Candidates Tournament Coverage and Predictions
Welcome to this Blog Post :-)
The most important tournament of the year is starting in just a couple of days - Thursday the 13th will see the first Round of the Candidates tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia (Note that sources mention the 11th, but this is just the day for players arrivals, not the first day of play). In this tournament only first place counts, the place to determine the challenger to play World Champion Magnus Carlsen later this year. My Youtube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/Chessexplained) will have videos for each Round to follow the action and analyze the highlights of this outstanding event. Last year's tournament in London already is down in the chess history books as one of the greatest tournaments ever, so let's hope this year's competition is as thrilling as it was in 2013.
Here's a quick overview of the eight players and how they qualified.
Vishy Anand (loser of the 2013 World Championship match)
Vladimir Kramnik (Winner of the World Cup 2013)
Dimitri Andreikin (Runner Up of the World Cup 2013)
Veselin Topalov (Winner of the Grand Prix Series 2013)
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Runner Up of the Grand Prix Series 2013)
Levon Aronian (by Elo Rating averages over recent lists)
Sergey Karjakin (by Elo Rating averages over recent lists)
Peter Svidler (nominee of the host federation)
As you can see, there were multiple ways to qualify for this event. Some popular players Nakamura or Caruana are not playing as they simply failed to qualify. There is nothing "wrong with the qualifying system", as Nakamura claimed in his "New in Chess" interview - it's just that in sports you need to perform when it counts. The rules were clear in advance, so for example losing in the 4th round of the World Cup 2013 is just not enough to qualify.
Alright, the headline promised a prediction. I am going to group the players into percentage groups.
Levon Aronian: 40 % to win
Vladimir Kramnik: 20% to win
Dimitry Andreikin, Shak Mamedyarov: both 10% to win
Vishy Anand, Peter Svidler, Veselin Topalov, Sergej Karjakin: 5% to win
A quick summary why this is my prediction: Aronian is the clear favorite to win it because of recent results and of course general abilities. However he also had good chances last year but showed some nerves under pressure. Kramnik still is a phenomenal player and always able to survive such a tournament without a loss and a couple of wins. If he is in good shape he can compete with Aronian. Why do I rate Andreikins and Mamedyarovs chances higher than the other 4 players? Those two are my "dark horses" because of different reasons. Memedyarov has been a dangerous, streaky player for a couple of years - if he manages to start well, he might get a shot at winning it. Andreikin on the other hand is an extremely cool player under pressure as we had seen in last year's World Cup. He won all his tiebreaks in rapid chess without flinching and might be just the guy to NOT fail if it counts. The other four are of course all excellent players but I don't see them winning the whole thing. I personally hope that Vishy will play a good tournament after all the disappointing performances he had lately, but it will be very tough for him.
Alright, I hope you enjoyed the read - let's talk again after Round 1!