Candidates R3: Ding’s missed chance

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/20/2022 – All four games finished drawn in round 3 of the Candidates Tournament. Richard Rapport survived from an inferior position with black for a second time in the event, as he managed to keep the balance in his encounter against Ding Liren. In the longest game of the day, Hikaru Nakamura showed great calculation skills to split the point with Alireza Firouzja. | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

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Long thinks

Going into the first rest day of the 2022 Candidates Tournament, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana are sharing first place on a plus-one score (2/3 points). Two of the four players standing a half point back, Alireza Firouzja and Hikaru Nakamura, staged the longest game of the third round.

After twice saving draws with black, Firouzja faced the ever-resilient Nakamura in his first game with white. Out of a Nimzo-Indian Defence, the youngster all but blitzed out his first 25 moves, while Nakamura spent 14 minutes on move 13, and needed a bit over 42 minutes to decide how to proceed five moves later.


White has given up a knight for two pawns on g5, and now threatens to recover the sacrificed piece with e4-e5. Given the time spent by Firouzja, we can deduce he was excellently prepared to face this line, as he even blitzed out the sacrifice on g5 (a novelty).

Nakamura, on the other hand, was faced with a tough decision — 18...e5, 18...Nxd4 and 18...Rxd4 are all playable, but plenty of side variations need to be considered in each case.

The 5-time US champion eventually opted for 18...Rxd4, and saw his opponent confidently improving his position. Once the queens and a pair of rooks left the board, Firouzja found himself in the driver’s seat.

The players had passed the control, and the youngster knew this was his chance to strike — on move 42, he used the time advantage he had amassed, as he spent over an hour thinking about a way to increase his winning chances.


Firouzja was considering moves like 42.Bg5 or 42.Bh4, but finally chose the more forcing 42.bxc3. From this point on, it was Naka’s turn to blitz out his moves — a great calculator, he had seen the line that granted him equality after his opponent’s capture.

A draw was agreed eleven moves later.


Hikaru Nakamura

A long day at the office | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Rapport escapes again

Much like Firouzja, Richard Rapport is playing his first Candidates Tournament, and similarly to his young colleague, he struggled the two times he had the black pieces so far in the event. On Sunday, he faced rating favourite Ding Liren, who surely considered this a major chance to bounce back from his first-round loss.

A double-edged Grünfeld appeared on the board, as the fearless Rapport challenged his famed opponent to a tactical battle. The Hungarian gave up an exchange on move 18, and soon after faltered in an extremely sharp position.


Ding had spent 18 and 25 minutes on his two previous moves, as he showed his class by finding the critical continuations 21...a4 and 22...Kf1 to keep his advantage. Here, Rapport also needed close to 20 minutes to decide what to do next — and instead of holding tight with a queen manoeuvre like 22...Qe7, he went for 22...Nxe2, creating maximum tension on the board.

The Chinese star had naturally foreseen this move and quickly replied with 23.Qxe2, when 23.Qxd8 is winning for White (see diagram below).


Grabbing the rook with 23...Nxc1 fails to 24.Qg5, and Black’s initiative dies down quickly while White will not have difficulties consolidating his position by creating threats along the dark squares on the kingside.

The critical continuation here is 23...Qxe4, creating a dangerous battery on the light-squared long diagonal. But White has a forcing line that keeps things under control — 24.Bxe2 Qxg2+ 25.Ke1 Qh1+ 26.Kd2 Bf4+ 27.Kc3


The king escapes, and White is simply a rook up. Ding did not see this far — and we cannot blame him for it — as he captured the knight in the first-diagrammed position. He still was an exchange up, though, but could not make the most of his chances in the middlegame battle.

Rapport once again showed great resourcefulness to escape with a draw, as he is set to again get two blacks in the three rounds coming up after the first rest day of the event.


Ding Liren, Richard Rapport

It is always great to see top chess players sharing their thoughts (and sometimes a laugh) even after tough battles | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Problems with the dress code?

According to a tweet shared by Hikaru Nakamura, FIDE has complained to the players regarding the dress code. The famous streamer wrote, explaining to his audience why he had spent longer than usual to upload his recap:

The video is a tiny bit late — I had to draft a response to FIDE complaining to us about the dress code. They want us all to look like it’s 1970s at the IBM headquarters. It’s hot, we’re all neat, tidy and comfortable for long games. Trivialities like this are boring...

Perhaps FIDE wants the players to wear ties?

Coincidentally, AntonSquaredMe — who made a name for himself by creating quirky chess-related memes — reappeared on Twitter, depicting the sharply dressed Richard Rapport as a member of the Reservoir Dogs gang.

Round 3 results


Standings after round 3


All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.