Who will win the Candidates Tournament? A prediction

by André Schulz
6/17/2022 – Today, the most important tournament of the year starts - the Candidates Tournament. The winner will challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship and can become new World Champion. But who will win? We will know in three weeks but we still dare a prediction now, based on the games the eight candidates have recently played against each other. And the winner is...

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Who will win the Candidates?

Of course, you can't really predict the outcome of this tournament, and therefore our experiment is rather playful and should not be taken too seriously. But who knows? Maybe we are not that wrong. Based on the games the eight candidates have recently played against each other, we created a virtual Candidates Tournament with a possible result of the real Candidates Tournament.

For each of the encounters that will take place in the Candidates Tournament in Madrid, we took the two most recent games with reversed colours the candidates had played against each other.

If possible, we took the two most recent classical games. If there were no such games, which was rare, we took over-the-board rapid games, and if there were no such games, we took rapid games from online tournaments.

Ding Liren was already one of the favourites in the last Candidates Tournament 2020-21, but was particularly affected by the pandemic as he had to spend a long time in quarantine before the start of the Candidates 2020-21 in Ekaterinburg, and then didn't find his form when the tournament began.

But in Madrid Ding should be in form. After all, in the last months Ding has played several tournaments to reach the required number of 30 games which he needed to qualify as a replacement for Karjakin, who was suspended by the FIDE after supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine in a number of tweets.

Alireza Firouzja shot way up in the world rankings at the end of 2021. In the press conference of the Candidates Caruana said that he doesn't think that Firouzja, who will turn 19 on 18 June, is quite as strong as his rating indicates. After all, Firouzja is the youngest participant in the field and still somewhat inexperienced in such tournaments though he definitely has a lot of energy and is extremely motivated.

Caruana, on the other hand, is an extremely experienced player, who had already played in three Candidates Tournaments and has also played a World Championship match.

Ian Nepomniachtchi, too, has won a Candidates Tournament though the following World Championship match against Carlsen did not go particularly well. It will be seen whether and to what extent the best Russian player is and will be affected by current political events.

Hikaru Nakamura and Richard Rapport recommend themselves by winning and finishing second respectively in the Grand Prix tournaments.

Teimour Radjabov was also not very active before the pandemic. As a prelude to the Candidates Tournament he played in the Norway Chess Tournament, where he finished second to last, but of course did not show everything there.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda has not yet reached his zenith but the young Pole has shown that he can beat anyone.

And here is our prediction:

Rg. Tit. Name Country Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts.
1 GM Ding Liren
2806   ½½ ½1 ½½ ½½ 9.0
2 GM Fabiano Caruana
2783   ½½ ½½ ½½ ½1 8.0
3 GM Hikaru Nakamura
2760 ½½   ½½ ½½ 11 7.5
4 GM Teimour Radjabov
2738 ½0 ½½   ½½ ½1 ½1 7.5
5 GM Ian Nepomniachtchi
2766 ½½ ½½   ½1 ½½ 7.0
6 GM Alireza Firouzja
2793 ½½ ½½ ½½ ½0 ½0   11 6.5
7 GM Richard Rapport
2764 ½½ ½½ ½½   00 5.5
8 GM Jan Krzysztof Duda
2750 ½0 00 ½0 00 11   5.0

The Elo-ratings are based on the Live Chess Rating list.

As you can see, there is a high number of draws, but this can happen in a Candidates Tournament.

And here are the games on which our prediction is based:


But even when the winner is decided, there is still a big question: Will World Champion Magnus Carlsen defend his title or will he give up his title without playing another World Championship match? Should he do so, the top two finishers in the Candidates Tournament will play a match for the title.

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.