Added on 9/16/2019

The World Cup is the strongest knockout tournament of the year. 128 of the best players in the world gathered in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, from 9 September to 4 October, to fight in mini-matches that will eventually decide the winner. Each match lasts 2 days - with one 90 30 game per day - plus a playoff day if needed.  This is the format:

The tournament is a 7-round knock-out event. The matches from round 1 to round 6 consist of two classical games with time control of 90 minutes per 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with an increment of 30 seconds per move. The finals and the match for the third place consist of four classical games.

If the score is tied after the classical games, rapid and, if necessary, blitz tie breaks are played the next day. Two games are played with time control of 25 minutes per game plus 10 seconds increment. In the case of a tie, they are followed by two games with time control of 10 minutes per game plus 10 seconds increment. If the score is still tied, two blitz games follow (5 minutes plus 3 seconds increment). If the score is tied 4-4 after all these games, a single "Armageddon" game is played: the player who wins the drawing of lots may choose the color; White has 5 minutes per game and Black has 4 minutes, with an increment of 2 seconds per move starting from move 61; and White needs a win to advance to the next round, Black advances if they win or the game is drawn.

The two top finishers qualify for the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The rules, in fact, specified that it would be the top two finishers other than Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, because Carlsen as World Champion does not play in the Candidates, and Caruana had already qualified for the Candidates. The rule was introduced since the World Champion and the previous challenger unexpectedly signed up for the previous edition Chess World Cup 2017. But this time, Carlsen and Caruana both declined their invitations to the World Cup, so the qualifiers are simply the two finalists.

The importance of this event is highlighted by a respectable prize found: 1.6 Million USD. The first two rounds are in the books, and so far the American squad is doing pretty well. The local hero so far is Jeffery Xiong. In the first round, Jeffery dispatches Igor Lysyj with some well-timed tactics in the endgame. Jeffery won the second game for good measure but was taken into tiebreaks in round two by young Iranian star Tabatabaei. Jeffery scored in the first game, removing almost every opposition pawn before coaxing resignation. Then he confidently finished things off in the second game. Xiong will next take on Anish Giri, who won in the Armageddon stage against Evgeny Najer. Lenier Dominguez also won his first match 2-0 over Escobar from Colombia, and then was also extended into tiebreaks. Wesley So won both of his matches pretty handily, against Duran from Costa Rica and Demchenko. The other three have now been eliminated. Sam Shankland lost a long playoff to Eltaj Safarli. Sam Sevian made it past Aryan Tari but succumbed to Sergey Karjakin in the second round. Hikaru Nakamura coasted into tiebreaks in his first match and defeated 21-year-old Algerian GM Bilal Bellahcene, but found immediate disaster in the second match... not at the hands of a young star, but veteran grandmaster L.D. Nisipeanu.

Watch GM Joel's video recap of the first two rounds!

You can download the annotated games in PGN format HERE As it was to be expected, in round 3 there are already matches between countrymen, given the number of Chinese and Russian players participating in the event. Pairing for Round 3:

Round 3 proved to be rough for some of the top guys. Anish Giri, seeded #2, was eliminated by young American GM Jeffery Xiong in the playoffs. Giri had the upper hand since the players got out of the opening - A Reti - but Xiong tried his crazy attack, concentrating all his forces around white's king. Checked with an engine, it's clear that the attack, although quite scary, was not leading the young American to victory, but Giri missed a simple tactic and blundered at move 25. Jeffery was able to keep his nerves and went on to win the 10 10 game, eliminating the strong Dutch GM. A great tournament so far for Xiong!



Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had to resort to his prowess at Blitz to tame is though opponent, the Russia Jakovenko.

Tomorrow is a rest day. Play resumes September 20, at 6 AM EST. Here are the pairings for the round of 16 (round 4):

ICC is relaying the games LIVE and will have GM Alex Yermolinsky commentate on round 4, on 20-21-22 September, starting at 8 AM EDT.

Rond 4 first two games (classical Time Control) have already given us some important results: Svidler is out, having lost Game 1 and drawn Game 2 against Vachier-Lagrave; After an apparently easy tournament so far, Wesley So was eliminated by Nikita Vitiugov; Yu Yangyi won Game 2 and eliminated Ian Nepomniachtchi; Jeffery Xiong, who lost Game 1, played a model game in Game 2 to equalize against the strong Duda. Dominguez did the same against Grischuk, forcing the strong Russian into the playoffs. Tomorrow, September the 22nd, starting at 6 AM GM Alex Yermolinsky will be LIVE on ICCTV to commentate on the following matches (Round 4, Playoffs):

Xiong vs. Duda Dominguez vs. Grischuk Aronian vs. Le Quang Radjabov vs. Mamedyarov Ding vs. Alkseenko

Here are the videos of the LIVE commentary by GM Alex Yermolinsky for the 2 "Classical" Games of round 4:

Round 4 - Game 1

Round 4 - Game 2

Round 4 is over, and we know the names of the 8 players who will dispute the 1/4 finals.

Here are the pairings for Round 5: GM Joel Benjamin dedicated again all his Weekly Recap to the World Cup! Here are his comments, and the fantastic video with analysis and stories about the KO tournament. Is the 2019 World Cup the best tournament ever? Four rounds are in the books, and one American hero still remains. But let's review the third round first, where superior endgame technique made the difference in several matches. Wesley So squeezed out a tough rook endgame against Vidit to take the match in two games. Lenier Dominguez survived two elimination games against Wang Hao in a match dominated by the White pieces, then finally won an extremely drawish rook endgame to advance to the fourth round. Meanwhile, Ding Liren took advantage of his experience to eliminate the Firouzja. The young Iranian star had been very impressive in the World Cup, but he didn't know the principles of an important theoretical endgame and lost the match for it. Meanwhile, Jeffery Xiong continued his run by taking down Anish Giri in the sixth match game when a tired Giri, who had survived the longest match of round two, could not find a proper defense. Round four started disastrously for the three remaining Americans. Wesley So, who had not trailed to this point, lost the first game to Vitiugov. When Wesley could not generate chances in the second game, Vitiugov had his second straight upset after vanquishing Karjakin in round 3. Jeffery Xiong lost to JK Duda, and Dominguez found himself on the precipice after he failed to find the right endgame defense against Grischuk. All credit to Dominguez, he created chances in the second game, and when Grischuk burned a lot of time and went wrong, he sent the match into overtime. Grischuk has been death to Americans in the Catalan, and Dominguez's return to the opening of game one proved unsuccessful again when his bid for freedom failed tactically. Xiong was able to strike back in the second game, and the match followed the pattern of many others in the last two rounds, with White winning almost every game. Jeffery took the lead in game three, another rook ending where the defense didn't get it done under pressure. But Duda stormed back with the psychological gambit 1.a3!? taking the game into non-theoretical channels. Jeffery missed his chances in game five and again faced elimination. But Jeffery squared things again and finally took the match in game eight - in blitz chess.

You can download GM Joel's annotated games HERE.

Jeffery Xiong won the second 10 10 "fast Rapid" game against Duda, to keep on with his fabulous performance.

Here is an interview with Jeffery right after the thrilling playoff.

The 18-year-old American GM - who plays daily on ICC - is living the dream, playing strong and with a creativity that makes his fellow countrymen hope for a new chess leader in the making. Leinier Dominguez lost the playoff to Grischuk. ICC had GM Alex Yermolinsky commentate LIVE on the games. Watch and enjoy Alex's commentary!  

Round 5 proved to be fatal for the young American wonder Jeffery Xiong. Jeffery lost to Teimour Radjabov, in the classical games (1.5-1/2). Ding Liren, who seems to be the favorite at this point, eliminated Grischuk, who looked in good form in the previous rounds. The match that kept the fans glued to their screen was Vitiugov vs. Yu Yangyi. They wen all the way to Armageddon, which was a fantastic game. In such an important and fast game it was the nerves more than the technique, and the 25-year-old  Chinese star was the one to prevail. Here is the game:


And here is Yu interviewed after the battle with Nikita: The super-strong French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave got through to the semifinals at the expenses of another giant of the board: Levon Aronian. Aronian, who recently showed his prowess at Rapid play, could not oppose an efficient defense against the Transalpine chess genius.  Here is Round 5 results and the pairings for the semifinals:

In the first semifinal, we will witness a fratricide battle, which confirms once again how China has become one of the powerhouses in Chess. Games start at 6 AM EDT, 12 noon Europe.

It'll be Radjabov vs. Ding! Radjabov defeated the favorite Vachier-Lagrave, winning the second Classic game:  

The Frenchman found himself in trouble right out of the opening, and could not recover. Here is Radjabov's interview after the victorious game 

Ding needed four games to defeat his fellow countryman Yu Yangyi, who played the tournament of his life. The second playoff Rapid game proved to be fatal for the less-known Chinese master:  

Here's ding's interview after the match with Yu:  

The Chinese super-GM, seeded #1, is the great favorite to bring home the title and the $110,000 prize, but having seen a lot of "favorites" fall one after another, who knows what the final four classic games will bring us? Both Ding and Radjabov qualify for the Candidates' tournament, which will be played at the beginning of 2020. Ding was already qualified in virtue of his average rating during the year, and this will favor Anish Giri, who will play the Candidates' thanks to his rating. Tomorrow is a rest day. Play resumes on Monday, September the 30th, at 6 AM EDT - 12 Noon Europe.

And the winner is...

Teimour Radjabov! In a thrilling playoff Teimour, who's been out of the podium of important events for a decade or so, takes home the World Cup 2019, and the $110,000 money prize. "Never underestimate the underdog!". Ding and Radjabov had to resort to the Blitz playoffs after all their previous games were drawn. With time control 5+3, Radjabov didn't let any chance to Ding. He won both games, to win the Cup. Here is an exhausted Teimour Radjabov right after his triumph: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave regulated the other Chinese GM - Yu Yangyi - winning both the Rapid games of the first phase of the playoff. MVL looked invincible, playing aggressive and rather precise chess.