Ian Nepomniachtchi has a 2-point lead with two rounds to go at the Candidates Tournament in Madrid. A commanding performance has all but secured him the title.
For Garry Kasparov, who joined Yasser Seirawan and Dorsa Derakhshani on the Saint Louis Chess Club webcast during round 12, there is no need to wait for any more results to congratulate Nepo on his triumph. The former world champion already refers to his compatriot as the challenger for the crown.
Referring to his predictions before the event, which did not have Nepo as a favourite, Kasparov apologized and explained:
I think the mistake I made, as many others, was underestimating the preparation that’s normally done for the World Championship match. […] Don’t forget the same effect happened with Vishy when he lost to Magnus the first match and then won the Candidates. Because the amount of work that is done for a World Championship match serves as valuable ammunition for next events.
Not one to mince his words, when asked about Alireza Firouzja’s bullet-chess spree leading to his round-11 game against Nepomniachtchi, Kasparov said:
Playing bullet chess is not a good idea, period, if you’re preparing for the Candidates. During the tournament, it’s even much worse. And playing it after a loss [against Nakamura, in round 10] trying to recover your pride, your honour, to massage your ego, it’s triple bad.
[…] I though [Firouzja] could do much better, but I think he overestimated his chances. Somehow it reminds me of Bobby Fischer in 1962, in Curaçao.
The 59-year-old also gave his opinion regarding a potential second match between Magnus Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi:
I still think Magnus is the clear favourite in the match, but I think somehow Nepo might have a better psychological start because he already played Magnus, and we know Magnus is…not tired, but I think he’s bored with too many matches. And seeing Nepo again might lower his enthusiasm in preparation and for playing.
[…] Winning the second Candidates, especially in the style that we saw in Madrid, definitely makes Nepo a very formidable opponent for Magnus, no matter what Magnus thinks about it. If Magnus plays, and I can hardly believe he will not, we’ll probably see a tougher match.
Check out the full 30-minute interview provided by the Saint Louis Chess Club: