Today in Chess: FIDE Candidates 2022 Round 9 Recap

Round 9 before the third rest day of the tournament turned out to be the bloodiest round of all thus far. All games except the most high-stakes one, Caruana–Nepomniachtchi, ended with a decisive result. Great news for Ian Nepomniachtchi, as he managed to keep his 1-point lead, stopping for the moment his greatest rival. The rest of the field is now trailing at double the distance. Additionally today players Ding Liren, Alireza Firouzja and Teimour Rajabov won their first games in the Candidates.

Round 9 results

Round 9 standings

Fabiano Caruana didn’t manage to win vs  Ian Nepomniachthi; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Fabiano Caruana – Ian Nepomniachtchi ½-½

To a degree, this highly-anticipated clash was a deja vu, following the scenario of the first encounter. Fabiano Caruana came heavily armed, showing deep home preparation in the Petroff defense. Nepomniachtchi slipped up and soon found himself in a terrible situation, being pushed against the clock as well as having worse position.

Unfortunately for the American, leading white pieces, he had all reasons to feel tired from two previous days, playing both games to just over 6 hours. After players found themselves out of the book, Caruana slowly started straying off the correct path. The first over the board move, 18.Qa4, was just a slight inaccuracy which Nepomniachtchi did not manage to exploit, letting the advantage slip back into White’s hands.

Yet when the critical moment came, after Black’s 23…Kf7, Caruana collapsed, released the tension and let Nepomniachtchi to escape after massive exchanges. Same as in round 2, the right way to keep the pressure on remained a mystery for the American, this time missing 24.Bf1 Nc8 25.Bc4+ Be6 26.Rxe6! Nxe6 27.Nhxf5 line, posing Black serious problems.

Easy to miss, this pretty checkmate was one of the critical lines that stayed behind the curtain!

Ian Nepomniachtchi made a big step towards qualifying for another World Championship match today and if he does not lose a game in the remaining 5 rounds, it’ll be incredibly hard to catch him at this point. 

Radjabov’s patient play has finally brought him a full point; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Teimour Radjabov – Hikaru Nakamura 1:0

Scoring his first classical win since the 2019 FIDE World Cup, Radjabov caused the biggest upset in this round. Radjanov player solidly in the opening and provoked Nakamura to make positional concessions for a chance  to attack on the kingside. Very soon the Azeri grandmaster found himself in a perfect striking position shortly after the opening stage.

Eventually, Nakamura realized things had gone wrong and offered a queen exchange, leading to a bad endgame. Radjabov played the rest of the game with surgical precision. He traded queens in an even more comfortable fashion and was growing his advantage with every move and didn’t give any chances to Nakamura.

Duda’s game has fallen apart in the middle of the tournament and he fell to the last place; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Ding Liren – Jan-Krzysztof Duda 1:0

Thus, Hikaru Nakamura lost his sole 3rd place as he was caught up today by World Number 2, Ding Liren. One of the big favorites of this tournament, he has been struggling from the very start and he finally made a comeback after a dry series of 7 draws in a row. 

It was a long squeeze from the Chinese grandmaster, putting pressure on Duda in a slightly more favorable endgame. The position became uncomfortable for Black just before the time control. Duda blundered on his 40th move, letting Ding invade his 7th rank with a decisive effect. Duda resisted for a couple more moves, making this game the longest in the round, yet one big mistake was all it took for Ding to convert the game into a full point.

The young Frenchman has finally broken the non-winning spell; photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Alireza Firouzja – Richard Rapport 1-0

Last in terms of effect on current standings, but definitely not least in terms of spectacularity comes these two creative minds’ battle. Firouzja’s Anti-Berlin soon led players into a completely unknown territory and interesting complications, with White sacrificing two pawns for a very promising attack. 

Position was objectively balanced, but after a few mistakes from both sides it suddenly became completely winning for White.  After Rapport missed chances for counterplay and Firouzja found the cold 29.Qg3! move it was clear Black is suffering. Rapport tried to break free with the f7-f6 move before the control move, but it just led to his quick demise and Firouzja’s first win in the tournament. 

Alireza can still complicate Nepomniachtchi’s smooth ride with white pieces in round 11, 

Replay the broadcast from round 9 on our YouTube.

The live coverage with grandmasters Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan and international master Dorsa Derakshani continues after tomorrow’s rest day on Tuesday January 30. Players are exhausted after long fights under the Spanish sun and the number of mistakes and decisive games is growing. Brace yourself for more action live on Wednesday June 30 at  7:50 CDT on or our YouTube and Twitch.