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Candidates Tournament 2018 Preview

The Candidates Tournament is finally here – eight of the top players in the world will be battling it in the Candidates Tournament to see who will face Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship. The first round begins in Berlin on March 10th.

The tournament is a double-round robin, which means that  each player will play everyone else twice, once with white and once with black. The winner of the tournament will go on to play Magnus Carlsen later this year in November for the World Chess Championship.

Candidates Tournament – Who Will Win?

It’s a tough one to call – with such great players with differing styles, the 2018 Candidates tournament promises to be an exciting one. Let’s take a look at the contenders.

Sergey Karjakin

Sergey Karjakin - Candidates Tournament PreviewOf course, Karjakin was the last challenger to Magnus Carlsen in the 2016 World Chess Championship. Karjakin came close to unseating Carlsen.

After seven consecutive draws, Karjakin surprised many by winning the eighth game with the Black pieces! Carlsen was not happy and refused to participate in the mandatory postgame news conference. Carlsen bounced back in the tenth game, and the match went into the tie-break phase where Carlsen finally got the edge.

Karjakin will hope to get a second shot at the title, and Carlsen knows he’s no pushover!

Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian Candidates Tournament PreviewLevon Aronian is one of the favorites to come out on top of the Candidates Tournament.

In 2017, Aronian won the Grenke Classic by a clear 1.5 points ahead of Carlsen and Caruana. Two months later, he won the Norway Chess Tournament (with a performance rating of 2918!). He impressively won the Chess World Cup, won a gold medal for individual performance in the European Team Chess Championship, AND he tied for first in the FIDE Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca. What an incredible year for the Armenian!

Many think he’ll carry on this phenomenal success into the Candidates Tournament and go on to challenge Magnus Carlsen in the World Chess Championships.

Ding Liren

Ding Liren - Candidates Tournament PreviewThe possible dark horse of the Candidates, don’t dismiss Ding Liren’s chances. He may have had a relatively quiet rise to the top, but he’s certainly strong enough to be there.

The first Chinese player to qualify for the Candidates, Ding Liren secured his place by making it to the final of the World Cup in 2017 – eliminating other Candidates opponent Wesley So on the way.

Other 2017 successes include winning the Longgang Shenzhen Grandmaster Tournament ahead of Svidler and Giri, and the Moscow Grand Prix, ahead of both Grischuk and Mamedyarov.

 

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Mamedyarov Candidates Tournament PreviewShakhriyar Mamedyarov is in fine form and could well be the one to end up challenging Magnus Carlsen.

In January 2017, Mamedyarov was the 13th highest-rated player in the world. A year later and he is is 2nd! That’s a pretty impressive year that included winning the Vugar Gashimov Memorial ahead of Kramnik and other Candidates So and Karjakin.

Mamedyarov won the FIDE Grand Prix with victories in both the Beijing and Sharjah legs of the circuit.

Additionally, he won the team gold medal for Azerbaijan at the European Team Chess Championship.

Alexander Grischuk

Grischuk Candidates Tournament PreviewCurrently rated the 12th best player in the world, Grischuk qualified for the Candidates Tournament after finishing second in the FIDE Grand Prix, where amazingly he did not lose even 1 game out of 27.

Grischuk has participated in the Candidates 3 times before. In 2011, Grischuk lost the last game of the Candidates final against Boris Gelfand – after eliminating other 2018 Candidates Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik.

Could he repeat victories over those players this year and go one step better?

 

 

Fabiano Caruana

Caruana Candidates Tournament PreviewCaruana barely missed out on the World Championship Match last time round, losing a final round winner-takes-all game with Sergey Karjakin. So, we know he’s good enough to challenge for the spot, can he improve on his score this time and win the tournament?

Currently, Caruana ranks #8 in the world, but he has been as high as #2 as recently as January. He qualified for the Candidates because of his rating average throughout the previous year. In 2017 he won the Grand Chess Tour in London ahead of So, Aronian, Karjakin and even Carlsen himself.

In January this year he didn’t have the greatest Tata Steel Masters Tournament, finishing 11th – could this recent form set him back, or was it just a blip? If we know anything at all, it is that Caruana is one of the hardest working players out there, and definitely one of the players to watch for.

Wesley So

Wesley So Candidates Tournament PreviewCurrently the 4th best rated player in the world, So qualified for the 2018 Candidates due to his average ratings last year. It will be his first time participating in this event, and he is the youngest player who will be competing.

2017 started well for So, winning both the Tata Steel Masters and the U.S. Championship, and finishing second at the Gashimov Memorial. Later in the year, he finished unbeaten at the London Chess Classic, and in Wijk aan Zee he only lost one game.

It should be noted, however, that So fell down in the Sinquefield Cup. Usually a player known for his great stability, will So handle the pressure of such a big tournament, or inexplicably falter as he did in the Sinquefield cup?

Vladimir Kramnik

Kramnik Candidates Tournament PreviewNo stranger to the Candidates, Kramnik has participated in every World Championship cycle since 1994, except the last one. Classical World Chess Champion from 2000-2005 (and undisputed World Chess Champion ’06-07), Kramnik is no stranger to chess at the very highest level, and is currently rated at number 3 in the FIDE world rankings.

Kramnik’s 2017 successes came in the form of Team events, leading Siberia and Globus to first places in the Russian Team Championship and European Club Cup. On an individual basis, he declined participation on the FIDE Grand Prix and Grand Chess Tour, but did finish second in the Gashimov memorial and at Altibox Norway Chess.

Could Kramnik find himself in another World Championship match?

Candidates Tournament 2018 – Anyone’s Guess!

With such a strong field, it really is tougher than ever to pick out a winner. It’s a battle between attacking players and endgame masters, between young first time entrants and veterans, and sparks may fly. We’re hoping that whoever wins, we get some amazing games during the Candidates Tournament.

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