GM John Burke, who is going to participate in the Final Four at the beginning of April (John is a junior at Webster University), has agreed to write an article for the ICC about the 3rd and final leg of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix, which will determine the two last participants in the Candidates' tournament.
Here is John's article on the 3rd FIDE Grand Prix 2022.
"The third and final leg of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix will take place in Berlin, the same city as the first leg, and will determine which two players will gain entry into the upcoming Candidates Tournament. Many players have already played the first two legs, meaning they will sit out the final event and leave their fate in their competitors’ hands. Richard Rapport is one such player, as he won his group in the first leg and won the entire tournament in the second leg, which means he is sitting pretty with a very good chance of qualifying for the Candidates.
The only additional news that has come out since the last event is that Andreikin had to withdraw from the third leg for personal reasons, and has been replaced by Esipenko. This could certainly affect the standings, as Andreikin did very well in the Belgrade event, losing in the finals to Rapport. There are a lot of complicated mathematical scenarios for what it would take for each player to qualify, so I’ll try to give a general overview without drowning you in numbers!
I’ll take a look at each group individually, starting with Pool A, which is certainly the most interesting, consisting of Aronian, Nakamura, Esipenko, and Oparin. You’ll recall that Aronian and Nakamura were the two finalists in the first leg (won by Nakamura), yet now they are in the same pool! This means that we will not see both of them in the Candidates this year. Nakamura is certainly in a more comfortable position, as he won the first leg, so he will secure his ticket to the Candidates if he can make it to the finals, even if he loses there. He can even lose in the semifinals and have good chances to qualify, as long as no one gets enough points to leapfrog him. There are even some scenarios in which he can fail to make it out of the group stage and still qualify, but these are unlikely. Aronian’s story is similar, just slightly less rosy. A win in this leg will guarantee him a spot, and a finals loss would still leave him in great shape, but anything else would be leaving his fate up to chance. Esipenko and Oparin still have an outside shot, but it would probably require them to win the tournament and all the breaks to go their way. This is generally the case for all the players who failed to make it out of the group stage in their first event.
Pool A 1 2 3 4 PTS Nakamura aa Aronian aa Esipenko aa Oparin aa
Pool B consists of Mamedyarov, Dominguez, Dubov, and Keymer. Of these players, Dominguez is the one with the most realistic shot, as he is the only player out of the four who won his group in his first event. If he does well here, he has a good shot of gathering enough points to qualify, particularly if Nakamura fares poorly. This does not mean that his opponents have nothing to play for, however. Mamedyarov-Dominguez will be a particularly exciting matchup, pitting the wily and unpredictable Azeri player against the principled Cuban-American.
Pool B 1 2 3 4 PTS Mamedyarov aa Dominguez aa Dubov aa Keymer aa
Pool C consists of Wesley So, MVL, Shankland, and Predke. MVL is the only one of the above players who won his group in his first event, which means he has his fate in his own hands, to an extent. He’s in a similar situation as Dominguez, in that if he makes it far in this leg, he has good chances, provided Nakamura does poorly. The others in this pool still have a theoretical chance, but as I said before if you didn’t win your pool in your first event, it’s a real long shot.
Pool C 1 2 3 4 PTS So aa Vachier-Lagrave aa Shankland aa Predke aa
Pool D consists of Giri, Vitiugov, Yu Yangyi, and Tabatabaei. We have much the same scenario here as in Pools B and C. Giri is the only pool-winner amongst this group, and he is the one with the most hopes of making it to the Candidates.
Pool D 1 2 3 4 PTS Giri aa Vitiugov aa Yu Yangyi aa Tabatabaei aa
I’ll sum everything up here, in case all of these names and scenarios are getting confusing. Rapport already finished his two legs, which means he’ll sit this event out. He did well in both, which means he is almost (but not quite) assured of a Candidates spot. The two players with the next highest chance of qualifying, Nakamura, and Aronian, are both in the same pool, meaning that one (or possibly both) of them will fail to make it out of the group stage, likely ending one of their Candidates' hopes. The other three pools each consist of one player who lost in the semifinal stage of their previous event, namely Dominguez, MVL, and Giri. If they win the tournament or at least make it to the finals, they have decent chances to qualify, provided some of the other players with high point totals (Nakamura and Aronian) stumble. The rest of the field has a theoretical chance to qualify if they win this event, but it’s highly unlikely.
So there you have it! I wouldn’t get too bogged down in obsessing over these scenarios while watching the event. Just enjoy the chess, and keep in the back of your mind which players are close to achieving their goal of making it to the most important tournament of the year. It’s going to be a wild finish! Round 1 starts on March 22 at 14:00 UTC, so don’t miss it.
GM John Burke