World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen will commentate on the event that decides his next challenger when the FIDE Candidates Tournament finally resumes with Round 8 in Yekaterinburg, Russia on Monday April 19th. For Rounds 8-10, Magnus will be joined by Tania Sachdev and David Howell, while for the last four rounds Judit Polgar will team up with Tania and guests for live commentary, with player cameras, here on chess24. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi lead the interrupted event by a full point going into the final seven rounds.

The 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament, the second most important event in chess after the World Championship match itself, started in Yekaterinburg, Russia on March 17th 2020. It was stopped by FIDE just before Round 8 was set to start on March 26th, a day before all flights out of Russia were grounded. The pandemic thwarted all attempts to resume the 8-player tournament… until now.

When does the tournament resume?

The Candidates Tournament will finally resume 389 days after it was stopped, with Round 8 taking place at 13:00 CEST (16:00 Yekaterinburg, 07:00 New York, 16:30 New Delhi) on Monday 19th April. What is usually a gruelling 14-round event is now a 7-round sprint.

Note that tie breaks are highly unlikely, since they only take place if players tied for first place are equal on their head-to-head score, number of wins and the Sonneborn-Berger tiebreaker.

Where can I watch?

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p class=”p1 alignjustify”>We’re going to have a real treat here on chess24 as World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen will be commentating live on the action for the first three rounds. He’s joined by former Indian and Asian Champion Tania Sachdev and 3-time British Champion David Howell.

Magnus and David will then be switching their focus to the 5th event on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour that starts on April 24th (more details soon!). Chess fans needn’t worry, however. The tour games will start each day only after the action in Yekaterinburg is over, and we have the greatest female player of all time, Judit Polgar, joining Tania for the final four rounds.

We’ll have some very high-powered guests and you’ll be able to watch the commentary with video of the players and instant computer evaluations and an interactive board right here on chess24

What’s at stake?

The one and only real goal of the Candidates is to win the event and become Magnus Carlsen’s challenger for the €2 million 14-game World Championship match that’s set to start on November 24th in Dubai

The guaranteed €800,000 for the loser in Dubai dwarfs the money available directly in Yekaterinburg, though there is an added incentive to try and win games even for players whose hopes of winning the tournament have gone.

What’s the state of play?

Russian no. 1 Ian Nepomniachtchi got off to a spectacular start with three wins – over Anish Giri, Wang Hao and Ding Liren – in the first six rounds. His rampage was finally stopped in Round 7 by French no. 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who only got to play in the tournament as a last-minute replacement for Teimour Radjabov. MVL’s win over Nepo is doubly significant, since if the two players were still tied at the end of the event their head-to-head score would determine who faces Magnus.

No-one else has more than a single win, with four players one point back, while pre-tournament co-favourite Ding Liren finds himself two points adrift after suffering three defeats.

It could all change very fast, however. As Alexander Grischuk, who was the only player to draw all seven games in the first half, commented :

There’s a funny detail: with certain results it could happen that after the first round played after the resumption there will be two leaders, and all the others will be two points behind them. Or, on the other hand, there could be six leaders, with two participants two points behind the rest. We’ll see – it’s going to be interesting!  

What are the pairings?

As Grischuk pointed out, Monday’s 8th round has the potential to have a monumental impact on the course of the tournament.

Caruana-MVL is a chance for the last challenger, world no. 2 and pre-tournament favourite Fabiano Caruana to catch the current leader. Fabiano did beat Maxime with White in spectacular style in the Tata Steel Masters earlier this year, and their career record is in favour of the US star.

The other huge clash is Nepomniachtchi-Giri, where Anish Giri will be looking for revenge for his loss in the first round of the tournament. He faces a tougher task with the black pieces, but if he did win his excellent form over the last year would instantly make him a strong candidate to win the event.

You can check out all the pairings and earlier results using the selector below – click on a game to open it with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his results and pairings.

What did we learn from the opening press conference?

12th World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, 2016 World Championship Challenger Sergey Karjakin and Tournament Director Albert Stepanyan held the press conference you can watch above at 11:00 today, April 13th, in Moscow. It was most interesting for some technical details about the tournament:

  • The players are required to have a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours before the start of the event
  • There will be no more tests unless someone is showing symptoms
  • If a player is forced to pull out after a positive test the organisers will attempt to complete the tournament without them
  • Arkady Dvorkovich says he knows two players, one Russian and one Chinese (most likely Wang Hao and Ian Nepomniachtchi), have been vaccinated, but has no information on the others. He offered the players vaccinations after the event but advised against vaccinations now due to possible side-effects.
  • The players will not be required to wear masks and can choose whether to shake hands with other players
  • The venue is the same Hyatt Regency hotel in Yekaterinburg, Russia as for the first half of the event
  • A small number of spectators will be allowed in the playing hall, but only children or people who can show a negative PCR test result or have been vaccinated
  • Spectators will be able to watch Sergey Shipov commentating live in another room with only masks and social distancing required
  • This time there will not be any additional opening ceremony, just a technical meeting with the players

There’s less than a week to wait until we can join Magnus Carlsen watching and commentating on the battle to face him this November in Dubai!

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