It’s about time for one of the biggest tournaments of the chess calendar – the FIDE World Cup 2017. This coveted event, spanning around 25 days, will feature 128 of the sharpest chess minds from across the globe who have qualified and made their way to this mega-event. Only one will be the winner, who will he/she be?
Here’s our concise guide to the World Cup, which provides you with all you need to know about this tournament. Also featured is a favourites section, which lists out some of the biggest contenders to the title, with due analysis of their chances based on the most important parameters. Read on to know more!
When: 2 – 27 September, 2017
Where: Tbilisi, Georgia
Qualification: All the participants have qualified by virtue of falling under the purview of one of the following criteria specified by FIDE:
- World Champion and World Cup 2015 semi-finalists (5 players)
- Junior World Champions 2015 & 2016 (2 players)
- 18 players from FIDE Rating List (Avg rating from 2/2016 to 1/2017)
- 46 players from European Championships 2016 & 2017
- 20 players from Americas
- 20 players from Asia/Oceania
- 6 players from Africa
- 1 ACP Tour Qualifier
- 5 nominees of FIDE
- 4 nominees of the local Organising Committee
The players: 128 players, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen, recent World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin, former World Champions Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Ruslan Ponomariov, and other top players such as Aronian, Caruana, Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave, amongst others.
The full list of participants can be found on the official website.
Significance of the event: The top two players get direct entry to the Candidates Tournament, the event which decides the Challenger to the World Champion.
Format: The tournament will be played in a knockout format, with mini-matches in every round.
Fab-four – The favourites to the title
In a field as huge as this, drawing a list of likely tournament winners is a risky business, something that we nevertheless decided to venture into. Based on some of the most important parameters, here is our list of favourites:
World Champion Magnus Carlsen comes into the World Cup on the back of a decent performance in the Sinquefield Cup. In an incredibly strong event, he finished tied-second with Viswanathan Anand, and only behind a rampaging Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
However, this isn’t the most dominant Magnus the world has seen. In recent times, his rating has seen a steady decline and his top ranking in the world has regularly been threatened.
Nevertheless, Magnus is always a big favourite to the title in whichever tournament he participates, regardless of his form. He has been rated over 2800 for close to 8 years, which speaks volumes of his overall strength, his dominance and his consistency. If not for an upset, it’s hard to not see him feature in the semis.
If there is one top player who has taken 2017 by storm, it’s definitely Levon Aronian. The Armenian Grandmaster has played impressive chess on his way to winning several recent events in emphatic style. The list of these victories is stellar: Grenke Chess Classic, Altibox Norway Chess and most recently the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz.
Yes, Aronian’s track-record of below-par performances in important events is well-known. Yet, if he is able to win his ‘inside battles’ and overcome this trend, there is absolutely no reason why he can’t make it far in this event and even clinch the title.
The flow is on his side; can he make the most of it?
The inclusion of Sergey Karjakin in this list might raise a few eyebrows. Indeed, his recent lacklustre performances, barring second place in St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, do not provide reason for much excitement. In particular, all his recent classical appearances have been average, including a disastrous outing at Norway. So why does he find himself in this rather important list?
The answer lies here: Karjakin is one player who rises to and thrives on the big ocassion. He arrives well-prepared and is able to hold his nerves at crucial moments. One doesn’t have to go way back in the past to testify this – a tough, well-played World Championship against Magnus Carlsen, a high-intensity victory in Candidates 2016 and a solid triumph in the previous World Cup. Whatever might be his form, he surely knows how to put it all behind and own the big stage.
French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, popularly known as MVL, is another player who has ruled 2017. Let us have a look at his last few events, with the first one being the most recent:
- A convincing victory in the super-strong Sinquefield Cup, ahead of the World Champion himself.
- Joint second in Dortmund.
- Second and Third in Paris GCT and Leuven GCT respectively – both rapid and blitz events.
- Joint seventh in Norway (perhaps the only glitch).
- Joint third in Moscow Grand Prix
The rise is evident. With a string of consistent performances, and the victory in Sinquefield to top it all, MVL starts the World Cup as a firm favourite. Whether or not he can withstand the physical and mental stress remains to be seen. But his capabilities and form are there for everyone to see.
So, who are you rooting for? Comment down below!