Ian Nepomniachtchi will take on champion Magnus Carlsen for the world title in 2023 after the Russian secured victory in the Candidates Tournament in Madrid on Sunday with a round to spare.
The 31-year-old needed half a point to confirm his place as Carlsen’s challenger and achieved it by drawing with Hungarian Richard Rapport to seal his second straight Candidates title.
Nepomniachtchi is competing under a neutral flag in Madrid after sanctions imposed on Russian players for their country’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special operation’.
His meeting with Carlsen, who has lifted the last five world titles, is far from a done deal as the Norwegian said in December that he was unsure if he would defend his championship, citing a lack of motivation.
In such a scenario, Nepomniachtchi would take on the player who finishes runner-up at the Candidates, a position held by American Hikaru Nakamura heading into the final round.