Round two is over and we’re at the stage of 32. Just 32 players stand in the way of earning one of two candidates spots. Technically less than 32 because a few remaining players have already reserved their spots in the tournament. Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana got spots via the FIDE Grand Prix. Today was quite dramatic. The tiebreaks are some of the most exciting games of the tournament. Watching some of the best players in the world struggle in time pressure and misplay won positions is something that you don’t get to see very often. One of the most exciting games of the tiebreaks was Vovk against Wei Yi.
In Upset news one of the pre-tournament favorites GM Levon Aronian was knocked out by GM Alexander Areshchenko.
- GM Wang Hao (2705) was knocked out by GM Lu Shanglei (2607)
- GM David Navara (2724) was knocked out by GM Gadir Guseinov (2624)
- GM Levon Aronian (2765) was knocked out by GM Alexander Areshchenko (2661)
- GM Pentala Harikrishna (2740) was knocked out by GM Sethuraman (2635) (I had correctly predicted this in my bracket :))
Perfect Scores (ones in bold have remained perfect throughout the tournament (4-0))
- GM Pavel Eljanov (2723) defeated GM Alexander Ipatov (2622) 2-0
- GM Wesley So (2779) defeated GM Czsaba Balogh (2659) 2-0
- GM Julio Granda Zuniga (2663) defeated Cristobal Henriquez Villagra (2511) 2-0
Most anticipated match ups of the second round:
1. (16) Peter Svidler vs (17) Teimour Radjabov
Peter Svidler is a strong player from Russia who is frequently overlooked when people talk about the best players in the world. As no stranger to this format (or the success it can bring) he won the 2011 iteration of this tournament outright by defeating Alexander Grischuk 2.5-1.5.
Teimour Radjabov burst onto the scene in 1999 when he won the European Under 18 Championship. In 2003 he gained real notoriety by defeating Kasparov, Anand and Ponomariov with the black pieces which made him the first player to have beaten three former and current FIDE champions with black in one year.
Why this match matters: Again we see Peter Svidler playing Teimour Radjabov in the round of 32. These guys must be getting tired of meeting like this. Last year they met in this round with Svidler winning 1.5-0.5 in the classical games. This is also one of the grudge matches of the round as these guys have played 37 games together in my database. Thus far the score is in slightly in favor of Svidler in the classical games. The last time these guys met was in the FIDE Grand Prix Tbilisi where they played to a draw.
Likely outcome: This year I think it’s more difficult to choose a victor. On the one hand you have to like Svidler, but Radjabov is not the same guy as he was in 2013. He’s back in form and has proven that he can once again compete at the top level. I am going to take Radjabov but only because he has “home court” advantage. I look forward to seeing some good chess from these two.
2. (6) Vladimir Kramnik vs (27) Dmitry Andreikin
Vladimir Kramnik is the former world champion and one of the strongest chess players in Russia. In 2007 he was the first player to unify the world championship since Kasparov left FIDE in 1993. Kramnik won the World Cup in 2013.
Dmitry Andreikin is the runner up in the 2013 World Cup, losing only to… you guessed it, Kramnik.
Why this match matters: This is an early rematch of the 2013 World Cup finals. This is a pretty intriguing side story for this years world cup. This is one of the matches I’m most excited about from this round.
Likely outcome: I believe that Kramnik is solid enough to defeat Andreikin in a match. I believe it will go to tiebreaks but eventually Kramnik will overcome. In my bracket I selected Andreikin to win this match but I’ve changed my mind, I believe that Kramnik will win in true Kramnik style. Stylistically I don’t believe this is a great match up for Andreikin. It’s like he’s playing a stronger version of himself.
3. (52) Julio Granda Zuniga vs (20) Radoslaw Wojtaszek
GM Julio Granda Zuniga is back at it! Currently he is the oldest competitor in the field. I’m going to be following him until he is knocked out of the tournament, he’s an intriguing story.
Radoslaw Wojtaszek is the strongest player in Poland. He was the second to Viswanathan Anand in his title defenses as recently as 2014. He recently defeated current world champion Magnus Carlsen in a classical game and seems to be having a good tournament thus far.
Why this match matters: We’ve been following Zuniga thus far and I see no reason to stop. This is going to be a true test and if he can defeat Wojtaszek he’ll put together another incredible run. Wojtaszek still has a lot to prove in my mind. Sure, he’s a strong player but he doesn’t seem to have the great success that you might expect from someone who’s been on the scene as long as he has. This could be the year that he finishes the job and wins a spot in the candidates.
Likely outcome: This is a real tough one for me but I think Wojtaszek is going to eke it out. I think that after it’s all said and done he’s the better player at the moment and will find a way to win.
4. (24) Wei Yi – (56) Alexander Areshchenko
Wei Yi is a young phenom from China. His break out came after the 2013 world cup and he’s responsible for playing one of the best games of the year against Dominguez. He’s a brilliant resourceful player who is on the up and up. Everyone is expecting big things from him and with the elimination of Aronian this could be the year that he makes a run.
Alexander Areshchenko is the former Ukranian champion. I honestly don’t know a ton about him but he managed to defeat Aronian so he must be a special player.
Why this match matters: We’re starting to see some players emerging from the pack. One of those players is the young phenom Wei Yi.
Likely outcome: I believe that with the elimination of Aronian Wei Yi could have a nice road to the championship. Obviously I like his chances in this game but looking ahead should he win he’ll get the winner of Ding Liren and Guseinov. Should he win that game he’ll get paired with Svider, Radjabov, Lu Shanglei or Topalov. I like his chances against the first three but against Topalov he’s going to have a real battle on his hands.
5. (4) Anish Giri – (29) Peter Leko
Peter Leko is one of the strongest Grandmasters from Hungary and has been on the elite level for a long time. Though slipping a bit in recent years he’s still a formidable opponent who can prove dangerous for anyone.
Anish Giri is an elite Grandmaster from the Netherlands. He’s an up and coming young player with a lot to prove and this could be his chance to sneak into the candidates tournament. He’s known for his brilliant play in difficult positions. He defends tenaciously and tends to find resources that are nothing short of magnificent.
Why this match matters: This is a classic match of youth vs experience. Except Anish Giri is plenty experienced. I like these kind of match-ups. It’s the old versus the new.
Likely outcome: I don’t really like the way Giri has been playing. He wasn’t all that convincing but I do think that as the stronger player he’s going to find a way to win. I think he’s just too solid at this point. With Leko you’re never really sure who you’re getting. Are you going to get the Leko of the 1990’s? Or are you going to get the guy that had early exits in the last couple world cups? I think the latter.
Stay tuned folk we’re in for a wild ride. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!