FIDE Candidates: Karjakin Names Nepomniachtchi As Most Difficult Opponent For Carlsen
Sergey Karjakin today in Moscow. Photo: Sergey Kuksin/Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

FIDE Candidates: Karjakin Names Nepomniachtchi As Most Difficult Opponent For Carlsen

| 80 | Chess Event Coverage

Considering the eight participants in the FIDE Candidates Tournament, GM Sergey Karjakin named GM Ian Nepomniachtchi as the most difficult opponent for GM Magnus Carlsen in the world championship. Karjakin said this during a press conference earlier today.

Organized by the Russian governmental newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the press conference was held on Tuesday morning in its Moscow office. Reporters were able to ask questions via a Zoom call.

Also present at the press conference were Arkady Dvorkovich (President of the International Chess Federation), GM Anatoly Karpov (12th world champion, State Duma deputy, and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Sverdlovsk Region Chess Federation), Albert Stepanyan (Director of the Candidates Tournament and Executive Director of the Sverdlovsk Chess Federation), and Nikolai Dolgopolov (Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, President of the Federation of Sports Journalists of Russia, and Vice President of the International Sports Press Association).

At the start, the five gentlemen shook hands before sitting down quite closely next to each other. They didn't wear face masks. The question of whether this was a good sign and meant that they had all been vaccinated wasn't answered.

You can watch the press conference below; almost all questions and answers were in Russian but were translated into English: asked Karjakin who would be the most difficult opponent for Carlsen. The Russian grandmaster, who played Carlsen in 2016 in New York, answered:

It's a very difficult question. All the players are very strong. I know from my personal experience that by winning the tournament you're getting an extra force, you're getting wins, you're getting more chances to play your best against Magnus so anyone who wins the tournament can add extra strength towards the match. I personally think that Ian Nepomniachtchi is quite a strong contender here, and he also showed that he can compete with Magnus in the recent online tournament. Of course, it was rapid games, but it still showed that he can fight. But I also think that generally, Magnus is the favorite against any of the participants.

Earlier, Karjakin had stated that nerves will play an important role:

The players don't need to think about how many rounds are left. They just need to try and keep the games going one by one and just focus on their preparation for each game. Of course, stress will be a factor because it's not so many rounds. In the end, the player with the best nerve control will be the winner.

The Candidates Tournament resumes on Monday, April 19, 2021, in the same venue as last year: Hyatt Regency Hotel in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

How to watch?
The games of the Candidates Tournament can be watched here as part of our new events page. will provide a daily broadcast on starting from 16:00 Yekaterinburg time which is 4 a.m. Pacific, 7 a.m. Eastern, and 13:00 CEST.

There won't be another big opening ceremony like last year (which was frowned upon due to the large number of people sitting together in a big concert hall while the pandemic had already reached Russia) but only a small technical meeting instead.

The measures taken against the coronavirus are slightly different from last year when the players were tested several times during the tournament. Now, they need to show only a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before the first round. There will be temperature checks before the start of the round, but they won't be tested further unless they are showing symptoms. They also don't need to wear face masks during play.

If a player tests positive during the tournament, the general plan is to continue without that player. Karjakin pointed out that this was also the case during the Russian Championship in November 2020. When GM Mikhail Antipov tested positive for COVID-19, the players were asked if they wanted to continue and they did.

Last year, only crew members and media were allowed inside the playing hall. This time, "some" audience will be allowed, although the numbers were not given. Spectators need to bear in mind social distancing and should be able to show a negative test result or proof of vaccination.

2021 Candidates chess press conference
At the press conference were, from left to right: Nikolai Dolgopolov, Arkady Dvorkovich, Anatoly Karpov, Albert Stepanyan, and Sergey Karjakin. Photo: Sergey Kuksin/Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

The tournament was interrupted halfway on March 25, 2020, after a governmental announcement that Russia's air traffic would be halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. At today's press conference, Karpov revealed with a smile that it had been "Vladimir Vladimirovich himself" who had made the phone call, referring to Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

At first, the organizers tried to hold the second half in November 2020. At the end of October, this plan had to be canceled as the pandemic was still causing too many issues, for instance regarding the travel of Chinese players GM Ding Liren and GM Wang Hao.

Today, Dvorkovich confirmed that the Chinese authorities had given a guarantee that the two grandmasters could travel to Russia: "We have the guarantee from the embassy in Moscow, from the consulate in Yekaterinburg, and from the authorities in Beijing that they can travel without problems."

Dvorkovich also said that if they want, the players can get vaccinated in Russia. "Personally, I would not recommend them to do a vaccination right before the tournament because of the side effects, but all of them are very welcome to take the vaccine in Russia after the tournament. I can help with that."

Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the players need to show a negative result from a PCR test taken "at least 72 hours" before the first round. This should be no more than 72 hours.

See also:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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