Vidit scripts milestone moment for Indian chess at Candidates

Vidit Gujrathi against Hikaru Nakamura
Vidit Gujrathi against Hikaru Nakamura (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

It was 3.45 am IST, Saturday. Not many saw live a massive moment in Indian chess. That was when World No. 3 Hikaru Nakamura threw in the towel in his Candidates chess game against Vidit Gujrathi. Indian men have beaten top players of late, but considering the importance of the tournament and the status of the opponent, this is a contender for the best, after the exploits of Viswanathan Anand.

Doing live commentary in Toronto, Anand acknowledged the effort and praised Vidit’s strategy of following unexpected lines with black pieces, which first surprised the American and then slowly and surely, pushed him to a point of no return. Swivelling gently on his chair with Nakamura at his wits end across the table, Vidit had this ‘I got you’ look on his face well before the end.

D Gukesh snatched an unlikely win against R Praggnanandhaa on a day which saw six decisive games after just one in the first round. All four games in the open section produced results. In the women’s half, R Vaishali lost to China’s Tan Zhongyi. Koneru Humpy drew with Kateryna Lagno. Tan is the sole leader with two points. Vidit, Gukesh, top seed Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi are the joint leaders in the open category with 1.5 points each.

Vidit has been a less-discussed part of the bunch of Indians who have created ripples in world chess of late. When the new generation is spoken about, the focus is mostly on Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi and others. At 30, Vidit is the older one in a pack featuring teenagers and those just out of their teens. This commanding win against a top player confirmed his ability to deliver.

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D Gukesh in action
D Gukesh in action (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

Back-to-back games with black pieces normally means that the players concerned prefer to play it safe. Defying that notion, Vidit has gone for it in both rounds. The player from Nashik stunned Nakamura with an unconventional bait for a bishop sacrifice soon after the early exchanges. The player with Japanese roots didn’t finally take it, but pondered over it for a long time.

The World No. 25 used that time advantage with some innovative moves. The aces up his sleeves left Nakamura exasperated. He shook his head in different directions, scratched it, and took a deep breath, his facial expressions changed, as Vidit watched with a look of stern conviction on his face. He knew he had his man and made sure that all escape routes were shut.

“Hikaru walked into a trap,” said Anand on live commentary on the official website of the International Chess Federation (FIDE). Referring to the innovations Vidit unfurled, he said, “I don’t think he prepared everything, but not all of those are new to him.”

Praggnanandhaa took risks with white pieces and lost two pawns in a manner that suggested it was a plan. He still appeared to be in a dominating position with time advantage. Experts in various platforms were expecting him to pull it off, until he succumbed to pressure in the end after committing errors.

Humpy Koneru against Kateryna Lagno
Humpy Koneru against Kateryna Lagno (PC: FIDE_chess/X)

Second round results

Open section

Hikaru Nakamura lost to Vidit Gujrathi

R Praggnanandhaa lost to D Gukesh

Ian Nepomniachtchi bt Alireza Firouzja

Fabiano Caruana bt Nijat Abasov

Women’s section

Koneru Humpy drew with Kateryna Lagno

Tan Zhongyi bt R Vaishali

Nurgyul Salimova drew with Lei Tingjie

Aleksandra Goryachkina bt Anna Muzychuk

Also Read: Aggro with black sets apart Pragg & Vidit at Candidates

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