Mai 18, 2024

Four in the race for first in FIDE Candidates; Tan solely on top in Women’s event

The FIDE Candidates Tournament is getting more and more exciting with each and every passing day. Round 12 once again brought us a myriad of decisive results and the race for first remains wide open. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi, the sole leader going into the 12th round, made a solid draw against Praggnanandhaa R. He did not get anything out of the Exchange Variation of the French Defence with White and had to settle for a draw, as Praggnanandhaa played a very clean game. 

Two of our three players on Nepomniachtchi’s tails going into this round, on the other hand, had a great day. Both Nakamura and Gukesh, against Firouzja and Abasov, respectively, won their games and are now tied for first with Nepomniachtchi going into the final rest day.

Nakamura’s game was, once again, very messy and full of tactics. He surprised Firouzja in the opening and got an edge with White. Black’s counterplay relied on the passed pawn on the d-file and numerous chaotic tactical complications. However, Nakamura was better with his calculation in this game. On move 21, Firouzja missed a good chance, albeit a very computer-like one, to equalize: 21…Qd7. 

The lines that could follow are mind-blowing, for example: 22. Rg5 Rad8 23. h3 Ngxf2 24. Rxg7+ Kh8 25. Nbd4 Nxe1 26. Qxe1 Kxg7 27. Kxf2 Re4; Black would be doing fine in the resulting position. 

After 21…Nxe1, the move that appeared on the board, White obtained a serious advantage. Later on, Nakamura gave Black another chance with 34. Be1 (instead of 34. Rc7+), a move that he highly criticized himself for at the post-game press conference. 

When a draw was already in sight, Firouzja blundered with 41…g5, and the game was practically over. 

This is a very important win for the American player, who shows incredible fighting spirit with four wins out of five games in the latter half of the tournament! 

17-year-old Gukesh D continues to demonstrate amazing composure; today, he played a smooth game against Abasov, slowly outplaying his opponent with the black pieces and not allowing counterplay for his opponent. 

“I thought it was a pretty good game,” said Gukesh. “I felt like I was outplaying but he still had some drawing chances in the endgame.”

Should he win this tournament, Gukesh will be the youngest Challenger for the world championship ever. 

The three co-leaders – Gukesh, Nakamura, and Nepomniachtchi – are now on top with 7.5 points after 12 games. 

Fabiano Caruana won a solid game against Vidit, albeit not one free of mistakes. A few times Caruana let his advantage slip, but he then gradually gained it back and finally delivered. After Round 12, Caruana trails the leading pack by half a point. 

“I can’t control what happens in the other games. My fate is not in my hands entirely. If Hikaru or Gukesh wins both [of the] last games, no matter what I do, it’s impossible,” said Caruana after the game. “I messed up some things earlier in the tournament; I lost to Hikaru, and that’s something to regret. At this point I can only try to catch up and we’ll see. At least I won!”

The race to be the next Challenger is wide open! When asked what would be the deciding factor to go the distance at this point, Nakamura said “experience,” Caruana “nerves,” and Gukesh? “A bit of everything, including luck.” 

In the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament, leader Tan Zhongyi saved a very difficult position against Nurgyul Salimova. She was losing for most of the game, and the computer evaluation was climbing as high as +5 for Salimova, who played with the white pieces.

“At some point, I was close to resigning,” said Tan after the game. However, she managed to keep the game going and maintained material equilibrium in the lost endgame. Finally, she was rewarded with several mistakes from her opponent, who was getting low on time and managed to escape with a draw.  

Lei Tingjie was very close to winning against Kateryna Lagno with the black pieces but let her advantage slip away and had to settle for a draw. 

The critical moment was when Lei let go of her strong centralized knight with 26…Nf3. Instead, 26…Qb6, pressing White further, could keep a great advantage. Lagno immediately exchanged the knight with 27. Bxf3 and after that managed to keep the position balanced. 

Humpy Koneru had a superior position against Aleksandra Goryachkina, but she did not find the best continuation. 

After 22…Bd8! followed by Ra6 and c6 or c5, Black could have won the pinned bishop on a5. Instead, Humpy decided to go for a draw by repetition with 22…Qb8 23. Rdd1 Qa8 24. Rd7 Qb8

Koneru’s young compatriot, Vaishali R, defeated Anna Muzychuk with the black pieces – the only decisive result in the women’s tournament today. 

After Round 12, Tan Zhongyi is on top with 8 points, closely followed by Lei Tingjie on 7.5. Three players – Goryachkina, Koneru, and Lagno – are fighting for third with 6 points.

The FIDE Candidates Tournament goes on the final rest day before the two ultimate rounds. The 13th round of the event will commence on the 20th of April at 14:30 EDT (Toronto). 

Standings after Round 12:

Open:

1-3. Gukesh, Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi – 7½
4. Caruana – 7
5. Praggnanandhaa – 6
6. Vidit – 5
7. Firouzja – 4½
8. Abasov – 3

Women’s:

1. Tan – 8
2. Lei – 7½
3-5. Goryachkina, Koneru, Lagno  – 6
6. Vaishali – 5½
7-8. A. Muzychuk, Salimova – 4½

Round 13 pairings:

Open:

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

Women’s:

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

Written by WGM Anna Burtasova

Photos: Michal Walusza and Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Official website: candidates2024.fide.com/