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Ian Nepomniachtchi grabs the sole lead in FIDE Candidates 2022

Candidates R4 recap by WGM Anastasiya Karlovich

Replay R4 games:
Richard Rapport – Hikaru Nakamura 1/2-1/2 
Ian Nepomniachtchi – Alireza Firouzja 1-0
Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Teimour Radjabov 1/2-1/2 
Ding Liren – Fabiano Caruana 1/2-1/2

After yesterday’s first rest day Ian Nepomniachtchi took the sole lead by defeating Alireza Firouzja in a sharp Najdorf, every other game ended in a draw. Two peaceful games and Caruana finally holding off Ding, surviving yet another unpleasant game. 

Fabiano Caruana is clear second, trailing half a point, after successfully defending yet another unlikely position, and there are three players tied for the third place on fifty percent. Alireza Firouzja and Ding Liren, two of the huge favorites, are tied for last.

Results of Round 4
Standings after Round 4

Richard Rapport – Hikaru Nakamura ½-½

The Hungarian grandmaster, leading white pieces, did not accept Nakamura’s invitation for the Berlin Endgame, but soon found himself out of book after Black introduced an interesting novelty by playing 8…g5. Nakamura gained not only the element of surprise, but a good position as well — definitely a relief for the American who’s been suffering with his black pieces so far.

Saint Louis Chess Commentator grandmaster Cristian Chirila was surprised to see the typical Ruy Lopez ending on the board: “When I was 7-year-old I was playing the Exchange Ruy Lopez and every time I had a chance to exchange pieces and get this type of structure, I probably won 90% of the games. Isn’t that the case anymore? Has something changed in chess?”

However, it turned out there was no real danger for the American player. After Nakamura simplified into an endgame with slightly better pawn structure for Rapport, the computer was showing a slight edge for White but there was always enough counterplay for Black on the kingside. Hikaru continued the aggressive pawn-pushing strategy, and the game quickly petered out into a draw.

Solid performance by Hikaru Nakamura, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Teimour Radjabov ½-½

Another Berlin Endgame declined, another balanced game. Queens stayed on the board a bit longer — Radjabov employed an interesting plan starting with 11…Ne7, allowing Duda to damage his pawn structure and double the f-pawn. Nevertheless, the semi-open g-file turned out to be useful for his successful counterplay later on. Things seemed exciting for a while with opposite-side castles, but the critical move 17…f5 led to exchanges and the momentum was gone.

Duda tried to prolong things a bit, avoiding a queen exchange once, but there was not much to do. On the next move he had to accept trading the queens, simplifying into a rook endgame which led to another peaceful result

Teimour Radjabov,  photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Ian Nepomniachtchi – Alireza Firouzja 1-0

The game of the round and yet another impressive victory by the 2021 World Championship Challenger, this time with the white pieces. One of the heaviest theoretical lines of the English Attack in Najdorf Sicilian was played and Firouzja tried to take his opponent into an extremely rare sideline with the move 15…Bc4. 

After a bit of thought, White reacted with moves which still were in the database, followed-up with one of the most natural choices and Firouzja sank into deep thought. His aggressive strategy started to backfire.

The first long thought, spent on 20…Bxf1, was the first step in the wrong direction. He passed the advantage to White and two moves later he found himself in a position with no real counterplay and a freeroll for Nepomniachtchi. There was no real way back after White started taking Black’s position apart with 24.Qxb4, and Firouzja’s situation was desperate on the clock as well. A nice rook sacrifice, checkmating Black’s king, finally ended the game. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi crushing Firouzja’s Najdorf, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Ding Liren – Fabiano Caruana ½-½

This was the longest game of the round and a crucial one for both players. Ding Liren managed to create a bit of disharmony in his opponent’s camp out of the opening which shouldn’t have accounted for much. Nevertheless, Caruana tried to solve his problems drastically, sacrificing a pawn to establish a sort of a blockade, relying on his active pieces. 

Matters seemed quite difficult for Caruana, but after Ding opted for a forcing approach, creating a passed pawn, his advantage eventually disappeared. Even though White had a pawn up in a rook endgame, Caruana managed to escape to a draw quite easily. There was simply not enough material on the board and Ding surprisingly never really got any winning chances in the whole game. Kudos to Caruana’s tenacious defense.

Ding-Caruana was a tense fight, photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Replay the broadcast from round 4 four here.

Ian Nepomniachtchi is having a great start of the tournament, similar to his performance back in the first half of previous Candidates, whereas Fabiano Caruana has come to a bit of a slowdown already, playing the second shaky game in a row. Nevertheless, we might find ourselves in a completely different situation at the end of any round as the tournament continues. 

Find out how the 5th round unfolds on or YouTube and Twitch channels, guided by grandmaster commentators Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan and Christian Chirila at 7:50 AM CDT.

Round 5 pairings and live games:
Fabiano Caruana – Richard Rapport
Teimour Radjabov – Ding Liren
Alireza Firouzja – Jan-Krzysztof Duda
Hikaru Nakamura – Ian Nepomniachtchi

MoreAll Candidates news (collection) / Preview of R4 / Candidates pairings all rounds / Candidates LIVE
Daily Candidates recaps: Giri’s R3 Candidates recap / FIDE Candidates R3 recap – Calm before the storm?! / Live with GM Judit Polgar and GM Jan Gustafsson
More on the CandidatesDing Liren and Fabiano Caruana celebrate 20 years of chess battles / Nakamura: FIDE wants us all to look like it’s 1970’s at the IBM headquarters / 
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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