Three tournaments that marked the 2022 elite chess circuit

by ChessBase
12/31/2022 – As a tumultuous year is about to end, let us highlight three tournaments that were particularly impactful in the world of chess. Granted, this list does not intend to be all-encompassing, but it features three events that are sure to be remembered for many years to come: the Candidates Tournament in Madrid, the Chess Olympiad in Chennai and the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis.

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Nepo dominates, Ding comes from behind

Ian NepomniachtchiCandidates Tournaments since 2013, when FIDE decided to go back to the double round-robin format, have provided plenty of entertainment for chess fans all over the world. This year’s edition was no exception. Even if there was barely any intrigue in the fight for first place, watching Ian Nepomniachtchi’s dominating performance was in itself a great show. Not to mention the fact that the remaining players arrived in Madrid with clear intentions to finish first, which meant there was no lack of fighting games in every round.

Remarkably, Hikaru Nakamura did not stop creating content for his online followers during the Candidates. In his last recap from the event, titled “Dear YouTube, I cared too much”, he explained how he failed to handle his clock effectively during his last-round game against Ding Liren. Naka had gained his spot at the event in Madrid by winning the FIDE Grand Prix, a series he entered after having been inactive in classical chess for over two years.

Ding, who only qualified to the event after Sergey Karjakin was banned from participating — and playing an awful lot of games in China — grabbed second place. At the time, Magnus Carlsen had only hinted at a potential withdrawal from the World Championship cycle. Once the Norwegian confirmed he would not defend his title, Ding gained the right to face Nepo in the next match for the crown.

Ding Liren, Hikaru Nakamura

The deciding game: Ding Liren vs Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: FIDE / Stev Bonhage

Youthful glory in India

Ivan SokolovIan Nepomniachtchi’s reflection regarding the importance of avoiding losses in the Candidates was also applicable at the record-breaking Chess Olympiad in Chennai. Uzbekistan, in the open, and Ukraine, in the women’s section, were the only teams that finished the tournament undefeated, and they took home gold medals in their respective categories.

The youthful squad from Uzbekistan scored 8 wins and 3 draws for a 19/22 score in the open. Armenia scored the same number of points, but had a markedly inferior tiebreak score. The team led by Gabriel Sargissian lost in round 9 against the eventual champions.

In the women’s section, the second seeds from Ukraine, with an experienced team which included two former women’s world champions, scored 7 wins and 4 draws for an 18/22 score. Much like in the open, another team tied on points with the champions but had an inferior tiebreak score. Georgia got silver, and its one defeat of the event was suffered in round 6, when they lost to India.

The host country, whose organization and enthusiasm was almost universally praised by the participants and the audience, saw two of its teams grabbing bronze medals. The incredibly young India 2 squad out-performed the ‘first team’ and got third place in the open, while the strong women’s team also got bronze in its section.

Given how things were going for the Indian teams that eventually made it to the podium, getting bronze in both sections surely left a bittersweet taste among the locals. A single blunder by Gukesh — who shocked the world by winning eight games in a row — prevented his team from beating Uzbekistan in round 10, while the Indian women never lost the lead (or the shared lead) until the final round.

Chess Olympiad

The Ukrainian women’s team grabbed gold in Chennai! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Firouzja conquers Saint Louis

Alireza FirouzjaWith a number of junior players making the news lately, Alireza Firouzja’s performance over three weeks in late August and early September proved that we have entered a new chess era, with the youngster from Babol as the leading representative.

After dominating the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, Firouzja went on to win the Sinquefield Cup, which secured him first place at the overall standings of this year’s Grand Chess Tour.

Although it was a remarkable victory for Firouzja, he did need some luck to take first place in the Sinquefield Cup, as Ian Nepomniachtchi, who entered the final round as co-leader, could have secured tournament victory in his game against Hans Niemann. Moreover, a visibly upset Nepo collapsed in the second game of the play-offs, handing his opponent a rather easy win.

Throughout the 2022 Grand Chess Tour, Firouzja collected no less than $172,250 plus a $100,000 bonus for winning the series. Wesley So and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave came in second and third place, respectively.

Unfortunately for Firouzja, the Sinquefield Cup was also the stage of the biggest scandal of the year, which attracted an inordinate amount of mainstream media attention, as Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the tournament after losing his round-3 game against Hans Niemann. The world champion implicitly accused Niemann of cheating, and has now been sued by the youngster, who is seeking damages of no less than one hundred million dollars

Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alireza Firouzja

Magnus Carlsen lost with white against Hans Niemann | Photo: Crystal Fuller

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