Today in Chess: FIDE Candidates 2022 Round 14 Recap

Ian Nepomniachtchi seals the tournament victory with a rocky draw against Jan-Krzysztof Duda, putting a historical Candidates score 9,5 points out of 14 in the books. Ding Liren beats Hikaru Nakamura in a rollercoaster of a game to claim the second place.

Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen is in talks with FIDE about adjusting the World Championship format as reported by Leontxo Garcia for El Pais. We talked about the new developments with Vishy Anand, former World Champion and the FIDE Deputy President for the upcoming elections, and much more during his guest appearance on our broadcast.

Round 14 results

Round 14 standings

All eyes on Ding Liren-Nakamura; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Ding Liren – Hikaru Nakamura 1-0

The key game of the last round was initially developing well for Hikaru Nakamura, who needed just a draw to secure the second place. He managed to neutralize Ding’s opening advantage quite easily, landing the game into a balanced, almost symmetrical, endgame. Everything seemed to be petering towards a draw, as more and more pieces got swapped.

The turning point came on move 32. After Ding offered to repeat moves once (most likely just testing Nakamura, not with a true intent to draw the game), Nakamura sidestepped with the active 32…Bh4 move, but mixed up something and couple of moves later moved the bishop back in panic with 35…Bd8, which tured out to be the real mistake. Ding Liren stabilized a big advantage after the first time control.

It was only a matter of time before his dominating position, even if the material was equal, materialized into a full point. A great performance for Ding considering his terrible start into the tournament; it was impossible to imagine him finishing in clear second place after starting with one loss and 7 draws in a row. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi managed to hold off Duda’s dangerous attack; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Ian Nepomniachtchi ½-½

Similarly to the previous edition of the Candidates, Nepomniachtchi was extremely shaky once the tension was gone after winning with a round to spare. Jan-Krzysztof Duda managed to punch a hole in his solid preparation in Petroff defense and come out  with a courageous attack on the kingside, bringing the tournament winner to the brink of his first loss in the tournament.

Nevertheless, the young Pole, who had a tough second half of the tournament, was not precise enough and instead of the critical 23.Rxd8+ followed by 24.Rd1, he decided to force the matter. Flashy bishop sacrifice led only to simplifications, though, and players soon found themselves in a drawish endgame — the scoresheet was signed a couple of moves later after massive exchanges, with no mating material left on the board.

Trophy for the tournament winner; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

The last bits of pressure have fallen off the new challenger after the game ended: “Now it’s time [to enjoy]. I won’t tell you [what my plans for the evening are]. (...) I will have about a 10 days break [before the Grand Chess Tour starts], to exhale a little bit. I will see, but I’m looking forward, finally some games without huge pressure.”

Richard Rapport – Teimour Radjabov 0-1

Richard Rapport overpressed; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Teimour Radjabov had a surprisingly good tournament after a couple of dry years, not playing classical chess much and showing a particularly bad performance just a couple of weeks before in Stavanger during Norway Chess. Taking down Nakamura and Ding in the second half, trying to keep matters as solid as possible throughout the tournament, he took on Richard Rapport with the black pieces.

The Hungarian cannot be overly satisfied with his performance — especially the unnecessary loss against Nepomniachtchi in Round 7 that will enter the books. He tried to push his luck one more time and got a very perspective position with quite some creative middlegame play. He was just the precise 20.h4! move away from starting a powerful attack against Radjabov’s king.

But he took the creative spirit too far and overpressed with 20.Ng5? piece sacrifice. Black was clearly not comfortable at all and Radjabov was shaking his head a lot, and gradually repelled Rapport’s attack while keeping the material advantage. There were ways to put up more resistance from White’s side, but never enough compensation for the piece. Instead, Rapport quickly collapsed and the third victory helped Radjabov to climb to the shared 3rd place.

Fabiano Caruana – Alireza Firouzja 0-1

Viswanathan Anand making the first move in the Caruana-Firouzja game; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Both players must have been terribly disappointed with the tournament — Fabiano Caruana had a great start into the tournament and was сhasing Ian Nepomniachtchi until his loss against Nakamura in round 8. On the opposing side, Alireza Firouzja was one of the biggest favorites on paper, yet his Candidates performance was underwhelming from start to finish.

Fabiano Caruana got a nice Anti-Berlin position and it seemed like a one-sided game after he managed to install an invulnerable knight on e4 in the middlegame. Yet he decided to go for complications, giving up all his positional pluses and opening the position. Soon, the tables turned completely and Firouzja was clearly winning.

It seemed like a futile defensive task for the American, but he managed to create sufficient counter-chances and actually bring the game back into drawish territory. Unfortunately for him, he slipped at the last moment, on the second time control move and lost his last pawn, allowing Firouzja to win in this marathon endgame. 

The final touch that stayed behind the curtain was a cute 64.Nd3 Rxd3! strike, sacrificing an exchange for queening Black’s a-pawn — Caruana did not wait for the inevitable and resigned on move 63.

Replay the broadcast from round 14 on our YouTube.

Congratulations to the winner Ian Nepomniachtchi for his brilliant performance, and to the runner-up Ding Liren for his incredible comeback. We will see whether we’ll finally have a rematch between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi, or a match between Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren — that mystery is yet to unfold!