Eight Candidates Enter. One Challenger Emerges.

Eight Candidates Enter. One Challenger Emerges.

Apr 1, 2016, 11:40 AM |
Photo courtesy of World Chess

THE Challenger

Sergey Karjakin

Final Score: 8.5 / 14
Performance Rating: 2855

Karjakin was severely underestimated before the tournament began. It seemed that no one really imagined him winning the event—with the exception of Carlsen himself:

“I think the winner is going to be one of the trio: Aronian, Fabiano, or Karjakin… I would choose one of those three players if I were betting.” -Magnus Carlsen

Two major accomplishments last year foreshadowed Karjakin as a top contender:

-The resilience he demonstrated when he won the World Cup, which required 36 hard-fought games over one month. At one point in his match against Peter Svidler, he was behind in score and had to win two games in a row (a single draw and he would've been eliminated) just to stay in contention. 

-The Russia vs. China knockout match where Karjakin single-handedly defeated the entire Chinese team (the 2014 Olympiad Champions), including Wei Yi, Ding Liren, Ni Hua, and Yu Yangyi.

 Not to mention, Karjakin was clear 2nd at the previous Candidates Tournament in 2014.

Why was he so underestimated?

-Karjakin is lower rated than the tournament favorites. He only recently re-entered the top ten in the world during this event. He’s one of the few competitors that’s never been over 2800.

-Spectators didn’t get to see Karjakin play in as many top-level tournaments in 2015 because he wasn’t invited to the Grand Chess Tour. Although, it’s debatable that he deserved to be invited to at least one of the tournaments—He would’ve been the returning champion to Norway Chess, which he won in both 2014 and 2013. (Note: He will be competing at Norway Chess this year.)

Where he impressed me:

His comeback victory immediately after his loss to Anand. After being tied for first place for so long, it would’ve been very easy for someone to collapse from falling out of it (which unfortunately happened to Aronian), but Karjakin overcame this and regained his tie for first.

Can you find the combination that secured Karjakin a shot at the World Championship?

In terms of resiliency, Karjakin may be one of the few players that is comparable to Carlsen. I think we’re going to see a very interesting, hard-fought match in November.

THE runner-up


Photo courtesy of World Chess

Fabiano Caruana

Final Score: 7.5 / 14
Performance Rating: 2800

I think Caruana was a little off-form this tournament and that with the smallest change he would’ve won the tournament, possibly by a convincing margin. The fact that he was in contention throughout despite numerous missed wins shows how much he belonged as one of the top two.

Where he impressed me:

Despite having a less than ideal event, Caruana impressed me with his creative playing style and composure throughout. I’d say the biggest moment was his tweet, written just hours after his chance to become the Challenger was shattered:

It shows an incredible attitude, and I have no doubt that Caruana will have his shot at the World Championship in future years.

Read about the performances of the other 6 candidates, including The Wild Card Aronian, Draw-Master Giri, and J'Adoube Nakamura in the full article, Eight Candidates Enter. One Challenger Emerges at US Chess News