2019 World Cup Kicks Off in Khanty-Mansiysk

The 2019 FIDE World Cup kicked off today at the Ugra Chess Academy in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, with 128 players from around the world vying for two spots in the 2020 Candidates Tournament and a 1.6 million dollar prize fund.

The tournament is a knockout format, with the first six round whittling the field down to the final two players via two game mini-matches at classical time controls. If the mini-matches are tied, players play a third day of games at increasingly rapid time controls, culminating in an Armageddon blitz game if necessary. The Final (and the match for 3rd place) consists of four classical games, followed by rapid playoffs if required.

Six Americans – Leinier Dominguez, Hikaru Nakamura, Sam Sevian, Sam Shankland, Wesley So, and Jeffery Xiong – are in the field. In today’s first round, Dominguez, Sevian, So, and Xiong were able to win, while Nakamura and Shankland had to content themselves with draws.

First moves in Press-Ding (photo Kiriill Merkuryev)

One of the most interesting games, at least from my perspective, was the matchup on board one, where top seed Ding Liren faced 1954-rated Shaun Press, an IA and FM from Papau New Guinea who also blogs about his chess adventures. In his entry about today’s game, Press writes:

In his post match comments Ding thought that 21.Nb2 was better than 21.Re1, although GM Ian Rogers thought 14.Rb1 (he means 13.Rb1 – ed) was unnecessary, and 18.b3 was where my troubles really started. For me both 17…Be6 and 19…Nd4 caused me a lot of trouble. I also did not expect 22…Ne3, but decided I had little choice but to take the offered pawn, knowing the open lines were bad for me.
Nonetheless I found it quite an enjoyable experience. I was incredibly nervous leading up to the game, but once the game started, it was about playing moves, even if they weren’t the best ones.

Tomorrow sees the second game of the first round matches. Will the Americans be able to avoid playoffs and enjoy a rest day? Will Ding give Press a draw to close out the match and give the amateur the memory of a lifetime? (Unlikely.) Check back with CLO to find out!

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