Getting to participate in the World Chess Championship is no small achievement. Each player competes in a series of smaller tournaments in a variety of international settings that are sanctioned by FIDE. Each of these tournaments has an individual winner, but the points also go into a larger crosstable pool where an overall Grand Prix champion is selected. In the 2012-2013 Grand Prix series, GM Veselin Topalov from Bulgaria and GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan finished first and thus were qualified to participate in the 2014 Candidates Tournament, which is a grand stage of competition on the way to the World Chess Championship. In the end, it was Viswanathan Anand who edged out Sergey Karjakin by 1 point to earn the bid to return to the table and challenge Magnus Carlsen for the championship title. The final crosstable from the 2014 Candidates Tournament looked like this:
This year, in the final round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk, American GMs Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura emerged victorious and now share the title of co-champions of the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix. What is most interesting about this win is the fact that the United States went from having no representatives in the top 5 of the previous Grand Prix to having two of the strongest players in the world win the tournament and increase the possibility of a return of the FIDE World Championship and the return of the title to the United States in 2016 with Caruana and Nakamura both representing the stars and stripes.
In the final round of the Grand Prix, Nakamura drew his game against GM Dmitry Jakovenko after approximately three hours into the round. The game was annotated by Peter Doggers on Chess.com:
In similar fashion, Caruana drew his game shortly thereafter against Anish Giri, also from Chess.com:
At this point, the United States has gone from having no representatives in the top 5 players of the last Grand Prix to having two that have claimed the top tournament spots. Caruana and Nakamuar will now go on to compete the FIDE Candidates Tournament to see who will challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship. It will be interesting to see how that plays out and hopefully one of them can take the top spot and bring a renewed sense of youth and energy to the world’s most elite chess competition.