Nepomniachtchi half a step away from winning the Candidates

Pic By - Stev Bonhage, FIDE

~ Nepo keeps control of the tournament following a draw with Nakamura as Ding Liren’s three-game winning streak is brought to an end

"VAN" (Sports Desk - 02.07.2022) :: With 8.5/12, tournament leader Ian Nepomniachtchi is just half a point away from winning his second Candidates in a row. He is due to play Rapport and Duda in the last two rounds (he beat both of them in the first part of the tournament). Nepo just needs one draw from those two games to secure total victory.

Today’s game between Hikaru Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi was very short. After just eight minutes of play, following a forced drawing line in the Berlin, they agreed to split a point. The way this draw was achieved will be criticised by many. In the post-game interview, Nakamura said that he didn’t think ‘the risk-reward was there’ and that, had he lost, ‘there’s no shot at second place’ (which has become ever more important in this tournament in light of the prospects of Magnus Carlsen deciding not to defend his title, as some think this could lead to the top two players from the Candidates playing the match for the world title).

Teimour Radjabov stunned Ding Liren with a crushing victory as Black in 26 moves. After three consecutive victories (not seen in the Candidates since 2013), Ding Liren was unrecognisable in today’s game. He played well below his 2800 level and was completely shattered by the motivated Tiemour Radjabov. Already after 21 moves, with a lot of help from Ding, Black had an overwhelming position. With this defeat, Ding Liren’s miraculous recovery from the bottom of the table in the first part of the tournament to the top has now hit a dead end. He is tied in second place with Hikaru Nakamura and the two will be playing in the final round.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda missed several opportunities to win with white pieces against Alireza Firouzja today. In a sharp line of the Semi-Slav Firouzja again - like in some previous games - started outplaying himself by weakening his castle and launching his pawns on a goose chase on move 22. Duda responded with an energetic f-pawn push and grabbed the initiative. However, as in some other previous games in his case, he just couldn’t find the right moves in several critical moments and dropped the advantage. Firouzja was again offering winning chances to White and he took them, but when the moment of execution came Duda was not up to the task. In the end, Black forced a line leading directly to a draw. Firouzja was lucky while Duda missed a great opportunity. The Candidates are a long and demanding event and the signs of tiredness were shown by both players today. Duda is on five points, sharing 6-7th place with Rapport, while Firouzja is at the bottom with 4.5 points.

The last game to finish was between Richard Rapport and Fabiano Caruana. In the anti-Berlin, the opponents found their way into a fresh position as early as on move ten. The game was mostly played on the kingside where Rapport advanced his pawns. The Hungarian GM got some initiative but the Amerian neutralized it with several precise moves and equalised completely. After exchanges of heavy pieces, the opponents transitioned into a rook endgame where Black had an extra pawn on the h-file but Rapport’s active rook saved him from trouble and helped him hold Caruana to a draw. Unlike in the previous games where in even positions he pushed for a long time, Caruana was in no mood to force today’s game and the two agreed to split a point. With plus three, Caruana is on a mere 50 percent, in the middle of the table (joined by Radjabov), while Rapport is further below with 5/12.l.


1 - Nepomniachtchi, Ian 8½/12 2766

2 - Nakamura, Hikaru 6½/12 2760

3 - Ding, Liren 6½/12 2806

4 - Radjabov, Teimour 6/12 2753

5 - Caruana, Fabiano 6/12 2783

6 - Rapport, Richard 5/12 2764

7 - Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 5/15 2750

8 - Firouzja, Alireza 4½/12 2793

Saturday the 2nd of July is a rest day.

Round thirteen of the Candidates starts on Sunday the 3rd of July at 3 PM CEST at the Palacio de Santona in Madrid.

The pairings of round twelve are as follows:-

Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Richard Rapport

Hikaru Nakamura vs Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Alireza Firouzja vs Ding Liren Teimour

Radjabov vs Fabiano Caruana


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