Which Candidate Has The Best Post-Pandemic Performance Rating

Which Candidate Has The Best Post-Pandemic Performance Rating

| 64 | Other

The 2022 FIDE Candidates tournament begins on June 16, and the eyes of the chess world will be fixed on Madrid for the most important tournament of the year. While the pandemic is not over, over-the-board chess has definitely returned after a nearly year-long hiatus that started in 2020. Curious to see how this break affected players and who among the candidates is playing the best chess, I ran some statistics to find out their performance rating from January 2021 through June 2022—and the result might shock you.'s coverage of the 2022 FIDE Candidates Tournament runs from June 16 through July 7. This event is the most important of the year as the world's best players gather to fight for a chance to play for the world championship title in 2023.

These stats are brought to you by, my chess improvement project helping chess players reach their rating goals.

Data Download

Like I said before, I pulled in all games from January 2021 through June 2022 for each of the eight Candidates participants. Next, I subset these games to classical time controls only and ran player statistics. The statistic that jumped out the most was a particular player's performance rating.

A chess performance rating is a commonly used measure to calculate how well a player does in a short stretch of games. It can be a leading indicator of how a player's rating will change. 

When players win, they achieve the opponent's rating plus 400 (or 800, depending on the system) for that game, and when they lose, the same amount is subtracted from the opponent's rating. The opponent's rating is used for draws as the single-game performance rating. Chessbase tallied the wins, draws, losses, average ratings, and performance ratings for the eight participants. 


Let's work our way from the lowest performance rating to the highest. 

Teimour Radjabov (Performance: 2688)

GM Teimour Radjabov has played 26 slow games, losing three and drawing 23 of them! An 88% draw rate is an impressive stat, even for a player like GM Anish Giri. The only other candidate Radjabov has played is GM Fabiano Caruana at the Bucharest Superbet Classic 2021, and they drew. Radjabov played in the Norway Chess 2022 event to help shake off the rust before the Candidates Tournament. Will Radjabov be able to return to his old form and surprise the more active competitors?

Teimour Radjabov Performance Rating

Ian Nepomniachtchi (Performance: 2742)

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi's 2742 performance rating is the second-lowest of the bunch. In 37 games, he has four wins, 24 draws, and nine losses. His average opponent rating is the highest in the field, 2789, due to his World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen. Since January 2021, he has had equal scores against GMs Alireza Firouzja, Richard Rapport, and Caruana, and a minus score against GM Ding Liren. Ian isn't carrying much momentum into this event, but maybe he can turn things around with some fresh preparation.

Ian Nepomniachtchi Performance Rating Jan-May 2022

Richard Rapport (Performance: 2764)

Rapport has been the second most active player in the field behind Caruana, with 70 classical games played in 18 months. He has a plus score, 21 wins, 40 draws, and only nine losses against an average opponent rating of 2703. Rapport outplayed Caruana in Tata Steel 2022 with the black pieces in an impressive rook and bishop vs. rook and knight endgame. His 2764 performance rating exactly matches his current live rating. Can Rapport continue his winning ways against this stiff competition?

Richard Rapport Performance Rating 2022 Jan-May

Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Performance: 2770)

GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda is an impressive +10 in 59 games (15 wins, 39 draws, 5 losses) against an average opponent rating of 2745. His performance rating is 20 points above his current live rating of 2750, and he has a plus score against Rapport in the last 18 months. It'll be an uphill climb for Duda to win the Candidates, considering he'll need a 2800+ performance rating. Jan-Krzysztof has a minus score against two of the favorites, Caruana and Firouzja. Let's see if this 24-year-old can surprise us and perform at the 2800 level!

Jan-Krzysztof Duda performance rating Jan-May 2022

Fabiano Caruana (Performance: 2773)

Caruana was rated as high as 2844 when he challenged Carlsen for the world title in 2018. His rating has dipped to 2783 currently, and the 2773 performance rating in the last 18 months reflects the decline. He was the most active classical player in the period, with 27 wins, 60 draws, and 11 losses out of 98 games! He also has plus scores against Firouzja and Duda and only a minus score against Rapport. Fabiano was the favorite to win in my Candidates prediction article with a 26% chance to challenge for the title. If he can play up to his former rating, I think he has a good chance.

Fabiano Caruana performance rating 2022 Jan-May

Ding Liren (Performance: 2795)

Now we are getting up near the distinguished 2800 performance ratings. Ding qualified by rating after securing enough classical games. His average opponent rating was the lowest in the field (2672) due to this unique qualifying circumstance. As you might expect with the low opponent average rating, his 67% score in the last 18 months is the highest in the field. He had 23 wins, 25 draws, and only 5 losses! He hasn't spent much time playing the other candidates, with only a draw against Caruana and a win against Nepomniachtchi. If he can keep up his consistent 2795 performance or his 2805 rating, he may sneak in and win the event!

Ding Liren Performance Rating Jan-May 2022

Alireza Firouzja (Performance: 2799)

There was a stretch where Firouzja skyrocketed up to the 2800+ FIDE level playing mostly players below 2750. The opponent's average rating has increased now to 2766, and he's still scoring 64% with a low 48% draw rate! He has 23 wins, 28 draws, and only 7 losses in the last 18 months. According to the prediction article, he has a 14% chance to win, and he's the second-voted player in this survey. Carlsen has said he might only defend the title if Firouzja wins, so let's see if the 18-year-old can pull it off!

Alireza Firouzja Performance Rating Jan-May 2022

Hikaru Nakamura (Performance: 2856)

I can not believe it! Nakamura had an excellent performance in the FIDE Grand Prix to qualify with a 2856 performance rating! His record of 13 wins, 16 draws, and 3 losses will be plenty good enough to win the Candidates. His average opponent rating was a respectable 2744, and he had a relatively low draw rate of 50%. Nakamura has a plus score against his other Candidates opponent, Rapport. Hikaru has a large fanbase, is the favorite to win in this survey, and will be a massive boost to the popularity of chess if he's able to challenge Carlsen.

Hikaru Nakamura Performance Rating


The performance numbers speak for themselves. Hikaru Nakamura's 2856 performance rating in the last 18 months is an astonishing 57 points above the second-highest in the field. I would expect that one or two other players would be above 2800, but no one has impressed as of late.

Here's my video walkthrough of the article:

Do you think Hikaru's recent successes make him the favorite to win it all? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

More from NM SmarterChess
Who Will Be The Next FIDE World Champion? Here's What The Numbers Say

Who Will Be The Next FIDE World Champion? Here's What The Numbers Say

Predicting The Future Of Chess Prodigies

Predicting The Future Of Chess Prodigies