The most interesting match-ups for World Cup 2017

by Sagar Shah
8/30/2017 – It is the most exciting event of the year, much like the royal rumble in WWE. The World Cup 2017 will begin with 128 players and after every three days we will see half the players going back home. It is the survival of the fittest! All the top players in the world including Magnus Carlsen are taking part at the event. We bring you the most interesting match-ups of round one and also ask your opinion through a poll as to who you think will win the World Cup?

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One of the biggest events of the year, FIDE World Cup 2017, begins in less than a week. It is a 128-player knock out event that will determine two players (the finalists) who qualify to the next Candidates tournament. The first round pairings were released a few days ago. We have chosen few of the most interesting round one match-ups that you can look forward to.

Anish Giri vs Nana Dzagnidze

Giri and Dzagnidze

Anish Giri and Nana Dzagnidze | Photo: Amruta Mokal and Pascal Simon

Anish is a huge favourite for this match, and also for the World Cup in general. However, Nana Dzagnidze is quite a tricky first round opponent. She has a wealth of experience and can surely give Giri a hard time if he doesn't show his best chess.

Vishy Anand vs Yeoh Li Tian

Vishy Anand and Yeoh Li Tian | Photos: Amruta Mokal and Peter Long 

Vishy Anand has played three World Cups in his career and won two of them! Quite an envious record. At the age of nearly 48 years, Vishy is not one of the favourites in this event which will span over four weeks and is a gruelling test of one's stamina, yet you can never write him off. He will begin his campaign against the young Malaysia number one Yeoh Li Tian, who is trying to become his country's first grandmaster.

Peter Heine Nielsen was the guest on 11th ChessBase India show a few days ago. Here's an extract of the show where he spoke about Anand's chances at the World Cup 2017:

Peter Heine Nielsen on the ChessBase India show

Hou Yifan vs Kacper Piorun

Hou and Piorun

Hou Yifan and Kacper Piorun | Photos: Amruta Mokal and Pascal Simon

Hou Yifan is the queen of the chess world. Her playing the World Cup makes the event even more colourful. All eyes will be on her as to how far she is able to progress. In the first round itself she has a stiff challenge against Polish four-time problem solving World Champion Kacper Piorun.


Sergey Karjakin vs Anton Smirnov

Sergey Karjakin and Anton Smirnov | Photo: Amruta Mokal and Lennart Ootes

Anton Smirnov proved at the Match of Millennials that he is right up there with the best by beating Li Ruifeng and Samuel Sevian. He is Austrialia's brightest star right now. It goes without saying that the odds are heavily in favour of Sergey Karjakin, but what will be interesting to see is the fight that Smirnov is able to create on the board.

Alexander Motylev vs Jeffery Xiong

Motylev and Xiong

Alexander Motylev and Jeffery Xiong | Photos: Pascal Simon and Lennart Ootes

Another experienced Russian versus young talent scenario. Jeffery Xiong is on his way to establishing himself as one of the best players in the world. He is the current World Junior champion and has a rating of 2633. On the other hand Alexander Motylev has been Sergey Karjakin's second and the head coach of the Russian team. It will be interesting to see this Russia against USA encounter.


Boris Grachev vs Hrant Melkumyan

Grachev and Melkumyan

Boris Grachev and Hrant Melkumyan | Photos: Ray Morris Hill and Pascal Simon

This is definitely a battle of two equals. Two excellent positional players will be playing against each other in round one. It is just so difficult to choose between Grachev and Melkumyan and hence, I think this will be one of the most hard-fought encounters of round one.


David Howell vs Aryan Tari

Howell and Tari

David Howell and Aryan Tari | Photos: Pascal Simon and Alina l'Ami.

David Howell recently broke into the 2700 club, while Norwegian Aryan Tari crossed 2600 on the live ratings in 2017. Aryan is improving quickly and the rating gap of hundred points between Howell and him will not count for much.

Liviu Dieter Nisipeanu vs Samuel Sevian

Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu and Samuel Sevian | Photos: Georgios Souleidis and Lennart Ootes.

Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu is a romantic attacker. He loves to throw his pieces at opponent's king. But in Tbilisi, he will have to tread carefully as his opponent is also a very dangerous tactician. Samuel Sevian is one of the biggest talents from America and his mini-match against Nisipeanu will be something to look forward to. 


Complete Pairings:

Pairings of first half

Pairings of second half

Magnus Carlsen at the World Cup

The biggest buzz in the chess world is Magnus Carlsen playing in Tbilisi. The World Champion made a bold decision to play in the World Cup and in an interview with pointed out that there is a loophole in the system that it allows a World Champion to participate in this tournament, and he likes to take advantage of it. Also, around two years ago, in August 2015, Magnus raised his voice for the World Championship to be held in a knock-out format in a Facebook post. Here is the most important excerpt: 

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.

Thus, it would not be incorrect to say that this World Cup is similar to World Championship for Magnus as we have all the top players of the world participating. He would take this tournament very seriously. What will happen if Magnus wins? Who qualifies from the Candidates? We'll take a closer look in a follow up on ChessBase News.

Peter Heine Nielsen with Magnus Carlsen on the rest day of the Sinquefield Cup which ended a few days ago | Photo: Magnus Carlsen's Facebook page

Carlsen's second, Peter Heine Nielsen, speaks about Magnus' decision to play in the World Cup, which he calls "brave and funny"!

Live broadcast:

ChessBase will have a live games page with live updates from the venue like important happenings, key positions, video interviews and much more. 

ChessBase coverage:

ChessBase will in-depth coverage of this World Cup 2017 from Tbilisi, Georgia as our authors Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal will be at the venue. 


Date   Time Event Location
2 September Saturday 16.00. Opening Ceremony Funicular Restaurant
    18.00. Technical Meeting Funicular Restaurant
3 September Sunday 15.00. Round 1-Game 1 Hualing Hotel
4 September Monday 15.00. Round 1-Game 2 Hualing Hotel
5 September Tuesday 15.00. Tiebreaks Hualing Hotel
6 September Wednesday 15.00. Round 2-Game 1 Hualing Hotel
7 September Thursday 15.00. Round 2-Game 2 Hualing Hotel
8 September Friday 15.00. Tiebreaks Hualing Hotel
9 September Saturday 15.00. Round 3-Game 1 Hualing Hotel
10 September Sunday 15.00. Round 3-Game 2 Hualing Hotel
11 September Monday 15.00. Tiebreaks Hualing Hotel
12 September Tuesday 15.00. Round 4-Game 1 Hualing Hotel
13 September Wednesday 15.00. Round 4-Game 2 Hualing Hotel
14 September Thursday 15.00. Tiebreaks Hualing Hotel
15 September Friday 15.00. Round 5-Game 1 Hualing Hotel
16 September Saturday 15.00. Round 5-Game 2 Hualing Hotel
17 September Sunday 15.00. Tiebreaks Hualing Hotel
18 September Monday   Free Day  
19 September Tuesday 15.00. Semifinal-Game 1 Hualing Hotel
20 September Wednesday 15.00. Semifinal-Game 2 Hualing Hotel
21 September Thursday 15.00. Tiebreaks Hualing Hotel
22 September Friday   Free Day  
23 September Saturday 15.00. Final-Game 1 Biltmore Hotel, Amphitheatre
24 September Sunday 15.00. Final-Game 2 Biltmore Hotel, Amphitheatre
25 September Monday 15.00. Final-Game 3 Biltmore Hotel, Amphitheatre
26 September Tuesday 15.00. Final-Game 4 Biltmore Hotel, Amphitheatre
27 September Wednesday 15.00. Tiebreaks Biltmore Hotel, Amphitheatre
    19.30. Closing Ceremony Tbilisi City Assembly

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 and is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest chess news outlet in the country.
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imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 9/4/2017 02:59
Of course - I meant a big favorite compared to everyone else.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 9/3/2017 12:21
@imdvb_8793 If I had to bet on who is going to win the event, I would bet on Carlsen. However, even though I am convinced he has better chances than anyone else, winning seven tough matches is unprobable. One of them will do it, but if we pick any player, the chances are slim that he/she will happen to be that player.
Mark S Mark S 9/2/2017 04:38
I think the writer missed Eljanov-Lenderman. Both exciting players, and Lenderman annotates some games here at ChessBase GmbH too.
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 9/1/2017 05:35
Given how good he is at rapid and blitz, Carlsen should be a big favorite to win this thing, perhaps bigger than anyone who's ever played in it. (Except maybe the young Vishy - Kasparov never played in the World Cup, I'm pretty sure.) He also seems to have a favorable draw, at least until the quarterfinals. (Since we know he tends to have problems with 2600-ish players, this might be more important in his case than the draw after that. Although maybe Svidler could be a problem again, who knows?! He's also very successful in this format.) MVL strikes me as the biggest threat at this exact moment. I don't think Aronian will win it, and I don't think Kramnik will become a two-time winner, though that would certainly be awesome! Considering how badly Vishy did in the St.Louis rapid & blitz, I don't think he's very likely to win either. Fabi is too off-form, and the same goes for Wesley and, really, even Naka, but you never know... And Karjakin is always dangerous in such formats. So maybe Carlsen, then MVL, then Karjakin, would be a just pecking order. After that, I don't know... if none of these win, we could have another huge shock on our hands. Some young gun. (Like Pono back in the day.) I don't think it'll be somebody just outside the top 10, like a Mamedyarov or Giri or Nepo, it doesn't seem like that sort of moment in time, but I could be wrong. In any case, this is SO exciting!... Apart from the Candidates, I think this is my favorite event to watch. Maybe by far... (I prefer it to, for instance, the world title matches, which can get a touch boring, something the World Cup never ever is.)
fructosobedogus fructosobedogus 9/1/2017 04:47
Sagar, I like much your work...but this one is really poor to me. The pairings you chose are not interesting at all excepting the one Piorun Yifan.
More interesting for example Jobava-Salgado, Antón- Bruzón, Wang Hao-Sengupta, Ponomariov-Sheturaman. Anyway you are a great Chess Writer and I respect you and your work.
scoobeedo scoobeedo 9/1/2017 04:16
I guess that with this type of knockout system Carlsen, MVL, Anand and Grischuk come very far.

They love this mini matches which gives them maxi advantages.

Carlsen - the fighter
MVL - the walking library
Anand - experience
Grischuk - the cool guy
lajosarpad lajosarpad 8/31/2017 08:48
I wonder whether Carlsen will maintain his opinion expressed in 2005 in the probable case in which he will not win the event.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 8/30/2017 03:26
well, what's in a name!(shakespeare)
cashparov1 cashparov1 8/30/2017 01:54
ex0, maybe you need better glasses or a magnifying glass. ;) Wei Yi is playing Bator Sambuev in the 1st round. Look closely at the bottom right part of the pairings. ;)
ex0 ex0 8/30/2017 01:38
Lastly.. sorry for triple post, but i don't see Wei Yi? how come hes not playing @ the WC?
ex0 ex0 8/30/2017 01:35
"The Polish player's name is Kacper Piorun (first name Kacper, last name Piorun). In the article you wrote his name backwards. ;) "

"@cashparov1 - Thanks! Corrected. "

Yeah, and Yifans last name is Hou too.. or is it only chinese players who get their surname first? Even Japanese like Hikaru Nakamura is done with first name first, but why not chinese if this is english language site? Also, when everyone elses names are abbreviated, like Kasparov, G , the chinese players names will be fully written out. Like Ding Liren. It will never be just Ding, L, or Hou, Y etc.. it's pretty confusing and seems like the rules everyone else follows doesn't apply to chinese names. Just something i've observed in general, it's not just isolated to this website.. heh :P
ex0 ex0 8/30/2017 01:27
Giri vs Nana? why is that interesting? Has she beat Giri before, or any other SuperGM 2750+? it's going to be a cakewalk for Giri..

The other mismatches are more interesting because they are young and we never really see them play often... Like Karjakin vs Smirnov, or Anand vs Yeoh Li Tian etc.

IIRC, Nana is top 20 womens player, and she pretty much plays in everything as full time womens chess pro. She doesn't really need the added exposure one would get from being mentioned in an article such as this, and imo, her skill and chances also doesn't warrant it. Not hating on her, but i would have liked to have learned about more up and coming youngsters or other interesting chess personalities in the chess scene. Great article nonetheless!
macauley macauley 8/30/2017 01:05
@cashparov1 - Thanks! Corrected.
cashparov1 cashparov1 8/30/2017 11:45
The Polish player's name is Kacper Piorun (first name Kacper, last name Piorun). In the article you wrote his name backwards. ;)
algorithmy algorithmy 8/30/2017 10:20
An interesting topic and very well organized and introduced too. Thx Sagar!