Fighting chess awaits, Candidates prepare for battle

For the first time ever the Candidates Tournament and Women’s Candidates Tournament will be held at the same time and place. Toronto welcomes 16 chess stars vying for the right to challenge Ding Liren and Ju Wenjun for their respective World Chess Champion titles. I’ve simulated each tournament 1,000,000 times using players’ April 2024 Elo rankings and my machine learning game simulation model. I’ll share the predictions for each tournament below, including my thoughts about each event. Read about my prediction methodology, if you’re interested.

The final boss is weak, attack!

It’s no secret that Ding Liren has struggled in several recent tournaments, including Tata Steel (where he finished with a TPR of 2678) and the Grenke Chess Classic (where he finished tied for last place) I’m confident that betting markets will favor any Candidates Tournament winner to beat Ding Liren in the World Championship match. Hopefully Ding returns to fighting form to defend his crown. Why does any of this matter? Whoever wins the Candidate is the likely new World Champion. With such honors come money, prestige, and a pretty sweet title. In years past, the Candidate’s tournament was crowning a challenger, who would then go on to lose to Magnus… this year is different. The winner will be in good shape to take the title of World Chess Champion.

The Candidates
And, their chances of winning!

Name Win %
Nakamura, Hikaru 22.7
Caruana, Fabiano 21.3
Firouzja, Alireza 14.9
Nepomniachtchi, Ian 14.9
Praggnanandhaa R 8.9
Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 8.2
Gukesh D 8.5
Abasov, Nijat 0.2

Breaking down the predictions

Fabiano Caruana is the favorite to win the event if it doesn’t go to tiebreaks. However, the event is expected to go to tiebreaks 23% of the time where Hikaru has an edge in both Rapid and Blitz. This gives him a very slight overall edge based on strictly Elo simulations.

Fabi finished 2023 with the highest TPR of any player, even surpassing the TPR of Magnus for the year, at a whopping 2808. Hikaru was close behind him at 2804. The next highest Candidate is not even in the Top 5 for 2023 performances, behind Wesley So’s 5th place performance of 2756. Does recent performance matter? Who knows - in my opinion, Fabi and Nakamura are the real favorites to win this event.

It’s hard to count out Ian Nepomniachtchi who won previous two iterations of the Candidates Tournament, but the reality is he didn’t have a great 2023. Chess pundits like Daniel Naroditsky suggest that Nepo has fantastic prep for events like this and should not be counted out. Obviously, he has great winning chances.

What about Alireze Firouzja? He seems like a bit of a wild card to me. To my average joe chess eye, his rise has stagnated a bit over the last couple years and I think he’s likely to finish in the middle of the pack.

And that’s just half the pack! The three Indian stars could also do some damage. Gukesh, Pragg, and Vidit all have serious chances. I think Abasov is going to have a rough go - I imagine every single player will use their absolute best prep against him because that potential one point with white is so valuable.

Women’s Candidates

And, their chances of winning!

Name Win %
Lei, Tingjie 20.2
Goryachkina, Aleksandra 21.0
Lagno, Kateryna 17.4
Koneru, Humpy 17.4
Tan, Zhongyi 10.7
Muzychuk, Anna 9.1
Rameshbabu, Vaishali 3.3
Salimova, Nurgyul 0.5

Breaking down the predictions

Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about the Women’s field. My predictions are purely Elo based so I don’t “need” more than that to make predictions. It will be exciting to learn more about all these players as the event unfolds.

One storyline that I am aware of: Praggnanandhaa and Vaishali are brother and sister! Both hailing from India, they’ll make history simply by being in the tournaments together, and they have an outside chance to become an unprecedented brother-and-sister duo of World Chess Champions. I’d love to see that!

Prediction Updates

After every round, check out my simulations page for updated predictions. And, don’t worry about waiting until the end of the round! You can filter my one million simulations for the outcome of each game and get an instant updated predictions. You can even use my crystal ball to see the future. Pick the outcome of unplayed games to see the imapct on everyone’s winning chances.

In the example below, you can see Fabi’s odds of winning go from 21% all the way to 35% if he beats Hikaru in round 1. A critical game!

Pawnalyze Simulation Example