Candidates Chess: Gukesh beats Alireza, on the cusp of becoming youngest ever world championship contender

Caruana beats Praggnanandhaa, joins Nepomniachtchi and Nakamura in second place; Vaishali gets the better of Lei for fourth straight win; Gujrathi and Humpy draw their penultimate round matches

April 21, 2024 07:16 pm | Updated 08:34 pm IST - Toronto

A file photo of D. Gukesh. Gukesh is on the verge of becoming the youngest ever world championship contender with one more round to go at the Candidates Chess tournament.

A file photo of D. Gukesh. Gukesh is on the verge of becoming the youngest ever world championship contender with one more round to go at the Candidates Chess tournament.

D. Gukesh took the sole lead after beating Alireza Firouzja of France in the penultimate round of the FIDE Candidates chess tournament at Toronto on Saturday. The 17-year-old from Chennai had 8.5 points going into the final round.

He was closely followed half-a-point behind by three players. Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, the winner of the last two editions of the tournament, and the two top -seeded Americans Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura were all on eight points.

Caruana joined the leaders after scoring a win with black pieces against R. Praggnanandhaa. Nepomniachtchi and Nakamura paired with each other and played out a draw.

Tan stays on top

In the women’s event, China’s Tan Zhongyi maintained her sole lead with 8.5 points. She drew with Russian Alexandra Goryachkina.

Her compatriot Lei Tingjie was in second place, with 7.5 points, despite her shock defeat to R. Vaishali, whose remarkable turnaround continued. The elder sister of Praggnanandhaa was on 6.5 points, the same as Koneru Humpy, who drew with Ukraine’s Anna Muzychuk.

It was sweet revenge for Gukesh against Firouzja, the only player to beat him so far in the double round robin tournament. In a Ruy Lopez Game, he had white pieces.

Gukesh had a chance to draw by repetition of moves, but didn’t go for it. He won in 63 moves, in an ending featuring rook-and-knight.

“After his 17th move I felt that the position was getting a bit messy,” said Gukesh. “After his 22nd move, I think he got over optimistic and started pushing for more. Although my pieces looked passive, strategically, if I consolidated, I would be better. This is exactly what happened in the game. I wanted to win this game.”

The results (13th round):

Open: D. Gukesh 8.5 bt Alireza Firouzja (Fra) 4.5; R. Praggnanandhaa 6 lost to Fabiano Caruana (USA) 8; Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE) 8 drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 8; Vidit Gujrathi 5.5 drew with Nijat Abasov (Aze) 3.5.

Women: Tan Zhongyi (Chn) 8.5 drew with Alexandra Goryachkina (FIDE) 6.5; R. Vaishali 6.5 bt Lei Tingjie (Chn) 7.5; Koneru Humpy 6.5 drew with Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) 5; Nurgyul Salimova (Bul) 5 drew with Kateryna Lagno (FIDE) 6.5.

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