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FIDE World Cup: Indian GMs Gukesh, Pragg join Carlsen in lineup

FIDE World Cup Indian GMs Gukesh Pragg join Carlsen in lineup
Photo Credit : IANS

Baku (Azerbaijan): Young Indian Grandmasters Gukesh Dommaraju and Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa and top woman star Koneru Humpy along with World No.1 Magnus Carlsen and reigning Women’s World Classical Champion Ju Wenjen will line-up in a top-class field and for enhanced prize-fund in the FIDE World Cup set to be held here from July 30-August 24, 2023.

The 17-year-old Gukesh is the 10th seed and leads the pack of up-and-coming young prodigies, which includes Nodirbek Abdusattorov (18 years old, 14th in the starting list), Praggnanandhaa (17 years old, 25th seed), and Vincent Keymer (18 years old, 26th).

The knock-out chess extravaganza, held every two years, will celebrate its 10th edition at Baku and will have a combined prize pool boosted to a whopping USD 2.5 million, the single largest amount at any chess event in the world.

In all 146 of the 206 participants in the 2023 Baku World Cup, and 71 of the 103 Women’s World Cup participants, have already been confirmed. The field will be completed between June 15-30, after the conclusion of the Zonal tournaments, and the period that eligible federations have been given to submit their nominations.

FIDE, the sport’s world governing body, on Monday, released the list of the confirmed players.

The list is once again headed by world number one Magnus Carlsen. Despite being a firm supporter of knock-out tournaments, a victory in the World Cup is one of the few titles still missing from Carlsen’s impressive track record, and this is probably a strong incentive for the former World Champion.

Carlsen’s best result so far came in Sochi 2021, where he impressed the fans with some spectacular games, but he was knocked out in the semifinals by Jan-Krzysztof Duda, winner of the event.

The second seed will be no other than the runner-up in the last two World Championship matches and two-time winner of the Candidates Tournament, Ian Nepomniachtchi.

America’s Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Wesley So, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are next on the list, followed by the two local stars Teimur Radjabov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Radjabov won the World Cup in his last participation, Khanty-Mansiysk 2019. With the extra motivation of playing on home turf, he will surely be a serious contender for the title.

The top-seeded in the Women’s World Cup will be India’s Koneru Humpy. Despite having lost some rating points during the past year, Humoy is still the number two player in the world rankings, only behind the semi-retired Hou Yifan, and just one point ahead of the reigning World Champion, Ju Wenjun.

The participation of Ju Wenjun in the Women’s World Cup will be one of the highlights of the competition. It wasn’t clear if she would accept the challenge, as she will be defending her title in the weeks before the World Cup, from July 5-25, against her countrywomen Lei Tingjie.

It remains to be seen if Ju will arrive in Baku as the reigning World Champion, or right after being dethroned, but either way and despite the foreseeable tiredness after the match, she will surely be one of the main contenders for the victory.

Aleksandra Goryachkina, Kateryna Lagno, and the defending Women’s World Cup Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk complete the top-5 seeds for the event. They will be 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.

The World Cup is one of FIDE’s flagship competitions, and in recent editions, it has clearly become one of the most followed events in the chess calendar.

With 206 players in the open section, plus 103 in the Women’s competition, this event has seen its combined prize pool boosted to a whopping USD 2.5 million, the single largest amount at any chess event in the world.

For many players, the World Cup is also the first and only opportunity to enter the race for the World Championship crown, since the three top finishers in the event will advance to the next stage: the super-exclusive Candidates Tournament.

This means one more spot than in the previous edition, Sochi 2021, where only the finalists qualified — in Baku, the winner of the match for 3rd/4th place will also get the coveted invitation for the Candidates, which adds some extra excitement to this already thrilling competition.

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