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The final and the 14th round of the 2022 Candidates was played on Monday night and Ian Nepomniachtchi win the tournament without a single loss. All four games were calm, the positions even and it seemed as if we were heading for a day of draws. Instead, there was just one draw.
According to a FIDE release, “In terms of results, today’s round did not matter for Ian Nepomniachtchi, who secured victory in the event following a draw in round 13. However, this game was psychologically important for him: Nepomniachtchi didn’t want a repeat of the previous Candidates, which he also won with a round to spare but then lost the final game which gave a bitter aftertaste to his great success.”
Playing the Petrov, Nepomniachtchi was under pressure from Jan-Krzysztof Duda who seemed much more relaxed and comfortable in his bearing compared to how he had played in the rest of the tournament. All the time the game was even. Duda was looking for chances but Nepomniachtchi always responded adequately and confidently, bringing the game to a draw without much drama.
Finishing the Candidates in the first place and without a single defeat is a strong statement for Nepomniachtchi who is vying for the title of world champion. Nepomniachtchi will take on champion Magnus Carlsen for the world title in 2023 now.
The 31-year-old needed half a point to confirm his place as Carlsen’s challenger and achieved it by drawing with Hungarian Richard Rapport on Sunday to seal his second straight Candidates title.
Nepomniachtchi competed under a neutral flag in Madrid after sanctions were imposed on Russian players for their country’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special operation’.
His meeting with Carlsen, who has lifted the last five world titles, is far from a done deal as the Norwegian said in December that he was unsure if he would defend his championship, citing a lack of motivation.
In such a scenario, Nepomniachtchi would take on the player who finishes runner-up at the Candidates, a position held by American Hikaru Nakamura heading into the final round.
1 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 9½/14 2766
2 Ding, Liren 8/14 2806
3 Radjabov, Teimour 7½/14 2753
4 Nakamura, Hikaru 7½/14 2760
5 Caruana, Fabiano 6½/14 2783
6 Firouzja, Alireza 6/14 2793
7 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 5½/14 2750
8 Rapport, Richard 5½/14 2764
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