The final and the 14th round of the 2022 Candidates were played on Monday evening and Ian Nepomniachtchi wins the tournament without a single loss. All four games were calm, positions even and it looked like we were heading for a day of draws. Instead, there was only one draw.
According to a FIDE statement, “In terms of results, today’s round did not matter for Ian Nepomniachtchi, who took victory in the event after a draw in round 13. However, this match was psychologically important for him: Nepomniachtchi did not want a repeat of the previous contestants, which he also won with a round to spare, but then lost the last match, which gave a bitter aftertaste to its great success.
Playing the Petrov, Nepomniachtchi was under pressure from Jan-Krzysztof Duda who seemed much more relaxed and at ease in his pace 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 still responded adequately and confidently, taking the game to a draw without too much drama.
Finishing the Candidates in first place and without a single defeat is a strong statement for Nepomniachtchi who is fighting for the title of world champion. Nepomniachtchi will face 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 Hungary’s Richard Rapport on Sunday to seal his second straight Candidate 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 won the last five world titles, is far from over as the Norwegian said in December he was unsure of defending his championship, citing a lack of motivation.
In such a scenario, Nepomniachtchi would face the player who finished second in the Candidates, a position held by American Hikaru Nakamura before the final round.
1 Nepomniashchi, Ian 9½/14 2766
2 Ding, Liren 8/14 2806
3 Radjabov, Teimur 7½/14 2753
4 Nakamura, Hikaru 7½/14 2760
5 Caruana, Fabian 6½/14 2783
6 Firouzja, Alireza 6/14 2793
7 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 5½/14 2750
8 Report, Richard 5½/14 2764