Chess player Ian Nepomniachtchi, 30 years old from Russia, finished first in the Candidates Chess Prize one round early, and won the throne with Magnus Carlsen at the end of 2021.

Nepomniachtchi entered game 13, also the penultimate game, with half a point more than second-placed Anish Giri on April 26. He took the white army, drew Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Giri lost to another Russian player – Alexander Grischuk. After game 13, Nepomniachtchi earned 8.5 points, one point higher than Giri. He won the Carlsen spot in spite of the remaining results, as Nepomniachtchi’s head-to-head stats outperformed Giri in this tournament.

Nepomniachtchi (left) will become the real challenge for Carlsen to defend the throne.  Photo: FIDE

Nepomniachtchi (left) will become the real challenge for Carlsen to defend the throne. Image: FIDE

Nepomniachtchi became the fourth person to challenge for the throne of Carlsen, after Viswanathan Anand in 2014, Sergey Karjakin 2016 and Fabiano Caruana 2018. According to the FIDE rankings in April 2021, Nepomniachtchi ranked fourth in the world with Elo 2.789. Carlsen is number one with Elo 2,847.

Nepomniachtchi is also the only player out of eight Candidates, having a better head-to-head ratio than Carlsen. He won four, drew six and lost one of the 11 standard games against Carlsen, despite the first two wins until they were teenagers.

Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen were also friends, born in 1990. They had fought each other several times in European and world championships as children. But, Nepomniachtchi developed chess more slowly. In January 2010, when Carlsen was number one in the world, Nepomniachtchi was ranked 69th. When commenting on Candidates above Chess24 On April 21, Carlsen said: “Nepomniachtchi is a player who can overwhelm me. The games between the two are always very interesting.”

The 2021 world championship match will take place in Dubai, UAE from November 24 to December 16. This match is scheduled for late 2020, but must be postponed for a year because of Covid-19. The match will include 14 standard games, if a 7-7 draw will hit a fast tie-break.

Immediately after Nepomniachtchi won the spot for the throne, Carlsen wrote it Twitter: “Time to say Dubai, Ian”.

Xuan Binh


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