Round 12 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022 was an eventful round. Ian Nepominiachtchi and Hikaru Nakamura blitzed their game and agreed to a draw in 7 minutes, Ding lost to Azerbaijan Grandmaster Teimour Radjabov and the other two matches, Rapport v Fabi and Duda v Alireza were drawn. Meanwhile, Fabiano Caruana’s chances of challenging for the world championship title again is gone for this edition. Let’s see how the round unfolded.
Quickfire Draw To Help Nepo Edge Closer to Victory
Nepo’s form from Round 1 of the tournament till now has been impeccable. After 11 rounds, he leads the standings with 8 points, 1.5 points clear of Ding Liren in second. Nepo faced Hikaru Nakamura, who was third with 6 points.
As both players are known to be very aggressive, everyone was looking forward to this match.
Nepo opened with e4, to which Hikaru replied e5, choosing the Berlin Defense as his response to Nepo’s Ruy Lopez. Nepo then castled on move 4, leaving his e4 pawn unguarded; Hikaru captured it, but as they both knew, it wasn’t an advantage as the pawn capture doesn’t give black much of an advantage. Nepo would get his pawn back with 6.dxe5, then temporarily give up his bishop on b5. He would win Hikaru’s knight two moves later with Nxd4.
Hikaru would then play 9.d5, outrightly offering a draw as d5 was a well-known drawn line. Nepo captured en passant and after repetition with 11.Qe4+ Qe6 12. Qd4 Qd6 13. Qe4+ Qe6 14. Qd4 Qd6, the players would agree to a quick draw.
During the game, Grandmaster Anish Giri jokingly tweeted, saying if Hikaru won the game, he would fly to Spain and request an autograph.
However, it seemed that wouldn’t happen as the game ended in a draw in just 7 minutes.
ROUND 12 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: IAN NEPOMNIACHTCHI ½ – ½ HIKARU NAKAMURA
Radjabov Slays Ding Quickly With A Brilliant Sac!
Ding was in high spirits coming into Round 12. After a disappointing loss in Round 1 against Ian Nepominiachtchi, he recovered brilliantly, and with back-to-back wins in Rounds 10 and 11, he comes into Round 12 as the tournament’s number 2; however, Teimour Radjabov looked to rain on Ding’s parade by collecting a full point at his expense.
The game started with Ding opting for d4, Radjabov replied Nf6, and the Nimzo-Indian Defense was signed on the board. Both players were playing normal Nimzo-Indian theory, and by move 10, Ding decided to mess up the pawn structure on Radjabov’s queenside with Bxa6. Radjabov would solve his double-pawn problem on the queenside by playing 13.a5 and 14.a6, forcing Ding to capture one of the doubled pawns, thereby fixing the issue on his queenside.
Ding would then play 18. Rd2?, which the engine considered to be an inaccuracy, suggesting Ba1, another inaccuracy 19.f3?! would be made by Ding with the engine again preferring Ba1.
Ding would then make a blunder with 21.Qc1?? And Radjabov immediately flew in with a brilliant move, Rxe3. Ding kicked back the rook with Nd1, but at this point, the engine was overwhelmingly in favor of Radjabov, giving him an advantage of -6.8.
Another inaccuracy by Ding 24.Ng4 would prove fatal as Radjabov would completely outplay him and force resignation on move 26.
ROUND 12 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: DING LIREN 0 – 1 TEIMOUR RADJABOV
Alireza Can’t Wait For The Tournament To End
Neither Duda nor Alireza was having the best of tournaments. Coming into this round, Duda was on 4.5 points and sitting in 6th position, while Alireza was on 4 points in 8th. A win in Round 12 would do them both a world of good.
Duda opened the game with d4, and Alireza replied with Nf6 choosing the Semi-slav Defense. The players castled early and Alireza, in his usual aggressive style, began expanding on the queenside with b5 and a5.
Duda focused his attention on the center of the board; the first minor piece trade happened on the e5 square, with both players trading a pair of knights.
After a sequence of exchanges, Alireza got a passed pawn on b2 protected by his bishop on e5. However, it didn’t look like the pawn would pose a threat as the promotion square was well defended.
Duda would win the exchange by exchanging Alireza’s rook on f8 with his dark square bishop. The engine evaluation at this point was 0.0. Alireza would look to start attacking Duda’s kingside with 22.g5?!, but the engine considered it inaccurate, preferring c5.
Duda would show that he wasn’t impressed by Alireza’s caveman-style attack by playing 23.f4, threatening Alireza’s bishop on e5. A trade of pawns would result in shattering the defenses of both kings.
Both players then started moving their pieces around, looking for a possible opening, but neither was able to take immediate advantage, and a queen trade would occur on move 36.
By move 41, all the pieces were traded off, only the bishops left. Alireza had 3 pawns to Duda’s 2, but both players knew there was no advantage, and a draw was agreed upon.
ROUND 12 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: JAN-KRZYSZTOF DUDA ½ – ½ ALIREZA FIROUZJA
Caruana Loses Grip on Nepo After Round 12 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022
Round 11 saw Fabiano Caruana lose to Chinese grandmaster Ding Liren; the loss meant Fabi dropped to fourth in the standings behind Ding and Hikaru; he faced Hungarian grandmaster Richard Rapport who was not having the best tournament as after 11 rounds, he was in 7th place with 4.5 points.
Rapport opened with e4, and after Fabi’s e5, we saw the Berlin Defense on the board for the second time in this round. Rapport traded his bishop for Fabi’s knight as early as move 5.
Already on move 15, the game promised to be an interesting one as Fabi castled queenside after a few trades. Rapport would castle queenside as well on move 20.
Fireworks began exploding on the board by move 31 when Rapport gave up his rook on f2 for Fabi’s knight and a passed pawn. Then, as if that wasn’t crazy enough, Rapport would again sacrifice his bishop on the next move for a pawn.
Amazingly, the engine evaluation was 0.0. Fabi would have to give back his rook on move 35 to stop Rapport from getting two queens. The game then cooled down as the players, at this point, had an equal number of pieces with an almost identical pawn structure.
A queen trade would then happen on move 40, and the players would go into a rook endgame with Fabi being up a pawn and having an outside passed pawn on the h-file. However, the position was a theoretical draw and after a few moves, the players agreed to a draw on move 52.
ROUND 12 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: RICHARD RAPPORT ½ – ½ FABIANO CARUANA