Mai 21, 2024

FIDE Candidates: Six victories in Round 6

Round 6 at the FIDE Candidates saw all but two games end decisively, with not a single draw in the FIDE Women’s Candidates.

Tan Zhongyi kept her lead over the rest of the field with a third win, this time playing with White against Anna Muzychuk.

After a few inaccuracies from Black, Tan launched a strong attack, first leaving her dark-squared bishop up for grabs with 20. Nd4, and then sacrificing her light-squared bishop on h7 on move 28. The position was winning for White, but Tan did not play precisely and gave Muzychuk a chance to escape towards the end of the game.

The Ukrainian player, however, did not find the 34…Bxe6 resource in time trouble, opted for 34…Re4? and resigned after 35. Rxe4 Nxe4 36. Nxg8 Qxg8 37. Qf7+. At the press conference, Tan confessed that she was not happy with her calculation during the game and deliberately played quickly at the end to put pressure on Muzychuk’s clock. After Round 6, Tan has won three games and has made three draws. With 4.5 out of 6, she is in clear first place.

Aleksandra Goryachkina continues to lead the pack, hoping to catch Tan Zhongyi with a win against Nurgyul Salimova with the black pieces today. At the post-game interview, Goryachkina confessed that it was not a difficult game for her, as everything went smoothly, and she did not offer many opportunities for Salimova to create counterplay.

Kateryna Lagno won her first game in the tournament against Vaishali. After a series of disappointing draws, she was happy to have a positive result and radiated with delight after the game.

“When she took the piece on b4 (21. Qxb4), I didn’t think she could hold this position. Maybe she should have played something like 21. Re3, but I think there is 21…Qd1+ 22. Bf1 and 22…Nc2, so this should be already good for me, but I’m not sure if this is winning though,” said Lagno after the game. With 3.5 points, Lagno is now in clear third place. 

Lei Tingjie also won today with the black pieces, beating Humpy Koneru. Unfortunately for Humpy, this tournament has not been going well for her so far – she now finds herself at the bottom of the standings. The game was complex but equal up to move 35, when the players entered the endgame.

Being low on time, Koneru misplayed the position and allowed her opponent to capture a key pawn on a2, after which Black’s passed pawn on the a-file was unstoppable. With this victory, Lei compensates for her loss in the first round and is now back on an even score.

For Indian fans, the disappointing results in the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament were offset by the excellent ones in the FIDE Candidates Tournament, as Praggnanandhaa R and Vidit Santosh Gujrathi won their games against Nijat Abasov and Alireza Firouzja respectively. 

Praggnanandhaa joked at the press conference that he’s always trying to play solid but somehow manages to end up in messy, double-edged positions. The game against Abasov was another mind-bending one, with numerous beautiful lines that did not appear on the board. The Indian star calculated more precisely than his opponent and was rewarded with a victory, putting him in joint third place.

After their extensive analysis, the players agreed that the best try for Black was 34…Be6 instead of 34…g5, to retain greater chances of defending successfully. Praggnanandhaa’s confident answer (“no”) to whether he ever gets tired towards the end of the game with such insane calculations on every move is a clear sign to his rivals that he should not be underestimated.  

By now, we can proclaim Vidit a crowd favourite. With his exciting playstyle, he has been joining the post-game press conferences almost every day, and luckily, it was for a good reason today. In his game today against Alireza Firouzja, everything went right for him.

The Frenchman chose to play the Sicilian Defence and deviated from the most popular lines, playing 8…Qd8 in the Classical Variation and subsequent moves very quickly. Previously, this move has been unsuccessfully tried by Boris Gelfand. Vidit, playing with White, castled long and unleashed an attack on Black’s king with 13. g4. Firouzja accepted the challenge and responded by taking the pawn on f2 (13…Qxf2). 

After 17 minutes of careful consideration, Vidit went for a central blow, playing 14. e5! and capturing the pawn back on the next move after  14…Nd7 15. exd6. With equal material but with vastly more active pieces, White’s position was clearly superior. On move 26, Vidit won an exchange and converted his advantage without great difficulty. 

When asked to justify Firouzja’s quick opening play that led to a difficult position, Vidit said: “Probably it’s a bit of tilt. He lost yesterday, he’s on -3, and the tournament is not going his way. It happens; sometimes you become a bit emotional when you’re tilted.”

Gukesh, one of the two joint tournament leaders, managed to get a completely new position on move seven against Hikaru Nakamura in the Hyperaccelerated Dragon variant of the Sicilian Defense. The game took a quiet path, and a draw was a logical result. 

“I thought I had a slight pull in the opening, but [his] 14…Nc8 idea was very strong. I could not really see anything for White after that,” commented Gukesh after the game. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana played a quiet Four Knights Game, following the well-known line for ten moves. Nepomniachtchi, playing with White, was mostly expecting a Sicilian Defence from Caruana, as he had already played it twice in this tournament.

He tried a new move 16. Re1, but the game nevertheless quickly transformed into a drawish endgame. As the game progressed, the tournament’s co-leader thought he could press a bit with White and declined a move repetition on move 32. However, Black’s defensive task was not difficult, and Caruana found all the right moves to reach a draw and split the point. 

The seventh round of the event will commence on the 11th of April at 14:30 EDT (Toronto).

Standings after Round 6:

Open:

1-2. Gukesh, Nepomniachtchi – 4
3-4. Caruana, Praggnanandhaa – 3½
5-6. Vidit, Nakamura – 3
7-8. Abasov, Firouzja – 1½

Women’s:

1. Tan Zhongyi – 4½
2. Goryachkina – 4
3. Lagno – 3½
4. Lei – 3
5-6. Vaishali, Salimova – 2½
7-8. Koneru, A. Muzychuk – 2

Round 7 pairings:

Open:

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

Women’s:

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

Written by WGM Anna Burtasova

Photos: Michal Walusza and Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Official website: candidates2024.fide.com/