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Candidates Chess: Gukesh to clash with Caruana; Praggnanandhaa takes on Nakamura

Source: PTI
April 17, 2024 12:53 IST
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D Gukesh

Photograph: Kind Courtesy Michal Walusza for FIDE/X

Indian Grandmaster D Gukesh will have his task cut out when he takes on top seed Fabiano Caruana in the 11th round, hoping to consolidate his position at the top as the Candidates chess tournament heads towards its final phase in Toronto.

The 17-year-old Gukesh is in joint lead with Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Among other Indians, 18-year-old R Praggnanandhaa will be up against resurgent American Hikaru Nakamura after a rest day.

With just four rounds remaining, it is a level-playing field for the two Indian teenagers while Vidit Gujrathi has kept himself in reckoning and only needs to finish well.

Nepomniachtchi, the only unbeaten player so far, is playing under the FIDE flag and has a tough opposition to tackle in the next two rounds.


Gujrathi meets Nepomniachtchi in the next round followed by Praggnanandhaa and these two matches will probably set the tone of the tournament and might just be pivotal to deciding the next world championship challenger.

For Gukesh, the clash with Caruana is going to be crucial as the Indian has white pieces. If he is able to press for advantage, the onus will be on Caruana to prove his detractors wrong.

The Italian-turned-American is competing in his sixth Candidates tournament in a row but has only won it once.

Gukesh will probably train his eyes on beating the lowest-placed Abasov in the 12th round, provided he gets past Caruana unscathed.

Set to play against the Azerbaijani with black, Gukesh will surely go all-out for a victory even as Abasov has been super solid with his white pieces.

The most crucial line up in the next two rounds, from an Indian perspective, are the two games that Praggnanandhaa is set to play.

The Indian beat Nakamura in the last World Cup and will look forward to an encore, especially taking a cue from Gujrathi who has won both his games against the American.

R Praggnanandhaa

Photograph: Kind Courtesy Michal Walusza for FIDE/X

After Nakamura, it will be a clash against Nepomniachtchi for Praggnanandhaa and if he can withstand the pressure of these two games, one can expect him to be contention for the winner's purse of 48,000 Euros.

In the women's Candidates, the race is between two Chinese players Zhongyi Tan and Tingjie Lei, who have proved superior to the rest.

While the men's event has seen some really deep preparation, the skills have been the go-to factor in the women's event.

In theory, Koneru Humpy might still be in with a chance but practically, the Indian challenge has almost ended in this section.

With the two leaders on 6.5 points each, Russians Aleksandra Goryachkina and Kateryna Lagno are the closest in pursuit with 5.5 points apiece.

Humpy on 4.5 holds the distant fifth spot and needs a miracle.

The other Indian, R Vaishali won her last game against Nurgyul Salimova of Bulgaria but remains on the last spot.

Pairings round 11 (Indians unless specified): D Gukesh (6) vs Fabiano Caruana (USA, 5.5); Vidit Gujrathi (5) vs Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE, 6); R Praggnanandhaa (5.5) vs Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 5.5); Firouza Alireza (FRA, 3.5) vs Nijat Abasov (AZE, 3).

Women's: Koneru Humpy (4.5) vs Nurgyuaal Salimova (BUL, 4); R Vaishali (3.5) vs Aleksandra Goryachkina (FIDE, 5.5); Zhongyi Tan (6.5) vs Kateryna Lagno (FIDE, 5.5); Tingjei Lei (CHN, 6.5) vs Anna Muzychuk (UKR, 4). 

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