Gukesh downs Vidit to reclaim share of lead

Vidit Gujarathi and D Gukesh. Source: Chessbase India

This edition of the Candidates chess competition is turning out to be a rollercoaster ride. There were significant movements in the eighth round, as the leaders were joined by others in the open and women’s sections. With six rounds to go, there are multiple contenders in both categories.

D Gukesh was one of the biggest movers of the day. The youngest player in the event came back from a heartbreaking defeat in the previous game with a brilliant win with black against Vidit Gujrathi. It put the 18-year-old back in the joint-lead with Ian Nepomniachtchi and landed a crushing blow to Vidit’s campaign. Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi have five points each.

R Praggnanandhaa, who drew with white against Alireza Firouzja, is half-a-point behind. Hikaru Nakamura joined him on 4.5 with a facile win against pre-tournament favourite Fabiano Caruana. Vidit slipped to sixth with 3.5 points. Having revived his tournament in the last three rounds, this defeat with white might be hard for him to digest.

In an all-Chinese game in the women’s section, Lei Tingjie beat Tan Zhongyi to create a three-way tie at the top with Aleksandra Goryachkina. Tan had been the sole leader from the first round. Koneru Humpy with white took advantage of a few blunders by R Vaishali to post her first win. It was a third successive defeat for Pragg’s sister.

Also Read: Addition of killer instinct changed Vidit: Roktim Bandyopadhyay, childhood coach

There was a lot of talk about the impact of the unexpected loss with white against Firouzja on Gukesh. On official commentary, Viswanathan Anand recounted an incident before the game to say that he was not worried about Gukesh. “I went to cheer him up after a defeat in the Chess Olympiad (2022),” said Anand. “After a while, I realised that he was cheering me up. He should be okay.”

Gukesh came up showing steely resolve and his fourth move of a6 prompted the commentators to say that he had come ready for a fight. He was quick to put Vidit under pressure and the latter was once again forced into periods of prolonged thought. Consequently, he had to hurry to make his moves towards the end and it led to crucial errors in judgement.

The position was still equal until the middle-game. But while Gukesh succeeded in mobilising his resources in a meaningful manner, Vidit appeared to get stuck. “His game started drifting,” noted Anand. “One move here, one move there and then he was in trouble. His position was bad and it was still amazing to see how fast he collapsed. It was a big prize for Gukesh.”

Round 8 results

Open section

R Praggnanandhaa (4.5) drew with Alireza Firouzja (3)

Vidit Gujrathi (3.5) lost to D Gukesh (5)

Hikaru Nakamura (4.5) bt Fabiano Caruana (4)

Ian Nepomniachtchi (5) drew with Nijat Abasov (2.5)


Women’s section

Tan Zhongyi (5) lost to Lei Tingjie (5)

Koneru Humpy (3.5) bt R Vaishali (2.5)

Kateryna Lagno (4.5) drew with Aleksandra Goryachkina (5)

Nurgyul Salimova (3.5) drew with Anna Muzychuk (3)

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