Today in Chess: FIDE Candidates 2022 Round 6 Recap

A bloodbath was on the boards in today’s round — dynamic, fighting games and eventually two decisive results. After winning their games, Nepomniachtchi and Caruana separate themselves from the rest of the field even further. With Teimour Radjabov squeezing water out of stone and blundering the win away just one move before the time control, the Nakamura-Ding was the only encounter that stayed on the rails.

Round 6 results

Standings after round 6

A huge missed chance to score for Teimour Radjabov, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Teimour Radjabov – Richard Rapport ½-½

The Azeri grandmaster, leading white pieces, survived a couple of very difficult moments in previous rounds and was reaching for a comeback in this one. After moving into the line of the Paulsen Sicilian, players mutually surprised themselves by leading each other out of their home preparation (with Rapport delivering the first blow), and then the real over the board show could begin.

Radjabov was posing serious problems to his opponent even after the queens were swapped, finding some truly spectacular resources during the game; for example, the 29.Ne3 move, hanging a full knight with a check. He reached an endgame two pawns down but with full compensation for the material, having complete domination over Rapport’s dark squares.

Eventually, Rapport erred terribly with the move 37…Rxh4+?, allowing White to win a clear piece with the deadly 39.Bh2! — but, curiously enough, Radjabov spent just a couple of seconds on this crucial moment and forced a draw instead. This one will surely hunt Radjabov and his fans for a couple of sleepless nights.

 Hikaru Nakamura, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Hikaru Nakamura – Ding Liren ½-½

This game was extremely tense as well. Hikaru Nakamura blitzed out his moves in the opening and got extra 50 minutes on his clock vs Ding Liren as well as good perspectives to pose problems to his opponent. Opening with the calm Italian, Nakamura eventually swung all his attention towards Ding’s kingside and his lonely monarch. Objectively speaking, things never got out of hand for either side as the Chinese player had a strong passed pawn on d2, securing him more than enough counterplay. He even had a chance to push the game a bit further after Nakamura sacrificed a rook and offered a perpetual check. 

Avoiding the draw would mean giving the rook back, reaching a peculiar position with Black’s pawn still threatening White’s position greatly. Engines might scream equality, yet the position would remain a bit uncomfortable for Nakamura. It was surprising to see Ding agree a draw so early, more so that he spent almost none of his extra time added after the time control to think about the decision.

Ian Nepomniachtchi crushed Duda today, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Ian Nepomniachtchi – Jan-Krzysztof Duda 1-0

The former world championship challenger and current tournament leader took an interesting approach to the opening, sneakily building up his position with a Reti kingside fianchetto. Later on he transformed into a position with a kingside majority and started a powerful attack on Duda’s king.

Things escalated quickly from there, with Nepomniachtchi’s pawns rolling forward — Duda’s whole defensive concept seemed to have failed and he had no counterplay. Perhaps the initial decision to give White an outpost on e5, recapturing the knight as early as on move 9, was to blame. 

Nevertheless, Duda missed one chance to put up more resistance by accepting a worse endgame with an extra piece for Nepomniachtchi. He could have exchanged queens by the means of 26…Kxh7 27.Rb1 Qe5, and tried to muddy waters. From an objective point of view, matters went from bad to worse and Duda had to resign after White’s pieces developed into an irresistible attack.

Alireza Firouzja – Fabiano Caruana 0-1

Ian Nepomniachtchi is racing forward with a score of +3, yet Caruana continues his pursuit for the top of the leaderboard. After easily equalizing against the ambitious Frenchman, he capitalized on Firouzja pushing his luck too much, tilting after a very unsatisfying start. A couple of risky moves led White from a completely balanced position to a strategically inferior one. And then, instead of defending calmly, he tried to solve things tactically, overestimating his chances after giving up an exchange for a pawn.

Starting with the move 21…f5, keeping the extra exchange thanks to the 22.Bxf5 Qe8! trick, Caruana converted his advantage flawlessly, scoring an important win against one of the biggest favorites of the tournament, and that with the black pieces. The American might regret missing a big chance against Nepomniachtchi in round 2, letting the leader off the hook with a draw, but he is still well in the chase.

Fabiano Caruana outplyed Alireza Firouzja, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Replay the broadcast from round 6 on our YouTube.

Nakamura and Rapport are trailing a full point behind Caruana and half a point more behind tournament leader, Nepomniachtchi. With that said, we have plenty to look forward to in the next 3 rounds after tomorrow’s rest day, and the key Caruana–Nepomniachtchi battle cherry on top coming in round 9.

Join us for the live commentary from round 7 with Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan and Christian Chirila on Saturday, June 25 at 7:50 AM CDT on or our YouTube and Twitch.