Chess Candidates tournament begins today in Madrid!

The FIDE World Chess Championship Candidates Tournament 2022 begins today, Thursday 16th June, at a magnificent venue, the Palacio de Santoña in Madrid, Spain.

Today the opening ceremony takes place, but the first round proper will take place tomorrow, Friday 17th. The winner of the Candidates wins the right to play the World Champion, Magnus Carlsen (Elo 2864, Norway), for the world title. It’s a double round robin tournament with 8 players so there will be 14 rounds in all. Round 14, the last round, is on Monday July 4th. Tie-breaks if any are needed will be on Tuesday 5th July 2022. The first round draw is as follows (all 4 digit numbers after players’ names are current Elo ratings) :-

Duda (2750, Poland) vs Rapport (2764, Hungary)

Ding Liren (2806, China) vs Nepomniachtchi (2766, Russia)

Caruana (2783, USA) vs Nakamura (2760, USA)

Radjabov (2753, Azerbaijan) vs Firouzja (2793, France)

Nepomniachtchi is Russian but is obliged to play under the FIDE flag, as Russian and Belarusian flags are banned from FIDE events as a result of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

You can see the top live Elo ratings at :-

https://2700chess.com/

From this list you can see that the participants are not the top 8 in the world (Carlsen aside) but they are the players who have qualified to play in the Candidates, by various routes, as you can read on Wiki.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candidates_Tournament_2022

It is a bit disappointing to see certain of the top and most talented players not in the tournament, notably Aronian (2775, USA) and So (2773, USA), among others.

Although Karjakin (2747, Russia) is only number 16 in the world ratings, he did actually qualify for the Candidates, as he finished second to Duda in the Chess World Cup 2021. However, Karjakin was disqualified by FIDE after speaking out in favour of Russia, in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. In my opinion this is not fair, he qualified for the tournament fair and square, so he should be playing. If the Russians have to disavow their own government’s actions just to play, then this reminds me of the great American novel Catch-22, where Captain Black initiates the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade, during which he forces all men to swear elaborate oaths of loyalty before doing basic things like eating meals. This continues until the fearsome, sensible and very hungry Major — de Coverley puts an end to it by shouting simply “Gimme eat!” in the mess hall without signing an oath. Has anybody on the FIDE committee read Catch-22, the greatest anti-war novel ever? Probably not I suppose.

If however there has to be a replacement, there is none better than Ding Liren of China, who is currently number 2 in the live ratings. Ding Liren unluckily missed out on normal qualification, because he missed the first leg of the FIDE Grand Prix in Berlin in February this year, as he failed to obtain a visa to visit Germany. Those unfortunate circumstances are explained on :-

https://www.chess.com/news/view/ding-liren-fide-grand-prix-2022

It would be great if the softly-spoken, humble Ding won the candidates, in a game which the Chinese barely could be arsed to play until the 1930s, when the great trailblazer Xie Xiashun played, he was after all primarily the leading xiangqi (Chinese chess) player of the time. In China, Western chess comes a poor third after Chinese chess (xiangqi) and the ancient game of Go (weiqi), so hats off to the Chinese for being better than us at it! In my memory, it was only in 1978 that the Chinese really arrived on the scene, at the Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires, when poor old Dutch GM Donner only lasted 20 moves against the Chinese player Liu Wenzhe. Falling to a spectacular queen sac in a game which was published all over the world. More recently the Chinese Mens team won the World Chess Olympiads in 2014 and 2018, and the Chinese women won their World Chess Olympiad for the first time in 1998, following on with wins in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2016 and 2018. Garry Kasparov has Ding as the favourite to win, and after him, Caruana and Duda.

As for me, I would also quite like Hikaru Nakamura to win the tournament, he is in great form and I enjoy his great videos not only because of his great sense of humour but his fantastic analysis. He is good-natured enough to take on all-comers at Coffee Chess, a nice YT channel, giving himself 1 minute to his opponents’ 5! He even took on the legendary Duck and the Great Carlini.

Hikaru’s YT channel is just the best, cannot praise it highly enough.

https://www.youtube.com/c/GMHikaru

He has been preparing for the Candidates by winning a couple of Titled Tuesdays tournaments a day! Usually he analyses deeply by looking at the ceiling. Hikaru bought a supercomputer worth $20,000 just for his opening prep :-

He also asks “Is Classical chess good for your blitz?” in an amusing reference to people criticising him for playing too much blitz!

There is a superb summary of the tournament on the chess.com website. Chess.com are one of the main sponsors, the Scheinberg family is another.

https://www.chess.com/events/2022-fide-candidates-chess-tournament

The different times the rounds will start all over the world are given on :-

https://www.chess.com/events/2022-fide-candidates-chess-tournament/schedule

– so Round 1 will actually begin in Madrid at 3pm, that’s 2pm London time.

The official FIDE tournament page is beautifully designed and informative :-

https://candidates.fide.com/

– however, avid chess fans hoping to watch the games live in person will most likely be disappointed, as we are informed on :-

https://candidates.fide.com/madrid2022/tickets

– that “The event is SOLD OUT for all the dates. Please note that NO tickets will be available at the entrance to the venue”.

Interestingly, I wrote twice to FIDE and chess.com in early May and early June, politely enquiring about tickets and availability, but alas received no reply…“Oh dear how sad never mind”, there will be fantastic coverage on the interweb. Chess.com’s own coverage will be great as usual, located according to their blurb at :-

go.chess.com/Candidates2022

Nerds like me will be following Chessbase with their board display and Fritz engine whirring away :-

https://en.chessbase.com/

Best for that angle though in my humble opinion is chess24.com, where you can keep 4 tabs open and watch all games with Stockfish 14 analysing in the background :-

https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/fide-candidates-2022

You can also DITS (Yorkshire speak for DIY, Do It TheeSen) and download Stockfish 15 (CCRL 3564, CEGT 3623) and plonk it into Arena, the best free chess Gui :-

https://stockfishchess.org/download/

Also top free engines are Komodo (CCRL 3508, CEGT 3424, http://komodochess.com), Houdini (CCRL 3529, CEGT 3444, https://www.cruxis.com/chess/houdini.htm), and Fire (CCRL 3430,
CEGT 3319, https://chesslogik.wixsite.com/fire/download).

The neural-network based Leela (CCRL 3463, CEGT 3467) for the totally obsessive punter looks fascinating but is a little bit tricky to set up to say the least, and you need the right GPU (graphics processor – these can be fiendishly utilised for intensive processing). Must try it sometime though!

Which is the best free engine just running on a “crappy laptop”? Well one bloke tried this interesting experiment and found out!

https://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/best-free-chess-engine-2021-double-round-robin-tournament

Stockfish 14 was the clear winner. So if you want to Keep It Simple Stupid, then just download Stockfish.

Here is the CCRL ranking list of engines :-

https://www.computerchess.org.uk/ccrl/4040/rating_list_all.html

– and here is one of the CEGT ranking lists :-

http://www.cegt.net/40_40%20Rating%20List/40_40%20SingleVersion/rangliste.html

This is where the people on Reddit, the front page of the internet, say they will watch the Candidates :-

Many say they will watch chess24 with Judit Polgar, Jan Gustafsson, or chess.com with Danny Rensch, Daniel Naroditsky and Robert Hess commentating.

Personally I’m hoping that Vishy Anand, or Peter Svidler, or David Howell and Jovanka Houska will appear to commentate somewhere. Magnus Carlsen is rumoured to be dropping in to visit Judit and Jan. If I had Russian then of course I’d watch Vladimir Kramnik’s commentary. I’m really not quite sure how come Peter Svidler’s English is more idiomatic than mine… He loves cricket (not me I’m a footy man), wants to open for England at Lord’s, and uses English vernacular like “half-decent”, “gobsmacked”, etc. He is surely the most drily amusing commentator, and he’s half-decent at chess too, having won the Russian championship 8 times!

In 1977, Monty Newborn (President of the ICCA, the International Computer Chess Association, from 1983-1986) said “In the past Grandmasters came to our computer tournaments to laugh. Today they come to watch. Soon they will come to learn.” He was not wrong! Already a free chess engine like Stockfish, running on a bog standard laptop, can defeat the World Chess Champion.

For post-game analysis, I like “Agadmator” of Croatia (real name Antonio Radić, Elo 1967) on Youtube, he is not the strongest OTB (over the board) player, but his presentation is very good. Obviously, most commentators analyse using computer engines, which is a great leveller. Most commentators during the games don’t like at all to use an engine, because it feels much more realistic to put yourself in the shoes of the players, who cannot play like engines, and it feels like cheating! But after the game is over, it is a fair cop to use a computer engine to analyse. Agadmator has a staggering 1.2 million subscribers (until recently the most popular YT chess channel), so he must be doing something right! He’s very good at systematically going through variations in a clear fashion :-

Even better though, and by far and away the best English language commentator for post-mortem analysis, is English GM Danny King (2466), of the PowerPlayChess Youtube channel. Danny King is a bona fide GM as well as being a diamond geezer, and that helps a lot as he has the GM’s deep understanding of a position. Anybody can use a top engine, but a GM will utilise it better as engines can’t do everything, and they sometimes need to have moves suggested to them. He has 90k subscribers but deserves a lot more.

https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerPlayChess/featured

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