The strongest chess players in the world are currently gathered in Spain as they prepare to engage in mimic battle over the board for the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen for his crown.
With Carlsen suggesting he will not defend his title, the first and second place finishers at the Candidates could play for the world championship, though Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana does not believe that Carlsen will abandon his throne.
"I don't really buy into what Magnus says." (GM Fabiano Caruana, regarding Carlsen's claim he might abandon his World Championship title)
Caruana, America's strongest chess player, was asked about the youngest member of the tournament, Alireza Firouzja, the young grandmaster from Iran who is now playing for France.
Caruana has won the Candidates once and held an even score against Carlsen until the match shifted to faster time controls, which favored Carlsen. It was only in the faster games that Carlsen was able to defeat both Caruana and Karjakan in their respective World Championship Matches.
Firouzja is a fan favorite and briefly held the number 2 spot in the world before China's Ding Liren slipped past him once again. While experts expect that the pressure of the grueling Candidates tournament will be too much for the young chessman, Caruana was kinder about the 18 year old's chances.
"It's hard to say. Of course, he's not a very experienced player. He's super gifted, he's super strong, but he hasn't played in this event before... But, the first time I played the Candidates I was also not very experienced. I got very close to winning it." (GM Fabiano Caruana, referring to GM Alireza Firoujza)
After stating that it is not out of the question for a player to win the Candidates in their first attempt, he went on to compliment Firouzja as being very smart in his approach to the game.
The favorites of most to win the Candidates are Fabiano Caruana or Ding Liren.