FIDE Candidates, 2022
Cross-table after 13 rounds:
Round 14 (04/07/2022)
There was some excitement in Duda v Nepomniachtchi when at move 26 White sacrificed a bishop for pawn in front of Black’s castled king, with a forced draw by repetition lurking in some lines, or the regaining of the piece in others. Black went for a line which gave back the piece, also swapping off queens and rooks, leaving an equalish endgame position complicated by both sides having a passed pawn. The game was drawn 17 moves later.
Meanwhile, Rapport had sacrificed a knight for two pawns at move 20, in an attempt to attack Radjabov’s king, but the hoped-for attack never materialised, and Rapport resigned at move 33.
The other two games lasted much longer. Ding had positional pressure against Nakamura and went a pawn ahead. At move 56, Nakamura made a move which effectively trapped his bishop, and two moves later Nakamura resigned.
Firouzja went into an ending a pawn up against Caruana, with all five pawns on the board being isolated. Things ground on and on, but Firouzja eventually won in 63 moves.
Round 13 (03/07/2022)
After the final rest day comes round 13: unlucky for some?! The stage has been reached where tactical draws may become evident. One more draw for Nepomniachtchi would mean he had secured first place. So, Rapport may be in line for an easy 13th round! Then, again, he might like to go for a giant-killer’s badge. Nepomniachtchi’s position is the more secure when you remember that joint second-placed Ding and Nakamura have to play each other again in the final round, and cannot both win. The only way Nepomniachtchi might not win outright would be if Ding or Nakamura won in both rounds 13 and 14, and Nepomniachtchi (hitherto undefeated in the event) lost his last two games, then there would be a play-off.
The first game to finish was Radjabov v Caruana. The latter offered pawns to get a lead in development. The former accepted the first pawn but dec lined further pawn-grabbing. White was a pawn up but would have difficulty both holding the pawn as well as completing his development, and the game was drawn after White’s 31st move (by consenting repetition to beat the under-40-move draw ban) with White’s king’s rook still unmoved on h1. Second to finish was Nepomniachtchi v Rapport which was an uneventful 34-move draw. So, Nepomniachtchi was to be the Challenger (again) to play Magnus Carlsen (holder) for the World Championship.
By this time, after 2 hours and 45 minutes of play, the remaining two games were roughly equal. The position in Firouzja v Ding was curious in that Ding had a bishop at h4 which was trapped in that it had no safe square to got to, and was undefended, yet it could not be attacked. White was a pawn up, but Black had advanced centre pawns. When Black advanced his d-pawn White deemed it expedient to sacrifice his bishop for two pawns, leaving White with R + 6P (one passed and supported) versus R + B + 3P (all isolated and none passed), so an interesting ending might have been in store but in the event the game was agreed drawn 6 moves later.
Meanwhile, Duda had gone a pawn up against Nakumura. After complications initiated by Black’s 33. … d5, after various exchanges, White remained a pawn up 6 moves later, and now had a passed pawn at d6, albeit blocked. Whilst Nakamura could not win the whole event, there was prize money to be considered. Nakamura pressed home his advantage and won after 51 moves.
Round 12 (01/07/2022)
The most critical game of the round was going to be Nepomniachtchi v Nakamura. Meanwhile, Ding would be hoping Nakamura would be the first to beat Nepomniachtchi in this event, and that he himself would be able to squeeze a whole point out of Radjabov. Ding would then be only half a point behind Nepomniachtchi and in with a chance of at least a play-off. Caruana would similarly be going all out to defeat Rapport, though, realistically, Caruana can be assumed to be out of the race now.
In the event, Nepomniachtchi v Nakamura was a 14-move draw: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. dxe5 Nxb5 7. a4 Nbd4 8. Nxd4 Nxd4 9. Qxd4 d5 10. exd6 Qxd6 11. Qe4+ Qe6 12. Qd4 Qd6 13. Qe4+ Qe6 14. Qd4 Qd6 ½-½by repetition, which is not uncommonly played.
Ding went a pawn down to Radjabov, whose extra pawn was a passed d-pawn, so it was not a happy position for Ding. The at move 24 Ding offered a piece exchange which allowed Black a combination to win material, and Ding resigned at move 27.
Rapport v Caruana was pretty even though Black had a knight to White’s (single) bishop, which kept a hint of potentially advantageous material imbalance. By the time the other three games had finished, this last remaining game saw Caruana with R + 4P v R + 3P, the extra pawn being a passed h-pawn with the kings and other pawns on the queen’s side; the predictable draw was agreed at move 52.
In Duda v Firouzja, Black was a pawn up by move 18, but as it was at b2 it was in danger of being snapped back, so Black played a line, which may be known theory, whereby he gave up the exchange to hold on to the pawn. By move 25 White had won the black pawn at b2 by giving up a king’s side pawn, meaning White was the exchange for a pawn up. An error by White at move 37 allowed Black to win material back, and a draw was agreed at move 40.
02/07/2022 is a rest day.
Round 11 (30/06/2022)
First to finish were Radjabov and Duda, whose drawn R+ 4P final position was almost as symmetrical as was Nepomniachtchi v Radjabov in the previous round. In Firouzja v Nepomniachtchi, the second game to finish, the latter sacrificed a knight for two pawns and a loose position for White. An oversight by Firouzja at move 35 meant Nepomniachtchi could win a piece, when the extra pawns would win the ending. This somewhat put the pressure on Caruana to make something of a positional advantage against Ding. Meanwhile Nakamura went a pawn up at move 36, but had only K + N + 3P versus K + B + 2P and the game looked as though it was going to be agreed drawn in the end, though Nakamura kept trying, but a draw was agreed after White’s 96th move. By this time, Caruana had lost his positional advantage and entered an ending where Ding had R + B + 3P versus R +B +2P - with the bishops on opposite-coloured squares. Ding won eventually on move 78, and he now jumps into 2nd place! However, Nepomniachtchi looks to be cruising home.
Round 10 (29/06/2022)
With the currently first and second-placed players having played each other twice, the two are now seeing who can squeeze the higher number of wins out of their remaining 5 rounds against also rans. Ding and Nakamura are of course in with a chance of winning, but only if there are significant “upsets”. The first game to finish was a 37-move draw (by artificial repetition) between Nepomniachtchi v Radjabov - game included for the last few moves and final position, which is a splendid illustration of the “drawn ending”. In the next game to finish, Nakamura set up a sort of exchange sacrifice, by un-defending his rook at d5. That sacrifice was accepted, leading to White winning. The other two games also resulted in wins, giving the second round in which there were three won games. The “upset” was the defeat of Caruana by Duda, which extends Nepomniachtchi’s lead by another half point
Round 9 (27/06/2022)
The most attention-drawing game was obviously Caruana v Nepomniachtchi, but it was drawn without very much excitement in about 3 and three-quarter hours, and 40 moves. The other games were getting better for White, and the second game to finish was Firouzja, who had trapped his opponent’s king in the centre, beating Rapport. The Radjabov beat Nakamura. That left Ding a pawn up, more specifically a white passed pawn at a6. (When is a passed pawn a past pawn? When it reaches the 8th rank.) However, White gave up his f-pawn to exchange of knights. The resultant ending was one which many “club” players might agree drawn, but Ding demonstrated how to win. This was the first round to feature three wins.
28/06/2022 was a rest day.
Round 8 (26/06/2022)
The first game to finish, after White’s move 32, was Nepomniachtchi v Ding, which had reduced to an opposite-coloured bishop and pawn ending, and the players repeated moves so as to agree a draw (to which straight agreement is not allowed by tournament rules before 40th move). This created the chance for Caruana to catch Nepomniachtchi by winning, though, with Black and against Nakamura, that might be difficult. Caruana sacrificed bishop and knight for a pawn at move 11, later picking up a further pawn at move 14. The material imbalance made a win for one or other party quite likely.
Rapport v Duda was the second to finish, when Rapport’s knight at c3 suddenly shot off in earnest for f6 via e4, with dire effect.
After 5 hours’ play, Nakamura was getting his pieces more effectively placed. Caruana took the chance to exchange a rook and thereby push his e-pawn down to e7. Caruana now had 2 pawns for a knight besides a rook each and an opposite-coloured bishop each. Caruana eventually resigned after about 6 hours and 5 minutes’ play. That left an apparently equal and drawing game between Firoouzja and Radjabov dragging on and on, though it was eventually drawn after White’s 93rd move.
Round 7 (25/06/2022)
Nepomniachtchi was the first to create interest. In a fairly main-line Najdorf, with White playing 9. Qb3, Black sacrificed a rook (leading the White queen away from the action at a8) and a pawn in exchange for a bishop and active piece play. (This may be a well-known line.) White had the option of allowing a draw by repetition. Nepomniachtchi is probably aiming to draw with Black while striving for wins with White. Anyway, Rapport took up the challenge and avoided the immediate draw by repetition, hanging on to his extra material. Nepomniachtchi countered this by manoeuvring his queen back to d7 so that White’s Q at a8 was trapped, with Black then winning the queen (and also a pawn possibly in the offing) for a rook, leaving Black with queen for two rooks. Meanwhile, the other three games were proceeding in a more sedate fashion.
Nepomniachtchi went on to turn in what he made to look like an easy win, and was the first to finish. Meanwhile Caruana went a pawn up, and looked like the only other player likely to win. Duda and Nakamura were next to finish, drawing. Ding and Firouzja were materially equal, but Firouzja had an outside past pawn which he hoped might be converted into a win, but Ding created his own passed pawn in the centre and things got more interesting, but not as interesting as the Caruana v Radjabov game, and Ding v Firouzja was eventually drawn.
Caruana pressed on and a pawn-queening race developed with both players still with two rooks and a minor piece on the board, and it got that it seemed both players would queen a pawn, which is what happened. Amusingly, if queens then got swapped off, each player had a back-up passed pawn to push, so the scenario could be repeated.
Round 6 (23/062022)
After 2½ hours’ play, all games were still in progress. Nepomniachtchi was throwing king-side pawns at Duda’s castled king and had a promising game. Rapport was a pawn up and seemed to be winning a second one, though the “Stockfish” verdict was that the position was dead equal (due presumably to compensating piece activity). The other two games were equal.
While waiting for things to develop, the webmaster tried to check if there was a species of fish called “stockfish”. It seems not, but the term supposedly is used for unsalted cod, or similar fish, dried in cold wind. What more interestingly did come to light, however, was an announcement on the Stockfish website saying, “As announced nearly one year ago, leading Stockfish developers have filed suit against ChessBase to enforce their license termination after repeated copyright violation by ChessBase.” Allegedly, “the ChessBase products Houdini 6 and Fat Fritz 2 have copied extensive parts of the Stockfish code base.” Later it says, “The hearing is scheduled to take place on Monday, July 4th, 2022, 11am in Munich (Germany),” going on to say, “We inform interested parties that the public is permitted to attend.”
In Radjabov v Rapport, Stockfish proved correct, as White managed to double rooks on the 8th rank and force a draw by repetition
Meanwhile, Nepomniachtchi developed what by move 33 looked like a totally winning position. Duda confirmed this diagnosis by resigning two moves later.
Nakamura v Ding got interesting with the former launching an attack on Black’s king, while the latter pushed a passed d-pawn down to d2. Then Nakamura sacrificed a rook for what could have immediately been a draw by repetition. Ding initially looked for more, but had to backtrack and then agreed to the draw, otherwise Nakamura was going to win his rook back with the better position.
Last to finish were Firouzja and Caruana. Black had entered an ending a pawn as well as the exchange up, and Firouzja eventually resigned.
24/06/2022 was a rest day.
Round 5 (22/06/2022)
The first game to finish was a relatively uneventful Petroff in Firouzja v Duda. The game reduced to K + Q + 3P (f, g, & h-files). The little dance to repeat moves, as the players could not just agree a draw before move 40 under the terms of the tournament, started at Black’s move 34. The second to finish was Caruana v Rapport (a Sicilian) whose draw by repetition started at Black’s move 20, but was one were Black was obliged to force a repetition to avoid losing material. The third game to finish was another drawn Petroff, between Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi, with the consenting repetition starting at White’s 30th move. The remaining game, Radjabov v Ding (a Bogolyubov Indian) was interesting in that Radjabov seemed at one stage to be inviting a drawn by “consenting repetition” but Ding sheared off and looked for another approach, so seemingly holding out for a possible win. However, that game too ended in a draw.
Round 4 (21/06/2022)
The first game to finish was Nepomniachtchi v Firouzja. White had managed to open up some ventilation around Black’s king which had castled on the king’s side while Black established an enigmatic knight outpost at b2 in front of White king on b1. The finale was an “easy” rook sack leading to mate in six more moves if Black did not resign.
The other three games fizzled out relatively uneventfully to drawn endings. The most interesting of the three was perhaps Rapport v Nakamura which nevertheless was agreed drawn when it reduced to K + N v K + N, which of course either player legally actually win! Curiously, opposite-coloured bishops are held to be drawish, yet one cannot win with K + B v K + B if the bishops are on the same-coloured squares, but with the proverbial opposite-coloured bishops one can legally win!
Thus for the first time there was a lone leader out in front and a clear second place.
Round 3 (19/06/2022)
In round 3, after the first 90 minutes of play, three of the games were relatively even, but the fourth, Firouzja v Nakamura, had featured a piece-for pawn sacrifice by Firouzja on move 16, with some delicate calculation needed, and at move 20 Nakamura decided not to try to hold on to the extra piece and instead to give it back while recouping the pawn, re-establishing material equality, but solving White’s problem of an uncomfortable king’s position, and allowing White to play to capitalise in the ending on his passed h-pawn. An ending where White had B + 3Ps (two connected on the sixth and seventh ranks) versus N + 3Ps. After 4hours and 45 minutes’ play, Nakamura made a queen’s side pawn break which was the one remaining try, but it shortly fizzled out to a draw.
Meanwhile, Radjabov and Nepomniachtchi reached a draw in a double-rook and pawn ending, before move 40, seemingly by using the “orchestrated” repetition method, though this was arguably a “genuine” repetition.
In Ding v Rapport, the latter opted to win a pawn for the exchange (or sacrifice the exchange for a pawn). The material imbalance remained through to an ending which was eventually agreed drawn.
The third game to finish was Caruana v Duda which ended in a B+ Ps v N + Ps ending which in the end was drawn, leaving Firouzja v Nakamura still chugging along.
20th June was a rest day.
Round 2 (18/06/2022)
The two joint leaders on 1 out of 1 drew at move 33. Rules try to ban draws in the first 40 moves, but draws by repetition are allowed, so players merely have to repeat relatively pointless moves to beat the draw ban, and this seems to be what Nepomniachtchi and Caruana did. Duda and Ding similarly drew in the middle game with a somewhat meaningless repetition, though they did just cross the 40-move draw barrier.
Though finally drawn, Rapport v Firouzja was a properly fought game featuring a double-rook and pawn ending.
In the only won game, Nakamura and Radjabov reached an ending where Nakamura had R + N + 3 connected passed pawns on the Q-side, while Radjabov had R + B + 2 isolated passed pawns on the K side. At one point Radjabov gave up a piece, seemingly in an attempt to queen his h-pawn, perhaps in desperation. The sacrifice failed to work, and Nakamura forced a clear route to the 8th rank for his a-pawn inducing Radjabov’s resignation.
Round 1 (17/06/2022)
The first game to finish involved the successful prosecution of a king’s side attack with Black by the previous challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi, against Liren Ding, the highest rated of the 8 participants. Of course, in such situations it is “form”, more than a slight difference in rating, which wins the day. (Statistically, based on ratings, the game result would be predicted as 5½-4½, i. e. most probably a draw.) The other three games dragged on into the endgame, with such advantage as there may have been being relatively difficult to “convert” to a win, including another instance of the frequently recurrent R+2P v R+P ending - in this instance in Radjabov v Firouzja, which ended in a draw. Nakamura was trying to demonstrate that one does not need a single pawn to protect one’s castled king, despite some major pieces still being on the board, while Caruana was more convincingly trying to demonstrate the opposite. Meanwhile Duda had two bishops versus bishop and knight, with both sides having a passed pawn, giving an ending which could go on for some time; this was the last to finish and was drawn.
Click on “play” below to play through the game on screen. (Use browser’s “back” function to return to this page.)