This will be the third consecutive Candidates tournament for Ian Nepomniachtchi (33) who won both previous editions with a round to spare. Following his victory in the 2022 Candidates in Madrid, in April 2023 in Astana, Kazakhstan, Nepomniachtchi played against Ding Liren to determine the new world champion. Despite a good start and getting the lead, he slipped towards the end and the match was drawn after 14 games. In the rapid tiebreaks, after three draws, Nepomniachtchi lost as White in the final game, allowing Ding to claim the title. Nepomniachtchi is only the second player in history to win the Candidates twice (next to Vasily Smyslov). Now, he has a chance to set a new record and, once again, earn his place in the fight for the title of World Champion.
India, 2023 World Cup 2nd
R Praggnanandhaa (18) has established himself as a remarkable Indian chess grandmaster with a series of notable achievements. At 12 years old, he achieved the grandmaster title, becoming the second-youngest in history. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated exceptional prowess, winning tournaments and defeating seasoned players, including Wesley So, Teimour Radjabov, and Magnus Carlsen. His remarkable journey continued in 2023, where, at the age of 18, he became the world’s youngest player to reach the Chess World Cup final, securing second place and qualification for the 2024 Candidates Tournament. In the 2024 edition of the prestigious Tata Steel Tournament, he started by defeating the reigning World Champion Ding Liren. Praggnanandhaa’s consistently impressive results underline his status as one of the most promising talents in the world of chess and someone to look out for in Toronto.
USA, 2023 World Cup 3rd
Fabiano Caruana (31) is one of the strongest players in the world and a regular in top events. He is the current US champion, winning the title for the first time in 2022. The Italian-American Grandmaster is no stranger to the Candidates. He first played the event in 2016, finishing second. In his second Candidates, in 2018, in Berlin, he emerged as the victor and faced Magnus Carlsen in what is considered to be one of the most closely contested matches in chess history. After all 12 games in the match ended with a draw, Caruana lost to Carlsen in the tiebreaks. Caruana’s competitive spirit has remained strong, marked by victories in tournaments such as the American Cup and the 2023 Sinquefield Cup. Notably, he clinched the 2023 Grand Chess Tour with an impressive score of 46 out of 52 points, setting a record for the highest point total in the Tour’s history. Caruana had a great 2023 and started 2024 as the second top-rated player in the world. This makes him one of the top contenders in the forthcoming Candidates tournament.
Azerbaijan, 2023 World Cup 4th
Nijat Abasov (28), the Azerbaijani chess grandmaster, rose to prominence in 2017 when he was crowned Azerbaijani Chess Champion. Achieving the grandmaster title at the tender age of 15, he entered the top 100 global chess players in November 2019. The pinnacle of Abasov’s career occurred during the 2023 FIDE World Cup, where he, as the 69th seed, embarked on a journey to the semifinals, defeating the likes of Anish Giri, Peter Svidler, and Vidit Gujrathi. Although Abasov faced defeats against Magnus Carlsen in the semifinals and Fabiano Caruana in the third-place match, his fourth-place finish earned him the status of a potential player in the 2024 Candidates Tournament. Following Magnus Carlsen’s withdrawal, Abasov officially received a spot in the Candidates Tournament on January 13, 2024. In September 2023, he achieved his career-high rating of 2677.
Vidit Santosh Gujrathi
India, 2023 Grand Swiss 1st
Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (29) will be appearing in the Candidates for the first time. The accomplished Indian super Grandmaster has carved an impressive path in the chess world, marked by significant victories and milestones, making him one of India’s top players. An integral part of the Indian Olympiad team, Vidit consistently contributed to commendable finishes in 2016, 2018, and 2022. Vidit’s pursuit of the world championship involved persistent efforts in qualifying events, the most notable of which is the victory in the 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss that secured his place in the Candidates Tournament for the first time. Recognising his remarkable feat, the All India Chess Federation announced substantial financial assistance for Vidit’s preparation alongside R Praggnanandhaa and R Vaishali.
USA, 2023 Grand Swiss 2nd
Hikaru Nakamura (36) has been a consistent figure among the world’s top players for over a decade. As a five-time U.S. champion, he has been a stalwart contributor to the strength of American chess. After a two-year break where he devoted himself to streaming chess, Nakamura came back in force. In more recent years, his versatility is evident in winning the 2022 Fischer Random World Championship and holding the title of the highest-rated blitz player globally. In 2022 he won the FIDE Grand Prix, the Bullet Chess Championship, and the World Fischer Random Chess Championship. In the Candidates Tournament the same year he finished in fourth place, narrowly missing the opportunity to compete for the World Chess Championship. Nakamura’s dynamic play continued in 2023, with triumphs in the Airthings Masters, the American Cup, and the Chessable Masters. His victory in Norway Chess 2023 propelled him to No. 2 in FIDE’s July rankings. In the FIDE Grand Swiss 2023, Nakamura finished second, securing his place in the 2024 Candidates Tournament.
France, Best by Rating
Alireza Firouzja (20) has surged into the chess limelight as one of the most captivating talents in the contemporary chess scene. A Grandmaster at 14, in 2021 he secured victories at the Riga Grand Swiss and his stellar performance at the European Team Championship propelled him to the second place in the world rankings with a 2804 rating. His qualification for the 2022 Candidates Tournament at the age of 18, made him one of the youngest participants to achieve this feat. However, he suffered a burnout at the 2022 Candidates after a solid start. He made a strong comeback by taking the Grand Chess Tour event and breaking the record for the most dominant win by being five points ahead of everyone else and then went on to win the Sinquefield Cup. In 2023, he maintained his competitive edge with notable performances in the Superbet Chess Classic and the Norway Chess Blitz tournament. In the race for the 2024 Candidates, Firouzja eventually surpassed Wesley So, securing his place in Toronto. Firouzja’s impressive style of play, coupled with his youthful energy, positions him as a force to be reckoned with.
India, 2023 FIDE Circuit Winner
Dommaraju Gukesh (17), known as Gukesh D is the youngest participant in the Toronto Candidates. He has swiftly ascended the ranks of chess brilliance, earning the title of Grandmaster at the age of 12 years and 17 days in January 2019. With early victories in the Asian School Chess Championships and the 2018 Asian Youth Chess Championships, Gukesh’s talent became even more evident in 2021 when he triumphed in the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour. In the 44th Chess Olympiad of August 2022, he played a pivotal role in India-2's victory against the top-ranked U.S. team. Gukesh’s stellar performances continued, notably defeating Magnus Carlsen in October 2022 and securing a tie for first place in the WR Masters tournament in February 2023. By August 2023, he became the youngest player to surpass a rating of 2750+ during the Chess World Cup, also officially dethroning Viswanathan Anand as India’s top-ranked player. Concluding the previous year on a high note, Gukesh earned a spot in the 2024 Candidates Tournament through his outstanding performance in the FIDE Circuit, solidifying his status as a rising star in international chess and reshaping the Indian chess landscape.