Juni 25, 2024

FIDE Candidates 2024: Exciting second round sees six victories

The second round of the FIDE Candidates brought a day full of excitement. Feeling more settled in the playing hall, the players of the FIDE Candidates delivered a day full of decisive outcomes, with six out of eight games producing a winner.

In the FIDE Candidates Tournament, all four games ended in victories. The first game to finish was Vidit’s brilliant spectacle against Hikaru Nakamura. Everything went right for him: first, his preparation worked perfectly, and then he managed to build up on another impressive bishop sacrifice.

The novelty 8…c6 in the Berlin Defense was prepared by his team, but Vidit did not reveal who came up with this idea. On the 11th move, the Indian player offered a bishop sacrifice on h3. 

11…Bxh3!

This piece was poisoned, and Nakamura, realizing this, did not capture it. However, this allowed Black to develop an initiative and eventually convert it into a full point. At the post-game press conference, Vidit was brimming with delight, calling this game one of the best ones in his career.

In our Indian derby between two prodigies, Gukesh D gained the upper hand on Praggnanandhaa R. It was a complicated game requiring precise defence, which Gukesh executed perfectly. Praggnanandhaa’s initiative petered out, allowing Gukesh, playing with Black, to capitalize on his extra material. 

The rating favourite of the event, Fabiano Caruana, defeated the underdog Nijat Abasov in a confident manner that did not leave his opponent many opportunities for counterplay. “The game was quite tough; there was a lot of calculation. I think I got a lucky break at the end because he collapsed in a very surprising way by taking on b3, 34…Bxb3.” 

After 34…Bxb3? (better was 34…Qe6) 35. Qxb3 Rxa5? 36.Rf1! White penetrates to f7 with decisive effect as 36…R5a7 fails to 37.e6!

He added, “It’s very complicated, and it’s the type of advantage where you make one mistake and it completely slips away.”  

The last game to finish was the wild encounter between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alireza Firouzja, where Nepomniachtchi’s king marched to the center of the board and surprisingly found shelter from Black’s desperate attack. The players were following the 2022 game between Durarbayli and Rodshtein (which White won) in the Berlin Defense up to move 16. This is when Firouzja deviated and made the bold choice of capturing the pawn on d3. A very interesting position emerged as a result, with White a pawn down and a damaged kingside structure, but with a lot of piece activity and attacking possibilities as compensation. Nepomniachtchi confessed that he was out of concrete preparation after 18…Qe8, but decided to play h4 on move 19, which is the recommended move in the other lines he remembered. Wild complications ensued, but Nepomniachtchi was always confident that he was the only one pressing for a win. 

In the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament, Tan Zhongyi extended her lead with a second victory. She gradually outplayed Vaishali R, finishing the game off with a knight sacrifice. 

34. Ng6+! and Black immediately capitulated in view of 34…Kg8 35. Nxe7+ followed by 36. gxf6 1-0

Tan confessed that she did not use her opening preparation but was more familiar with the resulting position, which helped her to develop the right plan and execute it. 

The rating favourite of the event, Aleksandra Goryachkina, won against Anna Muzychuk and is now trailing Tan by half a point. She enjoyed a comfortable advantage in the endgame, which emerged from the Slav Defense. “I liked how I played.

It was a complicated position, but for Black, it was more difficult to play, and my opponent did not manage to defend successfully”, said Goryachkina after the game. When asked about her general plan for this event, she said, “I will be a typical athlete and say that I have a plan and I am following it,” referencing a famous sports meme.   

The games between Kateryna Lagno and Humpy Koneru, as well as Nurgyul Salimova and Lei Tingjie, were drawn.

The third round of the event will commence on the 6th of April at 14:30 EDT (Toronto). 

Standings after Round 2

Open:

1-4. Caruana, Gukesh, Nepomniachtchi, Vidit – 1.5; 5-8. Abasov, Firouzja, Nakamura, Praggnanandhaa – 0.5

Women:

1. Tan Zhongyi – 2; 2. Goryachkina – 1.5; 3-5. Koneru, Salimova, Lagno – 1; Muzychuk, Lei, Vaishali R – 0.5

Round 3 pairings:

Open

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

Women

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

Written by WGM Anna Burtasova

Photos: Michal Walusza and Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Official website: candidates2024.fide.com/