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We Have Witnessed History

We Have Witnessed History

Rodgy
| 24

Against all odds, against all predictions, Ian Nepomniachtchi has won the 2022 Candidates Chess Tournament and once again, he will be going to the World Championship. Just last year, we saw Nepomniachtchi getting completely outplayed and making horrendous, costly mistakes in the 2021 World Chess Championship. Not only did Nepomniachtchi exceed all expectations, but this historic Candidates Tournament will go down in history.

With Magnus Carlsen's decision to not play in the 2023 World Championship, he has made history as something like this hasn't happened since 1975 when Fischer refused to play his World Championship match due to FIDE's world championship match format. With all these historical events in such a short span of time, I'm going to discuss Nepo's historical performance, Magnus Carlsen's decision to not play the WCC, and my current World Championship predictions.


The 2022 Candidates Tournament

2022 Candidates Tournament closing ceremony. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Coming into the Candidates, there was a clear list of favorites. Statistically, according to @SmarterChess's article, the top players were Fabiano Caruana, Ding Liren, and Hikaru Nakamura. @Lighting's blog featured Caruana, Firouzja, and Ding Liren in his top three. In most lists that I have seen, Nepomniachtchi was barely making top fives. Everybody knew he was capable of winning a Candidates as he has done it before, but that performance was overshadowed by his disappointing performance at the 2021 World Championship.

Although something we forget is that at the 2021 World Championship, Nepomniachtchi was actually playing solid, although the real turning point was during game six, where after a long and exhausting 136-move game, Magnus Carlsen ground out an endgame for the win. After that, some may say that the match was over. This loss obviously affected such an emotional player like Ian, Magnus had gained a huge advantage psychologically and Nepomniachtchi lost 3 of the next 5 games. 

Nepomniachtchi during game eight of the match. Photo: Eric Rosen/FIDE.

Due to this disappointing performance, many of us (including myself), doubted Nepomniachtchi as we felt he was too inconsistent and wasn't solid like Ding Liren of Fabiano Caruana. Yet somehow, we all forgot that Nepomniachtchi had won the Candidates last year, and played quite solid until the match-changing game six in the World Championship. If Nepo is able to catch a run, then he's literally going to be on fire, winning game after game. 

Just in the Candidates match, Nepomniachtchi has put his name into the record books. Ever since this Candidate formatting was introduced in 2013, no player has ever scored a higher score than Ian with a score of 9.5/14, featuring 5 wins and 9 draws. Ian is also the first player since 1987 to win two Candidates Tournaments in a row, and is the first person to win two Candidate Tournaments in the new format.

Carlsen's Announcement

Magnus Carlsen on his podcast announcing his decision.

As all of you know, Magnus Carlsen recently announced that he will not defend his World Champion title in 2023. Although that Magnus had hinted this moment back in April, he said that it was unlikely that he would play in the 2023 unless Firouzja had won the Candidates Tournament. A decision like this hasn't happened since 1975 where Fischer forfeited his title and Karpov became the new World Champion.

I simply feel that I don't have a lot to gain, I don't particularly like it, and although I'm sure a match would be interesting for historical reasons and all of that, I don't have any inclinations to play and I will simply not play the match.

- Magnus Carlsen

So with Magnus Carlsen's name in the history books as one of the only players to not defend his title, what else does this mean for chess? Looking at the 2023 World Championship, Ian Nepomniachtchi facing Ding Liren means that Ding is the first ever chess player from China to play in any World Championship match. Well who do I think will win between Ian and Ding? Well it would simply be disrespectful to not put Ian as the favorite after his historical candidate run.

There you have it, no doubt that this Candidates Tournament will go down as one of the most historical and greatest performances we have ever seen. Comment who you think will win the World Championship and why. I'll be posting blogs about the US Open and the North American Youth Chess Championship soon. Thanks for reading, and goodbye.