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FIDE Candidates Chess 2022 R5 almost saw a major upset

Candidates R5 recap by WGM Anastasiya Karlovich

Replay Round 5:
Fabiano Caruana – Richard Rapport 1/2-1/2
Teimour Radjabov – Ding Liren 1/2-1/2
Alireza Firouzja – Jan-Krzysztof Duda 1/2-1/2
Hikaru Nakamura – Ian Nepomniachtchi 1/2-1/2

It looked like Ding Liren could’ve been the hero of the 5th round in Madrid, scoring the only decisive point of the day, but alas. 4 draws, no change in the standings and the same leader, Ian Nepomniachtchi. We were close to a major upset in one of the remaining games, as Nakamura blew a golden opportunity to rise up the standings against Nepomniachtchi, who eventually managed to keep his sole first place position. 

Round 5 results
Round 5 standings

Alireza Firouzja – Jan-Krzysztof Duda ½-½

Firouzja must have been eager to fight for a win as he had white pieces against the last seed of the tournament. But his Polish opponent chose his strategy well and none of White’s aggressive thoughts could materialize on the board in a calm Petroff, an excellent choice from Duda.

There was a little bit of edge, even if symbolic, around move 24, where Firouzja could’ve played the computer-precise 25.Qb1, but he chose the human move instead. The game was over on the spot, as it forcingly went to a completely symmetrical queen endgame with no play left. Nevertheless, even the hard-to-see computer choice would not give White more than an extra pawn that would be difficult to convert, so one can argue mistakes in creating winning chances have been made even earlier than that.

Alireza Firouzja did not manage to break through Duda’s firm defenses. Manuel Alvarez Escudero made the ceremonial move to start Round 5. He is 100 years old but just a few months ago he played (and won) for his team in the league of Madrid, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Fabiano Caruana – Richard Rapport ½-½

The shortest game in terms of number of moves, yet very rich in content. A showcase of creativity from both players — Rapport managed to outmaneuver Caruana from his home preparation in a rare Sicilian Taimanov sideline and get out of the book early on. Fabiano Caruana played very aggressively, pushing his kingside pawns forward, keeping the king in the center, while Rapport was timely creating counterplay on the other side. 

It looked like Caruana might have pushed things a bit too far and Rapport missed a chance to gain an edge by capturing on c3 on move 16, keeping White’s king trapped in the middle while solving his own king safety issues. Instead, he allowed the American to shake things up and take the critical g7-pawn. Soon, it was time to accept the fact that White had nothing better than a move repetition and the game finished in a draw — all in all a very fine battle.

Fabiano Caruana during the eventful game vs Richard Rapport, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Hikaru Nakamura – Ian Nepomniachtchi ½-½

Nepomniachtchi tried to “calm” Nakamura’s ambitions with a Petroff, as did Duda against Firouzja but Ian fared much worse, though. Hikaru Nakamura opted for a sideline he used against Akobian 6 years ago, which took his opponent completely by surprise. After a couple of natural-looking moves, Nepomniachtchi lost the thread and his queen started wandering around the board.

Black’s position was critical around move 23, but Nakamura missed the insidious 23.Nh4 move, essentially ending the game on the spot. It was the American’s turn to make a mistake, and he eventually let all his advantage slip before finally agreeing to a draw. In reality, Nepomniachtchi already could’ve started to play for a win taking into account his advantage on the clock. Draw was enough for Nepomniachtchi after this roller-coaster game, and it kept him in sole first. Nakamura, on the other hand, has all the reasons to be very disappointed, as a victory would have moved him up into a shared lead.

Hikaru Nakamura missed a big chance, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Teimour Radjabov – Ding Liren ½-½

Drama was expected for this game and drama we got. Radjabov built a very solid position with the white pieces out of the opening, but then threw in a couple of weakening and committal moves, starting with the move 18.f4. It did not take long for Ding to take over the initiative and it seemed like he was finally going to take a full point home. 

He consolidated his advantage into a clear positional superiority for his pieces, but lingering turned out to give Black chances to escape. The first major innacuracy came on move 35, when Ding missed the simplifying 36.Nf5 move — although Radjabov did not spot this opportunity. Ding started spending a lot of time on followed moves and finally let the advantage disapear with a mistake on the last move before the time control. He spent almost all his remaining seconds in search of the winning move.

Radjabov had his fate back in his hands after Black missed the only 40…Bxd4!, winning after 41.Bxd4 Nf5 42.Bg1 Qc6, and convincingly held the game to a draw, forcing all Ding’s attacking pieces off the board. Another extremely painful draw for Ding, who blew promising positions in all his white games so far.

Ding Liren has been unsuccessfully torturing Radjabov till the very end of the day. Photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Replay the broadcast from round 5: GM Alejandro Ramirez, GM Yasser Seirawan and GM Cristian Chirila / GM Judit Polgar and GM Jan Gustafsson / IM Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal / GM Daniil Yuffa and IM Elisabeth Paehtz

Nothing has changed on the scoreboard and Nepomniachtchi keeps his half a point lead ahead of Caruana, followed by a 3-men pack of pursuers. Round 6 will feature Firouzja having another try with the white pieces against Caruana, and Nakamura facing Ding Liren. Tune in to the live commentary with Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan and Christian Chirila at 7:50 AM CDT on or YouTube and Twitch.

More on the Candidates: 100-year-old chess player Manuel Alvarez Escudero opens Candidates Chess R5 / Nakamura about the Candidates R5 game against Nepo: I am disgustedDing Liren and Fabiano Caruana celebrate 20 years of chess battles / Nakamura unhappy with the security procedures at the FIDE Candidates Tournament 
Candidates Chess 2022 all information: Candidates Chess 2022 / Candidates 2022 pairings / Live games Candidates 2022 / Candidates Chess 2022 Predictions and possible outcomes

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