Candidates Tournament 2024: A feeling of déjà vu

by Johannes Fischer
4/9/2024 – Four rounds have been played in the Candidates Tournament and Ian Nepomniachtchi is in the lead with 3.0 out of 4. But, as we often hear, nothing is decided yet because, after all, 14 rounds are played in Toronto, which is still a long way to go. But the numbers tell a different story: in the six Candidates Tournaments from London 2013 to Madrid 2022, the player leading after four rounds has always won. | Photo: Ian Nepomniachtchi at the Madrid 2022 Candidates Tournament, which he won comfortably. | Photo: Stev Bonhage (FIDE)

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


In 2013 FIDE introduced the current format of the Candidates Tournaments: 8 players, double round-robin. The format has proved its worth and has resulted in six high-profile and exciting tournaments. Three times - 2013, 2016 and 2018 - the tournament was decided in the final round, and three times - 2014, 2021 and 2022 - the winner was decided before the final round.

However, a look at the table below shows that in the past, the player leading after four rounds has always won.

Year City Top three players after 4 rounds Winner after 14 rounds
2013 London 1. Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian 3.0/4 3. Peter Svidler 2,5/4 Magnus Carlsen
2014 Khanty-Mansiysk 1. Vishy Anand 3.0/4 2. to 3. L. Aronian, V. Kramnik 2.5/4 Vishy Anand
2016 Moskau 1. Sergey Karjakin 3.0/4 2. L. Aronian 2,5/4 3. to 4. A. Giri, V. Anand 2.0/2 Sergey Karjakin
2018 Berlin 1. Fabiano Caruana 3.0/4 2. to 3. V. Kramnik, Shakhryar Mamedyarov 2.5/4 Fabiano Caruana
2020-2021 Yekaterinburg 1. to 3. Ian Nepomniachtchi, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wang Hao 2.5/3 Ian Nepomniachtchi
2022 Madrid 1. I. Nepomniachtchi 3.0/4 2. F. Caruana 2.5/4 3. to 4. Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Hikaru Nakamura 2.0/4 Ian Nepomniachtchi

Of course, this is just another statistic in the series of many statistics that have been compiled about the current and past Candidates Tournaments.

In general, there is a certain mistrust of statistics, as quotes from Mark Twain "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics", Winston Churchill "Don't trust a statistic that you haven't falsified yourself" or Franklin D. Roosevelt "I am somewhat sceptical about statistics, because according to statistics, a millionaire and a poor fellow each have half a million", show.

You should also consider the following: Never before in the history of chess has a player won the Candidates Tournament or the Candidates Matches three times. At first glance it seems rather unlikely that this will happen in Toronto in 2024.

In other words, at the Candidates Tournament 2024 in Toronto everything is probably still possible. In any case, after the rest day, Round 5 will bring the following pairings:

Alireza Firouzja - Hikaru Nakamura
Gukesh D - Nijat Abasov
Vidit Santosh Gujrathi - Fabiano Caruana
Praggnanandhaa R - Ian Nepomniachtchi

Once this round is over, we will know more, and will be able to think about new statistics and forecasts.

Standings after round 4



Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
Discussion and Feedback Submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

adbennet adbennet 4/9/2024 10:26
"However, a look at the table below shows that in the past, the player leading after four rounds has always won." That's only partially correct. One could equally well argue that twice the player leading after four rounds has *not* won: Levon Aronian in 2013, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wang Hao in 2020-2021.
But I agree with the overall premise of the article. Nepomniachtchi at +2 after four rounds is already in the driving seat. The really interesting number is what the *second* place player scored: +3 +1 +1 +2 +2 +2. In other words, +2 would have sufficed for clear first in two prior events, tied for first in three, and only in 2013 when Carlsen played would it not have sufficed for the top. So if Nepomniachtchi "only" draws the rest of his games he has a very good chance of finishing at least tied for first, although then his tiebreak of two wins would be the minimum. With one more win and the rest draws it's hard to see anybody catching him.