Cracking the Candidate Code (4)

by ChessBase
6/21/2022 – In the June issue of the venerable British Chess Magazine, Macedonian GM Aleksandar Colovic takes a deeper look at the strengths and weaknesses of the eight players fighting for a chance to be the next world champion. In agreement with BCM, ChessBase is publishing BCM’s evaluation of the chances of the individual players, continuing today with the dark horse from Poland, Jan-Krzysztof Duda (24), and former candidate Ian Nepomniachtchi (31).

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The dark horse from Poland

The second-youngest player in the event is Jan-Krzysztof Duda (24). After securing his qualification by winning the World Cup in 2021 he only played in Wijk aan Zee at the beginning of the year, thus leaving plenty of time for thorough preparation. This approach makes him the ‘dark horse’ of the tournament. We could see the fruits of his preparation at the online events he participated in. At the Oslo Esports Cup, played at the end of April, we could see him change his repertoire with Black, using the Berlin against 1.e4 and the Grunfeld against 1.d4. It is safe to assume that he was testing these new openings against tough opposition to have them battle-ready for Madrid.

Duda’s win of the World Cup propelled him to the elite: few players have managed to win a World Cup. Don’t forget that he eliminated Carlsen in the semi-final! This means that he can withstand tension for a prolonged period, which says a lot about his nervous system. Good nerves, good preparation and with a touch of luck good form can be the magic formula for Duda in Madrid.

A second chance for Nepo?

The most recent Challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi (31) has a historic chance to become the second player in history (after Smyslov) to win two Candidate Tournaments in a row. And I just don’t see him doing it.

It was great to see Nepomniachtchi come back with good results after his débacle in Dubai, albeit these came in faster time controls. He only returned to classical chess at the Superbet Classic in May, but here he was sub-par: a minus score and loss of seven rating points. But what’s more important is that he again showed the same weaknesses as in the match with Carlsen – the inability to withstand long tortures in inferior, but holdable positions.


This game shows that even after analysing the reasons for his loss in Dubai Nepomniachtchi didn’t manage to cover his weak spot. Madrid will show whether he manages to find the strength to withstand a gruesome 14-round tough tournament – in the past he has always cracked in longer events, dropping his level and spoiling his chances.

Nepomniachtchi is still reaping the fruits of his extensive pre-match preparation and this will likely help him in Madrid. But it will be his nerves and stamina that will determine his final result.

The above series appears in the June 2022 issue of The British Chess Magazine, the world's oldest chess publication. It is reproduced with kind permission.

BCM covers the international and British chess scene. In a blend of current event coverage and thought-provoking analysis of the chess world’s most topical issues, BCM gives readers what they need to understand and enjoy the Royal Game and its wider context in society. BCM’s interviews with top players and key chess world influencers and participants (actors, businessmen, artists, politicians, top chess world administrators), detailed games analysis and historical articles provide in-depth coverage of chess events and wider chess themes.

Published monthly, each issue of The British Chess Magazine contains 64 pages packed with exclusive articles and annotations. You can buy a subscription (£55 per year, £4.58 per issue) or download a sample copy free.

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