Juni 22, 2024

FIDE Candidates: Tan Zhongyi leads after first round

After the dust has settled, the inaugural round of the Candidates Tournament brought us one decisive result – Tan Zhongyi’s win over Lei Tingjie – and many exciting games which finished peacefully. 

The FIDE Candidates Tournament and FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament have kicked off in Toronto. Sixteen contenders—eight men and eight women – battle to be crowned the Challenger for the World Championship and are playing under the same roof at the Great Hall, located in West Queen West, the city’s centre of artistic innovation.

In the Candidates Tournament, all the games finished in draws. Nijat Abasov, playing Ian Nepomniachtchi, was one of the first players to leave the playing hall. Abasov, who’s wearing a special knee brace, revealed he was injured during a soccer game and was barely walking a week ago. „Everyone told me I had to work on my physical shape, so I played a football match, and unfortunately, I tore my ACL. After that, I had to undergo surgery about a month ago, and now I am recovering.“ Despite this setback, the injury did not stop him from keeping the game solid and making a comfortable draw with White against Nepomniachtchi, the winner of the previous two Candidates Tournaments.

The Indian derby between Gukesh and Vidit saw a brilliant 17…Bg4 from Vidit, who was playing with the black pieces. After the game, he was not sure that this was the right way to proceed, as it led to a draw, but he could not resist executing such a beautiful move. For Gukesh, this move came as a surprise, but he had sufficient time remaining on the clock to realise that the bishop was poisoned and, in fact, posed no danger. 

Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, two spectator favourites, did not disappoint with an exciting game. Nakamura chose the bold and risky 5…e5, which came as an unexpected surprise for Caruana, who, of course, knew that „this move exists“ but had not analysed it in depth before the game. Nevertheless, Caruana got a comfortable position, where one single mistake could cost Black the game. With little time on the clock remaining and no increment, he made a decision to go into a line with no risk. This, however, also brought about an easier defence for Black and the subsequent draw. Both players were satisfied with the result and considered this a fine start to their tournament.  

The last players to finish in the first round of the Candidates Tournament were Praggnanandhaa and Alireza Firouzja. The two young stars played a very double-edged game, with both sides striving to reach the opponent’s king. The computer evaluation, however, was always nearly equal, and the game ended with a perpetual check. 

In the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament, Tan Zhongyi raced into an early lead with a win over Lei Tingjie. After winning a pawn, she demonstrated impeccable endgame technique until the very end, outplaying her compatriot in and not leaving Lei any chance for counterplay. Tan Zhongyi is a former Women’s World Champion, winning her title in a knockout format in 2017 and subsequently losing it to her compatriot and current Women’s World Champion, Ju Wenjun. This first-round win is a strong indication to the rest of her colleagues that she’s serious in her pursuit of regaining the Women’s World Champion title. 

The remaining three matchups, Aleksandra Goryachkina vs Kateryna Lagno, Vaishali R vs Humpy Koneru, and Anna Muzychuk vs Nurgyul Salimova, were all fairly balanced, and draws came as a logical result. Nurgyul Salimova, playing in her very first Candidates, said that she was happy to start the event with a draw and become familiar with the playing hall and the tournament routine to offset her pre-tournament nervousness and excitement. 

The venue’s fan zone was buzzing with excitement, too. Eric Hansen and Aman Hambleton, popularly known as the Chessbrahs, were the hosts, conducting live commentary and engaging with the audience. 

The second round will commence on April 5th at 2:30 pm EDT (Toronto). 

Standings after Round 1:

FIDE Candidates Tournament:

1-8. Caruana, Abasov, Firouzja, Gukesh D, Vidit, Praggnanandhaa R, Nepomniachtchi, Nakamura – 0.5 points

FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament:

1. Tan – 1; 2-7. Goryachkina, Anna Muzychuk, Vaishali R, Koneru, Salimova, Lagno – 0.5; 8. Lei – 0

Round 2 pairings:

FIDE Candidates Tournament:

Nakamura – Vidit
Praggnanandhaa R – Gukesh D
Nepomniachtchi – Firouzja
Caruana – Abasov

FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament:

Lagno – Koneru
Tan – Vaishali R
Salimova – Lei
Goryachkina – Anna Muzychuk

Written by WGM Anna Burtasova

Photos: Michal Walusza and Maria Emelianova//Chess.com

Official website: candidates2024.fide.com/