For me the World Cup ended abruptly 10 days ago in R3 against X. Bu, China. My fairly confident 2-0 victory against Dreev in R2 didn’t make any difference. Losing with white, and blundering with 0-0 - where I would normally play Qc7 in a matter of seconds - in a decent position in the second game was pretty miserable. As white I went against my instincts several times. Taking the pawn on e5, and avoiding the forced draw (Qf3) with Nf1 might make sense in a regular tournament but not in a knock-out event. Low on time, and having missed his defense Rf5 (after Qc2+) in a long critical line, I simply collapsed. Pushing my luck has served me well and commanded respect from my competitors in the past, but in the World Cup a more pragmatic approach was called for. Credit to Bu for taking advantage of the chances offered.
Needless to say I hadn’t made any other plans for September. Sometimes you just want to take time off after a disappointing event. An early exit is different. It just made me eager to play another event to try to bounce back, and I’m heading for Isle of Man Thursday! The Open event will be one of the strongest tournaments this year, and it is a welcome chance to play against the elite soon after World Cup.
Surprisingly more than half the elite was knocked out in R2 and R3, while the remaining top players have done very well also from R4 onwards. The semifinals feature Lagrave - Aronian and So – Ding. Many young players - Fedoseev, Rapport and Dubov to mention a few - created upsets, but in the end they all succumbed to the remaining elite players. In the ongoing semifinals the stakes are suddenly very high as the winners are secured a place in the 2018 Candidates.
I’d like to thank the Georgian organizers for staging the World Cup and for providing excellent conditions for me and my team!
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, September 20th, 2017