Gukesh’s quest to conquer the world reaches its final stage: Data

The Chennai chess prodigy’s path to success matches that of other elites of the game

April 25, 2024 08:30 am | Updated May 03, 2024 05:15 pm IST

D. Gukesh holding the prestigious Candidates award

D. Gukesh holding the prestigious Candidates award | Photo Credit: P. Srinivas Aditya

Grandmaster (GM) D. Gukesh pulled off a phenomenal achievement by winning the prestigious FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2024, a.k.a. Candidates, scoring nine points out of 14 games. At the young age of 17, he has outshone some of the best chess players in the world. He is the youngest winner of the Candidates. The tournament, which was first conducted in 1950, has seen 25 editions so far (Table 1).

Table 1 | The table shows the winners of the Candidates, the year of the tournament, age at which the player won the tournament and the incumbent champion of the tournament.

Note: The age of the players were calculated based on approximate difference in years and not exact dates

Table appears incomplete? Click to remove AMP mode

Two other Indians — fellow Chennai teenager GM R. Praggnanandhaa and GM Vidit Gujrathi — performed creditably scoring seven and six points, respectively, in the open section of the 2024 tournament. GM Koneru Humpy and GM-elect R. Vaishali did well to finish third in the women’s section. Gukesh is also the first Indian to win the Candidates since GM Viswanathan Anand won the tournament in 2014 and earned him a rematch for the World Championship against GM Magnus Carlsen.

Table 2 | The table shows Gukesh’s average move accuracy, the name of his opponent and their average move accuracy in all the 14 rounds of the tournament.

Gukesh’s victory in the tournament was the result of his all-round consistency and stable play. According to, Gukesh’s average move accuracy in the estimation of high-performing chess engines in all 14 rounds was 95.4% versus his opponents’ 93.6% (Table 2). He also led the tournament in wins (five), losing only once to GM Alireza Firouzja, after committing last-minute blunders. He defeated the tournament’s lowest-rated player, Nijat Abasov, twice; his compatriots Praggnanandhaa and Gujrathi once each; and avenged his loss against Firouzja in the penultimate round. He also drew comfortably in his games against the higher-rated GMs Fabiano Caruana, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Hikaru Nakamura. All three of them finished half a point behind Gukesh.

Also read: Chess: D. Gukesh profile | A young knight who has the armoury to reign supreme

Gukesh is currently India’s top-rated player in FIDE live ratings with 2763.4 points, just two ahead of GM Arjun Erigaisi. Anand, Praggnanandhaa, and Gujrathi are the other three in the top five. Gukesh has also become the world no. 6 in live ratings, behind GMs Carlsen (2830), Caruana (2805.4), Nakamura (2794.4), and Nodirbek Abdusattarov (2765), who is also a teenager.

His opponent in the FIDE World Championships, scheduled for November 2024, is incumbent champion GM Ding Liren of China. Interestingly, Ding is currently ranked world no. 7 and, with 2762 points, only two behind Gukesh. But with a peak ELO of 2816 and being one of just 15 GMs to cross the super-elite rating of 2800 (in live ratings), he will be a tough opponent.

The women’s championship is set to be an all-Chinese affair between GMs Tan Zhongyi (the challenger) and Ju Wenjun (the incumbent). Gukesh will have a chance to thwart a repeat of the Chinese stranglehold over both championships in 2023.

Chart 3 | The chart shows compares Gukesh’s rating points over time, with that of super GMs Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri and Alireza Firouzja.

Gukesh’s ascendancy to becoming the challenger to the world crown isn’t an accident. Chart 3 shows how his trajectory matches that of super GMs like Carlsen, Anish Giri, and Firouzja. All of them were also child prodigies who went on to become formidable elite players.

But while Gukesh became the first player to supplant Anand as the highest-rated Indian last year, he suffered a nearly 40-point drop in ELO ratings between October and December 2023, from 2758 to 2720. He subsequently managed to come up with convincing performances to hike his ratings steadily back to reach a new peak of 2763.4 (live) by the end of the Candidates. If he continues to maintain this form, a rewriting of the record books by the end of the World Championships may well be in order.

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