Anyone else following the world chess championship? Background info (feel free to skip if you're already familiar with this): After reigning champion and world #1 Magnus Carlsen declined to defend...
Anyone else following the world chess championship?
Background info (feel free to skip if you're already familiar with this):
After reigning champion and world #1 Magnus Carlsen declined to defend his title, the winner of the Candidates tournament 2022, Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi (world #2), faces the second place finisher in the Candidates, China's Ding Liren (world #3). The championship match takes place over 14 games from April 9-April 30 in Astana, Kazakhstan. As of today, April 13, the score is even at 2-2 after 4 games.
Ian Nepomniachtchi (aka "Nepo") won the Candidates tournament in 2020-21, which was split in two due to covid. He proceeded to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the title in late 2021. Both players performed with computer-like precision for the first five games. Game six became the turning point, when Nepo made a serious blunder which allowed Carlsen to eventually convert the game to a win in what would turn out to be the longest game in world championship history, lasting more than 7 hours and 136 moves. After this grueling loss, Nepo's play seemingly collapsed, allowing Carlsen to take a comfortable win with games to spare.
However, Nepomniachtchi would bounce back to win his second Candidates tournament in a row in 2022. When it became clear that Carlsen would not defend his title, the runner-up of that tournament, Ding Liren, became the second player to compete for the title.
Ding has been a top 5 player for years, with 2018-2019 being his best period yet, when he reached world #2 with well over 2800 Elo, and was undefeated for 100 games of classical chess. This is his first appearance in a world championship final, and also a first for China as a nation.
Russia, of course, has a long history of world champions, dominating the chess world for most of the 20th century. Nepomniachtchi, who is a critic of the invasion of Ukraine, competes under a neutral FIDE flag in this match.
This is only the third time the reigning champion has not defended his title since the first world championship in 1886. Bobby Fischer famously disagreed with the match regulations proposed by FIDE, chess' international governing body, and refused to defend his title in 1975. He subsequently retired from competitive chess and didn't re-emerge until the 1990s. The other instance was Alekhine in 1948 -- he had died two years earlier. (There was also a time in the 1990s when the reigning champion, Garry Kasparov, broke with FIDE and organized his own world championship, but I won't get into that complicated story here.) This is the first time a world champion has continued to play competitive chess while refusing to defend their title.
Nepomniachtchi comes into the match ranked as the world #2 (2795 Elo) while Ding is #3 (2788). The abdicated king of chess, Magnus Carlsen, remains #1 (2853).
How to watch
If you want to watch live, the time zone is a bit unfavorable to European and American viewers, as the games start at 3PM Astana time (11 AM Central European summer time, 2 AM Pacific). You can follow the games without commentary here: lichess chess24 chess.com. There's several streams with grandmaster commentary available. FIDE has an official broadcast, but my favorite is chess.com's coverage, which features commentary by GMs Anish Giri, Daniel Naroditsky and David Howell.
For live computer analysis that's stronger than what you can (likely) get from running a local instance of Stockfish on your own computer, check out Sesse (which is just Stockfish running on a decently beefy server setup).
If you want shorter after-the-fact recaps, there are several Youtube channels catering to differing levels of chess skill, including:
And probably at least a half-dozen more.
Who's your favorite to win it all? Does the fact that the clearly best player in the world refused to compete make the whole thing uninteresting to you? Will Nepo crumble again like he did against Carlsen, or will Ding's inexperience with world championship matches be his undoing?