Nepo and Fabi Bagged The First Win, Who's Going To Bag The Title?

Nepo and Fabi Bagged The First Win, Who's Going To Bag The Title?

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Candidates tournament 2022 is now officially the biggest chess or any sports ‘festival’ with a lot of excitement and frustrations both seen on the face of the players and the audience. You may be rooting for a certain player, but at the end of the day- you either be happy or go to sleep with tears.

Apart from the exaggerations, which, again, is not actually an exaggeration, the candidates have started today with 8 superstars of the chess world. Let’s look at the first-round pairing:


First Round Pairing

Duda vs Rapport : Draw

Duda, the Polish superhero- came here not just to give away his points. We have to be very careful as he was the main reason Carlsen lost his 125-game streaks! On the other hand, the Hungarian prodigy Richard Rapport also came to fight till the sun goes down.

The game started with Sicilian Defense: Taimanov Variation. Nothing extraordinary happened early on in the game. It was a bishop end game for Duda, whereas Rapport may have some advantages with a bishop and a Knight. The game ended at the very last moment when all the other games were finished. Duda and Rapport had a little fun with the clock and the board position. It was drawn. A Solid Draw.

Ding vs Nepo : 0 - 1 

Ding is undoubtedly the greatest Chinese player of all time. How he got into the candidate is an insane story. But let’s summarise: he qualified as the highest-rated classical player, replacing GM Sergey Karjakin after being banned from official FIDE events for six months starting on March 21, 2022.

Ding is sort of a sensation among chess players around the world. He doesn’t talk much; you can’t find him in front of the camera. He is the perfect guy to be in a library or a reading room. He is like your roomie who has no say or no claim to the hot water.

Ding started with 1. c4, Nepo replied with 1….e5, and the game is now King’s English Variation. Ding moved his g-pawn to the third square on the second move, somewhere it felt like Catalan-ish, but the irony is: never judge a position by seeing a similar move from the history. Nepo didn’t like the most popular move suggested by the engine, rather he goes for the quiet one, like 2……c6.

On move 9, after black’s Be7, Ding could undermine Nepo’s advanced and dangerous e4 pawn by pushing d4 or d3, but rather he goes 10. Ne3. Black castled short and we have still in a normal stage. Nothing crazy is happening, unless…

….Unless black plays h5 in reply to Ne3. It could be a really exciting game (which still it is). Nepo’s Bishops were doing great, covering a lot of areas, whereas Ding’s Bishop is locked in a room with no future, apparently. But Nepo exchanged his dark square bishop. The game starts to collapse for Ding now, slowly. Everything was in good shape. The first inaccuracy came in move 21, Rd4?! After Nepo’s h6, which was a mistake, Ding could go for doubling his rook but chose to blunder the game with Qd2??

Nepo got a strong grip on his e4 pawn; he doubled the rooks in order to switch places later on. Ding had no moves overall as Nepo advanced the game to the White-King side. After 25. Kg1, Nepo finds g5 which opens up the position, Ding could hold the breakdown if he had also attacked the queenside with a pawn push, but he again chose to give up the game by capturing the black pawn on b7. Better late than never! Ding finally puts the final nail to the coffin by capturing ‘remember-the-disgusting-pawn on e4’, yes, he took that one with his rook.

If you have seen the live broadcast, you may have also noticed the sudden glow on Nepo’s face when he finally realized ‘nothing can stop me, I'm all the way up’. Nepo was so sure that he even let go of the rook, took the white bishop with a pawn, and after a check from the Rook, Ding had nothing to show. Nepo gave up his bishop by a check, and Ding- at the same time, gave up the chair by resignation. 

Fabi vs Hikaru : 1 - 0

No need to introduce these two players, but for the record: Fabi qualified for ending the 2021 FIDE Chesscom Grand Swiss in second place. He previously won the 2018 candidates and drew 12 games against Magnus.

Hikaru qualified by finishing in the top two in the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix. He last played the candidates in 2016. So what really changed in those 6 years? We are about to find out.

Fabi plays e4 and the game quickly moved towards Berlin. A lot of countries we have travelled to and will be travelling in the candidates, so be prepared for the journey. The game was quite solid, Hikaru did bravery by keeping the king wide open, whereas Fabi’s king was much more protected than the Coca-Cola recipe. Both players were rock solid, with no danger peeping through. On move 47, Hikaru brought Qf6 but Fabi caught him off guard by quickly playing Rf1. Hikaru tried the last trick Bd5, but after Nf6+ Hikaru had nothing to ask for. Both players have their chances, but in the end, Fabi clicked and bagged the second victory of the day.

Radjabov vs Alireza: Draw

Perhaps the most awaited game of the candidates. Radja played d4 and the game quickly went for the Queen’s Gambit Declined: Vienna Variation. Alireza, as per his nature, sacrificed an exchange on b2, giving up his Rook for a better (perhaps the best) bishop placement. Radja is not a person keeping the race behind; he continuously pushed his pawn on h file, willingly giving up a rook. After a couple of captures, the black king almost came to the middle of the board. Both players have ground well, but in the end, it was a draw.

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See you in the next round! 

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