Vidit bounces back with second win against World No. 3

Vidit Gujrathi (Image: Michal Walusza/FIDE)

The Indians continued to create ripples in the Candidates chess competition. Veering between sensational wins and unexpected defeats, Vidit Gujrathi found the former as companion in the ninth round. Hikaru Nakamura became his victim for the second time in the ongoing event. Subjecting the World No. 3 to this treatment at such a high-profile meet will remain a feather in Vidit’s cap.

Other than getting back to 50% score and moving within a point of the leaders, Vidit also showed that the defeat with white against D Gukesh in the previous round had not dented his confidence. Making the most of his white pieces against Nakamura, Vidit was cautious for a long time before his opponent made a mistake. He did not let the chance slip.

Gukesh drew with R Praggnanandhaa with white pieces to stay in joint lead with Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi on 5.5 points. Gukesh appeared to have an advantage at one stage, but Pragg defended with full intensity to deny him an opening. He is sole second on five points. Vidit, Nakamura and World No. 2 Fabiano Caruana are next on 4.5 each.

Nakamura had said before this game that there was no pressure on him after he had recovered from a shaky start to the tournament and that he was willing to take a few risks if need be. His sixth move to g5 prompted live commentators to say that this indeed was indicator of an attacking mindset. For quite some time, Vidit could not make inroads.

But unlike in the game against Gukesh, where his pieces landed mostly in passive positions, Vidit was better organised. Towards the middle-game, he was creating play on the queenside. This made Nakamura look unsure. In a departure from what had been his trend in Toronto, Vidit did not come under pressure from the clock. At times, he was better placed than Nakamura in this regard.


A pawn up and his ‘a’ pawn threatening to pass, Vidit had a significant advantage in the end-game. Lack of time not creating problems, he remained calm, captured another pawn and kept finding the right moves. “What a difference in performance with white in two days,” exclaimed Viswanathan Anand on official commentary. “To come back like this… It shows how strong this tournament is.”

Having lost to Gukesh with white in the second round, Pragg did not take chances and had to concentrate on defence against his opponent’s formidable structure. He had chosen surprise as a weapon earlier in the competition. On Sunday, he was not too keen on those. It was important to get this draw with black and Pragg did not give Gukesh any realistic chance.

“It was an interesting game. Gukesh pressed the way he could, which is without taking a lot of risks,” said Anand. “Pragg defended extremely well. The situation could have exploded any moment, but it did not,” added the five-time former world champion, who maintained almost throughout the game that black’s position was “defensible”.

Vaishali loses again

In the women’s section, things are getting worse for R Vaishali. Pragg’s sister suffered her fourth consecutive defeat, this time with white against China’s Tan Zhongyi. Koneru Humpy played out a draw against Kateryna Lagno of Russia.

Round 9 results
Open section

Vidit Gujrathi (4.5) bt Hikaru Nakamura (4.5)
D Gukesh (5.5) drew with R Praggnanandhaa (5)
Alireza Firouzja (3.5) drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi (5.5)
Nijat Abasov (3) drew with Fabiano Caruana (4)

Women’s section

Lei Tingjie (5.5) drew with Nurgyul Salimova (4)
Koneru Humpy (4) drew with Kateryna Lagno (5)
R Vaishali (2.5) lost to Tan Zhongyi (6)
Anna Muzychuk (3.5) drew with Aleksandra Goryachkina (5.5)

Humpy Koneru vs Kateryna Lagno (Image: Michal Walusza/FIDE)