Mai 19, 2024

FIDE Candidates: Nepomniachtchi and Tan Zhongyi lead going to rest day

Four rounds have been played at the FIDE Candidates in Toronto, and the first rest day is upon us. The players will have the chance to experience the April 8th solar eclipse with a Lake Ontario cruise.

The tournament continues to be a treat for the fans, with a lot of uncompromising fighting chess and decisive outcomes. Our man of the day is the winner of the two previous FIDE Candidates Tournament, Ian Nepomniachtchi, who became the sole leader with a win against Vidit. Ian, playing with White, was pressing Vidit out of the opening, both on the board and on the clock.

“I can’t recall any occasion when I get two Berlins in a row and manage to get a game,” said Nepomniachtchi at the press conference. “11. g4 is a very rare move. 11…Ne7 12. Nh2 was the idea of my team. Nh2 doesn’t look good, but my plan is simple: I push f4-f5 and create some forcing play.”

Later in the game, Vidit failed to coordinate his defensive setup, which allowed Nepomniachtchi to use his central passed pawn and piece activity to seal the deal. With two wins and two draws, the tournament has thus far been a smooth sailing one for the two-time World Championship Challenger.

Hikaru Nakamura and Praggnanandhaa R were the first to finish today. Nakamura, with the white pieces, did not manage to get much out of the opening in the Ruy Lopez and agreed that a draw was the logical result. After the game, fan-favourite Nakamura met fans in the fan zone and spent time graciously signing autographs and taking selfies with his fans. “Oh my God, it’s Hikaru!” exclaimed a fan near the entrance when the American player stepped into the hall. Many spectators have been coming to the venue with chess boards and other memorabilia with hopes of getting autographs. Fans also bought various merchandise available for sale on-site in the fan zone.

Gukesh D demonstrated creative defence in his game against the top seed Fabiano Caruana. When it seemed that Caruana was applying some pressure on White, Gukesh came up with two brilliant intermediate moves which helped Black to equalise.

One of the moves was 23…cxb4 instead of capturing the knight en prise. White correctly realized that he couldn’t keep the extra piece because the black pawns on the queenside were too strong. For example, Black would be winning had the continuation been 24. Be3 b3 25. Qb2 Nd5. Caruana confessed in the post-game interview that he also missed Gukesh’s follow up, 24. cxb4 Qd4! After this, the evaluation of the position was completely equal. Caruana continued to try to squeeze water from the stone, but Gukesh remained precise till the end, and the players agreed to a draw on move 72.

In the final game of the open section, Alireza Firouzja was up a pawn against Nijat Abasov, but it did not make much of a difference. Firouzja’s extra pawn was a doubled pawn on the kingside, and Abasov had enough defensive resources to make this an easy draw. Nevertheless, though Firouzja attempted to exploit every opportunity, the game finished in a draw on move 64.

Today, the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament had the potential to produce three decisive results from some spectacular battles. Unfortunately, only one game lived up to expectations. Nurgyul Salimova, playing with White against Humpy Koneru, bounced back from her defeat yesterday by outplaying her more-experienced opponent.

“I was out of my preparation very early on. She surprised me in the opening with 5…Ne4, but the position later turned into something that I have checked. So, it was not like I was completely unfamiliar. When she started pushing the pawns, it looked scary, but it felt like I was always in control,” commented Salimova after the game.

Kateryna Lagno, up a pawn, had a winning position against the tournament’s leader, Tan Zhongyi. However, Lagno blundered in time trouble and stormed out of the playing hall after the game finished in a draw.

Kateryna played very natural 52. Be5? but after the precise 52…Qe6! 53. Qe4 Bxd6 had to settle for a draw. The right path is 52. Bf2! and after 52…Qxd6+ 53. Kh1 Kg7 54. Qa7 Qd1+ 55. Bg1 White’s a-pawn will eventually cost Black her bishop. 

Anna Muzychuk also did not manage to convert her winning position into a full point. This is the second game in a row that the Ukrainian player had to settle for a draw. Similarly to yesterday, the path to victory was not an easy one. One precise move was required in her rook endgame against two passed pawns, and Muzychuk sadly did not manage to find it.

The move in question is 53. Kf7! (or 53. Rg8 with the same idea) and after 53…g4 54. Rg8 Kf4 55. Kg6 f5 56. Kh5 Kg3 57. Rg6! Kf3 58. Kh4 White stops Black’s pawns. Anna, however, opted for 53. Re4+? but it failed to 53…Kf4 54. Kxf6 g4 and Black escaped with a draw.

The game between Aleksandra Goryachkina and Vaishali R was a calmer battle. It did not have the surprises and the evaluation swings of the other three games, and the opponents split a point in an equal position.

The tournament will be pausing for a rest day tomorrow. As it stands, Ian Nepomniachtchi is the sole leader in the FIDE Candidates Tournament, and Tan Zhongyi is the clear leader in the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament.

The fifth round of the event will commence on April 9th at 14:30 EDT (Toronto).

Standings after Round 4:

Open:

1. Nepomniachtchi – 3
2-3. Caruana, Gukesh – 2.5
4-8. Abasov, Firouzja, Nakamura, Vidit, Praggnanandhaa – 1.5

Women’s:

1. Tan Zhongyi – 3
2. Goryachkina – 2.5
3-4. Salimova, Lagno – 2
5-8. A. Muzychuk, Lei, Vaishali, Koneru – 1.5

Round 5 pairings:

Open:

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

Women’s:

Lei – Lagno
Vaishali – A. Muzychuk
Koneru – Goryachkina
Tan – Salimova

Written by WGM Anna Burtasova

Photos: Michal Walusza and Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Official website: candidates2024.fide.com/