The two leaders face each other in the final round, but their fate may not be entirely in their hands

By a happy circumstance, Sergey Karjakin of Russia and Fabiano Caruana of the United States, the two co-leaders of the 2016 Candidates tournament, will play each other in the final round on Monday. So, the winner of the Candidates, who then becomes the challenger for the World Championship match in November, may be decided by their game.

Or maybe not. 

It is clear that if either Karjakin or Caruana wins their game, that player will win the tournament, but what happens if the game is drawn? Then it gets more complicated.

If Karjakin and Caruana draw and end up with the highest tournament scores, then the winner is determined by tie-breakers. The first tie-breaker is their head-to-head record, and with a draw they would have drawn both their games, so the tie cannot be broken that way. 

The second tie-breaker is number of wins in the tournament, and there Karjakin comes out on top because he has won three games (and lost one) against Caruana’s two wins (and no losses). Arbitrary? Yes, but there has to be a system and this is a tie-breaker that has been used in some elite tournaments.

Is that it? No. There is another factor in the mix — Viswanathan Anand of India.

Anand trails Karjakin and Caruana by half a point, so if they draw their game and Anand wins (he is playing Peter Svidler of Russia in Round 14), then all three would end up with the same score. Going back to the first tie-breaker, it would now be head-to-head-to-head record, or Karjakin’s record against both Caruana and Anand, Caruana’s record against both Karjakin and Anand, and Anand’s record against both Karjakin and Caruana.

Since Caruana beat Anand and Karjakin lost to Anand, Caruana has the best overall record against the other two. So a victory by Anand cannot help him become the challenger for the World Championship, but it might propel Caruana into the November championship match if Karjakin and Caruana draw.

So, in addition to trying to figure out how to beat Karjakin, Caruana will also be rooting for Anand.