After Fabiano Caruana won the 2020 Tata Steel Tournament, there was recurring buzz about whether the American would get another shot at wresting the world title away from Magnus Carlsen. In fact, he bested an elite field that included the champion. Next month (March 15th-April 5th), he will be in Yekaterinburg, Russia among the field of eight candidates vying for a chance to challenge Carlsen for the title.
The field is a strong one and the non-qualification of top players such as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura may give Caruana a smoother path. That being said, Caruana will have his work cut out as Ding Liren and Alexander Grischuk are expected to be strong challengers for the right to play for the championship title. Ian Nepomniachtchi is one of three Russians in the field including a wildcard nominee, Kirill Alekseenko. Anish Giri and Wang Hao are going to be dark houses.
Caruana earned the right to play Carlsen in 2018 after winning the 2018 Candidates Tournament in Berlin, Germany. He went on play a 12-game match against Carlsen in London, England. The match ended in a 6-6 deadlock after the classical segment, but Carlsen dominated play in the tiebreaker.
Game #4 of the 2018 World Chess Championship
Photo by Ray Morris-Hill
Things will be very different this time around with Alexander Grishcuk being the oldest player in the field at age 36. Absent are Vladimir Kramnik (retired) and Viswanathan Anand (non-qualifier) as well of the aforementioned players in the top 20. After Caruaua’s convincing +7 win in Wijk aan Zee, he maintains his #2 spot in the rating list and goes into the Candidates with momentum.
Will this be a better chance at redemption for the American? Will 2019 Grand Chess Tour champion Ding Liren be the next challenger? Both have proven they can match wits with Carlsen and both have placed ahead of him in recent events (Ding-2019 Sinquefield, Caruana-2020 Tata Steel). Carlsen had a fantastic 2019, so it is unlikely that there will be 12 classical draws as the last match and 10 draws in Carlsen-Karjakin. This year’s championship match will increase to 14 games.
World Candidates Chess Tournament
March 15th-April 5th, 2020