraid of matches against players from your own generation because they're getting too strong for you? Too tough to endure in long-term battles?).
Masquer Masquer 8/6/2017 02:13
Magnus is no doubt hoping to knock out some strong potential Candidates by himself in the W-Cup, so the Candidate field is rendered weaker, and his eventual WCh match could be vs an easier opponent.
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