The second day of the 2022 Candidates saw just one game ending with a victory and three ending in draws.
Replay R2: Richard Rapport – Alireza Firouzja / Hikaru Nakamura – Teimour Radjabov / Ian Nepomniachtchi – Fabiano Caruana / Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Ding Liren Replay R1: Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Richard Rapport / Ding Liren – Ian Nepomniachtchi / Fabiano Caruana – Hikaru Nakamura / Teimour Radjabov – Alireza Firouzja
Following a loss in the opening round, American Hikaru Nakamura made a recovery and won against Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan, scoring a victory after six and a half hours of play. In the Ruy Lopez, White (Nakamura) got a slightly better position after Black failed to find the optimal moves in the opening. White gradually increased pressure on his opponent who was constantly on the back foot. Most likely it would not have been enough for a victory had Radjabov not given up a pawn on move 35. The rest of the game was not a smooth sail for Hikaru but his patience and determination eventually paid off. After his loss in round one, this is an important victory for Nakamura as it helps him secure a good place early on in the tournament. Next round: Radjabov – Nepomniachtchi and Firouzja – Nakamura
The most anticipated game of the day, the duel between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana ended in a draw. The two are the only tournament participants to have won the Candidates once already and are the only players who started with victories in round one. In the Italian Game, Caruana, playing with black pieces, stunned his opponent with a well-prepared surprise early on in the opening. Facing Caruana’s early bombshell, Nepomniachtchi did not lose heart – he sacrificed a pawn and skillfully defended in a very complicated position. Still, in the end, the computer said Black had a sizable advantage. Caruana, however, either couldn’t see it or disliked the complications. After 33 moves the two agreed to a draw. Nepomniachtchi and Caruana enter round three as the leaders, with 1.5/2. VIDEO: Agadmator, “Good luck following this game”
In another Italian Game, the duel between Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Ding Liren also ended in a draw. The Polish player had a slight edge throughout the game, but Ding managed to place his pieces well enough to prevent White from making progress. After careful maneuvering on both sides, a draw was agreed on move 41. Following a devastating loss in the first round, a draw with black pieces will surely help the world’s second highest-rated player Ding Liren stabilize. As for Duda – he started the tournament with two draws and in both games he had more chances, so it remains to be seen if he can keep the flame going. Next round: Ding Liren – Rapport andCaruana – Duda
Today was a special day for Alireza Firouzja who celebrated his 19th birthday. The youngest player of the Candidates might not be happy with how he played, but he has all the reasons to celebrate after saving a lost endgame against Richard Rapport. VIDEO: Agadmator: Rapport – Firouzja 2022
After two rounds, Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi lead the field with 1.5/2, followed by four players on one point: Rapport, Firouzja, Duda and Nakamura. World number two Ding Liren and Teimour Radjabov are on half a point.
The third round of the Candidates starts on Sunday, 19th June at 3 PM CEST at the Palacio de Santona in Madrid.
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Text: Milan Dinic
Photos: FIDE / Stev Bonhage