Feature

Who are the Seconds in the Candidates

Each player in the Candidates Tournament is allowed (and expected) to bring along a second (organisers provide two hotel rooms to each team during the event). 

The seconds are usually responsible for the strategy and the game plan of the tournament. They prepare beginnings, develop novelties and set traps that the players are using during their games. 

Another important job of the second is to help the player cope with the enormous stress and pressure of the Candidates – the most demanding event in players’ careers. 

With so much on the line, the players are usually trying to get the top professionals to serve as seconds, and sometimes the second can be responsible for the outcome of the event. We have put together a list of likely seconds, based on public information and previous experience. The list is not official or final, we’ll make adjustments as more information becomes public. 

1

Ian Nepomniachtchi
x vladimir potkin

Vladimir Potkin helped Sergey Karjakin during his match against Carlsen, and did a phenomenal job as Sergey managed to lead in the Match and lost on tie-breaks. In the last two years Potkin became Ian’s second, and Nepo managed to enter the top-5 players list and won numerous events. Known for his soft temper, Potkin adds to Nepo’s charisma and manages to work on the player’s technique as well as overall mental shape. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Vladimir Potkin

2

Fabiano caruana x 
x rustam kasimdzhanov

Rustam Kasimdzhanov was the FIDE World Champion in 2004 and 2005. He also coached Vishy Anand, supported Karjakin when Sergey won the 2016 Candidates and was by Caruana’s side in 2018, when Fabi won the Candidates in Berlin and played againt Carlsen in London. Kasimdzhanov is one of the most experienced seconds in the world, and we assume Fabiano will retain him for this event. 

Fabiano Caruana

Rustam Kasimdzhanov


3

teimur radjabov x sergey karjakin (or shakh mamedyarov)

One would expect Teymur’s compatriot Shakh Mamedyarov to be his second, and Shakh, one of the top players in the world, did not make it into this year’s Candidates. But based on Azeri GM’s social media, Teymur is spending his pre-Candidates season with Sergey Karjakin. The only explanation for this is that Sergey will be Teymur’s second this year: Karjakin has a lot of experience having won the Candidates in 2016 and almost winning the 2018 edition. He knows the drills, he has played against all of the opponents, and he might be an amazing second for the Match, if it comes to it. 

Teymur Radjabov

Sergey Karjakin

4

Alexander grischuk x vlad tkachev

Vlad Tkachev is Grischuk’s long time friend and second. He was with him during the 2018 Candidates. He also supports Grischuk’s wife and chess player Ekaterina Lagno.

Given that the event takes place in Russia and is supported by the Russian Chess Federation, Russian GMs are likely to receive additional help from the Federation and Grischuk might have more than one second. 

Alexander Grischuk

Vlad Tkachev

5

Anish giri x Vladimir Chuchelov

Chuchelov is a famous chess coach, and Giri worked with him in the past. He is likely to try to add more seconds to his team as winning the Candidates is vital for his career. He previously worked with Vladimir Kramnik, but unlikely to use him this time, given that Kramnik is a friend of Andrey Filatov, the head of the Russian Chess Federation. He will most likely work with one of the Russian players, if he decides to work at all.

Anish Giri

Vladimir Chuchelov

6

wang hao x TBD

It’s not entirely clear who will be the second to the Chinese participants of the Candidates. According to media reports, a large team from China, including coaches, doctors, and officials is to accompany them to Yekaterinburg. 

Wang Hao

7

ding liren x TBD

Ding is one of the favorites of the tournament and the media and public expect very strong performance from this gifted player. However, in order to win, he needs a team behind him. It’s not entirely clear who his second might be at this moment. 

Ding Liren

8

Alekseenko x peter svidler

Kirill Alekseenko is not very well known in chess circles yet, but his strong performance in the Isle of Man Grand Swiss event made him the only Russian chess player who could be nominated by the Russian Chess Federation. Based on the social media, Peter Svidler will be Alekseenko’s second. If that is the case, Alekseenko secured one of the strongest seconds, with lots of Candidates experience and in-depth knowledge of all of the opponents. 

Kirill Alekseenko

Peter Svidler

We will update the list of seconds as more information becomes public or once players share details. However, it’s common for the players to keep their seconds’ identities secret until the end of the event.