Share of the pie for Indians on day of draws at Candidates Chess

Praggnanandhaa and Alireza Firouzja
Praggnanandhaa and Alireza Firouzja (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

Seven of the eight games in the first round of the Candidates chess tournament ended in draws in Toronto on Thursday. All five Indians in the fray — Vidit Gujrathi, R Praggnandhaa, D Gukesh, Koneru Humpy, R Vaishali — started their campaigns by sharing the point in their respective games. The lone win of the day was scored by Tan Zhongyi against Lei Tingjie in an all-China contest in the women’s section.

Of the Indians in fray in the open section, Vidit Gujrathi was probably in the best position to post a win. Playing against Gukesh with black pieces, the player from Nashik came up with some innovative moves and threatened to force openings where there seemed none. But he took over an hour to think about the 34th move of the match. On chess platforms, that delay was held as decisive.

The youngest of the Indian participants at 18, Gukesh kept his position safe enough and didn’t allow Vidit the openings he was looking for. He was solid in defence and played accordingly, once he realised that holding fort was the need of the hour on his first day at the grand event held at The Great Hall. The draw was agreed upon after 42 moves.

Of the Indian trio in the open section, Pragg has the best chance of doing something creditable in this edition of the Candidates, said World No 1 Magnus Carlsen in an interview with He didn’t speak highly about the prospects of Vidit and Gukesh, whom he had beaten in the quarter-finals at last year’s Chess World Cup, which heralded the arrival of the young Indian chess brigade.

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R Vaishali and Humpy Koneru
R Vaishali and Humpy Koneru (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

Pragg created his moments with black against France’s Alireza Firouzja. His characteristic traits like always remaining positive and fighting out of tough corners with some surprising play were visible in this game. The 19-year-old forced his opponent, aged 20, in long periods of thinking despite being under pressure himself at times, but failed to break through in the 77-move stalemate.

Koneru Humpy and R. Vaishali were engaged in a long battle, where the former, at times, appeared to have held an edge with the black pieces. It was a slow game compared to some others, as the players took time to understand the situation and mobilise their pieces. Proceedings became livelier towards the end, where Vaishali did well to come out of time pressure.

Vaishali is the second Indian woman ever to qualify for the Candidates after Humpy. The battle of two generations was one of attrition, where neither could reach any real position of strength. The endgame sans queens and rooks, where the players had a bishop and knight each other six pawns, was exciting, before truce was signed after 82 moves.

The anticipated duel between tournament favourite Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura ended in a draw after 82 moves. Nakamura played with black pieces. A creditable draw with the whites was secured by Nijat Abasov, against Ian Nepomniachtchi, who is way above him on rating points.

D Gukesh
D Gukesh (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

Round 1 results

Open section

Gukesh drew with Vidit Gujrathi

Alireza Firouzja (Fra) drew with R. Praggnanandhaa

Fabiano Caruana (USA) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA)

Nijat Abasov (Aze) drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE)

Women’s section

Vaishali drew with Koneru Humpy

Aleksandra Goryachkina (FIDE) drew with Kateryna Lagno (FIDE)

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

Anna Muzychuk (Ukr) drew with Nurgyul Salimova (Bul)

Also Read: FIDE Candidates 2024: Know your Indian players 

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