Wesley So Is the Last American Standing at the World Cup

One loss sent Magnus Carlsen from a perfect score to packing his bags. Photo: Maria Emelianova

Round 3 has left the chess world in shock as many favorites and top 10 players have been knocked out, including Magnus Carlsen.

In game 1, Carlsen played the rare Bishop’s Opening (most likely to avoid theory), and his opponent, Chinese #5 Bu Xiangzhi, sacrificed a pawn with 10…d5 reminiscent of the Marshall Attack against the Ruy Lopez. Later, Bu also sacrificed a bishop to build up a very challenging kingside attack.

Before this loss, Carlsen was the only player with a perfect 4-0 score. This left Carlsen in a must-win situation for the second game, but he could only manage a draw.

Carlsen’s unexpected early knockout demonstrates how intense the World Cup format is—One untimely loss can send even the World Champion home.

After a tumultuous round 3, all hopes of an American winner depend on Wesley So. Photo: Maria Emelianova

Out of the five Americans that entered round 3, only Wesley So has made it the next stage. So defeated Vallejo Pons Francisco in game 1 after his opponent tried a very risky opening variation against the Caro-Kann and drew to seal the match in game 2.

At the 2015 World Cup, Nakamura was the last American standing, making it to the quarterfinals. Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Hikaru Nakamura and Alexander Onischuk were knocked out in the classical time control games. Nakamura lost to Vladimir Fedoseev, Russia’s 6th highest grandmaster, drawing the first game with the white pieces and then losing the second with black.

Former U.S. Champion Alexander Onischuk had the unfortunate task of facing one of the most consistently strong World Cup players, Peter Svidler. Photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Onischuk played against Peter Svidler, a tough pairing for the World Cup in particular. While many grandmasters struggle with the severe pressure of this large-scale knockout event, Svidler seems to thrive in these conditions, winning the event in 2011 and making it to the finals in 2015.

In addition, out of every player in the top 20 competing in the World Cup, Svidler is the only one who’s managed to gain rating points.

“At the moment the live ratings can be called the “Tbilisi Massacre,” with the top 13 players in the world all losing rating. And there is only one player above 2800 now.”

-Peter Doggers, “World Cup Shock: Carlsen, Kramnik, Nakamura Out”

Puzzle #1

Peter Svidler vs. Alexander Onischuk

How did Svidler deal with Black’s threat of 49…Nxe3?

White to move.

Fabiano Caruana is out of the World Cup but has decent chances of qualifying for the 2018 Candidates Tournament by rating. Photo: Maria Emelianova

Fabiano Caruana and Aleksandr Lenderman made it to tiebreaks but lost in the rapid playoffs. Caruana leaves the World Cup from one loss after 11 undefeated games.

Alexandr Lenderman greatly outperformed his rating. Photo: Maria Emelianova

Despite leaving in round 3, Lenderman has had an exceptional tournament for a player starting as the 104th seed out of 128 players, knocking out #27 in the world in round 1 and Norwegian prodigy Aryan Tari in round 2.

This round, Lenderman faced one of the highest rated players in the world and World Cup favorites, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Lenderman held his own in the classical games, but lost the first game of the playoff and drew the second.

Round 4 Pairings

Bu Xiangzhi (2714) vs. Peter Svidler (2756)

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2804)  vs. Alexander Grischuk (2788)

Vassily Ivanchuk (2727)  vs. Anish Giri (2777)

Levon Aronian (2802) vs. Daniil Dubov (2666)

Wesley So (2792) vs. Baadur Jobava (2702)

Vladimir Fedoseev (2731) vs. Maxim Rodshtein (2695)

Evgeniy Najer (2694) vs. Richard Rapport (2675)

Wang Hao (2701) vs. Ding Liren (2771)

Games start at 7 A.M. EST. Watch live games on Chess24.com, Chess.com, and the Official Website.


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