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...

ChessBase 16 - Mega package Edition 2022 ChessBase 16 - Mega package Edition 2022

Your key to fresh ideas, precise analyses and targeted training!
Everyone uses ChessBase, from the World Champion to the amateur next door. 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.


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.
Discussion and Feedback Submit your feedback to the editors

Theochessman Theochessman 6/17/2022 09:25
@arzi "Caruana has never lost a classical game in WC to Carlsen."
Neither has he won any.
arzi arzi 6/17/2022 09:05
Caruana has never lost a classical game in WC to Carlsen. Why should Carlsen not play against him in an other WC match?
Mamack1 Mamack1 6/17/2022 08:32

I am in very little doubt that Carlsen will end up playing against anybody he hasn't faced before.

If it is Caruana or Nepo, however, then all bets are off really.
WillScarlett WillScarlett 6/17/2022 06:27
Watching the live commentary of round 1 I perceive that the brash IM ( Rensch ? ) is being needlessly belligerent and rude to the GM Hammer. Is he showing off his testosterone for Almira ? Hammer is quietly putting up with this,
showing his class.
Theochessman Theochessman 6/17/2022 04:53
Comments are back? So readers return.
Imho there is none of these candidates that is a match for Magnus still.
I highly doubt it, but it would be super cool to see Hikaru reach the finals!
arzi arzi 6/17/2022 04:29
Is Duda already winning in move 10 (+2.4)?
WillScarlett WillScarlett 6/17/2022 03:44
It's very good to see comments again. We can only hope no one will post anything F.F. deems anathema.
Tiptoe lightly, and hold your hat in your hand.

I'm for Radjabov - largely for sentimental reasons, but a dark horse ( e.g. Rapport ) would be pleasing as well.

If Firouzja should fail to win, will Magnus keep his threat to not defend his title ?
MauvaisFou MauvaisFou 6/17/2022 03:28
Satman : there has to be a bottom, so why not them ? they are not the most unlikely.
kingsindianwins kingsindianwins 6/17/2022 02:38
Arzi.Yes I agree Nakamura would win in the playoffs,no hands down for sure.
satman satman 6/17/2022 02:30
Rapport and Duda at the bottom?
VincentM VincentM 6/17/2022 02:12
@sebtak= Well the answer is in the article: "we took the two most recent games with reversed the candidates had played against each other. If possible, we took the two most recent classical games"
sebtak sebtak 6/17/2022 01:48
So a sample of 56 games is used to predict the scores of 2*28=56 games (2 colours, 28 possible pairs of players). In effect a historical game of each possible encounter is used as the predictor. Plenty of noise, but at least it looks like an un-biased estimator. Perhaps it would be worth explaining how a game was selected when player X has played against player Y with White n times in the past? Last game, last classical (failing that last rapid), a game for which the result best matches the general outcome of all games White X vs Black Y, ...
arzi arzi 6/17/2022 01:21
Arzi´s prediction. One of these three players: Nakamura, Rapport, Caruana. Which one of them wins if the games go into the playoffs, against to any other player? Nakamura will be the strongest in that phase, in my prediction.