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Caruana, Li Chao, Nepomniachtchi Leave World Cup

Caruana, Li Chao, Nepomniachtchi Leave World Cup

One more top-10 player was knocked out of the FIDE World Cup today. Fabiano Caruana lost his second rapid game to Evgeniy Najer. Other small rating upsets were Richard Rapport beating Li Chao, and Baadur Jobava winning against Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Out of the blue, Fabiano Caruana also got eliminated. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Half of the third round's matches saw a tiebreak today, and five of these were decided after two rapid games. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ding Liren, Richard Rapport, Evgeniy Najer, and Baadur Jobava had all qualified by then.

Grischuk and Giri then decided matters in the 10+10 games, leaving only Aronian to win his 5+3 match. The players who leave after today are Alexander Lenderman, David Navara, S.P. Sethuraman, Maxim Matlakov, Fabiano Caruana, Li Chao, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and Ian Nepomniachtchi. The latter already checked out of the hotel 20 minutes after blundering a rook vs Jobava.

2017 World Cup | Round 3 Tiebreak Results

Fed Player Fed Player Classical Rapid Blitz Score
Lenderman (2565) Vachier-Lagrave (2804) ½-½, ½-½ 0-1, ½-½ 1½-2½
Grischuk (2788) Navara (2720) ½-½, ½-½ ½-½, ½-½, ½-½, 1-0 3½-2½
Giri (2777) Sethuraman (2617) ½-½,½-½ 1-0, 0-1, 1-0, 1-0 3-1
Aronian (2802) Matlakov (2728) 1-0, 0-1 ½-½, ½-½, 1-0, 0-1 1-0, ½-½ 4½-3½
Nepomniachtchi (2741) Jobava (2702) ½-½, ½-½ ½-½, 0-1 1½-2½
Caruana (2799) Najer (2694) ½-½, ½-½ ½-½, 0-1 1½-2½
Li Chao (2745) Rapport (2675) ½-½, ½-½ 0-1, ½-½ 1½-2½
Ding Liren (2771) Vidit (2702) ½-½, ½-½ ½-½, 1-0 2½-1½

Who would have guessed that Najer would knock out Caruana? It's an excellent achievement by the 40-year-old grandmaster from Moscow, who is one of the coaches of the Russian women's team, but can definitely play decent chess himself as well. In 2015 he won the 2015 European Championship in Jerusalem. But still, Caruana?

"It was very unexpected for me," Najer told Chess.com. "Making two draws in the classical games was very important to me, because in rapid he sometimes plays not perfectly. Sometimes."


Najer while being interviewed for the official website. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

He said that after a draw in their first rapid game it was "logical" that Caruana played aggressively with White. "But maybe he played too many aggressive moves."


Najer drew his white game in a Berlin, admitting that he has no ideas there. "But who does?" | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Chess.com's interview with Najer.

Suddenly only four top-10 players in the world are left in the tournament. Three of them got through via Monday's tiebreaks: Aronian, MVL, and Grischuk. Wesley So didn't need a playoff this time and could take some rest. He did show up in the playing hall for a moment, but not to watch the games.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave couldn't show the 200+ Elo point difference with Aleksandr Lenderman in the two classical games, and it must be said that also in the rapid games Lenderman had his chances. In the first game, things were not so clear ("on a bad day I could have been worse" - MVL) and the American GM basically lost because of a blunder in the endgame:

Chess.com's interview with Vachier-Lagrave.

In the second game things didn't go exactly to plan for MVL, as Lenderman twice missed his chance to play ...Bd5. "I was trying to minimize risk and taking my time, but still I was making these terrible moves, actually very strange oversights. Then you start to doubt yourself on what should be a relatively easy task," Vachier-Lagrave told Chess.com.


Etienne Bacrot is still in Tbilisi and is now supporting and helping MVL. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Baadur Jobava wasn't smiling right after he sent Ian Nepomniachtchi home. The Georgian GM is the kind of person who feels sorry for his opponent when he blunders, and Nepo blundered terribly. After failing to win a promising endgame in game one, here's how he dropped out of the World Cup. 

No wonder Nepomniachtchi wanted to leave Tbilisi as soon as possible. 


Nepomniachtchi, not happy to leave the World Cup like this. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.


Jobava beat Nepomniachtchi but wasn't partying too much. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.


Nepomniachtchi and his second Vladimir Potkin, 20 minutes later. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

"As the saying goes, better a horrible end than a horror without end."

After Wei Yi, Richard Rapport eliminated another strong Chinese grandmaster: Li Chao. It was a "very tense" match, as Rapport admitted. The Hungarian tends to walk around in the playing hall more than his colleagues, and he said this is a way of easing some of the tension.

His win in the first game was a good example of the odd things that are happening in Tbilisi. In a crazy tactical scramble Rapport won a piece, liquidated to an ending but needing almost 70 more moves to win the game. At first Li playing on seemed a bit silly, but then the Chinese GM made it tremendously difficult for his opponent.


Li Chao put up a great fight being a piece down, but eventually lost his first game at this World Cup. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

"This is what happens with me, when it gets tense...I made some inaccuracies and he got some chances," said Rapport, who graciously let his opponent off with a draw in a completely winning position in game two.

Chess.com's interview with Rapport.

There are still three Chinese players in competition, but a maximum of two after the next round. Besides Carlsen slayer Bu Xiangzhi, we have Wang Hao and Ding Liren, who will play each other in the next round. Ding defeated Vidit Santosh Gujrathi with what Dejan Bojkov chose as the move of the day: a pawn push to a square where it can be taken by four different enemies!

Alexander Grischuk went through at the cost of David Navara, but not without some adventures. The Russian GM was totally lost in the very first rapid game, with White, but somehow managed to save the draw at the skin of his teeth. 


"Queen down, somewhere I guess I should be losing," said Grischuk. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

After two more draws, Grischuk struck in the second 10+10 game. The theme was the same: a trapped queen. Grischuk: "Maybe I played bad, but at least I played energetically."


Navara always stands up for resigning, and always puts his pieces back to the starting position afterward. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

After his heroic save the other day, Anish Giri provided some more entertainment (or raised heart rates, if you were Dutch) before eliminating S.P. Sethuraman. Giri won a good game as White, but then things went wrong in a Sicilian Najdorf  -- an opening choice he later regretted.

"I've realized what the strategy should be, that I should play differently," said Giri. After winning another white game, he played the more solid 1...e5 in the second 10+10 game and that went much better:

Chess.com's interview with Giri.

Last but not least, Levon Aronian.

Maxim Matlakov proved to be a very tough opponent for him; the grandmaster from St. Petersburg came back from being 1-0 down in the classical games, and he did it once again in the 10+10 games.


To win on demand twice in a match against Aronian is very impressive. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Aronian decided the match by winning the first 5+3 game, and drawing the second.


A draw in the last game nails for Aronian. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.


Pentala Harikrishna paid a visit to the playing hall today... | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.


...and so did Alexander Huzman and Boris Gelfand. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.


Wesley So witnessing Caruana's downfall.


For each series of two games there's a new drawing of color.










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Games from TWIC.

The World Cup takes place September 3-27 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Each round consists of two classical games (four in the final), and possibly a rapid and blitz tiebreak on the third day. The total prize fund is $1.6 million, including a first prize of $120,000. The top two finishers will qualify for the 2018 Candidates' Tournament. 

Chess.com relays the games at Chess.com/Live. You can watch also live commentary on Chess.com/TV provided by the Chessbrahs, which includes some of the best commentators on the planet: GM Eric Hansen, GM Robin van Kampen, GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Aman Hambleton.

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