World Cup 2017 Round 1

| Chess
| Tblisi, Georgia

The 2017 FIDE World Cup takes place in Tblisi. As a first time visitor to Tblisi and Georgia (although we visited the Russian/Georgian border while in Sochi), I’m pleasantly surprised in several ways so. Nine hours traveling time from door to door is much the same as any European destination, and the hotel Hualing where we are both staying and playing, is good. Courtesy of the organizer my team (coach Peter, chef Magnus F and my dad Henrik) and I were invited to the football match Georgia-Irland last Saturday after the spectacular opening ceremony in the Funicular complex in the hills above Tblisi. Especially the first half of Georgia-Irland was great fun.

I haven’t played the semi-annual World Cup since 2007, and it is great to be back. I love the format and among the 128 players, you find all top15 ranked players in the world, and most top50 players. It must be the strongest event in history judged by the combined strength and breadth of the participants.

As the top ranked player I faced no 128 B.Oluwafemi in Round 1. In certain areas he was much better than his rating, and he handled the positional maneuvering very well until the first time control in both games. Evevtually he made mistakes, and I got a smooth 2-0 start and a rest day today. All top 10 ranked players advanced without playoff, and today my compatriot Aryan Tari fought well to survive a difficult 2nd rapid game playoff, and later decisively beat higher rated D.Howell in the 2nd Blitz playoff game. Two Norwegians ready for round 2 tomorrow! I’ll play black against A.Dreev, Russia.

A few words about the final stage of Sinquefield Cup finishing three weeks ago: Trailing Anand, Aronian, and Vachier-Lagrave by half a point before the last round, I did my part beating Aronian with white in a complicated fight. I managed to repell his initial assault after which I gained a pawn and what I thought was an easily winning position. However, he managed to drum up some serious counterplay against my king, but luckily I managed to prevail after an unnecessarily exciting time scramble.

Anand seemed happy with a draw, while Lagrave gradually outplayed Nepomniachtchi to take sole first. When I couldn’t win myself, I was happy to see Lagrave clinch it, and I think most participants felt the same way. Congratulations! Anand and I shared second and Aronian and Karjakin fourth. As usual the Sinquefield Cup was well organized. Thank you!

In the Grand Chess Tour 2017 I’m still in the lead with one event left, three points ahead of Lagrave. Aronian won the Sinquefield Rapid and Blitz two weeks ago and still has an outside chance in the Tour, trailing me by 9 points and Lagrave by 6.