Candidates’ Tournament: Preview & Predictions by Top GMs

Candidates’ Tournament: Preview & Predictions by Top GMs

| 59 | Chess Event Coverage

Already this Thursday one of the biggest events of the year will start: the FIDE Candidates’ Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Viswanathan AnandDmitry AndreikinLevon AronianSergey KarjakinVladimir KramnikShakhriyar MamedyarovPeter Svidler and Veselin Topalov will play an 8-player double round robin and the winner earns the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a match to be held later this year.

The players are expected to arrive in Khanty-Mansiysk not later than Wednesday for the Players’ meeting and the Opening Ceremony, where the FIDE Candidates’ Tournament will be officially opened. The first round is scheduled for Thursday, March 13th and will see the games Andreikin-Kramnik, Karjakin-Svidler, Mamedyarov-Topalov and Anand-Aronian. You can find the full pairings here. Each day the rounds start at 15:00 local time which is 10:00 CET, 04:00 EST and 01:00 PST.

The 2014 FIDE Candidates’ Tournament is an 8-player double round robin with 4 rest days. The dates are March 13th-31st, 2014. According to the regulations, the "total minimum" prize fund shared by the players totals € 420,000 which is € 90,000 less than last year.

The winner of the Candidates will have the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway in a world title match which is scheduled to take place in November 2014. Carlsen defeated Viswanathan Anand in the Chennai World Championship match in November 2013.

FIDE Candidates’ Tournament 2014 | Players

Levon Aronian (2830) qualified by rating. The 31-year-old grandmaster of Armenia won the 2005 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk and played board one for the gold winning Armenian team at the 2006, 2008 and 2012 Olympiads. He won the 2008–2010 FIDE Grand Prix, was World Chess960 Champion in 2006 and 2007, World Rapid Chess Champion in 2009, and World Blitz Chess Champion in 2010. He has been in the world's top 3 for several years.

Vladimir Kramnik (2787) qualified as the winner of the World Cup in August 2013 in Tromsø, Norway. The 38-year-old grandmaster of Russia became World Champion in 2000, when he beat Garry Kasparov in a world title match in London. He successfully defended his title against Peter Leko in 2004 and against Veselin Topalov in 2006.

Veselin Topalov (2785) qualified as the winner of the 2012-2013 FIDE World Cup. The 38-year-old grandmaster of Bulgaria won the 2005 FIDE World Championship tournament in San Luis, Argentina. A year later he tied a reunification match with Kramnik, but lost in the rapid playoff. A convincing win the the 2013 Zug Grand Prix got him back to the world's top 5 ranked chess players.

Vishy Anand (2770) qualified as the loser of the previous World Champion match. The 44-year-old grandmaster of India was World Champion from 2007, when he won the World Championship Tournament in Mexico City. He successfully defended his title against Vladimir Kramnik (Bonn, 2008), Veselin Topalov (Sofia, 2010) and Boris Gelfand (Moscow, 2012).

Sergey Karjakin (2766) qualified by rating. The 24-year-old grandmaster of Russia holds the record for the youngest grandmaster, at the age of 12 years and 7 months, in history. He was born in Ukraine, but switched federations and adopted Russian citizenship in 2009. Karjakin was sole winner at the 2009 Wijk aan Zee tournament, the 2012 World Rapid Chess Championship and the 2013 Norway Chess tournament.

Peter Svidler (2758) qualified via a wild card from the organizers. The 37-year-old grandmaster of Russia is seven-time Russian champion. At the 2005 World Championship in San Luis he tied for second place with Anand, behind Topalov. He won the 2011 World Cup in Khanty–Mansiysk, defeating Alexander Grischuk 2.5-1.5 in the final.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2757) qualified as runner-up of the 2012-2013 FIDE World Cup. The 28-year-old grandmaster of Azerbaijan is the only player who won the World Under 20 Championship twice: in 2003 and 2005. He tied for first place with Aronian and Karjakin at the 2010 Tal Memorial. Mamedyarov is the reigning World Rapid Champion.

Dmitry Andreikin (2709) qualified as World Cup 2013 finalist. The 24-year-old grandmaster of Russia won the 65th Russian Championship in 2012. In the 2013 Tal Memorial he was the lowest rated player, but finished the tournament undefeated: he drew eight games and beat Kramnik. In the final of the 2013 World Cup he lost to the same player 1.5-2.5.


Last Tuesday on the website of the Russian Chess Federation some top players gave their predictions. Below are a few quotes from that article:

Magnus Carlsen
“Of course I'm looking forward to the Candidates’ Tournament. I think it will be fascinating to watch, and I will be comfortable just to watch him as chess fan. The theoretical favorites are Aronian and Kramnik.”

Fabiano Caruana
“I think the main favorites are Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik. Aronian is in peak form, as his performance in Wijk aan Zee showed, and he is one of the top players, whose training is very well thought out. His only problem is of pure psychological nature. This prevented him from winning last year's Candidates’ Tournament.

Vladimir Kramnik is one of the best prepared and most cold-blooded players in the world, and he has a wealth of experience. The only question is that of motivation. Only people from his team can accurately answer this question. He is no longer so young, and maybe this will be his last attempt to qualify for the match for the world title. (...) A real chance has Sergey Karjakin. For many years he has been a top-class player, and, as I understand it, Sergey has worked very hard for this tournament.”

Alexander Grischuk
“I won't be original: the main favorites are Aronian and Kramnik. Also, Svidler, Karjakin and Mamedyarov may well win. But I would be very surprised if Anand, Topalov or Andreykin would win. (...) I think whoever wins, he'll have a real chance at the World Championship match, because the winner of this tournament will be a different person than he was before the start of the competition. So even if we take, for example, Anand, it will definitely not be easy for Carlsen to face the ‘other’ Anand.”

The official website of the Candidates’ Tournament is asked more top GMs (and one former top GM) for their predictions:

Vassily Ivanchuk:

“I think the best chances to win this tournament have Aronian and Mamedyarov because both of them are very creative and in very good shape during last time... ” 

Boris Gelfand:
“I really hate to make predictions for the simple reason that through my whole career I had to overcome all the predictions, especially in the last years.. So the only prediction I can make is that the one who would show the best chess would win and I hope it would be a correct one.”

Wesley So:
“I would go for Levon Aronian all the way in this tournament. As long as he is not distracted by anything.

He seems to be very motivated after his loss/mediocre performance in the Sinquefield Cup in USA last year. And I am sure he learned a lot from the Candidates Event last year. He has a lot of self-confidence in his moves. He seems to be well-prepared in the openings and usually has very good time management.

Kramnik is the next in line and (I have a lot of respect for him) but I think Aronian is stronger than him right now.”

Anish Giri:
Even though in the recent years Magnus has taught us that the rating actually IS quite important and the dark horses are dark for a reason, I would still choose a romantic path and pick a relative outsider. I say it will be one of two hot blooded guys, Topalov and Mamedyarov. Why? Because saying Aronian or Kramnik will prove me boring and unoriginal and since Chessvibes offered me to take up some of their article space, I need to fill it up with something interesting. As for the other guys it's plain and simple. Karjakin is too predictable, Andreikin too unpredictable, Anand too wounded, and Svidler too unambitious. That leaves me with the picked two, who will both, in their own way push as hard as they can.

But once again, if you are betting your own money, I would give you a simple advice- stick to the ratings.
And a little post-scriptum, just so you know, all of the guys are damn good!

Teimour Radjabov:
I wish best of luck to Shahriar in this tournament! About the prediction it would be unfair towards all others to predict who will be the winner and it's a pure speculation I think chances of all candidates are about equal. That's why I think that anyone can win! Will be following this event closely of course.” 

Judit Polgar:
“It will be extremely difficult and tense tournament with quite a few candidates to be the winner the two biggest favourite are Aronian and Kramnik but anybody can have ‘the tournament’ of his life.

Kramnik got extremely close last time in London and to be honest the next World Championship match would be the most interesting to watch for me is between Kramnik challenging Carlsen. I hope for Kramnik because I think it is his last practical chance to be the challenger for the crown.”

Yasser Seirawan:
“I see the three favorites as Levon Aronian, Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov. In the case of the first two because they have been in top form. Whereas in the case of Veselin he is capable of playing great chess. For someone else to win it would take a combination of these three players all playing poorly and for someone else to be in great form and have a good dollop of blessed fortune as well.”

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