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On chess: Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi Wins FIDE Candidates, Qualifying To Face face Magnus Carlsen In The World Chess Championship

Ian Nepomniachtchi (World No. 4, Russia) scored 8.5/14 to win a historic Candidates event
Lennart Ootes
Ian Nepomniachtchi (World No. 4, Russia) scored 8.5/14 to win a historic Candidates event

The world No. 4 chess player, Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia finished in clear first place in the 2021 FIDE Candidates Tournament, the ‘semifinal’ of the official World Chess Championship cycle. With a score of 8.5/14, he won the event ahead of seven other candidates and earned the right to challenge the current World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway in a 12-game title match, to take place this November 2021 in Dubai.

The candidates tournament, a double-round-robin featuring eight of the world’s top players, was originally halted and postponed after the first seven rounds were played back in March 2020. The event resumed this month in Yekaterinburg, Russia, after what was essentially a one-year hiatus for the players to rest and prepare for the second half.

For Nepomniachtchi, the one-year break could not have come at a better time, as the tournament was postponed right after a difficult loss to one of his main rivals, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France. The extended period gave Nepomniachtchi a chance to recover and recharge for the second leg of the event, which he entered as one of the leaders.

During the second half of the tournament, Nepomniachtchi was hardly ever in trouble and managed to score wins over Kirill Alekseenko of Russia and Wang Hao from China. His main rivals all faltered at one point; with top American player Fabiano Caruana losing to Anish Giri of the Netherlands in Round 12. Giri ended up losing to Alexander Grischuk from Russia in the penultimate Round 13. And finally, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the only player to defeat Nepomniachtchi in the first leg of the tournament, could only hold Nepomniachtchi to a draw in their second encounter, leaving the French No 1. out of contention for the World Championship.

The start of the critical game of the penultimate round between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, which ended in a draw | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Candidates Final standings

Ian Nepomniachtchi8.52789Russia
Maxime Vachier Lagrave8.02758France
Fabiano Caruana7.52820USA
Anish Giri7.52776Netherlands
Alexander Grischuk7.02777Russia
Ding Liren7.02791China
Kirill Alekseenko5.52696Russia
Wang Hao5.02763China

The upcoming World Championship match between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen will be quite intriguing for chess fans, as Nepomniachtchi is one of the only top players with a plus score against Magnus--four wins vs. only one loss in their classical head-to-head matchups. While many are predicting another win for Carlsen, who so far has been unbeaten in World Championship matches, Nepomniachtchi aggressive style will surely make him a dangerous challenger.

IM Kostya Kavutskiy is a professional chess player, coach, writer, and streamer currently living in Mountain View, California. Currently, Kostya spends most of his time streaming on Twitch and making YouTube videos for ChessDojo.