World Cup Day 2 Recap

by admin on September 12, 2015

The second day of the World Cup was a pretty bad day for the Americans and a pretty good day for favorites. The top six seeds all advanced to the second round, so the highest-seeded player who has not yet punched his ticket to round two is #7 Alexander Grischuk, who has played two draws against the little-known #122 seed, Yusup Atabayev. I do not see an upset in the making there; I think it’s just Grischuk being Grischuk.

Of the nine Americans, four have won their matches (#2 Hikaru Nakamura, #3 Fabiano Caruana, #5 Wesley So, #63 Sam Shankland). For Nakamura, Caruana and So this round was pretty much a warmup; they all dominated their opponents 2-0. For Shankland, on the other hand, this was a really promising start, because his match against #66 Ivan Popov was a toss-up.

Alas, Shankland’s reward is to play against his own countryman, Hikaru Nakamura, next round. This may be a World Cup first — an American playing against an American!

Three of the American players went down to defeat today: Gata Kamsky, Ray Robson, and Varuzhan Akobian. To make it worse, Kamsky and Robson were not expected to lose in this round.

That leaves two Americans who are going to have playoffs tomorrow. One of them is Samuel Sevian, who drew his second game in a row against #17 Teimour Radjabov. This one did not go all the way to a stalemate; somebody must have offered a draw. It’s admittedly still a longshot to hope for a Sevian victory, but as I wrote yesterday, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Sevian is very unflappable, and he won’t beat himself. Radjabov will have to do something to beat him. Finally, Alexander Onischuk has drawn both of his games against #75 Andrei Volokitin. Onischuk (#54) is the higher seed but is not a huge favorite. It could go either way.

Now for the upset watch. The two biggest upset winners of Day 1 failed to clinch their matches on Day 2. Federico Perez Ponsa, the #111 seed, lost a true heartbreaker against Leinier Dominguez to even their match at 1-1. Perez Ponsa was in no danger of losing for almost a hundred moves, but in an utterly dead-drawn endgame he succumbed to the pressure and made some bad decisions. What he had to do was just sit and do nothing, but that is the hardest thing to do when you are playing with the 30-second time increment and your opponent can torture you for 100, 150, or 200 moves. Also, the other big surprise of Day 1, #97 Lu Shanglei, got absolutely destroyed by Alexander Moiseenko to tie their match at 1-1.

The players who actually succeeded in winning their matches against a higher seed were:

#90 Alexander Ipatov over #39 Ivan Cheparinov

#88 Yuri Vovk over #41 Ray Robson

#82 Hrant Melkumyan over #47 Gata Kamsky

#78 S. P. Sethuraman over #51 Sanan Sjugirov

#74 Bassem Amin over #55 Ivan Saric

#67 Rauf Mamedov over #62 Evgeniy Najer (this is barely an upset).

As for my pre-tournament predictions, because I didn’t actually make predictions for round one nothing too good or too bad has happened yet. Dominguez’s comeback to tie his match against Perez Ponsa was a huge relief, because I picked Dominguez to make the Final Four. However, it still can’t be a good omen that he is struggling so mightily against a hundred and eleventh seed. I was glad to see Ipatov advance, because I had picked him as an upset winner in round two (which would only be possible if he won round one as well!). Two of my picks for the final 32 have now been eliminated, both of them Americans — Robson and Kamsky. So I was a little bit too patriotic. All of my picks for the top 16, 8, 4, etc. are still alive.

Tomorrow should be fun to watch but nerve-racking for the players, as it’s the day of the playoffs to resolve the matches that were tied 1-1. We’ll see rapid chess, blitz chess, and finally Armageddon if necessary. Mistakes will be made. Drama will happen. The dull-as-dishwater commentators, Sutovsky and Miroshnichenko, may actually break their monotone. (What happened to Lawrence Trent and Susan Polgar? Weren’t they available?) Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan September 14, 2015 at 10:23 am

I am in Baku. So is Lawrence. We were not asked to do it 🙂 I am here as Coach of 3 players, and Lawrence is here as Manager of Fabiano.

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Susan September 14, 2015 at 10:25 am

And BTW, here is the link to lots of pictures. Feel free to use it if you wish https://picasaweb.google.com/116302832360230031699/BakuWorldCup2015

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