Coming into Round 7 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022, Ian Nepominiachtchi was the sole leader with 4.5 points out of a possible 6.
The closest was former world championship challenger Fabiano Caruana as the pair of former challengers sat atop the pile of Candidates. Round 7 was an interesting one; sit back and enjoy as we take you through the games.
Unstoppable Nepo Strikes Again
Brimming with confidence and fresh from his victory over Duda, Nepo faced Hungarian grandmaster Richard Rapport in Round 7. Rapport took no time to sound the battle cry as he went for e4, to which Nepo replied e5. The players chose the Russian Game and went for the sharp Classical Attack: Marshall Variation.
Nepo was thirsty for blood, and as soon as move 13, he offered his rook on a8 for Rapport’s knight on e4. Then, as if that wasn’t crazy enough, Nepo decided to unleash Hell upon Rapport’s king by offering his bishop with Bh3 to open up Rapport’s defenses. Rapport bravely accepted the sacrifice and opened Hell’s gate on his king, being no shy battle general himself.
Nepo wasted no time and immediately began harassing Rapport’s king with a flurry of checks. Finally, it seemed Nepo was offering Rapport the chance of accepting a draw, but the Hungarian was in no mood for peace as he played f3 instead of repeating Kg1. Rapport would immediately regret not accepting the Olive Branch Nepo offered as the former challenger put together a dazzling combination of 22.d7 and 23.Nf6 trapping Rapport’s queen on the 8th rank.
Rapport would then be forced to give up his queen for the rook on f8. That advantage was all Nepo needed, as, despite Rapport having two rooks for a queen, Nepo managed to outplay him, and the Hungarian grandmaster had no choice but to resign on move 43.
ROUND 7 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: IAN NEPOMNIACHTCHI 1- 0 RICHARD RAPPORT
ROUND 7 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: Hungry Duda Settles For Drab Draw
Coming off the back of a defeat against Nepo in Round 6, Polish grandmaster Jan-Krzysztof Duda looked to pick up a full point for the first time in this tournament against US grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. The game commenced with Duda going for a d4 opening and Hikaru selecting the Nimzo-Indian Defense as his weapon of choice.
The Opening was pretty quiet without any flashes of wildness like in the Rapport v Nepo match. Instead, the players went for a minor piece exchange with only the knight and bishop the minor pieces left on the board after move 20.
The game was showing no signs of being a fighting one as the players went for more exchanges, and by move 28, it was down to a rook and knight v rook and bishop endgame with Duda having the knight and Hikaru having the bishop. The knight and bishop were then traded off on move 33.
The players then created passed pawns for themselves, with Duda having a passed pawn on c5 and Hikaru having the outside passed pawn on a7.
However, the position at this point was a dead draw; after a few trades, the players agreed to a draw.
ROUND 7 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: JAN-KRZYSZTOF DUDA ½ – ½ HIKARU NAKAMURA.
Alireza Draws To Stay Bottom
The tournament was not going how Ding and Alireza thought it would. Alireza, who was Magnus’ handpicked challenger, and Ding, one of the favorites coming into this tournament, were sitting on 8th and 5th, respectively; only a win would do in this round.
Ding chose the English Opening with c4, and Alireza replied a6, going for the King’s English Variation. It seemed Nepo was the only player that was ready to go all out in this round as both Ding and Alireza, like Duda and Hikaru, went for a more positional game rather than an all-out caveman attack.
The trades then started on move 14 as the pawns were the first to go, followed by the light square bishops. By move 25, all the bishops were off the board, and the only minor pieces remaining were two knights. A queen trade occurred on move 29, and Alireza got a passed pawn for his troubles.
However, he would not be able to hold on to that passed pawn, and a rook exchange happened to leave only the knights and pawns in a well-known theoretical draw.
ROUND 7 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: DING LIREN ½ – ½ ALIREZA FIROUZJA
Fabi Wins To Keep Pressure on Nepo
This game saw the tournament’s Number 2 and 6 lock horns. Fabi was sitting comfortably in second place with 4 points, 1 point clear of Hikaru and Radjabov. However, Radjabov looked to spoil Fabi’s good run with a win in round 7.
Fabi opened with e4, and Radjabov stated that he was ready for war by going for the Sicilian Defense. Fabi chose the Maroczy bind setup as his weapon.Radjabov immediately looked to undermine it with d5.
A bishop for knight trade happened on f5 as the game took on an exciting turn with Radjabov opting to go for a queenside castle even though his queenside was somewhat exposed.
However, Fabi could not mount any real threat, and a queen exchange happened on move 20.
Radjabov managed to grab two of Fabi’s queenside pawns, creating two passed pawns for himself, but despite this, the engine favored Fabi with an evaluation of +3.8. It didn’t take long for Fabi to start gobbling up Radjabov’s undefended kingside pawns, and on move 43, one pair of rooks were traded off.
The game was a knife-edged situation as both players had very advanced passed pawns. Fabi had a passed pawn on f7, and Radjabov had his on b2; both were one move away from promotion.
The pawns were promoted, and the queens were back on the board. However, it was short-lived; after five moves, the queens were exchanged on move 51.
However, with the queen exchange, Fabi got a very advanced pawn on e7 that was faster than Radjabov’s outside passed pawn, giving Radjabov no choice but to resign.
ROUND 7 OF THE FIDE CANDIDATES TOURNAMENT 2022: FABIANO CARUANA 1-0 TEIMOUR RADJABOV