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# Who Will Win The 2022 Candidates?

| 87 | Fun & Trivia

The 2022 FIDE Candidates tournament will occur in Madrid, Spain, from June 16-July 5, 2022. The tournament will consist of eight qualified players, and the winner earns the right to challenge GM Magnus Carlsen for the World Champion title. This article will use SmarterChess predictions, brought to you by ChessGoals.com, to calculate each player's odds of winning the event. We'll first cover the statistical models and then dive into the breakdowns for each player.

# Building A Statistical Model

I looked at all Candidate Tournaments since 2013, when Carlsen qualified for the championship, to build the statistical models. Previous events had 14 rounds and an average rating of 2770-2787. I logged birth year, peak rating, the peak year, points off of peak, and years off of peak. For peak ratings, I only looked before that event date. All of these factors were in consideration for a statistical model to predict performance rating. The most important predictors were:

1. Current rating at the event
2. Peak rating before the event
3. Age
4. Years away from their peak rating

Factors 3 and 4 were not statistically significant and only affected projected performance ratings by about one Elo point. Both current and peak ratings had a positive association with predicted performance ratings.

# Running Simulations

I calculated the implied win-loss-draw odds for each game and applied random numbers to determine the result. After summarizing all 56 games for a tournament simulation, I checked if there was a clear winner or a tie for first place. I simulated 1000 tournaments (56,000 games) to determine the final odds and results. The draw rate for the simulations was 69.2% of the matches.

The most common winning score in the Classical segment was 8.5 points, which is a +3 score over 14 games. The average winning classical score was 8.7 points, which highlights that a player has to have the ability to play at a very high level to win this prestigious event.

# Results

We will start with the lowest projected finishers in the simulations and work our way up to the top finishers. I'm using April 2022 FIDE ratings for the numbers listed below and live ratings for the models.

## Jan-Krzysztof Duda (FIDE 2750, Projected 6.0/14, 4% odds to win)

Duda is only 23 years old and has the lowest rating (2750) in the event. His peak rating is 2760, so he hasn't shown that he can consistently perform at the 2810+ level required to win the candidates. He's projected to win 29 events in the classical and 9 of 23 tie-for-first scenarios, totaling 38 wins in 1000 simulations (4% chance to win). His most likely score is 6 points, with an average score of 6.2 in the simulations. Duda qualified by winning the Chess World Cup 2021, so we cannot count out the youngster!

## Richard Rapport (FIDE 2776, Projected 6.5/14, 5% odds to win)

Rapport has a similar profile to Duda in that he's one of the youngest players in the field and hasn't had as high of a peak rating as the other players in the event. It's unlikely that a player can come into a Candidates Tournament at their peak rating and win if the peak rating isn't over 2800. Rapport wins 37 events solo in simulations and 12 in the tiebreaks, totaling 49 events out of 1000. However, rapport's strong performances in Berlin and Belgrade earned him second place in the FIDE Grand Prix event. It's exciting that the two lowest odds are both young players that could surprise the cold-hearted statistical models.

## Teimour Radjabov (FIDE 2753, Projected 6.5/14, 8% odds to win)

Radjabov has an exciting profile. He was the youngest grandmaster in history in 2001 when he earned the title at age 14. He had a peak rating of 2793 in 2012 and has shown flashes of brilliance in his chess career. The high peak performance rating bumps him up a bit in the odds over Duda and Rapport, but he still hasn't reached the 2800+ mark. He won 76 of the 1000 simulated events and had an average of 6.8 points.

## Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE 2773, Projected 7/14, 8% odds to win)

Nepomniachtchi has recently come off a world championship match against Carlsen in 2021, where he started out playing extremely high-quality chess for the first five games. After that, Magnus won four of the next six games to secure the match 7.5-3.5. Nepomniachtchi is below the next group of players in the simulations due to his <2800 current and peak ratings. He averaged 6.8 points and won 78 of the simulated events. I gave him a slight bump up in the tiebreak odds and had him winning 21/44 tiebreak scenarios. His strong 2821 rapid rating could come into play if he can get his way back up to 8+ points in the event.

## Alireza Firouzja (FIDE 2804, Projected 7/14, 15% odds to win)

The youngest player in the field is only 18 years old and recently skyrocketed to his 2804 FIDE rating. I know I will get some heat for this prediction, so please send your complaints to IM Danny Rensch, CCO of Chess.com. He's the man who hires me to write these articles. Hear me out on this one. Alireza has a current rating of 2804 with a peak rating of 2804. Even though this is very strong, we have three other players that have a history of being rated 2816 or higher! Historically, players have also been at the top longer than Firouzja before winning a candidate's event. His most common score in the simulations was 50%, with an average of 7.3 points. He won 114 simulations outright plus an additional 36/90 in the tiebreakers, notching him 150 victories out of 1000 events.

## Hikaru Nakamura (FIDE 2750, Projected 7.5/14, 14% odds to win)

Nakamura is in a virtual tie with Firouzja regarding the odds. He wins 144 events out of 1000 but scores more tournament victories in the tiebreakers due to his 2837 rapid rating. His average score is 7.2/14, with a most common score of 7.5 points. That's a higher mode but lower average score and odds than Firouzja. I believe Naka is the dark horse of the event and could surprise everyone if he comes in with a 2800+ performance. Nakamura was number two in the world at age 27 with a 2816 FIDE rating. The average age of the last five winners was 30, so this 34-year-old may need to strike now before the odds are against him.

## Ding Liren (FIDE 2797, Projected 7.5/14, 21% odds to win)

He is the last qualifier for this event, with the second-highest FIDE rating in the field after his recent flurry of tournaments to make sure he qualifies. Ding has been so consistent at the top that he's probably the gambling favorite once the websites account for his qualification. The other player that has been at the top for this long of a recent stretch is GM Fabiano Caruana, but currently, Fabiano has been in a bit of a slump. In 1000 simulations, Ding won 157 in the classical and 49 in the tiebreaker, totaling 206 victories! His average score and most likely score both fell squarely at 7.5 points.

## Fabiano Caruana (FIDE 2781, Projected 8/14, 26% odds to win)

The models say that Caruana is the most likely challenger to face Magnus Carlsen in the next FIDE World Championship! Caruana scored an impressive 7.7 average with a most common score of 8 points out of 14. He won 197 events in the classical and another 62 in the tiebreaker totaling 259 tournament victories. Caruana's peak rating of 2844 back in 2014, combined with his solid current rating, makes him the favorite to win it all.

# Conclusion

The data-building for this article was a fun exercise trying to figure out what predicts a player's performance in past candidate events and applying it to the 2022 tournament. Here's an exciting look at the full table of scores in the simulations. Caruana and Ding both had some 11/14 winning scores!

If you're interested in improving your chess with data-driven articles like this one, please check out my website ChessGoals.com for more content. I might bump up Firouzja to the 20% range if I were to break away from the data, but it's also hard to say if he should be above Nakamura.

Check out NM Matt Jensen going through this article in this video:

Let us know what you think about the predictions in the comment section below!

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