Great day for Indian men at Candidates chess

Vidit Gujrathi and Ali Firouzja
Vidit Gujrathi and Ali Firouzja (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

“What’s Vidit Gujrathi’s favourite holiday destination? Waiting room,” someone quipped in the comments section, during live commentary of the Candidates chess tournament, on ChessBase India. It was in reference to the long periods of time spent by the player thinking, which has seen him come under pressure from the clock on a few occasions in the competition.

Vidit once again took a considerable amount of time to contemplate, during his sixth-round match against Alireza Firouzja, and came under time pressure. But he made the wait worthwhile by scoring a handsome win on a great day for India in the open section.

D Gukesh drew with Hikaru Nakamura to stay joint leader with Ian Nepomniachtchi on four points. R Praggnanandhaa beat Nijat Abasov and moved to joint second with Fabiano Caruana on 3.5. Vidit and Nakamura are next half a point behind. For the second successive day, all three Indians had white pieces. After a win and two draws a day earlier, they made it two wins and a draw in Round 6.

Having gone to Toronto with the reputation of being talented players capable of taking on the best on their day, these three have given a commendable account of themselves so far. There are some serious names over there. Abasov of Azerbaijan is the lowest-rated player in the field, but Nakamura of the USA is World No. 3, while Firouzja of France is the youngest in history to touch 2800 in Elo ratings.

Other than the Gukesh-Nakamura game, which was even throughout, Vidit and Pragg held the upper hand from the beginning. Both had made similar starts in the previous round, but couldn’t close it out and settled for draws. On this day, they showed their wherewithal and patience to break open the well-planned defences their opponents came up with.

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Nijat Abasov and R Praggnanandhaa
Nijat Abasov and R Praggnanandhaa (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

It was satisfying for Vidit, who suffered defeats in the fourth and fifth rounds and couldn’t win despite dominating World No. 2 Caruana in the sixth. Against the player with roots in Iran, Vidit played a near-flawless game. His position was so dominant that Firouzja couldn’t build any effective counterplay. Vidit kept focus and kept finding the precise moves in spite of the time constraint.

“My position was winning… And it’s great to know that so many people in India are following our performance,” Vidit was seen telling the media in Toronto on ChessBase India’s live coverage. He is accompanied by his sister and Vidit said she has been a big support, especially on the bad days.

Pragg’s position was strong, but he had to find the right moves against Abasov’s defensive organisation. One mistake could undo all the good work. The youngster looked prepared for a long haul and kept his calm. “This win was due. He had been badly rewarded despite doing it day in and day out,” said Viswanathan Anand during official commentary on the FIDE website.

Of the three, Gukesh faced the toughest challenge of the day. He remained unflustered and didn’t make any mistake that Nakamura was waiting for. “My position was such that if I maintained equality, it would be a draw. It’s been a good start. I played some good games, but there are lots of games remaining,” Gukesh said on the live telecast on the FIDE website.

Lei Tingjie and Koneru Humpy
Lei Tingjie and Koneru Humpy (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

Bad day in the women’s section

It was a forgettable day for India in the women’s section, where all four games produced results. Koneru Humpy and R Vaishali lost with white pieces. Both of them were in an equal position for a long time but made costly mistakes towards the end.

Round 6 results

Open Section

Ian Nepomniachtchi (4) drew with Fabiano Caruana (3.5)

D Gukesh (4) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (3)

Vidit Gujrathi (3) bt Alireza Firouzja (1.5)

R Praggnanandhaa (3.5) bt Nijat Abasov (1.5)

Women’s section

Nurgyul Salimova (2.5) lost to Aleksandra Goryachkina (4)

Tan Zhongyi (4.5) bt Anna Muzychuk (2)

Koneru Humpy (2) lost to Lei Tingjie (3)

R Vaishali (2.5) lost to Kateryna Lagno (3.5)

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