Who will win the 2014 Candidates? (Part 1/2)

3/10/2014 – The 2014 Candidates tournament is just around the corner, and while chess fans all over wait with bated breath, everyone has a favorite. The Russian media asked players and chess pros for their opinions on the Candidates tournament, and who their favorites were. Among those quizzed were Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, and several more. Read what they think before placing your bets.

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Top players and coaches were asked by the Russian press, RCF and '64', their thoughts on the Candidates tournament. Here is what they said.

Magnus Carlsen

Of course, I'm looking forward to the Candidates tournament. I think it will be fascinating to see, and I will watch it comfortably just as any amateur. The "theoretical" favorites are Aronian and Kramnik.

Fabiano Caruana

I think the main favorites are Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik. Aronian is in peak form, as seen from his performance in Wijk aan Zee, and is one of the top players, whose training is very well thought out. His only problem is purely psychological, which is what prevented him from winning last year's Candidates tournament.

Vladimir Kramnik is one of the best prepared and most cold-blooded players in the world with a wealth of experience. The only question is his motivation, a question only people from his team can really answer. Also, he is no longer so young, and this might be one of his last attempts to qualify for the world title match. Of note is that he has played very little up to the tournament, giving him more preparation time, but it remains to be seen whether this time off will be an advantage or a hindrance as happened to Radjabov in 2013.

Sergey Karjakin has a very real chance, and for many years he has been an elite player. Now, as I understand it, Sergey has been very hard at work.

I believe the winner will be one of these three players. Not wanting to detract from the ability of other participants, I think these three have the best chances. However, anything is possible, and the winner will likely not be clear until the very last round.

I will follow the tournament closely as both a professional and as a person who loves chess: not just for the openings novelties, but also for fun, since I am sure the grandmasters will reveal breathtaking, amazing chess!

Dmitry Jakovenko

I'll start with the foreign participants. Among them is the obvious favorite, Levon Aronian, who in addition to his high standard has also had good results recently.

Veselin Topalov is a very strong tournament player, but I think that it will be difficult for him to achieve a plus score against the Kramnik-Anand- Aronian trio, without which I think taking first is not possible. I think Mamedyarov and Anand have the least chances.

I won't say anything about the Russian, since I not only know their games, but speak with them personally on a regular basis, so saying anything would be inappropriate. That said, I think the overall chances of the Russians to be slightly worse that the "world team".

Alexander Grischuk

Who do you think will win?

I won't be original: the favorites are Aronian and Kramnik. Svidler, Karjakin and Mamedyarov may also win, but I would be very surprised by a victory by Anand, Topalov or Andreikin.

What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Don't expect any profound revelations since I play them regularly. The only thing I can comment on is the weak opening preparation by Kramnik, especially when playing black.

Is it fair to rule that members of one country should meet in the start of the Candidates tournament?

Let's be frank: this rule was not invented in Russia, and in any case, it really makes no difference. Although on the Internet, I often run into idiots who believe that Svidler and I "dumped" our games to Kramnik in the 2013 Candidates in London. It is a stupid rule, since a "deal" could just as easily be closed with a foreigner as with someone from the same country.

Last year, the lack of a tie-breaker between the two winners caused a lot of criticism, but this time, nothing has changed. Is this logical?

It is logical from the standpoint that FIDE does not care about such "trifles". As a rule of course, there absolutely must be a tiebreak match, and I do not think this is even subject to debate.

Who among the participants has the best chance to "bother" Carlsen in a match?

I think whoever wins, will have a real chance in a world championship match. The fact that the winner of this tournament will be a different person than he was before the start of the competition. So even if we take, for example, Anand, this "other" Anand would definitely not be easy for Carlsen.

Valentina Gunina, Alexandra Kosteniuk, and Olga Girya

Valentine Gunina: I am rooting for Vladimir Kramnik!

Alexandra Kosteniuk: Like the rest of the chess world, I am very much looking forward to the Candidates tournament! The stakes are high, and I want to believe that each of the participants will come to the competition in good form. I think almost every chess player playing in Khanty-Mansiysk has a chance to win the tournament but the favorites are primarily Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian.

Olga Girya: As the main favorites of the Candidates tournament I would vote for Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian. Over the years, they have demonstrated a high level, though one can expect anything from the other participants. As a spectator I hope above all that the it will be an exciting and fascinating battle, in which all the players partake, but of course I am rooting for a Russian!

To be continued...

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky, Eteri Kublashvili, and Alexandra Kosteniuk


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