Big Wins For Ian Nepomniachtchi And Fabiano Caruana In The Round 1 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022

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Photo credit: Chess.com

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! After the last championship match between Ian Nepomniachtchi and world chess champion Magnus Carlsen where Magnus retained the title, chess lovers worldwide have waited eagerly for the next championship cycle to determine the next challenger to the world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. Chessforsharks will bring you all the happenings as the race for the challenger spot begins. In this article, we go through the games from Round 1 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022. 

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Another Bad Candidates Start For Ding

Nepo gained automatic qualification for the Candidates Tournament by being the runner-up in the previous World Championship match, while Ding received the last available spot in the Candidates Tournament due to having the highest rating as of the May 2022 FIDE rating list (excluding the reigning champion, Magnus Carlsen). He replaced Sergey Karjakin, who received a six-month ban from the FIDE Ethics and Disciplinary Committee. 

Coming into this match, Ding and Nepo had played 12 classical games, with two wins for both of them and eight draws. The game promised fireworks as both Ding and Nepo are known to be exciting players. 

Ding had the white pieces and chose to play the English Opening with c4, and a fianchettoed bishop on g2. The Opening was fairly quiet as both players focused on putting their pieces on optimal squares. 

The fireworks started when Nepo played 25.g5 was going for an all-out attack against Ding’s king. Ding responded with Nxb7, which the engines considered a huge blunder, and Nepo duly took advantage by busting open Ding’s Kingside with gxh4. Ding then tried to bring his knight back into the game by playing Nc5; Nepo attacked the fianchettoed bishop on g2 with h3 and, in spectacular fashion, allowed Ding to play Rxe4, thereby leaving his (Nepo) rook unguarded. Unfazed, Nepo played hxg2 and allowed the rook to capture with Rxe8+. Nepo sidestepped the check with Kg7. 

Certain doom loomed for Ding at this point, and he spent over 3 minutes before finally playing f4. However, it was futile as Nepo played Qh1+, Ding responded with Kf2, and Nepo captured the undefended rook on a1 Resignation for Ding at this point was just a matter of “when,” and he did so after playing Kxg2 and Nepo responded with bh3+. 

Photo from Round 1 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022. Photo credit: chess24

Round 1 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: DING LIREN V IAN NEPOMNIACHTCHI: 0-1. Ian Nepominiachtchi wins. 

Caruana Flexes His Candidates Experience On Nakamura

Photo credit: Chess.com

The two United States Grandmasters were familiar with each other coming into this game. Fabiano secured qualification into the Candidates by finishing second place in the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament 2021, and Hikaru secured his spot in the Candidates by winning the FIDE Grand Prix 2022. Before this game, the two had played 46 Classical games, with Fabi winning 7, Hikaru 6, and a total of 33 draws. 

Fabi had the white pieces and he opened with e4, Hikaru responded with e5 and went for the Berlin Defense. However, Fabi was not having any of it and immediately played 4.d3, the so-called Anti-Berlin.  

The next five moves were traditional Berlin defense stuff until Fabi played 9.Na5 attacking the b7 pawn. Hikaru deviated from the expected continuation, a Queenside castle, and instead played Rb8. T

he game continued with Hikaru pushing aggressively on the Kingside with g4 and even h5, to which World Champion Magnus Carlsen jokingly tweeted as not having any regard for king safety. Hikaru finally castled on move 21, although the engine deemed this to be an inaccuracy, saying h5 was best for black. However, Hikaru’s overexposed king would later be his undoing as Fabi continued applying pressure to the position, and in the end, he picked up the win on move 50 with Qg4+. Hikaru, seeing that the position was lost, resigned. 

ROUND 1 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: FABIANO CARUANA V HIKARU NAKAMURA: 1-0. FABIANO CARUANA WINS

All Square Between Candidates Tournament Debutants

Photo credit: FIDE

The Classical score of both players coming into this match was 2 wins for Duda, 1 for Rapport, and 1 draw. Duda qualified by winning the 2021 World Cup and Rapport by being the runner-up in the FIDE Grand Prix 2022. 

Rapport looked in the mood for a proper fight as he opted for the Sicilian Defense by playing c5 in response to Duda’s e4. There was nothing crazy in the opening stages as both players focused on developing their pieces. Duda offered a queen trade on move 14, and Rapport accepted. It seemed both players didn’t want to push too much as more trades occurred on the board, with Rapport giving up his bishop pair on move 21. Most of the play was on the Queenside, with Rapport’s king actively involved in the thick of the action.

The players then traded further into a bishop pair v bishop and knight endgame with Duda having the outside passed pawn on a4 and Rapport also had a passed pawn on c5. The game always looked like a textbook draw, and Rapport made sure of that by eliminating all of Duda’s pawns and giving up his knight for two pawns. The game ended as a draw due to insufficient material with only the Kings on the board and one bishop belonging to Duda. 

ROUND 1 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: JAN KRZYSZTOF DUDA V RICHARD RAPPORT. ½ -½. DRAW

Veteran V Prodigy Clash Settles As A Draw

This was the first-ever Classical meeting between the two players.

Alireza qualified for the candidates by wining the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament in 2021 and Radjabov qualified as the wildcard after missing out on the last Candidates due to the pandemic. The players opted for the Anti-Nimzo Indian Variation of the Indian Defense.

In his usual attacking style, things quickly got interesting as Alireza went for an Exchange Sacrifice on move 19. He then won a pawn on move 22 and had an outside passed pawn on the a-file. Radjabov focused his attack on the Kingside and managed to break Alireza’s defenses, forcing him to flee and move his king to the center of the board. Alireza lost his outside passed pawn on move 35 and had to go for a queen trade.

Although he came very close to running out of time, Alireza managed to reach move 40 and gain increment while playing a rook endgame. Radjabov then won a pawn, but it was a theoretical draw with no clear winning chances, and both players agreed to a draw on move 71. 

ROUND 1 of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: TEIMOUR RADJABOV V ALIREZA FIROUZJA: ½ – ½. DRAW

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