American Caruana Aims for Carlsen as Ding Stumbles at FIDE Candidates

Otis Adams

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The most dominant world champion since Bobby Fischer offered his prediction as to who would win the 2022 Candidates prior to the start of the double round robin event. Kasparov named Ding Liren as his very educated guess for who would challenge Carlsen for the world championship.

Ding, number 2 in the world by rating, has lost his first game at the Candidates. Adding to this that he had white against Nepomniachtchi, this loss is the most surprising moment of the first round of the tournament which will decide who will challenge the world champion of chess.

While it is only the first round, getting a loss in round robin play, especially one populated by such elite grandmasters, can become an insurmountable setback.

Fabi and Nepo Want a Rematch

The only other decisive game in the first round was perhaps the one that was most expected as the two Americans faced off. Fabiano Caruana grabbed a full point from Hikaru Nakamura, a fan favorite on social media and video streaming sites.

Fabi had white against Nakamura and opened with e4, leading to a Berlin Defense, Ruy Lopez.

Along with Nepo’s win over Ding, the world champion may be expecting a rematch from a previous world championship match.

The last world championship match saw Nepo battle it out with the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, until the two played the longest game in world championship chess history. Afterward, the resilient world champion marched on while Nepo appeared to buckle under the strain.

The story went a bit differently when Caruana and Carlsen fought for the world title, though the result was the same. Caruana held an even score against the world champion, even having the advantage on several occasions. It was not until the tournament shifted to faster time controls that Carlsen was able to gain a lead.

With only Fabi and Nepo leaping ahead with leads after the first round, the next world championship match could be a rematch.

The Fan Favorites

Hikaru Nakamura has been far less active in recent years as he built his presence online. This has presumably led to greater wealth than he could have managed in tournament play, but also has led to him being a favorite among club players who spend hours a week watching the elite grandmaster’s YouTube channel or his streams on Twitch.

Alireza Firouzja seems to be the other favorite among fans of chess. The chessic boy wonder briefly rocketed to number 2 in the world at only 18.

Firouzja, an Iranian who now plays for France, managed a draw against Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan. 

Fans and experts will be watching to see if the young Firouzja can hold his composure during the grueling tournament. Few predicted that Nakamura would win the tournament, but many of the same fans and experts will be hoping he has a good showing. The first task will be to at least draw his next game as two losses could be the start of an excruciating tournament for him on the world’s stage.

Round 1 Results
Caruana-Nakamura 1–0
Duda-Rapport 1/2–1/2
Ding-Nepomniachtchi 0–1
Radjabov-Firouzja 1/2–1/2

Standings After Round 1
1. Fabiano Caruana (USA) 1.0
1. Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE) 1.0
3. Alireza Firoujza (FRA) 0.5
3. Richard Rapport (HUN) 0.5
3. Teimour Radjabov (AZE) 0.5
3. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (POL) 0.5
7. Ding Liren (CHN) 0.0
7. Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 0.0

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Author of Lavatory Reader #1: This Road, now available on Amazon. Otis Adams is the author of three books and has won two dozen awards for his screenplays and short fiction. He writes regularly on Medium.com and can be contacted at pithbooks@gmail.com.

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