Candidate Profile: Peter Svidler

Candidate Profile: Peter Svidler

| 30 | Chess Players

By GM Robert Hess and IM Teddy Coleman

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

GM Peter Svidler enters the Candidates' Tournament as the lowest-rated player, but don’t expect him to roll over. Svidler brings decades of experience and a tenacious fighting spirit to the tournament.

A seven-time Russian champion and mainstay on the Russian Olympiad team, Svidler has competed at the pinnacle of chess since the mid-90s. He often shines in big moments, having won the 2011 World Cup and knocking off top players such as Topalov, Giri, Radjabov and Wei Yi in the 2015 World Cup. Over the board, he rarely plays for a draw and uses his experience and creativity to steer his games into a double-edged fight to the death.

In Svidler’s games, there will no doubt be excitement and fireworks, throwing a nasty curveball into an already tight field.

Key Strengths:

Perhaps Svidler’s greatest asset is his fighting spirit. While Nakamura gets credit for being the most aggressive player on the planet, Svidler gets much less recognition for his constant double-edged play. Svidler’s aggression and vision frequently catch players off guard and he executes beautifully, leading to victory.

Complementing Svidler’s fighting spirit is his excellent preparation. He has extensive opening knowledge in more traditional variations and is one of the foremost experts in the Gruenfeld. He is also not afraid to play offbeat lines. Below, he beats the former world champion Kramnik with the Dutch and achieves a clear advantage against Grischuk.

Key Weaknesses:

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. For every one of Svidler’s opening choices that results in a big victory, there is another game where he gets pummeled. Svidler is a gambler, and it did not pay off in the following games against Caruana and Aronian.

What to Watch for:

As Svidler is the lowest-rated player, the rest of the field might view games against him as a “must-win” if they hope to advance. This plays right into Svidler’s fighting style, so count on a bloodbath. He’s going to score wins and play spoiler to some of the other contenders.

Unfortunately, when Svidler plays with fire too much, he gets burned. Svidler will play many decisive games, but the losses will pile up alongside the wins, so don’t expect a high finish when the dust settles.

Want more about Svidler? Check out's videos featuring Peter Svidler.

The FIDE Candidates’ Tournament runs March 10-30 in Moscow. The winner will earn the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in a match that will be held November 10-30 in New York.

The eight participants are Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura (both USA), Vishy Anand (India), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler (both Russia), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Levon Aronian (Armenia). is publishing profiles of each participant.

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