Carlsen Goes For First World Cup Win

Carlsen Goes For First World Cup Win


Five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen will be gunning for an elusive first World Cup crown next month as a host of big stars miss FIDE’s flagship $2.5 million event, it was confirmed on Monday.

GM Ding Liren, the Norwegian’s successor as world champion, won’t travel to Baku in Azerbaijan to play in the knockout tournament which starts on July 30. Neither will streaming star and new world number two GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Alireza Firouzja, Indian legend GM Viswanathan Anand, and GM Richard Rapport.

The 2023 FIDE World Cup was announced on Monday, missing several stars. Photo: FIDE.

Also missing from the world’s top 20, will be the Armenian-born 2005 and 2017 winner GM Levon Aronian. The 40-year-old, who now represents the U.S., has spoken of his safety concerns about travelling to Baku following years of tension and conflict between his country of birth and the host nation. Aronian has previously said he has been personally affected.

Another absence seemingly because of non-chess related factors is the controversial figure of world number 11 GM Sergey Karjakin, the runner-up from the last event.

Karjakin, who was suspended by FIDE for an ethics violation last year after publicly supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has previously said he refuses to compete in FIDE events under a neutral flag.

Speaking in a video on Telegram, Karjakin said: “It’s my favourite tournament, with a knockout format. I’ve played well there in the past. But in the upcoming tournament I can’t represent my country, play under my flag, and if I successfully perform, I will not hear my country’s national anthem. I am categorically against this. My position doesn’t change and I have voiced it many times.”

Karjakin sparked further criticism online last week when he appeared in a Russian propaganda video playing chess with solders at the front. It led to renewed calls from long-time critic GM Peter Heine Nielsen for him to be banned a second time:

The biennial World Cup is due to run until August 24 and boasts an impressive prize pool claimed by FIDE to be the “single largest amount at any chess event in the world”.

Also at stake are three spots in the next Candidates Tournament—one more than at the previous World Cup. The Candidates is expected to be held in Toronto, Canada, in April 2024 and the winner will earn a tilt at Ding’s world title. FIDE said so far 146 of the 206 participants in the open section have been confirmed, while 73 of the 103 in the Women’s World Cup have been confirmed.

Carlsen—who has never won the World Cup—will be joined by two-time world championship challenger GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, the reigning women’s world champion GM Ju Wenjun and reigning Women’s World Cup winner GM Humpy Koneru. Nepomniachtchi returns having missed the 2021 World Cup to focus on his preparation for the world championship match in Dubai.

GMs Teimour Radjabov, the 2019 winner, and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov will be playing on home turf while tenth seed GM Dommaraju Gukesh heads the pack of up-and-coming young prodigies that includes GMs Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu and Vincent Keymer.

The women’s competition looks particularly strong with, alongside Ju and Humpy, the top five made up of GMs Aleksandra Goryachkina, Kateryna Lagno, and the defending Women’s World Cup Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. They are followed by Tan Zhongyi, Mariya Muzychuk, Harika Dronavalli, Nana Dzagnidze, and Anna Muzychuk.

The highest-rated local player will be 22-year-old Gunay Mammadzada. However, the top-ranked female player and four-time women’s world champion GM Hou Yifan is in semi-retirement and is another missing the event.

The 2021 event took place in Sochi, Russia, and involved 206 players competing for then record prize fund of $1,890,000 and two spots in the 2022 Candidates Tournament. GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda convincingly beat Karjakin in the final having knocked out Carlsen in the semis.

This time, all eyes will be on whether Carlsen can add the World Cup to his incredible trophy cabinet—or miss out yet again on the one crown that has eluded him.


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