Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi on Wednesday to tie the Russian at the top of the Candidates Tournament standings at the halfway point.

Candidates Tournament odds chess
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (left) grabbed a share of the Candidates Tournament lead by beating leader Ian Nepomniachtchi (right). (Image: Maria Emelianova/FIDE)

Both Vachier-Lagrave and Nepomniachtchi have scored 4.5 points over the first seven rounds, putting them each a full point ahead of the rest of the field.

MVL Feeling Fresh After ‘Big Break’

Vachier-Lagrave’s performance has been outstanding by any measure, but it’s all the more surprising given that the Frenchman wasn’t originally supposed to be a part of the Candidates Tournament field. He only made it into the event after Teimour Radjabov dropped out due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

How Vachier-Lagrave got into the tournament doesn’t matter now, though. He outplayed Nepomniachtchi on the white side of a Winawer French, bringing home the point as the Russian struggled to cope with time pressure.

“I think the important thing is to be fresh,” Vachier-Lagrave said, via “I think that the main difference in my play compared to the end of 2019 when I was just playing non-stop and not feeling fresh at all, and now I feel fresh, I feel ready to play games against these guys. I think it’s mostly because I got a big break.”

Vachier-Lagrave scored the only win of Round 7. The field has completed one full round-robin at this point, and other than the two leaders, nobody else is above .500, meaning the rest of the field has a lot of ground to make up if it wants to factor into who wins the Candidates Tournament and goes on to face Magnus Carlsen.

Candidates Tournament Odds and Standings

  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: 4.5/7 (+200)
  • Ian Nepmniachtchi: 4.5 (+150)
  • Fabiano Caruana: 3.5 (+300)
  • Anish Giri: 3.5 (+2000)
  • Wang Hao: 3.5 (+2000)
  • Alexander Grischuk: 3.5 (+1400)
  • Ding Liren: 2.5 (+1100)
  • Kirill Alekseenko: 2.5 (+10000)

Odds via Unibet

Unibet still sees Nepomniachtchi (+150) as the slight favorite to win the event over Vachier-Lagrave (+200). Of the four players sitting a point behind at 3.5, only American Fabiano Caruana (+300) is given a realistic chance of catching the leaders.

William Hill Offering Chess Betting in Nevada

So far, we’ve only talked about the Candidates Tournament odds in terms of overseas sportsbooks like Unibet, as chess betting hasn’t been available in the United States. That changed on Tuesday, as William Hill became the first bookmaker in America to offer odds on chess matches.

That doesn’t mean that you can necessarily bet on chess right now. William Hill only received approval to offer these bets in Nevada, so the number of people who can access chess wagering in the United States is rather small. However, several other sportsbook operators have asked regulators about taking bets on the Candidates Tournament and other chess events as they scramble to find sports to offer action on during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Candidates Tournament action continues on Thursday as the eight competitors start the second series of round-robin games. The key matchup could be the clash between Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave. The American has the advantage of the white pieces and could catch the co-leader with a win.