FIDE World Cup 2017 – A Preview

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!

Fact Sheet

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.

Pairings Tree:


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:

Magnus Carlsen

The biggest attraction of World Cup 2017 – the World Champion himself! (Picture: Lennart Ootes)

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.

Levon Aronian

Currently an unstoppable force – Levon Aronian (Picture: Lennart Ootes)

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?

Sergey Karjakin

The defending World Cup Champion – Sergey Karjakin (Picture: Lennart Ootes)

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.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

The Frenchman whose middle-name is ‘Consistency’ – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Picture: Lennart Ootes)

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!

Edmonton 04: Ganguly on fire!

Four rounds into the Edmonton International Tournament 2016, Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly is dominating the field, having scored a perfect 4/4 so far. The enterprising Grandmaster from India has recorded important wins over GMs Sethuraman and Sambuev, and is half a point ahead of second-placed GM Samuel Shankland.

The fourth round was a bitter-sweet one for the Indian fans. While Ganguly continued on his merry way by notching up a crucial victory over Sambuev, Sethuraman had a tough time against Shankland, eventually resigning on the 40th move. Meanwhile, Bitan Banerjee, the third Indian in the fray, successfully held on to a draw against top-seed GM Alexei Shirov. The latter is currently placed sole third with 3 points by his name.

Results and Standings

Leuven GCT Final Day: Carlsen takes it all!

After winning the Rapid section by staging a fantastic comeback, World Champion Magnus Carlsen continued his rich vein of form, winning the blitz event of the Leuven Grand Chess Tour 2016 in convincing style. As a result, Carlsen also emerged as the overall winner of the Leuven leg, thus taking home all the trophies that were up for grabs.

Magnus scored a total of 23 points in the Leuven leg, a whooping two and a half points more than the second placed Wesley So. The latter put on a solid performance – keeping his losses to minimum – and edged out Levon Aronian in the race for the second place. Levon Aronian finished sole third with 20 points.

Indian hope Vishy Anand, who led the table at the end of Day One, scored 19.5 points and had to contend himself with the fourth spot.

After two events of the Grand Chess Tour 2016, Magnus Carlsen is well and truly in command with a whooping 23 points. American Grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So are placed joint second with 17 points each.

Capablanca Memorial Final: Ivanchuk all the way!

Another edition of the annual Capablanca Memorial tournament, and another title at this historic event for the ever-creative Vassily Ivanchuk. The 47-year-old Ukrainian super-GM remained unbeaten throughout the course of this double round-robin event, notching up an impressive 7/10 and finishing a point ahead of his compatriot GM Yuriy Kryvoruchko.

Ivanchuk’s performance was all about dominance. Chucky, as he is often called, took an early lead by winning games 2 and 3. From that point on, there was no looking back. Ivanchuk never let his top position slip, remained unbeaten and in the end, won the tournament in the most comprehensive of ways. Courtesy of this scintillating performance, Ivanchuk gained an impressive 18 ELO points.

While Kryvoruchko finished second with 6/10, GMs Zoltan Almasi and Ivan Cheparinov tied for the third place, scoring 5 points each. The latter’s superior tie-break score helped him finish third, while Almasi had to settle for the fourth spot.

Leuven GCT Day 2: Carlsen’s stupendous comeback!

While World Champion Magnus Carlsen had a terrible first day at the Leuven Leg of the Grand Chess Tour 2016, he once again justified his top billing by staging one of the better comebacks one will ever witness. Carlsen, who took off slowly with only four points on the first day out of a possible ten, won all the four games on the second day, not only taking his tally to 12/18 but also emerging as the leader at the end of the rapid section.

So Wesley, who is unbeaten as yet, finished a close second, scoring 11/18.

Meanwhile, Day One leader Vishy Anand had a rough finish to the rapid event. After having won the first game of the second day against the super-solid Anish Giri, Anand lost his way, losing two games on the trot to Kramnik and Carlsen. A draw in the final round of the rapid event saw the Madras Tiger finish joint third Levon Aronian.

The 10 players will now battle it out in a blitz tournament, which will be played over the course of the next two days. The winner will be adjudged taking into account the points scored from the rapid tournament as well as the blitz event.

Leon Masters: Anand beats Wei Yi, clinches title

The Leon Masters 2016 was held from 10th June to 12th June in Leon, Spain. This unique rapid event saw four players, of varied strengths, fight it out in a knockout format. Former World Champion Vishy Anand, who was also the chief attraction of this event, overcame the young opposition and won the tournament, adding yet another feather to his cap.

In the first round, which was labelled the ‘Semi Final’, Anand faced a tough challenge from young Spanish star GM Anton Guijjaro David. The first game was drawn. While Anand won the second game, Anton struck back immediately in the third. In the fourth and final game of the mini match, Anand recorded a crucial victory, thus making his way into the finals.

On the other hand, Chinese sensation GM Wei Yi was made to fight hard by Spanish IM Santos Latasa Jaime, despite a significant difference in their ratings. Wei Yi edged out Santos by the smallest of margins, winning one and drawing three.

The stage was set for an epic finale, featuring 46-year-old Anand and 17-year-old Wei Yi. Anand drew the first blood in the very first game of the match. However, the Chinese Grandmaster was unable to strike back and all the remaining three games were drawn. As such, Vishy clinched the final match by a 2.5-1.5 scoreline, winning yet another event in the city of Leon.

Mumbai Mayor’s Cup Final: Visakh NR outshines the Grandmasters!

The tenth and final round of the Mumbai Mayor’s Cup 2016 saw the top board clash between GM Diptayan Ghosh and IM Visakh NR end peacefully. With this draw, the duo moved on to 8 points each, and were joined at the top by untitled Himal Gusain, who overcame IM Vikramaditya Kulkarni in the final round. However, Visakh’s superior tie-break score helped him edge out his competitors and go home richer by Rs.3 Lacs. The runners-up spot was clinched by Diptayan Ghosh whilst Himal Gusain finished third.

17-year-old Visakh, who hails from the state of Tamil Nadu, started off as a modest 19th seed. However, he put on an exceptional performance – winning six and drawing four, thus remaining unbeaten throughout the course of the event and finishing ahead of all the participating Grandmasters. The young lad recorded wins over such experienced GMs as Amonatov and Ulybin, while drawing against GMs Grachev, Diptayan and Swapnil Dhopade.

Final Standings

Women’s European Individual Final: Anna Ushenina is the new champion!

Drawing her final round game of the Women’s European Individiual Chess Championship 2016 against IM Lilit Mkrtchian, Former Women’s World Champion GM Anna Ushenina took her points tally to 8.5/11, eventually finishing first courtesy of her superior tie-break score. Anna, who commenced the event as the 9th seed, registered 6 wins and 5 draws, remaining unbeaten on her way to this coveted title.

The runners-up spot was clinched by Spanish IM Vega Gutierrez Sabrina, who also scored 8.5 points whilst GM Stefanova Antoaneta secured the third place by scoring 8/11.

Final Standings


European Individual 08: Inarkiev shoots into sole lead

In-form Russian GM Ernesto Inarkiev scored a crucial victory over top seed GM David Navara in the eighth round of the European Individual Chess Championship 2016. Playing the black side of a Nimzo-Indian Defence, Inarkiev efficiently refuted his opponent’s over-ambitious play on the King-side and went on to register a convincing 37-move victory. Courtesy of this result, Inarkiev is currently in sole lead with an impressive 7/8, half a point ahead of his nearest rivals.

Meanwhile, GMs Wojtaszek, Goganov and Kovalenko scored important wins over GMs Ter-Sahakyan, Bartel and Ivan Saric respectively to race their way to 6.5/8. This was Ivan Saric’s second consecutive defeat, after having grabbed the sole lead earlier with 5.5/6.

In the 9th round, tournament leader Inarkiev will be up against Kovalenko, who has notched up a creditable 4.5 points from his last 5 games to cover up for a slightly slow start.

Round 8 Results

European Individual 07: Inarkiev beats Saric

Overnight sole leader GM Ivan Saric of Croatia suffered a tough 49-move defeat at the hands of Russian GM Ernesto Inarkiev in the 7th round of the European Individual Chess Championship 2016. The Inarkiev-Saric clash, that commenced with the ever-popular King’s Indian Defence, saw the White player sacrifice a pawn soon after the opening. A complex middlegame ensued, wherein Inarkiev masterfully outplayed his Croatian opponent. Saric found the going tough, throwing in the towel on move 49.

On the second board, top seed GM David Navara overcame the Georgian free-spirit GM Baadur Jobava. The former displayed exceptional endgame technique on his way to this crucial victory.

After 7 rounds of gruelling battles, GM Navara and GM Inarkiev are in joint lead with 6/7. The two will be up against each other in the 8th round of this 11-round swiss event.

Round 7 Results