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Candidates Chess: Praggnanandhaa checks Gujrathi

Source: PTI
April 07, 2024 13:20 IST
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R Praggnanandhaa

IMAGE: Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa is level with Vidit Gujrathi on 1.5 points after the third round in the Candidates Chess tournament in Toronto. Photograph: International Chess Federation/Twitter

Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa produced a spectacular game to get the better of fellow-Indian Vidit Gujrathi in the third round of the Candidates Chess tournament in Toronto on Saturday.

It turned out to be a satisfying day for the only sibling to make it to the Candidates ever as R Vaishali also scored her first victory in the event at the expense of Nurgyul Salimova of Bulgaria in what was also the lone decisive game in the women's section.


In the men's section, D Gukesh tried to make headway but could not really dent the solid defences of Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, while Frenchman Firouza Alireza's extra pawn came to naught against top seed Fabiano Caruana of the United States.

The other American, Hikaru Nakamura, however, had no difficulty in getting an easy draw as black against Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan.

In the women’s section, Koneru Humpy played out an easy draw with white against Zhongyi Tan, Tinjie Lei of China signed peace with Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia, while the other Russian, Kateryna Lagno, split the point with Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine.

With 11 rounds still to come in both eight-players double round-robin tournament, Caruana, Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi share the lead on two points apiece in the men's section.

They are now followed by Gujrathi and Praggnanandhaa on 1.5 points each. Nakamura, Alireza and Abasov complete the line up another half point behind.

In the women's event, Zhongyi Tan, with two points, remained a half point clear of nearest rival Goryachkina with Humpy, Vaishali, Lagno on their toes with 1.5 points each.

Lei, Muzychuk and Salimova share the sixth spot with one point each in their kitty.

Praggnanandhaa chose an accelerated Schielmann defence out of a Ruy Lopez that is seldom seen in top GM games. Pragg, as he is fondly called, is known to spring surprises beyond imagination of his opponent, and Gujrathi realized this very early in the opening.

That Gujrathi was obviously in for a long grinding game as his first white after a brilliant start was visible as he spent a lot of time in the opening but then the complications were clearly above the human mind.

The game fluctuated in the early middle game between an equal position and sometimes favouring Gujrathi but it was not easy to find all the best moves every time he was posed a question.

In the end Gujrathi was left to play 11 moves in about five minutes with the position not favouring him and, as is often the case, the ticking away clock took its toll on him.

Praggnandhaa quickly landed himself with a winning rook and pawns endgame and there was no hope left soon for Gujrathi. The game lasted 45 moves.

"I saw that I could make a draw through perpetual checks on move 11 but believed my position to be better," Gujrathi said after the game.

"I was not too sure in the opening as I could not remember the preparation, but I think black was fine," Praggnanandhaa opined.

Gukesh was caught a bit-off-guard in a Queen pawn game playing white. It was a symmetrical structure in the ensuing middle game after the queens got traded early and Nepomniachtchi kept the balance despite being on the defensive.

In the end, Gukesh had two Bishops but black was simply too solid to make a decisive headway.     

Alireza started off with the King pawn and had some pressure to boast off. However, Caruana's 16th move cleared the centre and left little scope and subsequent exchanges led to a drawn minor pieces endgame.

Arriving here with a leg injury, Abasov conceded that he was not feeling too well during the game against Nakamura. The American was however happy to equalize in the Slav exchange and the result was a dull draw after 29 moves.

Vaishali and Pragg have started with the exact same three results in the first rounds of their respective events: a draw, a loss and a win. After the family had a tough day in the second round following losses against Gukesh D and Tan Zhongyi, Vaishali also bounced back with a fine win.

Nurgyul Salimova could not match the skillful play by Vaishali in a confrontation between the two youngest and the two lowest-rated participants in the event.

Vaishali got an advantage on the clock by deviating in the Petroff defense. Salimova faltered decisively on move 16 after the Indian sacrificed a Knight, and Vaishali had little troubles converting in to a full point in 33-moves.

Zhongyi Tan settled for her first draw in the tournament against Humpy. The Queen pawn opening gave black little troubles, thanks to some deep preparation and Humpy could only find passage to equality with regular exchanges leading to a drawn rook and pawns endgame.

Results round 3 (Indians unless specified):

Vidit Gujrathi (1.5) lost to R Praggnanandhaa (1.5); D Gukesh (2) drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi (Fid, 2); Nijat Abasov (Aze, 1) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 1); Firouza Alireza (Fra, 1) drew with Fabiano Caruana (Usa, 2).

Women: R Vaishali (1.5) beat Nurgyul Salimova (Bul, 1); Koneru Humpy (1.5) drew with Zhongyi Tan (Chn, 2.5); Tingjie Lei (Chn, 1) drew with Aleksandra Goryachkina (Fid, 2); Anna Muzychuk (Ukr, 1) drew with Kateryna Lagno (Fid, 1.5).

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