2022 Candidates Tournament

2022 Candidates Tournament

The most important tournament of 2022, the Candidates Tournament, will kick off tomorrow in Madrid, Spain. The tournament will take place from June 17 to July 5 at the stunning venue of the Palacio de Santona in Madrid, Spain and will feature the top players of the world. The winner of the tournament will challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s throne. 


The playing hall being set up

Photo courtesy: Lennart Ootes

The Candidates Tournament is going to be an 8 player round robin, meaning that everyone will play each other twice. Given the gravity of the tournament, the time control will also be very long: 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move 61. The 8 players are:

  • Ding Liren, China - #2 in the world
  • Alireza Firouzja, France - #3 in the world
  • Fabiano Caruana, USA - #4 in the world
  • Ian Nepomniachtchi, Russia - #7 in the World
  • Richard Rapport, Hungary - #8 in the world
  • Hikaru Nakamura, USA - #11 in the world
  • Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Poland - #15 in the world
  • Teimour Radjabov, Azerbaijan - #18 in the world

Fabiano Caruana at the press conference

Photo Courtesy: Maria Emelianova

The field includes an interesting mixture of experience and youth: both Caruana and Nepomniachtci are former winners of the Candidates Tournament and have challenged Carlsen in a World Championship match. Firouzja is only 18 years old, while Duda and Rapport are 24 and 26 respectively. The young phenom Firouzja made waves as he ascended to the top of the chess world and crossed the highly coveted 2800 rating mark at the age of 17. Firouzja hasn’t played much since winning the 2021 Grand Swiss to qualify for the Candidates Tournament. In fact, his only showing in a tournament this year was quite subpar.


Alireza Firouzja in Madrid

Photo Courtesy: FIDE 

The other big name that will excite chess fans is Hikaru Nakamura. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Nakamura has become the most popular chess streamer, attracting hundreds of thousands of newcomers to chess. Nakamura made waves by qualifying to the Candidates Tournament after a long break from classical chess. He argued that playing online has helped remain a strong player, a counterargument from long held belief that to stay in top shape, one needs to play over the board tournaments. A match between the two big names of Nakamura and Carlsen would bring in huge crowds and much needed media attention to chess. 

The Candidates Tournament promises to be an exciting event, which might determine the course of the World Championship cycle. Carlsen has expressed several times that he does not  feel motivated to play another World Championship match, unless the challenger is Alireza Firouzja. In case Carlsen declines to defend the title, the top two finishers of Candidates will battle it out for the World Championship crown. Another controversy heading into the event was Sergey Karjakin getting banned by FIDE and being replaced by Ding Liren, who rushed to play 28 games in March to be eligible to play. 

The 14 round tournament is going to be an exhausting marathon for the players, where good nerves and top physical condition will come into play. The players have spent months preparing for the big event and personally I can’t wait to watch it all unfold. I will do more write ups as the tournament progresses, but all major websites (FIDE, Chess24, Lichess, Saint Louis Chess Club and chess.com) will offer live coverage. 

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