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13 chess events that marked 2022

2022 was such an eventful year in chess! From Magnus Carlsen withdrawing from the World Championship Cycle and hitting the international headlines after accusing Hans Niemann on cheating; from Ding Liren not being able to participate at the FIDE Grand Prix making it almost impossible for him to compete in the Candidates to eventually becoming the 2023 Challenger against Ian Nepomniachtchi; from India hosting the Chess Olympiad 2022 instead of Russia; 2022 is a chess-year to remember.

1. Covid consequences on major tournaments

Covid-19 brought strict requirements to over the board events, having a substantial effect on the sport and the players’ mood. At the beginning of the year Daniil Dubov forfeited a game against Anish Giri in Round 7 of the 2022 Tata Steel Chess Tournament after refusing to wear a mask. A couple of days later Dubov was tested positive to eventually leave the tournament.

Dubov was about to face Magnus Carlsen in the last round of the tournament, but after that unfortune turn of events, Magnus won his 8th Tata Steel Title, to move closer o his 2900 goal!

2. Ding Liren misses the FIDE Grand Prix but becomes the 2023 Challenger!

Too many events happened in order for Ding Liren to become the 2023 Challenger against Ian Nepomniachtchi. It all started when Ding Liren, due to covid restrictions, failed to obtain a visa in time to be able to travel to Germany and was replaced by GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek. The Grand Prix was his last chance for the Liren to qualify for the Candidates, so there was no way that he could make it.

The Candidates spot of the highest-rated player though was Karjakin’s who after his pro-Russian tweets was banned from participating as a player in any FIDE rated chess competition for 6 months by the FIDE Ethics and Disciplinary Commission. So one spot was empty for Liren to conquer!

The Chinese GM needed to play 30 games between 1 June 2021 and 30 April 2022 to get his ticket for the Candidates, so Liren started a successful marathon of rated games, completing 28 games with an impressive score of 20.5 points (13 victories, 15 draws, and no loss), surpassing Alireza Firouzja in the rating list and becoming number two again.

In the Candidates Tournament Ding Liren was one of the favorites to win but came second after Ian Nepomniachtchi. Right after the end of the tournament though the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen decided not to defend his World Chess Championship Title in 2023 against Nepo, which automatically made the Candidates runner-up Ding Liren the 2023 Challenger.

3. Pragg and Gukesh become the youngest players to ever beat Carlsen

After a disappointing Day 1 at the Champions Chess Tour 2022 for the World Champion, Day 2 looked like a fascinating comeback! Carlsen managed to win three games in a row and he was definitely up to his game. It was until the Norwegian GM blundered terribly against the Indian GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, and resigned. That moment Pragg became the youngest player to beat Carlsen since he became World Champion in 2013 to hit the headline in major international media overnight.

A few months later the Indian teenager D. Gukesh also made chess history in the Aimchess Rapid as he broke Pragg’s record and became the youngest player ever to beat Magnus Carlsen as World Champion. Despite the win, Gukesh wasn’t impressed with his own play. “Obviously, beating Magnus is always special but I was not really very proud of that game,” he said.

4. The FIDE Grand Prix

The FIDE Grand Prix organised by World Chess is a part of the qualification cycle for the Candidates Tournament. After 3 legs conducted in Berlin, Germany, Hikaru Nakamura and Richard Rapport finally qualified. It was the first over the board tournament for the Naka who proved that he is not only a successful streamer and businessman but also at the top of his game, challenging the elite players like never before!

5. Candidates Tournament

Ian Nepomniachtchi won the Candidates Tournament with a 9.5/14 score, the highest since the format was introduced in 2013! With no loses, 5 wins and 9 draws, Nepo crossed his peak rating of 2792 on the live rating list. After a great last-days performance and a big win against Hikaru Nakamura in the last round, Ding Liren came second to become the Candidates runner-up. Alireza Firouzja came 6th and was downgraded from Carlsen’s favorite to “nobody’s perfect”!

6. Carlsen officially withdrew from the WCC Cycle

The reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen decided not to defend his World Chess Championship Title in 2023 against the Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi, and announced it on the International Chess Day. “I’ve been thinking about this decision for a long time, more than a year and a half. I spoke with people from my team, with FIDE, with Ian. It’s very simple. I am not motivated to play another match.” Carlsen stated on “The Magnus Effect” podcast.

7. The 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India

The 44th edition of the Chess Olympiad was held in Mahabalipuram, near Chennai, India with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagging off the first-ever torch relay for the Chess Olympiad!

After two weeks of amazing chess, Uzbekistan got the first place at the Open Section with the 17-year-old World Rapid Champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov winning the silver on Board 1 with a 2803 performance and the 16-year-old Javokhir Sindarov winning the  gold medal on Board 4, with a 2813 performance!

India B got the third place but was the star of the Olympiad! A team full of teenagers, whose performance was unreal, made this event unforgettable. Gukesh came back after R10 terrible loss against Abdusattorov, drew against Vincent Keymer, and took a well deserved gold medal on Board 1 with a 2867 performance. Also, GM Nihal Sarin took the gold medal on Board 2 and commented: “[Gukesh] was really in such great form, he was carrying our team. Okay, he was winning earlier, so I guess he just wanted to win at all costs, which backfired.”

8. Carlsen vs Niemann

Magnus Carlsen withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup 2022 after losing to the lowest rated player, Hans Niemann in Round 3. It was his second loss against Niemann in a month and the first in classical chess. It was obviously a shocking result which costed Magnus 9 whole rating points, and took him more far away from his 2900 goal. After that a momentum of events shook the chess community and made chess a trending topic again, but for the wrong reasons.

Long story short, Nakamura started roasting Niemann on his streams, other GMs expressed concerns on Niemann cheating, Niemann admitted to have cheated online but never on the board, chesscom banned Niemann from their website and excluded him from the Chesscom Global Championship, Carlsen resigned on move 2 against Niemann at the Julius Baer Generation Cup, Carlsen broke his silence to confirm that he believed Niemann cheated, and then Niemann filed a lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen, Chesscom, Danny Rensch, and Hikaru Nakamura, seeking at least $100 million in damages!

9. Big contracts for Nakamura, Erigaisi, and Pragg

Chess superstar Hikaru Nakamura has been signed by WME for worldwide representation in all areas. The agency will expand Nakamura’s business across digital, literary, brand partnerships, non-scripted television, licensing, and more.

Right before the end of 2022 chess prodigy Arjun Erigaisi made history as he signed a groundbreaking $1.5 Million Sponsorship deal with Singapore-based Quantbox.

After that, another Indian prodigy, GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa signed with Baseline Ventures for Commercial Representation.

10. “Women in chess” went wrong

At the Women’s Grand Prix held in Astana, Kazakhstan, FIDE’s official commentator Ilya Smirin made some “completely unacceptable” sexist remarks publicly but also privately as revealed by his co-commentator WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni. During the coverage, GM Smirin admitted saying “chess is not for women” and “why women can play against men and men cannot play against women?” Smirin also asked, “why a woman would want to get a men’s GM title?” WIM Steil-Antoni said to him: “You’re saying, you know, ‘chess is maybe not for women’,” and Smirin replied: “I didn’t say it openly... in private, private conversation.”

After that, FIDE fired Smirin, stating: “Although we have great respect for Grandmaster Ilya Smirin as a chess player, the views he expressed on air are completely unacceptable, offensive, and do not represent any of the values that FIDE stands for. [...] Additionally, GM Smirin will not continue as a FIDE commentator with immediate effect.”

11. Elon Musk “doesn’t really like chess” and attacks Kasparov

In October Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared on Twitter his thoughts on how to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including a poll for people to vote. Former World Champion Garry Kasparov negatively criticised Musk’s “solution” to start a debate. “Why are people sitting in the comfort of their Silicon Valley mansions telling Ukraine how to run their own business?” – Kasparov said.

“While it’s true that Kasparov is almost as good at playing chess as my iPhone, he is otherwise an idiot” Musk replied, adding: “And I don’t even own a house, let alone a ‘mansion’, you douche”! In the same thread, Musk said that he doesn’t really like chess because of its simplicity, lack of “fog of war”, only two players, lack of a “technology tree”, and “no random map or spawn position”.

12. Messi and Ronaldo break the internet by playing chess for Louis Vuitton

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the most iconic football players of all time, starred in Louis Vuitton’s latest campaign in which they appeared to play the Carlsen-Nakamura game from the 2017 Norway Chess. The post quickly went viral, becoming Instagram’s most liked post!

13. Magnus Carlsen regained his World Rapid & Blitz Titles

After a 4-days rapid & blitz marathon Magnus Carlsen won both the 2022 FIDE World Rapid & Blitz Championship to leave Kazakhstan as the World Chess Champion in Classical, Rapid and Blitz.

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