World Cup: participants, pairings and FIDE's wild card policy

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World Cup: participants, pairings and FIDE's wild card policyOn August 28th the first round of the FIDE World Cup is scheduled. Recenty FIDE published the list of participants and the first round pairings, which were soon 'updated'. However, the pairings and pairings tree currently published on the official website cannot be mutually correct. And why wasn't Anish Giri invited?

Recenty FIDE published the list of participants for the upcoming FIDE World Cup. Again, this is a 128-player knockout, again held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia from August 26th till September 21st. The best three players will qualify for the next Candidates tournament.

FIDE World Cup 2011 | Participants (top 10)
Nr Title Name Rating Fed M/F Year of birth
1 GM Karjakin, Sergey 2788 RUS M 1990
2 GM Ivanchuk, Vassily 2768 UKR M 1969
3 GM Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2765 AZE M 1985
4 GM Ponomariov, Ruslan 2764 UKR M 1983
5 GM Gashimov, Vugar 2760 AZE M 1986
6 GM Grischuk, Alexander 2746 RUS M 1983
7 GM Radjabov, Teimour 2744 AZE M 1987
8 GM Kamsky, Gata 2741 USA M 1974
9 GM Svidler, Peter 2739 RUS M 1976
10 GM Jakovenko, Dmitry 2736 RUS M 1983

(Full list of participants here)

Pairings: unconfirmed

On July 15th the pairings for the first round were already published, which saw the interesting clash between Hou Yifan (China) and Judit Polgar (Hungary). Imagine that! The reigning Women's World Champion against the highest rated and most successful female player ever. Without providing an explanation, FIDE quickly updated these pairings - Hou Yifan now plays Sergey Movsesian (Armenia) while Judit Polgar faces Fidel Corrales Jimenez (Cuba).

However, these pairings, currently published (PDF here) on the official website, cannot be mutually correct with the pairings tree (PDF here). As was mentioned by Mark Crowther, there's at least one mistake. According to the pairings and pairings tree, GM Zong-Yuan Zhao (Australia) plays against GM Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia). According to the pairings tree the winner of this match plays against the winner of the match Dmitry Andreikin (Russia) vs Murtas Kazhgaleyev (Kazachstan). However, according to the pairings, Andreikin and Kazhgaleyev don't face each other in the first round!

Update 14:22 CET: We received an email from the FIDE Secretariat with an explanation:
The updated list of players and 1st round pairings of the World Cup have been announced on the FIDE website here since 24 July. There were some changes as in the initial list announced the previous day, the actual qualifier GM Quesada Perez (Yunieski) was accidentally mixed by the Chief Arbiter with FM Quesada Perez (Yasser), both from Cuba and with almost the same names. As you can see in table No. 37, GMs Andreikin and Kazhgaleyev indeed face each other in the 1st round.

Anish Giri

Anish Giri: not in the 2011 World CupWe were surprised not to see Anish Giri among the participants. The 17-year-old Dutchman, who is arguably the biggest talent on the planet these days, already passed the other top juniors Fabiano Caruana (Italy) and Le Quang Liem (Vietnam) on the live ratings list, where Giri is now 26th in the world. A more logical choice for a wild card is hard to imagine!

However, the FIDE President decided to give wild cards to GMs Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzbekistan), Emil Sutovsky (Israel), Peter Heine Nielsen (Denmark), Ding Liren (China), Viktor Bologan (Moldavia) and Elshan Moradiabadi (Iran). Don't get us wrong; these names all deserve to play in Khanty. Especially the wild card for Heine Nielsen is understandable after the Dane missed out as a result of weird tie-break calculations at the European Championship.

But still, Anish Giri, who beat Magnus Carlsen and who had the better end of the draw against the World Champion, in January at the Tata tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Who is, in fact, higher rated than all six wild cards chosen by the FIDE President. Giri's July 2011 rating would give him the right to participate, but for some reason the average of the July 2010 (!) and the January 2011 lists are used. (Especially with new lists every two months, this rule looks highly outdated.)

What must Mr Ilyumzhinov have been thinking? Journalist Stefan Löffler was wondering the same, and in fact simply asked FIDE about it. Here's the reply he received:

"The nominations of the FIDE President are awarded upon his decision, mostly as an incentive to national federations which actively support FIDE events and FIDE activities such as "Chess in Schools", as well as to former World or Continental champions. This year, high-rated players from Europe were also nominated who played in their continental championship but did not qualify because of applicable tie-breaks which are very often disputed or in doubt of their effectiveness.

We are sure that GM Anish Giri will participate in next year's qualifying European Championship and he will indeed have a bright future as a top world-class player."

Strangely, FIDE reasons that not only Peter Heine Nielsen was nominated after not qualifying in Aix-les-Bains "because of applicable tie-breaks which are very often disputed or in doubt of their effectiveness". They speak of "high-rated players from Europe" - plural. However, neither Kasimdzhanov, Sutovsky, Ding Liren, Bologan nor Moradiabadi fall into this category. As was explained in detail by Dr Vladica Andrejic on this and other websites, the other names who missed out, together with Heine Nielsen, were GMs Mircea-Emilian Parligras (Romania), Baris Esen (Turkey) and Ivan Saric (Croatia). Update: as Jochem mentions in the comments, both Parligras and Esen are among the World Cup participants as qualified from Aix-les-Bains, so probably some entitled players didn't use their invitation.

Anish Giri had an excellent reason to skip the European Championship this year: he had accepted Joop van Oosterom's invitation to play in the last Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, a unique opportunity to get experience against the world's best chess players. And we're sure Mr Ilyumzhinov isn't blaming him for that. But the first paragraph of FIDE's reaction above, speaks volumes. The Royal Dutch Chess Federation doesn't actively support FIDE events and activities. Instead, they gave their vote to Anatoly Karpov, Ilyumzhinov's opponent in last year's Presidential Elections. And the Dutch federation was one of the few chess federations (together with the English and German federations) to openly condemn Ilyumzinov's recent visit to the leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi.
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