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

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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

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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 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, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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