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Magnus Carlsen Ranks The Candidates Players
Magnus Carlsen gives his verdict on the Candidates, ranking the players in an interview with David Howell.

Magnus Carlsen Ranks The Candidates Players

TarjeiJS
| 119 | Chess.com News

The much-anticipated Candidates Tournament is just around the corner, with the eight contenders fighting for the right to challenge reigning World Champion Ding Liren for the title. But who will triumph in the end? Here's GM Magnus Carlsen's verdict.

Four grandmasters have shared their verdicts according to the stats, but how does the former world champion rank the field?

Carlsen recently shared his insight on the Candidates during the latest episode of the Sjakksnakk ("chess chat") podcast, which we covered last week, but in a new video by Chess.com he sat down with our very own GM David Howell and went into more details about each player.

The players are ranked according to the following five categories: Likely to Win, Top Contender, Will Do Well, Will Do Poorly, and In for a Bad Time.

Alireza Firouzja

Can Alireza Firouzja qualify for a match for the throne? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Can Firouzja qualify for a match for the throne? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's verdict: "I quite like what I saw from Alireza in Tata [Steel Chess] this year. He did quite well [in the Chessable Masters 2024], reached the final against me, forced a reset there in the final as well. Honestly, he was the closest to beat me in Freestyle Chess as well. I am an Alireza True Believer. But for now I will put him in the 'Do Well' category, which is reasonable considering the difficulties he had last time."

Carlsen's rank: Will Do Well

I am an Alireza True Believer.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Nepomniachtchi already won the Candidates twice, but can he do it thrice? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Nepomniachtchi already won the Candidates twice, but can he do it thrice? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's verdict: "So Ian hasn't shown much the last few years, except for the Candidates. He shows flashes here and there. At the moment, I am not convinced, but I think he has enough pedigree to be in the Top Contender group considering he has won twice in a row."

Howell: Do you feel he saves the best for this specific tournament?

"I think he saves the best for sure. He also had circumstances with him both times, which is fair enough."

Howell: I am slightly surprised that you put Ian in the second category?

"I just haven't seen anything from Ian for a long time. He didn't play that well in the world championship either. I am yet to be completely convinced. But he is still in the top contender group. I would say the two first are '1A' and the two others are '1B.'"

Carlsen's rank: Top Contender

Ian hasn't shown much the last few years, except for the Candidates.

Gukesh Dommaraju

"More likely that he will have a bad event than a good event" is Carlsen's verdict on Gukesh. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's verdict: "For Gukesh, it's very hard to say. I cannot imagine him winning, but I can see him being anywhere from +2 to -5. I think he will certainly win at least a couple of good games, but have some fairly bad losses as well. I don't think he will do poorly, but I don't think he will do too well either. I don't think he fits into either category, but I think he is not quite ready yet to make the leap, and I think it's probably more likely that he will have a bad event than a good event."

Carlsen's rank: Will Do Poorly

It's probably more likely that he will have a bad event than a good event.

Nijat Abasov

The lowest ranked Nijat Abasov is
The lowest-ranked Abasov is "in for a bad time," according to Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's verdict: "Abasov obviously had an amazing tournament at the World Cup. Whether he can replicate it is very, very hard to believe. If he gets off to a good start, he can limit the damage severely, but overall I think he is most likely going to suffer. You could see it with somebody like Warmerdam [GM Max Warmerdam] at Tata, who started off extremely well, then usually once you start losing it's hard to stop the bleeding if you are a considerably weaker player than the others, which I think Abasov unfortunately is. He will not have it easy."

Carlsen's rank: In for a Bad Time

If he gets off to a good start, he can limit the damage severely, but overall I think he is most likely going to suffer.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Praggnanandhaa is expected to do well, but can he go all the way? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Praggnanandhaa is expected to do well, but can he go all the way? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's verdict: "I don't think Pragg is ready to win the tournament, but also I cannot see it going really poorly for him. He has weak moments, but he is fairly stable psychologically, and he has an improving repertoire and he is very serious. I think Pragg is very unlikely to win the tournament, but I cannot see him having a really bad result either."

Carlsen's rank: Will Do Well

I don't think Pragg is ready to win the tournament, but also I cannot see it going really poorly for him.

Fabiano Caruana

Can Fabiano Caruana live up to the expectations and challenge for another world championship match? Magnus Carlsen thinks so. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Can Caruana live up to the expectations and challenge for another world championship match? Magnus Carlsen thinks so. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's verdict: "I think Fabi has a great chance to win. His pedigree is very strong. He seems to have regained some strength in classical chess as well, after having a little bit of a down. He's maybe not quite as good as he was at his best, which probably was in 2018. He has as good a chance as any. He definitely belongs in 'Likely to Win.'"

Carlsen's rank: Likely to Win

I think Fabi has a great chance to win.

Vidit Gujrathi

Vidit is not expected by Carlsen to do well in Toronto, but can he surprise? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Vidit is not expected by Carlsen to do well in Toronto, but can he surprise? Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's verdict: "I think Vidit has improved quite a lot, especially from more of a psychological point. He did really poorly now in Prague, which is not great, but it doesn't have to mean that much.

"I think Vidit is sort of in between tiers here, "Will Do Well" and "Will Do Poorly." I am sure he will be very serious and well prepared. He will not win the tournament, although I do think he has the capacity to make a really good score if things go his way. I really like the way he plays, but I could also see him losing quite a few games. He is also kind of in between categories, but I think he is more likely to make -4 than +3."

Carlsen's rank: Will Do Poorly

He will not win the tournament, although I do think he has the capacity to make a really good score if things go his way.

Hikaru Nakamura

"Hikaru never had a better chance to become world champion," Carlsen says about the world number-three. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen's verdict: "I think Hikaru never had a better chance to become world champion than this. I would say that him and Fabiano are co-favorites. Hikaru has been quite consistent recently. He has an excellent chance, so he belongs in the first category."

Carlsen's rank: Likely To Win

I think Hikaru never had a better chance to become world champion than this.

Here are Carlsen's final rankings in one place:

Magnus Carlsen's final verdict on the Candidates players.
Magnus Carlsen's final rankings on the Candidates players.

What do you think about Carlsen's verdicts and rankings, and who do you think will win the Candidates Tournament? Let us know in the comments!

TarjeiJS
Tarjei J. Svensen

I am a chess journalist on Chess.com, the site you are playing on. Hope you enjoy my stories. Let me know if you have any tips on what I should write about!

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