Today in Chess: FIDE Candidates 2022 Round 13 Recap

Ian Nepomniachtchi makes a comfortable draw with the white pieces against Rapport and clinches the tournament victory with one round to spare. Thus, he also becomes challenger for the title of World Champion!

Hikaru Nakamura scored an important point against Duda and is in second place right now. The fight for second place continues, as Hikaru has half a point lead over Ding Liren, whom he’s facing tomorrow. The American has everything in his hands should Magnus Carlsen decide not to defend his title and give up a spot in the match for the 2nd finisher in the 2022 FIDE Candidates. Will the top two finishers in the tournament play against each other instead? We managed to ask the world champion himself when he appeared at the playing venue of the Candidates today.

Round 13 results

Standings after round 13

Ian Nepomniachtchi; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Ian Nepomniachtchi – Richard Rapport ½-½

Richard Rapport displayed the will to fight, replying 1…c5 to Nepomniachtchi’s first move, steering the game to the Classical Variation of the Sicilian. Nevertheless, he did not manage to surprise the tournament leader who swapped down to a drawish endgame at the very first chance. Ian Nepomniachtchi was even slightly better towards the end and made a draw by repetition from a position of strength.

Since Nepomniachtchi entered the 13th round with a 2-point lead, a draw was mathematically enough to grant him the victory and a ticket to the World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen. And history repeats itself, as Nepomniachthi won the Candidates with a round to spare for the second time in a row. He received warm applause from the audience in the venue today and was also praised by the World Champion himself. “He was criminally underrated by pundits and betting odds, but I still thought that Ding or Fabiano were even bigger favorites. But kudos, he's done really well,” commented Magnus Carlsen on Nepomniachtchi’s performance during this tournament. 

Check out our interview with the winner of the tournament right after the last game finished: “[I feel] exhausted. (...) I was more or less sure, having like 2 points advantage with two rounds to go, but the job had to be done.”

Firouzja managed to make a draw; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Alireza Firouzja – Ding Liren ½-½

The new World Championship Challenger was not the only player happy to make a draw with White in this round. Alireza Firouzja, one of the biggest favorites before the tournament started, is struggling at the very bottom of standings, and tried to quickly force a draw against Ding Liren in the 4 knights opening.

The Chinese grandmaster, playing Black pieces, still had a lot to play for as he’s still fighting for the second place, and took over the initiative after Firouzja’s imprecise play. Sacrificing a pawn, he eventually got his central pawns rolling in an opposite bishop and rook endgame. Things started to looking scary for the Frenchman.

Nevertheless, Alireza Firouzja managed to get his nerves back under control and at the right moment, neutralized all the danger with a bishop sacrifice. The tension was gone, and with a lot of pawns for the sacrificed piece there was nothing left for Ding Liren but to let his opponent escape with a perpetual check.

Teimour Radjabov was not in the mood for a sharp game; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Teimour Radjabov – Fabiano Caruana ½-½

Fabiano Caruana tried to invite Radjabov into a complicated position, offering as many as 3 pawns as a sacrifice in the opening. Radjabov, somehow unexpectedly entering the fight for second place, did not seem overly interested in pushing his luck too much. After the third pawn was sacrificed, the Azeri grandmaster quickly steered the game into an endgame, subsequently giving back both pawns and letting the game peter out into a draw.

It was all smiles when Judit Polgar was making the first move, but the game was an incredibly tough fight! Photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Hikaru Nakamura – Jan-Krzysztof Duda 1-0

An original handling of the Najdorf, starting with 16.h4 and sacrificing a pawn later on, suddenly turned against the American star. Duda had an extra pawn and Nakamura did not manage to get enough compensation to keep equality. After Duda found the way to break free with the move 32…b5 Black’s position looked very promising.  Strangely enough, things went downhill very quickly from there. He let his advantage slip in just a couple of moves, and then, clearly disapointed by these developments, the Polish grandmaster lost the track of the game.

By the time players arrived at the time control, the game was basically over. Hikaru Nakamura converted his advantage precisely and went from a disaster to a great step towards the second place in the Candidates.

Replay the broadcast from round 13 on our YouTube.

With the first place settled, there’s only one question remaining: how will the fight for the second place unfold? Ding Liren is in a must-win situation with the white pieces against Hikaru Nakamura — either he wins and claims the second spot for himself, or Nakamura defends his position and, potentially, even a world championship match qualification. 

Tune in to the stream from the last round of the 2022 FIDE Candidates with grandmasters Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan and international master Dorsa Derakshani at 7:50 CDT on or our YouTube and Twitch.