FIDE World Cup 2017: Can Magnus Carlsen save himself?

by Sagar Shah
9/10/2017 – Round three of the World Cup 2017 witnessed the biggest upset of the tournament — World Champion Magnus Carlsen was outplayed and defeated by China's Bu Xiangzhi. Carlsen's task of making a comeback is further complicated by the fact that he will be black on September 10th. Bu would require only a draw to make it to the next round. In the other results of the day, Wesley So managed to beat Francesco Vallejo Pons and Levon Aronian showed some of his class to get the better of Maxim Matlakov. We have analysis of all three of these encounters, plus some interesting posts about the "shorts incident" involving Anton Kovalyov. | Photos: Amruta Mokal

ChessBase 17 - Mega package ChessBase 17 - Mega package

ChessBase is a personal, stand-alone chess database that has become the standard throughout the world. Everyone uses ChessBase, from the World Champion to the amateur next door. It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it.


How Bu defeated Carlsen

World Cup

In the second round of the World Cup 2017 Vishy Anand lost his first game with the white pieces against Anton Kovalyov. In the second game, he tried his best with the black pieces, but never really got a chance. That's the problem when you lose your classical game with white. Often, you will simply not have a chance to make a comeback. The World Champion Magnus Carlsen finds himself in a similar situation. In the first game of the third round, he lost to Chinese GM Bu Xiangzhi. After winning his round two encounter against Etienne Bacrot, Bu Xiangzhi told ChessBase that he had a minus score against Magnus and would like to improve it. And he did improve it, by scoring a beautiful victory with the black pieces in the Giuoco Piano.

Video footage of last three minutes of Carlsen vs. Bu

Litltle did the world know that the second handshake between these two players would give Bu the lead in the mini-match. It's not often that you see Magnus Carlsen losing a game. When that does happen, the duel, more often than not, is worthy of detailed analysis. Let's have a look at this game:

Magnus Carlsen 0-1 Bu Xiangzhi

Below is the game analysed by IM Lawrence Trent for

Requires a ChessBase Premium Account to view
Did you know you can get a 90-day Basic account absolutely free!?

The first point of interest in the game is the move 2.Bc4 by the World Champion.


The next important point was when Bu Xiangzhi played 9....Rab8:


The idea of this move is quite deep. Bu explained it after the game. He would like to play a move like d5, but it is met with Ba4! When the rook is on b8, this becomes impossible. Also in some lines after Bxb3 Qxb3 the b7 pawn will remain protected. Hence, the move which seems illogical at first has some very good ideas. What is important to note is that Bu Xiangzhi is already thinking quite deeply about the position, and the players are out of their home preparaion.

And then the Chinese GM sacrificed the pawn on e5.


It's not easy to ascertain whether the sacrifice on h3 was correct or not, but from whatever I did analyze I think that Black has excellent practical chances, and also White's path towards an advantage, if it exists, is filled with a lot of accurate moves that need to be made.

Magnus had a chance to make a draw, but having the white pieces, he decided that he must play on. Bu Xiangzhi was happy with the World Champion's decision as he hurled pawns towards his opponent's kingside.


The final move of the game was quite picturesque:


Replay the game:


Bu Xiangzhi speaks about his victory over Magnus Carlsen and also explains some important points like 8...Rb8 and so on

Your fan following grows by leaps and bounds when you beat the World Champion

Results of Round 3

Apart from Magnus Carlsen's defeat, there were three other decisive games:

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

Wesley So's accurate refutation

Wesley So played a flawless game to win against Francisco Vallejo Pons

While Wesley's play was steady and without any errors, Vallejo played quite poorly in my opinion. His primary aim was to surprise Wesley in the opening.


I am sure Wesley was very happy to see this move. Usually with the black pieces you need to go out of your way to create winning chances. But with the move 4.g4, the position becomes dynamic and one where I prefer black's chances.

Francisco Vallejo Pons now faces the unenviable task of defeating So with the black pieces


Wesley seems to have put his faith in the Caro Kann for this event. It is surely a safe and sound opening and one that has a good synthesis of solidity as well as enough imbalance to keep playing for a win. In case you are interested to learn this opening, the latest addition to the 2700 club, Vidit Gujrathi, has recorded two DVDs on this 'fashionable' opening.

The Fashionable Caro-Kann Vol.1 and 2

The Caro Kann is a very tricky opening. Black’s play is based on controlling and fighting for key light squares. It is a line which was very fashionable in late 90s and early 2000s due to the successes of greats like Karpov, Anand, Dreev etc. Recently due to strong engines lot of key developments have been made and some new lines have been introduced, while others have been refuted altogether. I have analyzed the new trends carefully and found some new ideas for Black.

Vidit Gujrathi played extremely well with the black pieces and gained a winning position against Ding Liren, but ultimately messed it up and agreed to a draw


Aronian's gem

I really don't know how to explain Levon Aronian's victory over Maxim Matlakov. The positions are unconventional and complicated, but Levon's solutions are always simple and straightforward. Once you look at them you say, "yeah Nh4 and taking on g6 is a good idea, now we can go f4. Or yes, a4! playing on both the flanks is important." But when you have to weave all these moves together like Aronian did one after the other, believe me, it's not easy. Aronian played on both sides of the board and managed to outplay his opponent.

The way Aronian walks, the way he makes his moves, the way he speaks, he makes it look casual and easy! But it's not!


Aha! This is what keeps him young! Magnus thinks on seeing Kramnik fighting it out against...

...Vasily ivanchuk'. The game ended in a draw.


The last game to finish was between David Navara against Alexander Grischuk. The Czech player put up a great defensive effort and they drew the game after a marathon struggle.

When was he last time you saw Fabiano Carauana without his glasses?

To get a picture of Nepo with a neutral expression is very rare! Nepo's third round opponent is Baadur Jobava who beat Yu Yangyi in the previous round.

Baadur Jobava speaks about his win against Yu Yangyi and about the seriousness and pressure of playing in front of the home crowd

A playing hall that housed 128 players is now down to 32!

Thanks to more space, the photographers also get more scope to experiment!

The shorts scandal in Tbilisi

Three games ended decisively in the third round (all mentioned above). The fourth one was thanks to a walk-over which is being discussed all over the world. It was Anton Kovalyov's withdrawal over the incident of shorts, which gave Maxim Rodshtein the full point.

By pushing one pawn, Maxim Rodshtein qualfies to the fourth round

Here are a few light hearted posts on twitter about the shorts episode.





The next one by GM Sandipan Chanda takes the cake:

Arbiter: Can't allow you to be sighted in shorts.

Player: I am like this everyday, are you short-sighted?

Anton Kovalyov's only piece of luggage for the event was this backback

Replay the games of round three:



Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. 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 and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest chess news outlet in the country.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 9/10/2017 05:07
@ benedictralph : And we mustn't forget that Bu Xiangzhi is a 2700+ GM !

So, if Carlsen would lost his match against him, it would not be a 2700+ GM being beaten by a lesser player, but a 2800+ GM by a 2700+ GM. It would rather tend to show the opposite from the theory that 2700+ GMs are overrated : that, irrespective of their absolute levels, when two GMs with a more or less 100 points difference play one against the other in a knockout tournament as the World Cup, the weaker one can perfectly well beat the stronger one. (Which I do find quite normal when using only pairs of games as in the World Cup, be it for the classical games or for the tiebreaks.)
Malcom Malcom 9/10/2017 04:09
Isledoc... I said the exact same thing 20 minutes after it was reported! Please show a bit of restraint do not copy others thoughts and use your own!
KOTLD KOTLD 9/10/2017 01:56
Congratulations, Bu Xiangzhi ! Great game !
scoobeedo scoobeedo 9/10/2017 12:47
What gave the arbiter the right to disqualify the player because he was wearing shorts?

If there was in the tournament regulations no dress code mentioned then was it not correct.

If I would be the player, I would sue the tournament organizers.
vishyvishy vishyvishy 9/10/2017 11:44
Anand should be now again given chance to play at Kovalyov's place if he makes default. This will do justice to chess.
Bobbyfozz Bobbyfozz 9/10/2017 07:59
Wearing the same shorts all week? What a slob if that is true. Whenever Azmai is involved anything is possible. Carlsen always comes dressed up. I saw an American GM show up at the US Open in shorts in 1988 Boston and an Hawaiian shirt. He looked like a slob. Is it really too much to ask to offer some dignity in a major chess event? Sure, come will disagree, there always is someone who doesn't care about the application of anything, but most do. When people come in dressed like Bohemians it sure doesn't help chess' image worldwide. "Spineless weasels?" When Kovalyov gets home will he ask himself, "How could I have been so stupid?"
greenp greenp 9/10/2017 07:43
From the pictures it looks like Anton Kovalyov has been wearing the same shorts all week.Then it was a problem before the the start of the third round!" ......I find the coverage of the shorts incident on the ChessBase website rather criticizable."
geraldsky geraldsky 9/10/2017 07:08
I like Sagar Shah's reporting, but sometimes he made errors by writing wrong scores and wrong spelling of players' names..errors can sometimes cause confusion to the story.
geraldsky geraldsky 9/10/2017 06:56
Seriously speaking I don't like the design of the floor in the tournament area. The floor should be solid color either dark or light or checkered.
geraldsky geraldsky 9/10/2017 06:45
Chinese players are very strong , but when they reach the age of 40 they stop playing.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 9/10/2017 06:08
"I thought a warning is needed and then if rule is violated again, then it is time to kick out the player."

From what I have read about rules there was not even a violation.
nilamsay nilamsay 9/10/2017 05:42
Anand was too underestimate Kovalyof by giving his knight for free. Unfortunately, he lost his match. But we know it because of shorts after Kovalyof played two rounds before five minutes the round 3 began. The matches of the two rounds already finished and then it just realized the shorts wearing was the problem five minute before the 3 round would begin despite Colombian shorts is actually not prohibited by FIDE Rules? What is going on actually?
Mark S Mark S 9/10/2017 05:21
I agree that Azmaiparashvili should've just allowed him and warn the kid to wear proper suit on Sep 10.
But partly, Anton should've also talked politely that he will change on Sep 10 because he is short of time to go to a mall due to very shot notice.
I thought a warning is needed and then if rule is violated again, then it is time to kick out the player.
But what happened is really wrong. Chess fans wanted a good fight for Max Rod - Anton Kovyalov, not a win by default.
Peter B Peter B 9/10/2017 05:14
The outcome of the sac on h3 was unclear, so terrific intuition by Bu to go for it. And on the other hand, it's got to be said, poor intuition by Magnus for allowing it.
Isledoc Isledoc 9/10/2017 04:45
I hope the Canadian chess federation complains about the behaviour that Kovalyov was subjected to.Other photos have shown Azmaiparashvili's dress code as scruffy jeans!The same guy who has been involved in lots of questionable behaviour in the past.Why is he still involved.A' black eye 'for chess but then again Azma knows all about black eyes.FIDE is like FIFA needs reform.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 9/10/2017 04:36
@ benedictralph :

1) To use such results, it is necessary : a) to wait the end of the tournament to reach serious conclusions ; b) to calculate the performances of the 2700+ and 2800+ players (in particular, obviously, when playing "2700-" opposition) : this will permit to see if their performances where really significantly below there rating.

2) It isn't possible to conclude anything definitive on the basis of an isolated tournament. As I demonstrated on another post on a previous ChessBase article, in the last Gibraltar Open, the 2700+ and 2800+ players (if there were 2800+ players in this tournament ; I don't remember...) played simply at their normal level, when playing inferior opposition. So, one isolated example showing the opposite would be interesting, but certainly not sufficient in itself to affirm that 2700+ and 2800+ players are overrated... It would also be possible that 2700+ and 2800+ GMs play comparatively at an inferior level in a knockout tournament like the World Cup than in a big open tournament, for example...
TMMM TMMM 9/10/2017 03:55
Seems like Magnus is showing his solidarity with Kovalyov by leaving the event early as well...
Chess1000DK Chess1000DK 9/10/2017 03:39
I find the coverage of the shorts incident on the ChessBase website rather criticizable. In the article about the incident, Azmaiparashvili’s version of the story is presented as what actually happened. His alleged use of the racial slur “gypsy” and aggressive behaviour is not discussed and is only mentioned in Kovalyov’s Facebook post at the very end of the article. In the “Can Magnus save himself” article, the author promises “interesting posts” about the incident. It turns out that these posts are just a couple of tweets joking about the whole thing. This leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as the incident must surely be very traumatic for Kovalyov and deserves a serious treatment.
turok turok 9/10/2017 03:16
yep I will have more on this later
TMMM TMMM 9/10/2017 03:15
@benedictralph How is that? The total rating gain in any tournament is 0 - if one gains points, others must lose those points. In the end their 2700+ ratings came from beating 2600+ players on a regular basis, and among them the 2800+ players are just the best players of this group.
KevinC KevinC 9/10/2017 03:11
They kick the guy in shorts out, which wearing them is not even against FIDE rules, but virtually every one of them looks like a slob...aka, typical chessplayers.
benedictralph benedictralph 9/10/2017 02:45
I'm starting to believe this charge of "rating inflation". Seeing so many "top" (2700+ players) getting knocked out and defeated when confronted by significantly lower rated players suggests that indeed, when top players only play amongst themselves, their ratings get artificially inflated. Like so many other things, chess is susceptible to elitism.
mountshark mountshark 9/10/2017 01:49
You actually want to be taken seriously when you have harassed a competitor out of the competition. This is earth calling the 20th century. Beep!!! not allowed. To allow Kovalyov to be bullied out of the tournament, what spineless weasels the top players are. What incredibly worthless people they are. Ashamed by chess.