World Chess Cup 2015
Posted: 08 September 2015 05:34 PM  
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The World Chess Cup is going to be played in Baku, Azerbaijan, from September 10th to October 4th.

It is a 128-player knock-out tournament.
Beside the fact that almost all the top guns are participating, what makes this event extremely interesting is that the two finalists will get a ticket for the Candidates tournament to be held in 2016.
The prizes are also quite high, with a total of US $1,600,000, US $80,000 for the runner-up and US $120,000 for the winner.

There are 36 GMs whose rating is higher than 2700, making the World Cup one of the strongest events ever, though with an unusual format.

The first 10 in the list are Veselin Topalov (BUL) 2816; Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2814; Fabiano Caruana (USA) 2808; Anish Giri (NED) 2793; Wesley So (USA) 2779; Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) 2777; Alexander Grischuk (RUS) 2771; Ding Liren (CHN) 2770; Levon Aronian (ARM) 2765); Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS) 2759.

Tournament Format
The initial pairings are 1 vs. 128, 2 vs. 127, 3 vs. 126, etc., and the matches consist in two games, with time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an addition of 30 seconds per move from the start of the game. If a match is tied after the regular games, tie breaks will be played on the next day.
The format for the tie breaks is as follows:
Two rapid games (25 minutes plus 10 seconds increment).
If the score is tied after two rapid games, two rapid games (10 minutes plus 10 seconds increment).
If the score is tied after four rapid games, the opponents play two blitz games (five minutes plus three seconds increment).
If the score is tied after a pair of blitz games, an armageddon game (in which a draw counts as a win for Black) is to be played. White has 5 minutes and Black has 4 minutes, with an increment of 3 seconds/move starting from move 61.

Several super-strong GMs see this event as their last chance to get into the Candidates 2016, which makes the World Chess Cup even more thrilling to follow!

ICC will relay the top games and will provide Game Of the Day Service for the final 3 rounds.

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Posted: 14 September 2015 05:39 AM   [ # 1 ]  
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Round 1

The World Cup is the only KO-system tournament which sees the participation of almost all the top players in the world. The most important fact about the World Cup is that the two finalists get a seat at the Candidates Tournament, which is of course the most awaited event of the FIDE cycle to determine the challenger to the crown. Last but not least, it’s a rich tournament, with a relevant amount of money for the players. But there is another aspect that makes this tournament one of the most followed: the upsets. In the first rounds, everyone looks at the World Cup as if it were a way to enjoy some great and famous player being zeroed out by obscure and unknown underdogs. It can look cruel, but we are underdogs ourselves, and rooting for the weaker is part of human nature. The first round has seen some upsets - as it’s inevitably going to happen - the most relevant one being GM Boris Gelfand knocked out by a 19-year-old IM Cristobal Henriquez Villagra from Chile.  GM Gata Kamski lost to GM Hrant Melkumyan, the blitz European Champion 2013, GM Ray Robson lost to GM Yuri Vovk, and other minor upsets have happened in round one. No problems at all for Topalov, Nakamura - who will face his countryman Sam Shankland in round 2, Aronian, Kramnik, Radjabov, Wesley So, and most of the top guns. Grischuk had to do some extra work to beat IM Atabayev in the tiebreak games. A curiosity from Round 1: the most battled out match was Sargissian vs. Bartel; they went on to play down to the final Armageddon game, with Sargissian drawing it with Black and advancing, with the strange-looking score of 4.5 to 4.5.

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Posted: 16 September 2015 05:10 PM   [ # 2 ]  
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Round 2

It’s almost impossible to keep track of all the good games that get played in the first two or three rounds of this huge 128-player knock-out event. But, as usual, we’re out to see which of the big guns risk to get upset by the underdogs. The second round was pretty interesting, with some of the top guys having to work hard in order to advance to the 32-players 3rd round. Adams for one, went down to play till the feared Armageddon game, managing to win it and eliminate Laznicka. Nakamura drew the first two classic games with the much lower rated fellow countryman Sam Shankland, to then win in the playoffs. The only real upset of the round was Navara losing to the on-a-roll Azeri GM Gadir Guseinov. Oh wait… not really the only one! Levon Aronian lost to Alexander Areshchenko of Ukraine. One of the most awaited top player ends here his adventure in Baku, and probably surrenders any chance to participate in the Candidates tournament in 2016. We all love Levon, and though we’re happy for the Ukrainian talent, it’s a great loss for the tournament with Aronian out of the play.  Tomorrow Areshchenko will face the rising Chinese star Wei Yi, and the boy is not an easy customer for anyone. Hou Yifan seemed to hold against the strong Mamedyarov, but lost in the playoffs. Onischuk, the veteran American GM, won the first of the two classical games against Karjakin, then lost the second one and finally wasn’t able to hold against the younger opponent in the payoffs. 
Round 3 will see some clash already, with interesting matchups such as Giri vs. Leko, Tomashevsky vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Nakamura vs. Nepomniachtchi,  Kramnik vs. Andreikin.

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Posted: 19 September 2015 03:44 PM   [ # 3 ]  
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Round 3

The third round has been characterized by a lot of matches being tied after the two classical games. GM Eljanov is quite an exception to the trend, as he went on to knock out Alexander Grischuk with a brutal 2-0 in the classical games, to get the amazing result of 6-0 after three rounds.
Kramnik was the other big gun to leave the stage, by the hands of his strong fellow countryman Dmitry Andreikin. In today’s tiebreaks for sure Nakamura vs. Nepomniachtchi was the clou of the day. Namakura found himself in a must-win situation twice, during the Blitz games - when he lost the first of the two - and then in the final armageddon, which he managed to win, to move on to round 4, where he will face Michael Adams. Adams had to work hard again to win on tiebreaks against Dominguez Perez. Tomorrow the classical games for Round 4, with some really interesting matchups:
the Chinese clash at the top, with the higher-rated Ding Liren having to play the 15-year old star Wei Yi. In a recent interview, Ding Liren said: “Maybe I am just a little stream or a little hill in front of him and it’s just a matter of time for Wei Yi to pass me”. Is that time already here? Topalov-Svidler, Giri-Wojtaszek and So-Vachier-Lagrave the other matchups of the left part of the tree. On the right, we have the aforementioned Nakamura-Adams, then Eljanov-Jakovenko, Caruana-Mamedyarov and Andreikin-Karjakin. The tournament is now entering in the hottest phase, with some of the best players in the world going to play the 16-man knockout round. Classical game 1 tomorrow, 6AM EDT.

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Posted: 21 September 2015 11:30 AM   [ # 4 ]  
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Round 4

The Latins used to say “sed lex dura lex”: the law is harsh, but it’s the law. And the law of the knockout system is that you lose, you’re out. Round 4 has already seen the departure of some of the favorite for the final victory: Veselin Topalov was knocked out by Peter Svidler; Nakamura had reason of Michael Adams; local hero Mamedyarov eliminated Fabiano Caruana; MVL - the Frenchman mathematician with two names - won over Wesley So. Wei Yi was in a must-win situation playing his fellow countryman and much higher rated Ding Liren, and he just won, forcing the #10 in the world into the tiebreaks. Tomorrow the tiebreaks will see few but extremely interesting matches: Wojtaszek vs. Giri, Ding Liren vs. Wei Yi, Eljanov vs. Jakovenko and Karjakin vs. Andreikin.
Tiebreaks
It happened: Wei Yi eliminated his countryman Ding Liren, and now is on to play in the final 8. It took the rising star 2 Rapid and two Blitz games to beat Ding, in a rather epic all-China battle. Anish Giri, with an imperative 2-0 in the Rapid games knocked out Wojtaszek; Eljanov won in the Rapid over the strong Jakovenko, and he can be thought of as the revelation of this tournament; Karjakin tamed Andreikin, who was having a very good tournament so far.
Tomorrow Game 1 (classic) of Round 5: Svidler vs. Wey Yi, Nakamura vs. Eljanov, Giri vs. Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedyarov vs. Karjakin.
Games start at 6AM EDT - 12 noon Europe.

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Posted: 25 September 2015 02:38 PM   [ # 5 ]  
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Round 5

Pavel Eljanov is unstoppable. Today he drew the uber-strong American GM Hikaru Nakamura to move on to the semis.
Anish Giri knocked out the Frenchman Maxim Vachier-Lagrave, while Wei Yi and Svidler drew both classical games, to move on to tiebreaks tomorrow, as well as Karjakin and Mamedyarov.

Tiebreaks
Peter Svidler and Sergey Karjakin win the tiebreaks to move on to the semifinal of the World Cup. Svidler-Wei Yi was the most followed match today, with the young Chinese star called to show all his prowess against the 7-times Russian Champion, who most often performs pretty well in the World Cup. Peter played good chess, especially in the blitz games, where people thought he would be weaker than his much younger opponent. Wei Yi is quickly climbing the ladder to the top places in the rating list and, given his amazing talent, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the top 10 pretty soon. Karjakin got rid of local hero Mamedyarov in a similar fashion.
Toorrow is a rest day.
Sunday, at 6AM EDT - noon Europe - The first game of the semifinal: Svidler vs. Giri and Eljanov vs. Karjakin

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Posted: 27 September 2015 04:11 PM   [ # 6 ]  
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Semis Game 1

The four survivors started today the battle which will decide the two finalists of the 2015 FIDE World Cup. Peter Svidler, the winner of the 2011 World Cup, today won Game 1 against Giri. Anish now is in a must-win situation, and tomorrow in Game 2 he will have to face Svidler with the black pieces. Giri is a very strong player, and anything can still happen, but Peter’s experience in these important events is huge. It won’t be easy for the younger super-GM to force Svidler into the tiebreaks. Pavel Eljanov, whose tournament so far has been nothing less than stunning, drew Sergey Karjakin. According to Dlugy’s analysis, Pavel missed a good chance to go pawn-up, posing some serious threat to his strong opponent. Tomorrow Game 2 at 6AM EDT (12 noon Europe).

GM Max Dlugy video recap

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Posted: 28 September 2015 06:28 PM   [ # 7 ]  
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Semis - Game 2

Peter Svidler, Mr. Seven-Times-Russian-Champion, is the first finalist of the 2015 FIDE World Chess Cup. In a recent interview, Peter said: “I’m not really interested in winning this event. I already have a trophy from the World Cup (2011). What I want is a trophy form the World Championship. So, getting to the finals is the main goal”. Well, the first step into the path to the World Championship is done! Congratulations to the friendly and very strong GM from St. Petersburg. Anish Giri, his much younger and higher rated opponent, tried to pose some problems to Svidler during the game, but to no avail. Eljanov and Karjakin deliberately chose to decide their match on tiebreaks, with a 13-move draw today. This might be good for Karjakin, who won most of his matches on tiebreaks in this World Cup, whereas Eljanov played excellent chess in the classical time control, having to come to Rapid play only once. But the prize at stake is really important (not only money-wise), and anything can happen. Tomorrow Eljanov and Karjakin will give us the second finalist’s name, starting at 6AM EDT - 12 noon Europe.

GM Alex Yermolinsky’s video recap

Winner of the TRIVIA contest, getting Anish Giri’s book “After Magnus”, edited by NiC, is Ababneh

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Posted: 29 September 2015 04:04 PM   [ # 8 ]  
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Semis - Tiebreaks

The FIDE World Cup is at its last stage. After weeks of epic fights over the board, the two survivors GM Peter Svidler and GM Sergey Karjakin are going to cross their Kings for the finals, which will take place from October 1st to 5th , with 4 classical time control games - one a day - and tiebreaks if needed. Games start at 6AM EDT (12 noon Europe). The knockout format, when most of the top guns participate, is always fascinating and gives strong GMs - who usually can’t make it to the elite installments - a chance to play the crème de la crème. GM Pavel Eljanov is a shining example of this. He played a fantastic tournament, crushing everyone almost without having the need to go down to tiebreaks. He landed to the semifinals in a roll, ready to wipe off another obstacle on the path of his dream tournament, namely GM Sergey Karjakin. It’s been a rollercoaster. Must-win situations, missed opportunities, blunders, and all the complete dramatic happenings that playoffs can bring up. Eljanov won the first game (25+10) outplaying Karjakin. It seemed almost done for the amazing Pavel, who has had a fantastic tournament, but Karjakin was able to play very well the second game and tie the result with a win. Down to the 10+10 games, Eljanov lost the first game because of a blunder and again the must-win situation was there, looming over Eljanov this time. In the last game, tragedy happened: Eljanov had a won endgame, and he decided to go for a strange triangulation with his king, in order to gain time on the clock and then convert his advantage to get into the blitz 5+3 mini-match. And there the catastrophe happened: Pavel didn’t notice he had repeated the position three times! Karjakin claimed the draw, and all was over.  Pavel showed a very kind and sporting attitude, by tweeting “It was fantastic tournament for me in any case and it’s untruly to call @SergeyKaryakin victory undeserved. Chess is the most fair sport”. A very fair comment, which drew almost immediately Sergey’s reply: “@Eljanov thank you, Pavel! For sure it was one of the most difficult tie-breaks in my life!”. A refreshing exchange, from two of the main protagonists of this important event.
So, it’s Russia vs. Russia in the finals. At the beginning if this tournament many commentators were noting how times have changed: only a few Russian top players ready to fight in this World Cup; a lot of strong Chinese players, Americans, but only a small representation of the old super-power of chess. Well, Russia’s back, folks, ready to show the world they can still compete at the top level. Tomorrow is a rest day; finals game 1 starts October the 1st, at 6AM EDT - 12 noon Europe.

Winner of the TRIVIA contest, getting Anish Giri’s book “After Magnus” published by New in Chess, is bennywins

GM Larry Christiansen’s video recap

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Posted: 01 October 2015 05:11 PM   [ # 9 ]  
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Final - Game 1

This is Peter Svidler’s tournament. The Russian ace won the World Cup in 2011, and reached the quarterfinals in 2013. Today he added an important brick to the wall he’s building to win the World Cup for the second time. Playing excellent chess, he outplayed Sergey Karjakin, and now leads by a point into the second of the four games. The paths that lead the two finalists to face each other for the title seems to tell the tale: Karjakin had to fight hard and hardest to advance, risking his neck against Onishuck, Andreikin, Mamedyarov, not to mention what happened in the semis with Eljanov, who was won in two clear occasions. Svidler played excellent chess all along, getting rid with apparent ease of Nisipeanu, Radjabov, Topalov, Wei Yi and Giri. We know that in a short 4-game match everything can happen, but looking at today’s game, is almost seems like there are two different-class players fighting for the victory. Tomorrow Game 2 at 6AM EDT - 12 noon Europe.

GM Alex Yermolinsky’s Video Recap

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Posted: 02 October 2015 03:11 PM   [ # 10 ]  
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Final - Game 2

A short match means you can’t miss any chance, and Sergey knows this very well. Today he pressed, being aware that having lost the first of four games he needed a win to balance the score immediately and look forward to the last two games with some optimism. But chess is ruthless and cynical, we know that. Feeling the urge to win can easily lead to mistakes, the pressure is unbearable, the mind goes numb, and overlooking danger or a favorable chance to get advantage becomes a real possibility. Sergey said, after the game: “I defended reasonably well and probably deserved not to lose this game but I definetely didn’t do anything to win it.” And that is not enough to beat a Peter Svidler in shining form. Now the Russian from St. Petersburg leads 2-0 with two games to go. All Peter needs is a draw to win his second World Cup, and 120 Kilo dollars. And tomorrow Svidler plays with white.

GM Joel Benjamin’s video recap

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Posted: 03 October 2015 01:09 PM   [ # 11 ]  
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Finals - Game 3

Maybe this is why chess is one of the most beautiful games Man has ever invented. Because it’s totally unpredictable, at times even crazy, for sure always surprising. This early morning, all of us were googling around to get information about Svidler, trying to find something interesting to say, after all the praise we spent in the last weeks about the Russian ace. Today’s game was interesting, but Karjakin with black seemed to be unable to force a win. Actually, at some point Svidler had a fair advantage and looked on the verge of winning the third game in a row. So, everyone figuring out the main-line: Svidler doubles and wins the FIDE World Cup! - 3-0, and on to the Candidates now! - Amazing result in Baku: Svidler emerges victorious from the all-Russia final - and so on so forth. But something happened, and Peter blundered away the game when it looked quite over. He missed a simple, little, maleficent pawn move, and showed all his desperation, walking away from the board with the face in his hands. Phoenix-Karjakin is back now, after he had to witness his own funeral, celebrated by the media circus. It’s still a must-win situation for Sergey, yet the psychological aspect is now reversed. Karjakin knows that Svidler, despite his splendid state of form, can stumble over a blunder under pressure; Svidler, on the other hand, has lost the halo of invincibility that has accompanied him through the whole tournament; he now knows that everything can happen, even when you feel the trophy is already in your showcase, happily shining back at you. Tomorrow, again at 6AM EDT, the two Russians will sit in front of each other, with very different feelings and emotions to deal with. An incredible finale.

GM Ronen Har-Zvi’s video recap

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Posted: 04 October 2015 01:48 PM   [ # 12 ]  
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Finals - Game 4

The first two words that come to mind are Unthinkable and Exhaustion. Nobody would have thought that this match, after the first two games, could have ended 2-2. After three weeks of stressful and fatiguing fights, the two heroes must be as drained as a triathlete after an Ironman event.
It’s likely that the chess fans were secretly rooting for Karjakin, to prolong the tournament into the rapid and - possibly - blitz tiebreaks; well, they got it! Karjakin—with white today—won the fourth game of the finals, negating Svidler’s advantage and forcing Peter into the playoffs. Yesterday it was said that the two players were going to play this decisive game with differing emotions, and today it showed. Svidler allowed the draw to slip from his grasp, and Karjakin seized his chance, playing aggressive, precise chess.
Tomorrow it will be tense, Peter is bound to be aware that he threw away a relatively easy victory - which is always difficult for a sportsperson of such high caliber - and Sergey pumped up to the stars for what could be one of the greatest come-backs ever.  The playoffs will start with a Rapid (25+10) 2-game mini-match. If the players are still tied, 2 games at 10+10, then—should it be needed—two Blitz games at 5+3. If it goes “to the wire”, the feared Armageddon game will decide the winner. Armageddon is a word which is derived from ancient Greek, and nowadays is used to indicate any “end of the World” scenario. The drama that the word carries is appropriate to describe the last chance for two players who have been battling for what seems like forever. White gets 5 minutes on the clock, whereas Black gets 4 minutes. But black, as a compensation, has draw odds. It’s more or less a lottery, if you ask me, but surely better than flipping a coin, like our chess ancestors used to do. Tomorrow at 6AM EDT - 12 noon Europe - the two finalists will sit again at the board. May the best man win!

GM Max Dlugy’s video recap

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Posted: 05 October 2015 02:47 PM   [ # 13 ]  
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Sergey Karjakin wins the FIDE World Cup 2015!

Next time someone tells you that chess is a boring game, tell them to go check the final games of the FIDE World Cup 2015. Ten decisive games in a row. Probably a record. What an amazing finish! After Karjakin’s great comeback in the last two games with “regular” time control, today it’s just been unbelievable. Blunders everywhere, games thrown away, strokes of absolute genius, everything you’d never expect to see in a match between two of the best players in the world, even in Rapid and Blitz play. But there are reasons for this to have happened, obviously. Three weeks of exhausting chess, emotions, nerves, knowing that every game could be decisive. It would be impossible to list all the topic moments in a short article, and for that you can watch the excellent video recap by GM Ronen-Har-Zvi. Let’s just say that it was absolutely incredible, intense, exaggerated, amazing, beautiful, tragic, dramatic… and I am running short of adjectives to describe what happened today in Baku. Congratulations to both, to their resilience and talent. If it were possible, the first place should be split between these two fantastic players.

GM ronen Har-Zvi’s video recap

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