Only one player remains unbeaten after Round 8 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The Russian has a score of +4-0=4 so far in the tournament, and he’s a point clear of his closest contender Fabiano Caruana, who suffered his first defeat in this edition.
Richard Rapport Bounces Back With A Statement Win
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Perhaps a loss in the previous round to the man on form, Ian Nepomniachtchi, sparked fury in the Hungarian top seed in round 8 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022. It took 29 moves to take the 2021 World Cup Winners position apart and force him to fly the white flag.
Once again, we saw the Petroff Defense played in this tournament with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6. Rapport could’ve traded center e-pawn as usual, but he opted for the Four Knights Game with 3.Nc3, which Duda naturally responded with 3…Nc6. 4.g3 by Rapport wasn’t a lovely move, according to Stockfish, but it didn’t matter much.
Both sides developed well, and the exchanges flew in with 12…Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Bxe3 14.fxe3. Capturing with the f-pawn created a desirable semi-open file for Rapport. Although Stockfish saw the move as an inaccuracy, Duda had difficulty managing its aftereffects.
Rapport instantly began a pawn storm on the slightly vulnerable kingside, and Duda responded excellently for the next seven moves. Duda’s first major mistake was giving up his Knight with 22…Ng5?! to neutralize the position. His next costly mistake was 24…Rae7?. Stockfish couldn’t understand why Duda was forming a battery on an unfavorable file.
Afterward, Duda made the position worse with each move. The blunder of the game finally came with 28…gxf5, a move that Rapport responded with 29.Ne4. A fork was imminent on f6. A Queen-rook battery was coming on the h-file, and Duda resignedly extended his hand.
Round 8 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: Richard Rapport 1-0 Jan-Krzysztof Duda
Ding Liren Still Looking For The First Win After Round 8 Of The FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022
Again, we saw the Four Knights Game played here, and Nepo opted for a drawish line in 4.d4. Of course, Ding accepted the pawn trade, and knights and more pawns followed the trade trend. The open game presented traditional gameplay as the queens came off on the move 15, with Ian Nepomniachtchi looking to simplify the game and double Black’s f-pawns.
18.Nf5 saw Nepo invite Ding to another trade which Ding obliged with 18…Bxf5. Now, all the knights were off the board, but Nepo had a slightly better position owing to his excellent pawn structure and better development. He had a rook on the open e-file. No side made a significant slip for the other party to capitalize on, and with 32.Kxg4, both pairs of rooks were now off the board. 33.Kf3 indicated the start of a draw by repetition as both players shook hands on move 37.
Round 8 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: Ian Nepomniachtchi ½ – ½ Ding Liren
No Countryman Love From Hikaru
Fabiano Caruana saw his unbeaten run shatter before his eyes as a bored Hikaru Nakamura squeezed through to seal a crucial win. The loss meant Fabi has now slightly slipped in the race to be crowned the 2022 World Chess Championship Challenger.
The Americans played the Ruy Lopez, but a relatively unfamiliar line followed. Caruana played quite aggressively right from the start by grabbing the e-pawn. Nakamura responded with 6.d4, a sharp move indicating an exciting game. The first actual exchange of the game came as a bishop-and-knight for a rook-and-pawn trade.
While Caruana sought to explore the queenside with a pawn march, Nakamura moved to take advantage of the open f-file; he was the first to make a blunder with 21.Ng3??. Stockfish expected him to develop his bishop to a better diagonal. 25…e4 looked like Caruana was finally gaining ground in the game.
He has a good outpost bishop; he had an excellent rook battery on the f-file; his opponent wasn’t covering a lot of squares, so life was looking great! But it all started to go wrong for Black when white seized the initiative with 27.h4. 27…Nc5 was Caruana trying to force his Knight into the thick of the action, but Stockfish thought it was a move too desperate.
Once Caruana sensed danger, he offered a Queen trade with 30…Qf4, but things never got better for him from there. Knights were also traded off; at this time, Nakamura was +2.2 up in evaluation. Playing against an active bishop pair was hard, but having an entire piece down made the game impossible to salvage for Fabi.
He resigned after getting stuck in a losing and challenging position with almost no time on the clock.
Round 8 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: Hikaru Nakamura 1-0 Fabiano Caruana
Alireza’s 7-Hour Fight Did Not End As Planned
The super chess prodigy probably saw playing one of the lowest-ranked players in the tournament as an opportunity to grab a win or nothing. So although the French top seed never had a clear winning position, he was hesitant to shake hands and call it a draw.
We saw the Italian Game opening evolve into a middle game of careful maneuvering as neither side felt the need to rush into exchanges. By the 30th move, both sides still had their knight pairs, rook pairs, queens, and all of the pawns, as the game continued to close up.
35…Ra8 showed that Radjabov didn’t mind drawing the game at that point, but Alireza had none of it. He ended the looming threefold repetition with 38.Nxf6+. The maneuvering continued until both players traded rooks on move 46. It didn’t stop there as Alireza looked to force a slip from Radjabov, who held firm to snatch a draw.
Round 8 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2022: Alireza Firouzja ½ – ½ Teimour Radjabov