Previewing The Candidates
May 2022 Blog of the Month, thanks so much!

Previewing The Candidates

| 169

Hello there. Welcome to the Lightning Reports! Today I'll be previewing the upcoming 2022 FIDE Candidates Tournament and giving you my take on it. Why am I doing this? Because why not. The event starts in a few weeks, I believe on June 17th, so it's time anyway. Now, should you care about my opinion? Oh yes, absolutely. Yes, because then you'll know that whoever I predict will win the event is doomed to lose because my predictions are almost always wrong. So. Who do I think will win the Candidates tournament for the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the title of World Chess Champion? Read on to find out, if you dare.


Oh, if you are unaware of what the Candidates tournament is, go here and read up on it. Or don't, I guess. Your call. 

Anyways. Yes, the Candidates. A decent group of players who somehow managed to earn a spot in this event by winning or almost winning smaller events. The winner of this event will either receive the honor of getting absolutely wrecked by Magnus or getting rejected because they aren't good enough for Magnus to play them. Good stuff. So, who are the Candidates? Well, for something more professional, you can click on the image below, I guess. If you like my, uh, unique writing style and opinions, stay here.

Anyways, what I'm going to do is tell you who the Candidates are, one at a time, based on how likely I think it is that they win the event. So #8 means least likely, with #1 meaning most likely. Fair warning though, I'm not using a ton of stats and facts. A lot of this is just me guessing and hoping I somehow know what I'm talking about. And some of it may seem irrational to you, because some of it probably is, so I apologize if you somehow fail to understand my irrational reasoning. Seems legit, yeah? Yeah. So let's get to it, starting at #8...


Yes. Teimour Radjabov is, in my opinion, the least likely of the 8 participants to win the Candidates tournament. I just can't see it happening. I would be shocked. He uh "earned" his spot I guess, being nominated by FIDE, but let's not get into that.

Ok, look. I know he's a decent player. Rated 2753, he can play some dang ok chess. But he is the second-lowest rated player in the field, second only to Duda, who I'll talk about later. I can't justify saying he's more likely to win this event than the likes of Ian Nepomniachtchi, Fabiano Caruana, Ding Liren, Hikaru Nakamura, Richard Rapport, or Alireza Firouzja. The #8 spot was reserved for either Duda or Radjabov. And I honestly believe Duda is more likely to go on a run, play out of his mind, and win this event than Radjabov is. I don't have any stats or anything to back that up, this is just what I think. And I think Radjabov will finish in 8th place in the 2022 FIDE Candidates Tournament.


Jan-Krzysztof Duda, the lowest-rated player in the field at 2750, earned his spot in the field by winning the 2021 FIDE World Cup. So, not bad.  He is also the second-youngest player in the event. Could his youth be an advantage...? Yeah, I don't know. I have no clue. Ask someone who knows if younger players are more likely to win than older players. Cause I don't know.

Now Duda, unlike Radjabov, I would not be surprised to see win the event. Really. Even though he is the lowest-rated player, I could see him playing well enough to hold his own against the top players and maybe be in a position to finish strong. Do I think he will win? Nah, of course not. It's not even remotely likely. But I expect him to do fairly well, and I've got Duda finishing in 5th place.


Ian Nepomniatchi earned his spot by being the 2021 World Championship runner-up. Such an interesting player, rated 2773, having played in the previous world chess championship. I actually predicted Nepo would beat Magnus in the World Championship last year. That prediction didn't age well. Will I predict great things for him yet again? Ehhhh, no.

Look, I still think Nepo is a great player and is fully capable of winning this event. But come on, let's be honest. What are the chances that Ian Nepomniachtchi manages to win the FIDE Candidates Tournament twice in a row? Honestly? Yes, he could do it. But he is far too inconsistent for me to predict he will. He did well to win the previous Candidates tournament, but I would be slightly surprised if he managed to win a second time in a row. I've got Nepo finishing in 6th place.


Hikaru. Nakamura. Pretty much everyone knows who this guy is. Many seem to be rooting for him, even saying he will win. I am not among the many rooting for him or saying he will win. Far from it, in fact. I would be a bit surprised if Hikaru manages to win.

Sure, we all know Hikaru is legit. At online speed chess. Yeah. I mean, he did earn his spot here by winning the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix. But I don't think he can outlast the top tier of players here. I think he could win the event, sure, he's capable of playing at such a high level that we have to consider him a true threat. But I just don't see it happening. How can you really expect Hikaru to finish ahead of guys like Ding, Fabi, and even Alireza? I can't see it happening, realistically. But I don't stop there. I also think Hikaru finishes below everyone else in the field... except Radjabov. He should beat Radjabov at least, in my opinion. So, despite giving him the 5th best odds to win the event... I've got Hikaru finishing in 7th place. Controversial? Unpopular opinion? I dunno, you tell me.


Richard Rapport, rated 2776, earned his spot in the tournament by being the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix runner-up. How nice. So to me, Rapport is the dark horse of this tournament. And no, I'm not kidding. I think Rapport has better chances here than anyone is giving him credit for.

Now, is that to say I think he will win? Nah. I doubt he actually wins. But, I would absolutely not be surprised if he pulls it off. I think this guy is legit, I think he's good enough to win, and if he does, don't be surprised. All that being said, I've got Rapport ending up in 4th place in the end, but he will give himself a legit chance to win. That's all I'm saying.


Ding Liren, rated 2806 and world number 2 only to Magnus Carlsen, earned his spot by being the highest FIDE-rated player who hadn't been invited yet. This was originally Sergey Karjakin's spot (who I would have given 7th best odds in this tournament, by the way), but let's not get into all that... let's stick to chess, please. Anyways, Ding basically went on an otb chess speedrun, played and won a bunch of games to become eligible for the final spot, and now he's in the Candidates tournament.

So. Why does Ding have only the 3rd-best odds here, despite being the highest-rated player in the event? Well, I'm a bit nervous to predict he will win after how poorly he played in the previous Candidates tournament, honestly. And he hasn't faced as much top super-GM level competition in classical chess recently, either (please correct me if I am mistaken on that). But, Ding is the highest-rated player here, and many consider him to be the best challenger for Magnus, myself included. Ding has a very realistic shot of winning this event, but I think he is more likely to start slow than Alireza and Fabiano are. Therefore, I say Ding is the 3rd most likely to win the event behind Alireza and Fabiano.


Alireza Firouzja, rated 2804 as of now, earned his spot here by winning the 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss. In an event with some older names like Radjabov and Nakamura, we've got Firouzja here representing the kids, the young guys, the next generation of super GMs, or whatever. Many think He's got what it takes to win this event, challenge Magnus (who possibly will only play in the world championship if Alireza is his challenger), and become world champion. People actually think this kid is already capable of doing that. And he probably is...? Do I think he will, though? Nah.

Don't get me wrong. I can absolutely see Alireza winning this tournament. It's the beating Magnus part that I don't see happening. But that's a discussion for another time, if, and only if, Alireza wins the Candidates tournament. I do think he's got the 2nd best odds to do this. Being the 2nd highest-rated player in the event, of course, he can win! But come on. Do you think he's going to take down Fabi? Because honestly, I really don't. I also think that Alireza is more likely than Fabi and even Ding to slip up against a lower-rated opponent. I'm not saying he will, but I do think it's more likely than you think. I give Alireza the 2nd best odds of winning the event, only behind one player who I don't think he will beat...


Fabiano Caruana, rated 2782, earned his spot in the event by being the runner-up in the 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss. Fabi is the 3rd highest rated player in the event, Alireza and Ding being rated higher. So. Why am I giving him better chances to win? Simply because I trust him more. 

We've seen Fabi fight through the Candidates before and win it (the same is true for Nepo, but Fabi, unlike Nepo, can be consistent). Fabi has the experience, the skill, and the drive. You just know he's hungry for success here. You know he wants to win this. He lost the world championship match in 2018 and came up short in the previous Candidates tournament. Fabi wants this. I believe he is the most likely to be well-prepared, start strong, stay strong, and finish strong. Do I think that will happen...? 


Ok, so coming in at 3rd place in my predictions is actually Alireza Firouzja. I don't think he will manage to beat either Ding or Fabi, losing to one or both of them. Sorry, Firouzja fans, I don't believe this is his year. In 2024 though, or whenever the heck the next Candidates tournament will be... maybe that will be his year. 

So, that leaves Ding and Fabi. My top 2, but in what order? This could go either way. I could see anyone in my top 3 winning the tournament, but Ding and Fabi are the clear favorites to me. Co-favorites, I suppose. So... who do I think will win? Well, in my not-so-professional opinion, I predict the winner of the 2022 FIDE Candidates Tournament will be...! That's right, people. I predict will be the grand winner of the Candidates tournament. They will be broadcasting the event with quality commentary, getting lots of viewers on the live streams, and they'll help spread chess awareness cause that's what they do. What could be better? Nothing, that's what. So, yeah, I think will win the 2022 FIDE Candidates Tournament. Oh, and Ding and Fabi can tie for 2nd, I guess.

Ok, seriously though, my legit opinion is Ding will win. Why? I have no clue why I think this, I've just got a feeling he will end up winning. And I'm absolutely fine with that. Go, Ding! Make my predictions look competent!

Good job making it this far. If interested, see the below image for what blogs I may post sometime in the future. If not interested, then I mean, I dunno why you're even here, so I'm assuming you're interested. Cool, cool.

Ok, thank y'all for reading, I hope y'all enjoy this post. I had some fun with it. Wasn't too serious or anything, because since when do I post serious blogs without any humor in them? But for real though, these are my actual predictions here, so we'll see how accurate they end up being. I do think these seem rather reasonable, but I'm sure somehow I'll be very, very wrong. But let me know what you think. Who do you predict will win, and who are you rooting for? I hope to find out in the comments. Cya around!