World Cup Recap: Round 3

The third round of the World Cup again saw relatively few upsets; this tournament so far has been an impressive showing by the top players. We did lose two of our top eight seeds, with Grischuk being eliminated yesterday in the classical games and Kramnik knocked out today in tie breaks. However the top five seeds remain intact, and deeper down the seeding lists we see that everyone seeded lower than 27th has now been eliminated. There are no longer any huge Cinderella stories to follow as we enter the fourth round, all 16 remaining players are strong contenders, with the lowest rated player in the field (Svidler) still boasting a strong 2726 rating, making him the 28th highest rated player in the world by current live ratings.

So we aren’t going to see a crazy run from a 2600 or below player. Lu Shanglei was our last hope for a sub-2700 player to continue on, but he lost to Topalov in the first pair of tie breaks today. Instead we’re going to see eight very competitive matches in round four, since the best and worst remaining players (by rating) are separated by just 85 rating points. Upsets would be minor at this point, meaning no remaining player is safe.

The seven players eliminated today had a combined 19.3% chance of reaching the finals (almost half of that equity belonging to Kramnik – the others were all long shots to various degrees), so the remaining players saw their own odds increase by that amount in net. With only 23 players left entering today, and all but three of them seeing their odds change by at least half a percentage point (even players who didn’t play today) as every matchup has significant ramifications through the whole bracket at this point, we will show you the impact today’s results had on everyone:

Seed Player Rating New Odds of Reaching Finals Change
2  Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2810.6 32.5% 7.7%
21  Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) 2762.2 8.9% 3.2%
1  Veselin Topalov (BUL) 2809.9 30.4% 3.2%
5  Wesley So (USA) 2767.5 10.7% 2.8%
27  Dmitry Andreikin (RUS) 2727.8 4.1% 2.6%
15  Michael Adams (ENG) 2739.6 5.2% 1.8%
11  Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2766.6 13.4% 1.7%
16  Peter Svidler (RUS) 2726.0 3.0% 1.2%
3  Fabiano Caruana (USA) 2798.7 26.1% 0.3%
19  Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) 2737.2 4.9% 0.2%
97  Lu Shanglei (CHN) 2620.2 0.0% 0.0%
24  Wei Yi (CHN) 2735.8 4.2% -0.5%
20  Radoslaw Wojtaszek (POL) 2740.5 4.7% -0.6%
10  Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS) 2743.0 6.9% -0.7%
26  Pavel Eljanov (UKR) 2743.0 6.9% -0.7%
37  Le Quang Liem (VIE) 2702.6 0.0% -0.7%
34  Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS) 2705.6 0.0% -0.9%
8  Ding Liren (CHN) 2782.0 16.4% -1.3%
4  Anish Giri (NED) 2793.5 21.6% -1.6%
17  Teimour Radjabov (AZE) 2730.6 0.0% -2.3%
18  Leinier Dominguez Perez (CUB) 2729.8 0.0% -2.4%
12  Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS) 2747.8 0.0% -3.5%
6  Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) 2779.2 0.0% -9.3%

We have shown players eliminated in today’s tie break festivities with their names crossed off. They mostly were the day’s biggest losers, although in a few cases (particularly Lu) their odds of reaching the finals were so low already that today’s elimination cost them less ultimate equity in a Candidates Tournament berth than was lost by some players still in the running. It was slightly bad news for Ding and Giri, for example, that Topalov and Nakamura both advanced. And since Ding and Giri both have substantial chances of actually reaching the finals, their odds dropped further (in absolute terms of percentage points) than bigger underdogs like Lu, Le, or Nepomniachtchi.

So what are our fourth round matchups?

Favorite Rating Quarterfinal Odds Underdog Rating
1.  Veselin Topalov (BUL) 2809.9 75.4% 16.  Peter Svidler (RUS) 2726.0
2.  Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2810.6 72.5% 15.  Michael Adams (ENG) 2739.6
3.  Fabiano Caruana (USA) 2798.7 70.3% 19.  Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) 2737.2
4.  Anish Giri (NED) 2793.5 67.9% 20.  Radoslaw Wojtaszek (POL) 2740.5
8.  Ding Liren (CHN) 2782.0 66.0% 24.  Wei Yi (CHN) 2735.8
11.  Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2766.6 63.9% 27.  Dmitry Andreikin (RUS) 2727.8
5.  Wesley So (USA) 2767.5 52.2% 21.  Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) 2762.2
10.  Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS) 2743.0 50.0% 26.  Pavel Eljanov (UKR) 2743.0

As we said, the rating gaps have shrunk dramatically. Nobody is better than a 3:1 favorite, and our 10 vs. 26 match is actually a perfectly dead even draw. We may not have had as many upsets as those who prefer early round craziness would have wanted, but the upside is we should see some tremendous chess in the final rounds. Everyone left in the field has at least a 3% chance of advancing to the finals.

What about some of the other side stories? We’ve been following Kramnik and Grischuk’s live ratings closely, and yesterday we saw Kramnik pass Grischuk for the projected third place in the average ratings for 2015. Now Kramnik has been eliminated in rapid tie breaks (which didn’t hurt his rating) so he remains ahead in that hunt, and we now know that neither player will see further rating swings in this event. The chase isn’t over though, both will participate in the European Club Cup at the end of October, and the projected ratings are close enough that even a tiny ratings swing for either player could shift the scenario. Of course by then the World Cup will be over, and we will know whether those ratings matter. This is just the race for third place, after all, so it’s only relevant if Topalov or Giri reaches the World Cup finals. Both Kramnik and Grischuk fans should be rooting for Topalov and Giri (although Kramnik fans might find the former challenging). Right now we project a 52% chance of one of those winning their half of the bracket. If this happens it will make every game at the European Club Cup fascinating from a ratings perspective. The other 48% of the time, ratings stop mattering at all.

There’s a similar situation on the other side of the bracket. Caruana and Nakamura finished 1-2 in the Grand Prix and have already punched tickets to the Candidates Tournament. However if one of them reaches the final here and earns a berth this way instead (World Cup takes precedence) then Jakovenko would be in. Not only that, but Jakovenko himself is also still alive in the same side of the bracket, so if any of those three players reach the final (a combined 65.5% chance) then Jakovenko achieves a spot in the Candidates. It’s nice to be a 2-1 favorite for such a spot, and it helps him that Grischuk and Kramnik were both eliminated from the same half of the bracket making all three of their paths easier, but Karjakin is still a significant threat. His best bet would be to start by winning his own toss-up match against Eljanov and letting the rest sort itself out. Because winning is better than losing – we give extremely valuable advice here!


8 thoughts on “World Cup Recap: Round 3

  1. Jakovenko could have an interesting problem though in the quarterfinals if it looks like Karjakin is winning against Caruana. Then it might be better for his odds to lose against Nakamura.


    • I had not considered that possibility. I think that if Jakovenko, Caruana, Karjakin, and Nakamura all win in round 4, and then Karjakin beats Caruana in the first game of the quarterfinals, Jakovenko’s odds of reaching the Candidates Tournament would almost certainly benefit from finding a way to lose to Nakamura.

      There are a lot of “ifs” in that scenario though, and we’re not too likely to see it. Interesting nevertheless, thanks for the comment!


    • Not dissimilar to the scenarios that were generated in the grand prix series where is was a legitimate question whether Grischuk should lose on purpose to help his own chances according to different combinations of results with the other players during the late rounds.


    • I remember before the last round at Khanty Grand Prix, Jako asked Naka’s assurance that Naka will join the World Cup. When Naka answered affirmatively, Jako decided to play safely, draw his game with Naka, and consequently placed third in the overall Grand Prix standings.

      However, even assuming that the two meet in the Quarterfinals, I reckon that Jako prefers to carve his own place in the World Cup rather than rely his chances on Naka.


  2. The Round of 32’s minor upsets went thru as predicted against Grischuk, Kramnik, Radjabov and Toma.

    I reckon the Round of 16 will be much smoother. As I’ve been saying always, expect the Top 4 seeds (Topa, Naka, Fabi and Giri) to make it thru to the next round. I also expect Karjakin to do the same. This group of six (add Wesley) will likely produce the Cup champion!

    The fastastic run of Wei Yi will probably end here. Thu’ both have faced and defeated each other in previous tournaments, I reckon that Ding now know the chinks in Wei’s armour and won’t be complacent to his fellow Chinese.

    I am a big Wesley fan but setting aside this bias, Wesley has awaken from his SInquefield debacle and is hugely motivated to silence the guns of MVL and make a dent in World Cup history. He has not passed this round in all his 4 attempts but since he’s improved a lot, it will now change.

    The last match-ups is fairly balanced. It’s a toss-up and can go either way for Jako or Eljanov, but the latter’s perfect run (8-0) won’t remain perfect after this round.


    • I don’t think motivation is a question here. Anyone who has gotten to Round 4 of the World Cup has legitimate chances to win, and all of them will be motivated to do so. So’s not the only one who wants to “make a dent in World Cup history”. As an American, I’m favoring So over MVL, but objectively speaking I somewhat doubt his chances.


      • If you mean winning the Cup, I agree that Wesley is a long shot. However, on just this Rd 4 where Wesley has not passed in all his previous 4 attempts, my gut feel says he can do it this time. AFAIK his one-on-one record with MVL are all dead draws save for Sinquefield 2015.

        Again I may be wrong on Wesley (or any of the abovementioned), so let’s wait and see. I always love to intuitively guess top chess tournaments.


    • One note on word choice: while common enough in the English language, I would suggest that the idiom “chinks in the armor” should probably not be used when discussing Chinese players, as it could easily be misconstrued as intentionally insensitive…

      As for Ding vs. Wei, they’ve played three times so far this year, with one win each and one draw. They also played twice in 2014, both draws. Ding did score 1.5/2 against Wei in 2013, but going back to when Wei was 14 years old and rated under 2600 in order to identify a “plus lifetime score” for Ding seems like poor analysis. Also even further back in 2012, when Wei was rated just 2371, he drew Ding (then 2660) in their only game of the year.

      In other words their history shows Wei has played Ding close to equally throughout his career, despite having a healthy ratings disadvantage for most of those matchups. Now they face each other for two more classical games, and the ratings are closer than they’ve been. Certainly I consider Ding the favorite, but I think Wei has good chances.


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