Nepomniachtchi and Caruana off to winning starts in the FIDE Candidates 2022

FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2022 (1)

Nepomniachtchi and Caruana off to winning starts in the FIDE Candidates 2022

Caruana won a hard battle against Nakamura in Round 1. Photo © |

The FIDE Candidates got under way in Madrid on June 17th. The winner of the tournament will earn the right to fight for the World Chess Championship in early 2023. Current World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen has called into question whether he can find the motivation to defend his title again, and while many find this rather difficult to believe (in the same way we don’t believe the boxer Tyson Fury has retired) it’s nevertheless been confirmed by some of Carlsen’s seconds that they understood his defence against Nepomniachtchi could easily be his last and I’m starting to believe that Carlsen has already decided to retire from World Championship play. If so Carlsen will be replaced by the second placed finisher in Madrid.

The first round saw an extremely important win for Ian Nepomniachtchi against Ding Liren. In an English Ding didn’t react correctly in several places to Nepomniachtchi’s active play and was convincingly beaten at the end. Fabiano Caruana won the second game to finish against Hikaru Nakamura, this seemed a very well contested game between the two Americans where Caruana outplayed his opponent rather than there being any really serious errors. Teimour Radjabov drew against Alireza Firouzja in a lively tactical game where he got a bit of something before a drawn endgame was reached. Jan-Krzysztof Duda really should have beaten Richard Rapport after shocking him at the opening and getting a near winning position after just a few moves, then he allowed the position to become equal, then a few moves later he was winning for a move again before equality and a long draw resulted after 6 hours play in the final game to finish.

Round 1 Standings: 1st Caruana 1pt, 1st Nepomniachtchi 1pt, 3rd Duda 0.5pt, 3rd Radjabov 0.5pt, 3rd Firouzja 0.5pt, 3rd Rapport 0.5pt, 7th Ding Liren 0pt, 7th Nakamura 0pt/

Round 2 Pairings: Rapport-Firouzja, Nakamura-Radjabov, Nepomniachtchi-Caruana, Duda-Ding Liren.

Round 1 Summary

In the first round it was the winner of the last Candidates tournament, Ian Nepomniachtchi, who took the earliest of leads by beating Ding Liren. Ding played an interesting line of the English, but one which he’d already played in the Charity Chess Cup as part of the online Champions Chess Tour on Chess24. Nepomniachtchi offered a pawn, Ding turned it down and played the extremely committal 14.h4 which looks in retrospect to have very little upside. After that the computer suggests that a series of less than best moves were played by both sides but especially from Ding. Nepomniachtchi had the chance to play 21…g5 which was winning for him, 22.Rad1 would have given Ding equal chances instead 22.Qd2?! followed by 23.Kh2? left him with a very bad position and little resistance followed.

Fabiano Caruana, the winner of the Candidates in 2018, won his first round game against fellow countryman Hikaru Nakamura. Nakamura predictably played the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez as black, he believes in his solid defences even if it makes him a bit of a sitting target. 8.Nb3 from Caruana was an attempt to give the game a twist and after 9…Rb8N the players were on new territory. Nakamura got very active by pushing his kingside pawns and by move 17 he was equal but in a very sharp position with chances for both sides. Really Nakamura didn’t make any really serious errors after this but instead just drifted into trouble. Maybe 2…0-0 gave Caruana a long term target and again 24…d5 was perhaps not the best without in any way being a losing idea but Nakamura’s position just got difficult and lost 29…Re8?! and 32…Bc6? (Bf7) were two key moments. Caruana missed a direct win at move 40 but nothing was spoiled and Nakamura’s resignation followed at move 50.

Alireza Firouzja played a lively Vienna Variation as black against Teimour Radjabov which seemed to catch his opponent by surprise. Radjabov fell behind on the clock and the position became tactical yet eventually it was Radjabov who had any advantage there was, after his 31.Ne4 however the position was more or less equalised and the Rook and Pawn endgame where Radjabov had an extra pawn was drawish and eventually on drawn move 71 without any real drama.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda will be kicking himself for not managing to convert two winning positions against Richard Rapport into a full point. Duda’s 5.Bf4 against Taimanov Sicilian seemed to catch Rapport completely off guard. After 8…g6? 9.c4! the position was already seriously better for white but after the too clever 16.Bxd1 (16.Rxd1) black was right back in the game and after 27…Bd6 the position was equal. Only a few moves later white was winning again after 30…Rd8?! and 32…Be3? 33.a4 was the correct move according to the computer, after 33.Rd3 Bd4! the position was equal and remained that way until the end of the game.

FIDE Candidates 2022 Madrid ESP (ESP), 16 vi-5 vii 2022 cat. XXI (2772)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1. Nepomniachtchi, Ian g RU 2766 * * . . . . . . . . . . 1 . . . 1
2. Caruana, Fabiano g USA 2783 . . * * . . . . . . . . . . 1 . 1
3. Radjabov, Teimour g AZE 2753 . . . . * * . . ½ . . . . . . . ½ 2793
4. Duda, Jan-Krzysztof g POLI 2750 . . . . . . * * . . ½ . . . . . ½ 2764
5. Firouzja, Alireza g FR 2793 . . . . ½ . . . * * . . . . . . ½ 2753
6. Rapport, Richard g HUN 2764 . . . . . . ½ . . . * * . . . . ½ 2750
7. Ding, Liren g CHN 2806 0 . . . . . . . . . . . * * . . 0
8. Nakamura, Hikaru g USA 2760 . . 0 . . . . . . . . . . . * * 0

Round 1 (June 17, 2022)
Caruana, Fabiano – Nakamura, Hikaru 1-0 50 C65 Ruy Lopez Berlin
Radjabov, Teimour – Firouzja, Alireza ½-½ 71 D37 QGD 5.Bf4
Duda, Jan-Krzysztof – Rapport, Richard ½-½ 69 B44 Sicilian Paulsen
Ding, Liren – Nepomniachtchi, Ian 0-1 32 A20 English Opening

FIDE World Chess Championship Candidates Tournament Round 1 Video coverage

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