Who Will Challenge Carlsen?

As we enter the home-stretch of the Candidates Tournament, let's take a look at the current front-runners to challenge Carlsen for the World Championship.

The Leaders

Photo courtesy of World Chess Photo courtesy of World Chess

Sergey Karjakin

  • Current Score: 5.5 / 9
  • Performance Rating: 2857

Sergey Karjakin, initially considered an underdog, has beaten the odds so far. He’s been one of the leaders for a majority of the event, maintaining a solid plus 2 score and going undefeated. Narrowly missing his opportunity at the 2014 Candidates (he won 2nd place---a point behind Anand), Karjakin now seems determined to earn his chance to challenge Carlsen. Best Moment So Far: Gaining the tournament lead by defeating Vishy Anand for the first time in his career.

Vishy Anand

  • Current Score: 5.5 / 9
  • Performance Rating: 2859

Like many of his recent results, Vishy Anand continues to be very unpredictable. After his loss to Karjakin in round 4, many may’ve expected him to fade. Instead, he completely recovered and has won more games than any other participant. In addition, he leapfrogged Aronian into a tie for first place by defeating him in their head-to-head game. Despite some of his recent setbacks, Anand is showing that he is not to be underestimated. Could we be in store for a third Carlsen-Anand match? Best Moment So Far: Anand's 24 move attacking victory over Peter Svidler

[pgn] [White "Anand, Vishy"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C88"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r2qrbk1/1b3ppp/8/npp1P3/3Pp3/5N2/1PB2PPP/R1BQR1K1 w - - 0 18"] [PlyCount "13"] [EventDate "2016.03.11"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [EventCategory "22"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2016.03.21"]18. Rxe4 $1 {The rook leads the kingside attack.} Nb3 (18... Bxe4 $2 19. Bxe4 Rc8 {and after} (19... Ra6 20. Qd3 g6 21. Qxb5 Ra7 22. d5 $18) {the thematic Bxh7 sacrifice prevails} 20. Bxh7+ Kxh7 21. Ng5+ Kg8 22. Qh5 $18) 19. Rxa8 Bxa8 20. Ng5 Nxc1 21. Qh5 h6 22. Qxf7+ Kh8 23. Rg4 Qa5 24. h4 {and Svidler resigned. } 1-0[/pgn]

The Chasers

Photo Credit: World Chess Photo courtesy of World Chess

Fabiano Caruana

  • Current Score: 5 / 9
  • Performance Rating: 2817

Only a half point behind the leaders at plus one, Fabiano Caruana is having a very solid tournament. He’s managed to escape several difficult positions, including a lost position against Giri, to remain undefeated. Score-wise he is still very much in contention, will he be able to pull into high-gear and join the leaders during the final rounds? Best Moment So Far: Battling for nearly 100 moves against Anish Giri to hold a draw---after a questionable sacrifice of not one, not two, not three, but four pawns. Here's the position. Giri's extra pawns include two central passers:

Anish Giri vs. Fabiano Caruana

Proof that Giri can draw anything!


Levon Aronian

  • Current Score: 5 / 9
  • Performance Rating: 2815

Levon Aronian seemed to be in ideal form until the most recent round. He smoothly outplayed Topalov and Nakamura to gain two victories and was tied for first with Karjakin. His loss to Anand in the 9th round must’ve come as a surprising blow, which knocked him from the leaderboard. How will Aronian adjust to the loss? Will he emerge again as a top contender? Best Moment So Far: His victory against Topalov, where his opening preparation gave him a substantial advantage as Black.

[pgn] [White "Topalov, V."] [Black "Aronian, L."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A29"] [PlyCount "100"] [EventDate "2016.03.11"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [EventCategory "22"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2016.03.14"]1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 Bb4 5. Bg2 O-O 6. Nd5 e4 7. Nh4 d6 $5 {A rarely played idea.} ({Much more common is} 7... Re8) 8. Nxb4 Nxb4 9. a3 Nc6 10. d3 d5 11. O-O exd3 12. Qxd3 Ne5 13. Qd4 Nxc4 14. e4 Be6 15. b3 Na5 16. Qa4 Nc6 17. Rd1 $2 Nxe4 $1 {and Black is already two pawns ahead.} 18. Bb2 ({If} 18. Bxe4 Qf6 19. Rb1 dxe4) 18... Qe7 19. b4 a6 20. Qc2 f6 21. Rac1 Rad8 22. Bf1 Rd7 23. f3 Nd6 24. Re1 Qf7 25. Bd3 g5 26. Ng2 Nc4 27. f4 Nxb2 28. Qxb2 Bh3 29. a4 h6 30. b5 axb5 31. axb5 Ne7 32. Qf2 Nf5 33. Qf3 Kg7 34. Kh1 Re7 35. Rxe7 Qxe7 36. Qh5 Bxg2+ 37. Kxg2 Ne3+ 38. Kg1 f5 39. Qe2 Rf6 40. Qb2 gxf4 41. gxf4 Kh7 42. Kh1 Qg7 43. Qe2 d4 44. Qf3 c6 45. bxc6 bxc6 46. h3 Rg6 47. Rb1 Rg3 48. Qh5 Qd7 49. Kh2 Rg2+ 50. Kh1 Qd5 0-1 [/pgn]

The Draw-Master

Photo courtesy of World Chess Photo courtesy of World Chess

Anish Giri

  • Current Score: 4.5 / 9
  • Performance Rating: 2779

Only a point behind the leaders, Giri is technically still in the running for first. It would, however, require a dramatic change in the playing style he's known for. With 9 straight draws, Giri has yet to win a game. Will Giri play the kind of chess we saw at Qatar Masters and make a bid for first? Or will he continue to focus on avoiding defeat? Best Moment So Far: His near-win against Levon Aronian in the 1st round, where he found a key breakthrough on the queenside.

[pgn] [White "Giri, A."] [Black "Aronian, L."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D37"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r5k1/1q1n1pp1/1pp1pn1p/2Pp4/1P1P1P2/3N1P1P/2Q1N1P1/1R4K1 w - - 0 25"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2016.03.11"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [EventCategory "22"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2016.03.14"]25. b5 $1 Rc8 ({If} 25... cxb5 26. c6 Qc7 27. f5 Nf8 28. Nb4 {with a comfortable positional advantage.}) 26. Qa4 Qc7 27. bxc6 Qxc6 28. Qxc6 Rxc6 29. Rc1 Rc7 30. Nc3 bxc5 31. dxc5 Ne8 32. Nb5 Rc8 33. Kf2 Nc7 34. Nxc7 Rxc7 35. Ke3 Kf8 36. Kd4 Nb8 37. Nb4 Rb7 38. Kc3 Ke7 39. Ra1 Kd7 40. Nd3 f6 41. Ra8 Kc6 42. h4 Kb5 43. Ra1 Nc6 44. Rb1+ Ka6 45. Re1 Re7 46. Ra1+ Kb7 47. Nb4 g5 48. fxg5 fxg5 49. h5 Rf7 50. Ra6 Nxb4 51. Rb6+ Kc8 52. Rxb4 Rf4 53. Rxf4 gxf4 54. Kd4 Kd7 55. Ke5 Kc6 56. Kxf4 Kxc5 57. g4 Kd6 58. Ke3 e5 59. g5 Ke7 60. g6 Kf6 61. Kd3 e4+ 62. fxe4 dxe4+ 63. Kxe4 Kg7 64. Kf5 Kg8 65. Kf6 Kf8 1/2-1/2[/pgn]

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Today in Chess brings you coverage, recaps and analysis from today's top chess events. Join in as Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley and more dig into the 2016 Candidates Tournament, offering predictions, thoughts, and game analysis in a fast-paced, entertaining fashion. In case you missed it, here's the most recent episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hjcvBUxSHo Tune in to Today in Chess at noon CST every day of the Candidates!




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What first move will Caruana play? How well do you understand Aronian's playing style? Will Giri really draw every game? Who will earn the right to challenge Carlsen for his throne? I bet big on Caruana and Karjakin, getting excellent odds on Karjakin since he was considered a huge underdog at the time. Although there is no real money in the betting, the website does offer real prizes for players with the highest "Net Worth", such as premium memberships, books, and gift certificates.



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  Standings After Round 9

Round 10 Match-Ups

Caruana vs. Anand Karjakin-Giri Aronian-Topalov Svidler vs. Nakamura

The Candidates tournament runs from March 10th-30th with each round beginning at 8 a.m. EST.