World Cup 2017: A glorious opening ceremony

by Sagar Shah
9/3/2017 – We are just hours away from the start of the World Cup 2017. The players have settled down in the Hualing hotel. The opening ceremony was held in the evening of 2nd of September at the Funicular restaurant. The players were treated to a spectacular view, sumptuous food, and entertaining Georgian dance and music. Our reporters at the venue not only bring some exciting pictures, but also videos of the opening ceremony and an interview with Magnus Carlsen's opponent who thinks it is his once in a lifetime opportunity! | Photos: Amruta Mokal

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The official hotel Hualing and the inauguration ceremony

Hotels & Preference Hualing Tblisi - the official hotel where all the 128 players of the tournament are hosted. The playing hall is in the same hotel.

It was around 12 p.m. on 2nd of September as Amruta and I entered the hotel Hualing. The receptionist told us that we had to wait for two hours as the normal check-in time was 2 p.m. We placed our luggage in a corner and decided to walk around the premises. What we saw next was something that only a fortunate few are able to witness in their lives. Every direction that we looked at there was a super grandmaster. Anish Giri was sitting at the lunch table discussing with his friends and seconds. Wesley So was walking across the lobby with his foster mother Lotis Key. Sergey Karjakin was all dressed up and ready to go for the opening ceremony although there was still some time left. It was as if the Gods of chess from different parts of the world had descended in Tbilisi and walking around the Hualing Hotel! Yes, I have seen each of these super grandmasters at some point in my life, but to see them all together at one place was quite an awesome experience.

After a lacklustre performance in the Sinquefield cup, Wesley So is back with a smile and his biggest support Lotis Key to fight for the Candidates qualification at the World Cup 2017

"Erwin, whom will you support if both of us reach the finals!" Anish Giri with his seconds Erwin l'Ami and Vidit Gujrathi. The latter is here in Tbilisi as a player and not as Anish's second though.

Two Azerbaijanis with a Russian! Karjakin flanked by Mamedov on the left and Mamedyarov on the right!

This scene says it all. It's the hotel lobby and just a random click has five grandmasters captured in it!

The rooms are spacious and comfortable

The Inauguration ceremony:

After we checked into our room at 2 p.m. we quickly got ready with our equipment to leave for the opening ceremony that was going to be held at the Funicular restaurant at 4 p.m. Although the Funicular is just twelve kilometres away from the Hualing Hotel, the players were asked to gather in the hotel lobby at 2.30 p.m., as the road leading up to the restaurant was quite winding and uphill. 

Players waiting for the buses to arrive to proceed for the opening ceremony. Most of the players spoke with each other, but...

...there were a few like Wang Hao, who just wanted to be away from all the noise and hullabaloo

What's Wang Hao reading? Maybe our Chinese readers could help us with that!

Three buses were arranged for the players

Vishy Anand is surely impressed with the view from the Funicular

And who wouldn't be! You get to see the entire city of Tbilisi and beyond!

The most delicious Georgian food was served to the players

And to complement it you had the local traditional dance

The dance was filled with loads of energy and grace!

Team Magnus consisting of father Henrik Carlsen and second Peter Heine Nielsen

Caruana and his second Kasimdzhanov seem to have some fun with Anish Giri. The two Indian players Vidit Gujrathi and Harikrishna Pentala are lost in their thoughts

Vladimir Kramnik with his shades already seemed like he means business!

For Ivanchuk the games have already begun!

2009 for Boris, 2015 for Pavel. What does 2017 hold for them?

Will Sopiko's hometown bring luck for her husband?

The don't-mess-with-me Rapport look!

Vishy Anand with the sixth Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili and his former trainer Elizbar Ubilava

Hou Yifan and Nana Dzagnidze are the only two women players at the event. It will be interesting to see how far they are able to progress.

FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos and Georgian Chess Federation President Zurab Azmaiparashvili were present at the opening ceremony

The World Champion is also human! Tired. He has the white pieces and faces an FM (soon to be an IM) from Nigeria rated 2255 in round one.

Magnus' opponent Balogun Oluwafemi talks to us about how it feels to face the World Champion

Five Africans at the event (from left to right): Nigeria's Balogun Oluwafemi, South Africa's Kenneth Solomon, recent Abu Dhabi Open winner GM Amin Bassem and Essam El Gindy from Egypt and Algerian GM Mohamed Haddouche.

The technical meeting took place in the official hotel after the opening ceremony

A small clarification on what would happen if Magnus Carlsen and/or Sergey Karjakin reach the semi-finals

Yes, Igor! That's how excited we are as well for the World Cup 2017 to begin!

Pairings for round one:

White Title Rating vs Black Title Rating
Carlsen, Magnus GM 2827   Balogun, Oluwafemi FM 2255
Ruiz Castillo, Joshua Daniel IM 2377   So, Wesley GM 2792
Caruana, Fabiano GM 2799   Solomon, Kenny GM 2398
Dai, Changren   2422   Kramnik, Vladimir GM 2803
Aronian, Levon GM 2802   Cawdery, Daniel IM 2449
Liu, Guanchu IM 2455   Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar GM 2797
Nakamura, Hikaru GM 2781   Mollah Abdullah, Al Rakib GM 2454
Khusenkhojaev, Muhammad IM 2455   Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM 2804
Grischuk, Alexander GM 2788   El Gindy, Essam GM 2455
Yeoh, Li Tian IM 2478   Anand, Viswanathan GM 2794
Ding, Liren GM 2771   Haddouche, Mohamed GM 2487
Smirnov, Anton IM 2508   Karjakin, Sergey GM 2780
Giri, Anish GM 2777   Dzagnidze, Nana GM 2519
Sambuev, Bator GM 2529   Wei, Yi GM 2748
Nepomniachtchi, Ian GM 2741   Palac, Mladen GM 2535
Vakhidov, Jakhongir GM 2518   Svidler, Peter GM 2756
Wojtaszek, Radoslaw GM 2739   El Debs, Felipe de Cresce GM 2533
Pourramezanali, Amirreza GM 2534   Yu, Yangyi GM 2750
Li, Chao b GM 2745   Krysa, Leandro GM 2540
Gonzalez Vidal, Yuri GM 2547   Harikrishna, P. GM 2741
Radjabov, Teimour GM 2742   Ziska, Helgi Dam GM 2545
Kunin, Vitaly GM 2531   Le, Quang Liem GM 2739
Adams, Michael GM 2738   Batchuluun, Tsegmed GM 2566
Hjartarson, Johann GM 2539   Navara, David GM 2720
Eljanov, Pavel GM 2734   Lenderman, Aleksandr GM 2565
Bacallao Alonso, Yusnel GM 2573   Fedoseev, Vladimir GM 2731
Gelfand, Boris GM 2737   Stupak, Kirill GM 2579
Sadorra, Julio Catalino GM 2574   Matlakov, Maxim GM 2728
Ivanchuk, Vassily GM 2727   Kazhgaleyev, Murtas GM 2570
Kulaots, Kaido GM 2571   Vitiugov, Nikita GM 2728
Vallejo Pons, Francisco GM 2717   Karthikeyan, Murali GM 2574
Fier, Alexandr GM 2569   Bacrot, Etienne GM 2728
Bu, Xiangzhi GM 2714   Flores, Diego GM 2580
Antipov, Mikhail Al. GM 2578   Tomashevsky, Evgeny GM 2710
Najer, Evgeniy GM 2694   Aleksandrov, Aleksej GM 2580
Pantsulaia, Levan GM 2593   Duda, Jan-Krzysztof GM 2698
Andreikin, Dmitry GM 2708   Goganov, Aleksey GM 2567
Sengupta, Deep GM 2589   Wang, Hao GM 2701
Inarkiev, Ernesto GM 2694   Mchedlishvili, Mikheil GM 2607
Tari, Aryan GM 2588   Howell, David W L GM 2701
Cheparinov, Ivan GM 2695   Mastrovasilis, Dimitrios GM 2573
Hovhannisyan, Robert GM 2594   Rodshtein, Maxim GM 2695
Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi GM 2702   Delgado Ramirez, Neuris GM 2614
Bok, Benjamin GM 2620   Artemiev, Vladislav GM 2692
Ponomariov, Ruslan GM 2694   Sethuraman, S.P. GM 2617
Sevian, Samuel GM 2610   Nisipeanu, Liviu-Dieter GM 2674
Jobava, Baadur GM 2702   Salgado Lopez, Ivan GM 2627
Zherebukh, Yaroslav GM 2621   Onischuk, Alexander GM 2682
Amin, Bassem GM 2699   Erdos, Viktor GM 2619
Nguyen, Ngoc Truong Son GM 2629   Adhiban, B. GM 2670
Rapport, Richard GM 2675   Cordova, Emilio GM 2616
Xiong, Jeffery GM 2633   Motylev, Alexander GM 2668
Dubov, Daniil GM 2666   Fridman, Daniel GM 2625
Kovalenko, Igor GM 2634   Kravtsiv, Martyn GM 2670
Akobian, Varuzhan GM 2662   Kovalyov, Anton GM 2649
Cori, Jorge GM 2648   Jones, Gawain C B GM 2668
Grachev, Boris GM 2654   Melkumyan, Hrant GM 2642
Bruzon Batista, Lazaro GM 2651   Anton Guijarro, David GM 2656
Kuzubov, Yuriy GM 2688   Zhigalko, Sergei GM 2642
Piorun, Kacper GM 2644   Hou, Yifan GM 2670
Areshchenko, Alexander GM 2645   Demchenko, Anton GM 2650
Lenic, Luka GM 2646   Fressinet, Laurent GM 2657
Mareco, Sandro GM 2649   Bluebaum, Matthias GM 2633
Bachmann, Axel GM 2634   Dreev, Aleksey GM 2648

Magnus Carlsen has white on the first board. Pairings on official website.

Video tour of the city of Tbilisi:


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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