2022 Candidates Tournament: Who Will Be the Next Challenger?

The tournament that everybody’s eyes are on has finally arrived: The 2022 Candidates. This highly prestigious tournament will be held between the 16th of June and the 5th of July at the Palace of Santoña in Madrid, Spain. In the tournament, eight super chess grandmasters* from seven countries will compete against each other to become the next challenger for the 2023 World Chess Championship. It will be a double round-robin tournament: every player will play against everybody. And that’s why there will be 14 rounds.


Everyone has a guess for the winner in their mind, who will play with the current world champion Magnus Carlsen in the World Chess Championship. Everybody has different reasons to support their favorite. Of course, like many, I have my personal favorites although each player deserves to be the next challenger since they have been preparing for this tournament for a while. My personal favorites are Fabiano Caruana, Alireza Firouzja, and Richárd Rapport. But it is important to keep in mind that if the current world champion Magnus Carlsen chooses not to play in the championship, the first two places of this tournament will be playing for the world champion title. In an interview, Carlsen stated that the last championship (2021 World Chess Championship) could be his last. Also, in a blog where he writes for his sponsor Simonsen Vogt Wiig, he wrote “It is unlikely that I will play another match unless maybe if the next challenger represents the next generation” (McGourty). While saying “next-generation” Carlsen refers to Alireza.


Let me now introduce the players to you (See “2022 Candidates Tournament).


“2022 Candidates Tournament”


Let’s Meet With the First Four Candidates:


Ding Liren

Ding is a Chinese super grandmaster and the highest-rated Chinese player in history, with his peak ELO of 2816 (ELO is a rating system in chess to indicate a player’s skill level - named after the designer Arpad ELO). His current ELO is 2806 – which ranks him second in the world after the World Champion. Also, he is the first Chinese person to play in the Candidates Tournament. Ding is known for his humble personality and stable game quality. He got elected for this tournament because of his ELO when the Russian super grandmaster Sergey Karjakin got disqualified ("Ding Liren."). Karjakin got disqualified because he “breached Article 2.2.10 of the FIDE Code of Ethics after he publicly approved of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine” ("Ding Liren."). Karjakin is banned for six months from playing any official FIDE-related tournaments. In my How the Russia-Ukraine Conflict Affected the Chess Community article, I have mentioned Karjakin’s response to the invasion. You can check it out to learn more.


The Chinese government and chess federation put a lot of effort to make Ding eligible for the tournament in the absence of Karjakin. They organized a series of tournaments to make Ding an active player again. But Ding came to the tournament without any friends or family, which must have been very hard for him psychologically. Everybody has supporters with them but apparently, Ding is not one of them.


However, Ding’s tournament did not start as expected. He lost the first game against last year’s challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi and drew the second game against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Will he be able to come back? The remaining twelve rounds will give us the answer. Hopefully, the support from his fans, family, and friends will help him to put his best on the board.


Alireza Firouzja

Firouzja is an Iranian-French super grandmaster, but he represents France. He is only 19 years old. Some call him a chess prodigy because he beat Carlsen’s record and became the youngest player to reach the 2800 ELO mark. When he was only 12 years old, he won the Iranian Chess Championship. His current ELO is 2793, ranking him the third-highest player in the world after Liren. Even though he is young, Firouzja is a very talented and respected player. He earned the chance to play in this tournament because of his Grand Swiss victory ("Alireza Firouzja.").


Firouzja has many supporters with him. However, in the first two rounds, he did not show his true strength. In the second round, he lost against Richárd Rapport. Rapport’s mistake made the match a draw. Firouzja did not have any wins.


In the remaining rounds, everybody wants to see more from Firouzja and has high expectations for him. Even the current world champion Carlsen has high expectations for him. Will he be able to compete with pressure like this? We will likely get an answer to this question soon.


Fabiano Caruana

Caruana is an Italian-American super grandmaster. He became a grandmaster at the age of 14; the youngest grandmaster in both Italian and American history. His current ELO is 2783, and he ranks fourth in the world after Firouzja. Caruana was the challenger in the 2018 World Chess Championship, where all of the matches ended in a draw, but Carlsen won the championship in the tiebreaks ("Fabiano Caruana.").


Caruana earned the right to play in this tournament when he got second in the Grand Swiss right after Firouzja. He started to the Candidates strong. He won his first match against Nakamura, and he had a winning position against Nepomniachtchi, but due to the time pressure, the game ended with a draw. We might see Caruana as the challenger one more time. With this game quality, nobody would be surprised if he wins the Candidates.


Ian Nepomniachtchi

Nepomniachtchi is a Russian super grandmaster. His current ELO is 2766, and he is the seventh-best player in the world. Nepomniachtchi got eligible for this tournament because he ended up as the runner-up in the 2021 World Chess Championship. So he was the previous challenger (“Ian Nepomniachtci”). He started the Candidates with a win, which brought an important question to minds: Will he be the challenger again?


What do you think, will the next challenger be from these four super grandmasters? In the second part of this article, I will introduce the other four candidates and discuss Magnus Carlsen’s tier grouping of players.


Works Cited

"Alireza Firouzja." Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alireza_Firouzja. Accessed 19 June 2022.

"Ding Liren." Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ding_Liren. Accessed 19 June 2022.

"Fabiano Caruana." WikiPedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabiano_Caruana. Accessed 19 June 2022.

"Ian Nepomniachtchi." Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Nepomniachtchi. Accessed 19 June 2022.

McGourty, Colin. "Magnus Carlsen: 'Unlikely I will play another match' except against Firouzja." chess24, chess24.com/en/read/news/magnus-carlsen-unlikely-i-will-play-another-match-except-against-firouzja#:~:text=World%20Chess%20Champion%20Magnus%20Carlsen,2%20Alireza%20Firouzja. Accessed 19 June 2022.

"2022 Candidates Tournament." 9 May 2022. chess.com, www.chess.com/article/view/meet-the-candidates-2022. Accessed 26 June 2022.


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