The strongest chess players in the world will soon gather in Madrid, Spain to battle it out to see who will challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
As in 1975, the Candidates has heightened stakes in 2022. In ‘75, Grandmaster Bobby Fischer ultimately decided not to defend his world championship. The result was that the title fell to the winner of the Candidates, Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov.
This year, Magnus Carlsen has waffled on whether he will defend his title, suggesting that, depending on who wins the Candidates, he might abandon his championship and pursue the distinction of being the first player ever to achieve an Elo rating of 2900.
In a recent interview with International Master Anna Rudolf, former World Champion Garry Kasparov offered his predictions for the Candidates. His favorite to win is Grandmaster Ding Liren of China followed by the American, Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Ding’s chances of winning will be hampered, for the second time, by COVID-19. His preparation for the last Candidates was poor as he was locked away in his home during China’s shutdown. This year, there is a chance he will not even be able to travel to Madrid to participate.
Caruana has won the Candidates once before and played Carlsen for the world championship. He held an even score through the traditional time control games, arguably playing a bit better than the world champion as he held slight advantages on several occasions during the match.
FIDE’s controversial decision to reduce the number of rounds of chess and make use of variants such as blitz and even Armageddon games as tiebreaks has benefitted Carlsen who, even among elite grandmasters, is an extraordinary blitz player. Against both Karjakan and Caruana, Carlsen was unable to successfully defend his title during regular play, winning instead during fast time controls.
- Fabiano Caruana (United States)
- Ian Nepomniachtchi
- Ding Liren (China)
- Jan-Krzyszor Duda (Poland)
- Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan)
- Hikaru Nakamura (United States)
- Alireza Firouzja (France)
- Richard Rapport (Hungary)
Ding Liren, Kasparov’s favorite to win the Candidates, inherited his spot in the Candidates after FIDE disciplined Sergey Karjakan for his comments on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Nepomniachtchi, who was granted a spot for winning the previous Candidates, is unlikely to play under a Russian flag due to FIDE’s stance against the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine along with the punishment Russia has received for cheating in international sports.
Along with Ding and Caruana, Kasparov suggested that Duda is the third likeliest to win.
He was less enthusiastic for the odds of fan favorites Nakamura and Firouzja.
Nakamura is among the most popular chess players in the world, largely due to his online presence. Kasparov applauded Nakamura’s efforts to promote chess online and reminded viewers of his friendship with the 5-time US Chess Champion but said that in this tournament it will “be tough” for Nakamura.
As for Firouzja, Kasparov felt a recent performance was unconvincing. Experience and a player’s mettle are enormous factors in such a grueling tournament and Firouzja is young and relatively inexperienced. Kasparov felt he has shown signs of buckling under pressure and in the Candidates, there are no easy rounds.
The Candidates will begin on June 17, 2022.