Eljanov Leaves Nakamura in his (Pixie) Dust

by admin on September 24, 2015

Last time I wrote that the problem with Cinderella is always what happens when the pixie dust wears off. In round five of the 2015 FIDE World Cup, the answer was emphatically, “Don’t worry about it.” The #26 seed, Pavel Eljanov, claimed #2 Hikaru Nakamura as his latest victim and moved on to the Final Four. At this point I don’t know if it is pixie dust or just good solid chess by Eljanov. Maybe some of both.

Also, #4 Anish Giri defeated #21 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave today and also moved on to the Final Four, where he will be the only player who was “supposed” to be there. The other two matches, Svidler-Wei and Mamedyarov-Karjakin, are tied 1-1 and headed to playoffs tomorrow.

You might wonder if there have been an unusually large number of upsets in this year’s World Cup. The answer is, not really. The lowest seed ever to reach the Final Four was Evgeny Tomashevsky, who made it as the #32 seed in 2013. That year the Final Four roster was just as unlikely as this year’s will be, and maybe even more so, as the Final Four was made up of the 3, 21, 23, and 31 seeds. Other years have been more “by the book,” but no World Cup has seen all four of the top seeds make it to the Final Four.

2013: 3, 21, 23, 31. (Winner: 3)

2011: 2, 4, 6, 9. (Winner: 9)

2009: 1,  7, 12, 22. (Winner: 1)

2007: 5, 10, 11, 17. (Winner: 11)

2005: 2, 3, 4, 9. (Winner: 3)

If Eljanov wins his next match and makes it to the championship round, he will be the lowest seed ever to do so. For all four remaining players, the semifinal round is in some ways the most important, because the final two receive berths in the next World Championship Candidates tournament. I would say that Eljanov definitely has the most at stake, because for him this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He is unlikely ever to qualify for the Candidates tournament by rating or by any other means. Karjakin, Mamedyarov, and Svidler have already been there. Wei and Giri have not, but they are both so young and have such promising talent that it’s likely they will get an opportunity in the future even if they don’t make it this time.

And what about Nakamura? He’s shown a terrific ability to amass a high rating, but in the most important events he seems to come up a little bit short. He will go to the Candidates tournament anyway because of his rating, but I think that the chess world and I still wonder whether he really has what it takes to compete for the world championship. It’s sad that his most memorable moment from this year’s World Cup will probably be when he castled with two hands against Ian Nepomniachtchi.

(For readers who haven’t heard this silly saga, using both hands to castle is normal practice when you’re hustling for money out on the street — but it’s not allowed in international tournament chess. Nepomniachtchi filed a protest, which was about the equivalent of the National Football League’s Deflategate “scandal” — a protest over a ticky-tacky rules violation that had no influence on the outcome of the game. The protest was denied because you have to claim your opponent’s rules violation before you make your next move, not after the game is over. In all likelihood Nepomniachtchi wasn’t even aware of it during the game and only appealed later because his coaches or friends looked at the videotape and told him to.)

Print Friendly

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

RG September 24, 2015 at 4:53 pm

>And what about Nakamura? He’s shown a terrific ability to amass a high rating, but in the most important events he seems to come up a little bit short. He will go to the Candidates tournament anyway because of his rating

It’s not clear that Nakamura would qualify for the Candidates based on rating (it’s the average rating from January to December 2015). However, he’s qualified already because of his Grand Prix performance.

Reply

Kassy September 25, 2015 at 6:20 am

Nakamura will actually make it by finishing in the top 2 in the Grand Prix series which seems to be a pretty important series of events that he didn’t come up short in.
He would also make it based on rating but he doesn’t need to.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: