Who Will Win The FIDE Candidates Tournament?
Who do you think will win the 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament?

Who Will Win The FIDE Candidates Tournament?

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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148 | Chess Event Coverage

Two weeks before the start of the FIDE Candidates Tournament, we provide the latest news and address the question that is on everyone's mind: Who will win?

This article, originally posted on March 3, has been updated on March 6 to reflect that Vachier-Lagrave is replacing Radjabov.

The first round of the most important tournament of the year is scheduled for March 17, 14 days from now. GMs Fabiano Caruana, Ding LirenAlexander GrischukIan Nepomniachtchi, Maxime Vachier-LagraveAnish GiriWang Hao, and Kirill Alekseenko will fight for the right to challenge GM Magnus Carlsen in the next world championship match which is likely to start December 20 in Dubai.

You can watch the Candidates games live at  Chess.com/events with computer analysis, live chat, and video commentary by GM Robert Hess, IM Danny Rensch and special guests, including super-grandmasters. Our live broadcast will also be available on Chess.com/TV.

See also our lengthy article here, with all the information about the Candidates.


First, an update about Ding and Wang, related to the coronavirus. According to the latest information, Wang is still in Japan, from there he will travel to Russia normally. Meanwhile, Ding has arrived in Russia already and is undergoing a 14-day quarantine with the rest of the Chinese delegation.

In other recent news, the March FIDE ratings are out, so we know with which ratings the players will be playing. Here's the updated players' list, with changes only for Wang (who won four points in Gibraltar) and Alekseenko (who lost six points, also in Gibraltar, and dropped below 2700): 

2020 Candidates Tournament | Participants

# Fed Name Rating Rank B-Year
1 Caruana, Fabiano 2842 2 1992
2 Ding Liren 2805 3 1992
3 Grischuk, Alexander 2777 4 1983
4 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2774 5 1990
5 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2767 8 1990
6 Giri, Anish 2763 11 1994
7 Wang Hao 2762 12 1989
8 Alekseenko, Kirill 2698 39 1997

Unsurprisingly, things have been somewhat quiet around these players as they have been focusing on preparing for the tournament. None of them have played over-the-board chess since Wijk aan Zee and Gibraltar finished.

However, more than half the field found time during their preparation to play in the PRO Chess League this month. For instance, Caruana has played 24 games for the Saint Louis Arch Bishops in 2020, half of these in February. So far he scored 16.5 points, good for a 2764 performance rating.

Both Grischuk (23.5/32, TPR 2776) and Giri (7/8, TPR 2940) have played for the Canada Chessbrahs, and in fact, both of them were part of last night's victory against the Sweden Wasabis.  

"I'm actually done. All openings have been refuted, everything's done!" joked Giri about combining his Candidates prep with playing online.


Don't miss GM Robert Hess and WFM Alexandra Botez's interview with Giri from last night's PRO Chess League stream, starting at 1:19:32, where the Dutchman also reveals that he has a team member that doesn't like to watch movies, saying it's too late to fire him now!

"I'm actually done. All openings have been refuted, everything's done!"
—Anish Giri

Whether his league games will help him in Yekaterinburg will have to be seen, but his Candidates preparation definitely helped him for yesterday's games:

"You can't imagine how much stuff that you look at during a serious preparation you deem sort of to be somewhat second rate. Then, by now I've got like three, four, five bonus repertoires I can play so in that sense I think I am very well prepared for an event like today," said Giri.

Here's his win against GM Nils Grandelius from yesterday's match, which wasn't an unimportant line from the Gruenfeld:

Meanwhile, Giri has been sharing some views from his training camp. On Instagram, the Dutchman uploaded a few pictures that revealed a beach location somewhere in Portugal, the presence of GMs Erwin l'Ami and Jorden van Foreest, and basically everyone having a pretty good time: 

View this post on Instagram

And how do YOU relax in between all the hard work? ♟⚔️📽👀 #movienight #1917 #chess #training #hardwork #relax

A post shared by Anish Giri (@anishgiri94) on

As Giri explained, it wasn't just fun: "Let me explain that my sponsors and supporters don't think I am wasting resources on ice cream and football! There is nothing to take a picture of during the hard work, which is like nine hours a day, and in that spare half an hour when I am eating ice cream or playing football, I take a picture and then it looks like all I do is eat ice cream and play football. You're not gonna share a screenshot with your latest ideas in the Najdorf."

That is actually an error that has happened before; the Saint Louis Chess Club released a video during the early phase of the 2018 Carlsen-Caruana world championship match that showed a screenshot of Caruana's analysis against the Petroff.

Also during the PRO Chess League, now three weeks ago, it was suggested that Caruana might have made a somewhat similar little error:

Two more players have played in the PRO Chess League this season. Still at his home in Wenzhou, Ding scored 3.5/4 for the China Pandas (TPR 2759) on February 17, and Nepomniachtchi scored 7/8 (TPR 2930) in matches in January and February for the Russia Wizards. 

Apart from FIDE launching the official website and publishing a promo video, this is all the recent news available now.

Who will win?

The easy answer is: Caruana or Ding. It's quite obvious that they, as the only two 2800+ players competing, are the two clear favorites as compared to the rest of the field. But how much are they favored? What do the experts say?

First, the bookies. Unibet, who recently closed a sponsorship deal with Carlsen, still has a slight preference for Caruana over Ding. Grischuk and Nepomniachtchi are the biggest dark horses, followed by Giri:

Unibet Candidates 2020
Unibet's odds for the 2020 Candidates before Radjabov had withdrawn from the tournament.

GM Viswanathan Anand told Chess.com that he also puts Caruana first and Ding second, followed by Grischuk. In Ben Johnson's The Perpetual Chess Podcast, Anand elaborated:

"Ding's strength is that he plays very well in these super top tournaments. He's very solid. Something like the Candidates is really designed for his style. On the other hand, Fabi is scoring very high. He was plus-five in Isle of Man, he was plus-seven in Wijk aan Zee... If he wins more games than the other guys are able to do, because it's normally a low-scoring event, then people may never catch up."

Ding's strength is that he plays very well in these super top tournaments. He's very solid. Something like the Candidates is really designed for his style.
—Vishy Anand

"I think it really comes down to these two, and I would put the other six in the basket of surprise. Anything other than these two I would consider a surprise for me."

Viswanathan Anand
Viswanathan Anand. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

GM Garry Kasparov shared his thoughts during the live broadcast of the Cairns Cup. He went as far as putting Caruana and Ding three-to-one against the field: "They are huge favorites. You need a natural disaster for one of them not to win."

"They are huge favorites. You need a natural disaster for one of them not to win."
—Garry Kasparov

He continued: "If Ding qualifies, we can expect a major boom in China provided it can sort out some of the problems that China is facing these days. I will be curious to see the effect on Chinese chess. Of course, if he wins that’s one story, but if he doesn’t win, it will generate the ongoing effect. Chess in China is promising, but having a candidate for the title is a different story.

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"Somehow I think Magnus would prefer Caruana although Fabi already has the experience. The only advantage is that Ding could take on Magnus in rapid and blitz. Fabi is not as great in these disciplines. But as we saw, he could be really dangerous for Magnus in classical chess. Let’s not forget, in the last two matches, Magnus‘s performance in classical chess was far from convincing."

Garry Kasparov
Garry Kasparov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Update March 9: All this was based on Radjabov in the field, who has now been replaced by Vachier-Lagrave. Today Kasparov tweeted:


Two American top grandmasters also see Caruna as the favorite. GM Wesley So, interviewed after the Speed Chess Championship final, said:

"Fabiano, obviously. I hope he didn't use all of his good chess in Wijk aan Zee. But if he plays good chess and if he keeps up the good form that he has the last few months, I would give him a very high chance to win. I mean, it's hard for me to think that anybody else could win other than Ding and Fabiano, but also Ding doesn't win too many tournaments per year. I mean, Ding is very consistent, but he doesn't have very dominating performances like Fabiano."


So and Nakamura talking about the Candidates after playing the Speed Chess Championship final.

GM Hikaru Nakamura, in the same interview: "Fabiano is the clear favorite. He played very well in Wijk, unlike last time. If it's not Fabiano, I would say Ding is the only player I see. Outside chance maybe Grischuk or Nepo, but I don't think anybody else has a chance of winning realistically."

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Candidates, has Caruana as the favorite too and puts Caruana and Ding one-to-one against the field. The biggest outsider, in his opinion, is Giri.

Who do you think will win the Candidates and WHY!?

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