Carlsen At The World Cup: 'I Want To Exploit This Loophole'
In an interview with Chess.com, Magnus Carlsen has commented on his participation in the upcoming World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia. "It is a bit odd that the rules allow me to play when it's a world championship qualifier (...) but as long as the rules are there then I want to sort of exploit this loophole to get an interesting experience."
Lead photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.
Last month the news broke that Carlsen will be participating in the World Cup, which starts in less than two weeks. While most chess fans seem to be rather excited, there were also critical remarks, for example in the comments section under our news report.
This was mostly about the fact that Carlsen is now part of the world championship cycle, and therefore directly influences the road to the Candidates' tournament and the next match against himself. (You could also argue that by playing top tournaments Carlsen influences the ratings of the two players who qualify by rating, but that's another story.)
In an interview with Chess.com right after the Sinquefield Cup, Carlsen said that he was thinking about playing the previous World Cup. "It didn't really work out with scheduling and everything, which was partly real and partly an excuse. This time, from early on, I thought that I wanted to do it and I guess I made the decision in May or something."
He also explained why he is playing: "I think the reason people [world champions] haven't been playing before is that you don't actually have to play. For me, I just want to play. It's an interesting tournament. I think the format is great, mixing different skill sets of classical and faster chess. Besides, you've got all the best players in the world playing, and those are the ones I want to compete with, be it a world championship event or not."
Carlsen agreed that it's a slightly remarkable decision to play a tournament where he will be part of the selection process of his opponent in his next match.
"It is strange, for sure. For me it's not a factor in deciding whether to play or not but it is a bit odd that the rules allow me to play when it's a world championship qualifier; you cannot say it in any other way. But as long as the rules are there then I want to sort of exploit this loophole to get an interesting experience.
"To participate in one of the greatest events there are in the chess calendar... I've been following the events the last few times when I haven't been playing with awe. It's one of my favorite events to watch from early on. You've got all these tiebreaks twists and turns. The 2015 final was amazing. I just want to be part of it."
The full video interview, conducted on August 11.
The FIDE World Cup is scheduled for September 2-27 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Some 128 players from different continents will be playing in a knockout format, with each round consisting of two classical games and if necessary a rapid and blitz tiebreak.
This will be the strongest World Cup in history, with the world's top 15 playing. The full pairings tree can be found here in PDF. Carlsen's first opponent will be FM Oluwafemi Balogun (2255) of Nigeria.
The top GMs who are in "Carlsen's half" are e.g. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler, Anish Giri, Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin. Big names in the other half, who can only meet Carlsen in the final, are Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, and Vishy Anand.