World Chess Cup 2015

Even though the FIDE calendar is full to the brim every year with chess events, ranging from the Grand Prix to the Candidates Tournament, nothing creates quite the same level of atmosphere as the Chess World Cup. 2015's tournament is already upon us, and its 128 players are battling it out in the tournament's single-elimination format which tests the candidates' rapid-format skills to their limits, as well as their proficiency in Blitz and Armageddon-format games. Taking place this year in Baku, Azerbaijan, the World Chess Cup 2015 is one of the most exciting events of the year, and for this reason is the subject of this feature on the Chess World Cup 2015.

World Cup 2015 Format

Firstly, let's look at the structure of the matches themselves. This is a single-elimination event(loser of each stage of the tournament is eliminated immediately as a candidate for the final/winning position) where each match (apart from the final) is comprised of an initial two games. Some fairly standard stipulations apply here, such as a time limit for the first 40 moves (90 minutes) that decreases thereafter to 30 minutes, whilst also remembering the additional 30-seconds-per-move time added.

It is inevitable that in many rounds there will be a tie, at which point the deciding matches will take place the day after. These tie matches are where the tournament gets particularly interesting since the introduction of rapid, blitz, and armageddon-format games serves to test each player's skill to their upper limits. If the game is tied after the two initial matches, two rapid games of 25 mins + 10 sec increment are played. A tie after these rapid games triggers two further rapid games of 10 min and 10 sec increments. A tie in the score after these rapid games triggers two blitz games (5 min + 3 sec), and following a tie in the blitz games, a single armageddon game commences.

Prize Fund

Being the world-class event that it is, the 2015 World Cup carries with it a substantial prize fund when compared with other chess tournaments that take place throughout the year which have substantially less or even no prize money at all (take the English Chess Federation Grand Prix, for example). The total prize fund for this year's tournament stands at $1.6 million. This is split between each round, with players receiving a larger share of each round's fund allocation up to round 6. Though Round 1 carries with it a prize fund of $384, 000, this is split between 64 players, with $6,000 going to each player. Compare this with Round 6 where there is a prize fund of $100,000 divided between two players.

The prize for the losing finalist of the tournament is $80,000. The winner of the tournament will take home the $120,000 top prize.

Key Players

Though in an ideal world there would be equal coverage for all players in the tournament, the nature of competition in general dictates that some players will receive more attention than others. Also note the absence of current world number one Magnus Carlsen as well as Anand, who has already qualified for the 2016 Candidated Tournament.

In the World Cup 2015, the spotlight has inevitably fallen on the world's top players according to the FIDE ratings. Bulgarian Veselin Topalov was the highest-ranked player going into the tournament, followed closely by titans such as Hikaru Nakamura, Fabio Caruana, Anish Giri, Wesley So, and Vladimir Kramnik.

At the time of writing, Topalov breezed into the second round with a 2-0 victory over opponent Oladapo Adu. Wesley So also achieved the same score to beat Parham Maghsoodloo, as did Caruana to beat Amir Zaibi, Kramnik to beat Deysi Cori, and Nakamura to beat Richmond Phiri.