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FIDE Candidates Round 11: Nepomniachtchi shoots into sole lead, Gukesh follows half point behind

Praggnanandhaa overstretched against Hikaru Nakura to end on the losing side. Vaishali, after a disastrous first half, did well to defeat the highest rated player in the fray, Goryachkina, the hot favourite to win the event.
Last Updated : 18 April 2024, 06:56 IST
Last Updated : 18 April 2024, 06:56 IST

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In a dramatic 11th round of the FIDE Candidates Chess tournament Ian Nepmniachtchi gunning for a hat-trick of Candidates titles defeated Vidit Santosh Gujrathi to take charge of sole leader status with 7 points. Gukesh who was jointly leading with him had to settle for a draw against top seed Fabiano Caruana while Praggnanandhaa overstretched against Hikaru Nakura to end on the losing side.

Gukesh and Nakamura now follow just half a point behind Nepomniachtchi and Caruan is next with 6 points. Pragg has tallied 5.5 points while Vidit has 5 points in his kitty.

After performing incredibly in the event so far, all the three Indians appeared under pressure form the opening stages, consuming plenty of time and getting into time scramble during the first time control of stipulated 40 moves.

Pragg was overambitious, Vidit had equalizing and even winning possibilities but was outplayed in a highly complex and volatile middle-game. Gukesh kept the game in calm waters despite an edge and in the end it was a relieved Caruana who forced the draw. With just three more rounds to go, the event is still wide open with strong chances for Nepomniachtchi, Gukesh and Nakamura.

In the Women’s section both Koneru Humpy and Vaishali R carved out impressive victories against Nurgyul Salimova and Alexandra Goryachkina respectively. Vaishali, after a disastrous first half, did well to defeat the highest rated player in the fray, Goryachkina, the hot favourite to win the event.

In the third decisive game of the day Tan Zhongyi defeated Kateryna Lagno to once again take charge of sole lead with 7.5 points. Lei Tingjie is trailing half a point behind while Humpy, Lagno and Alexendra Goryachkina are bunched together next with 5.5 points each.

Nepomniachtchi adopted the Petroff against Vidit and the Indian made his intentions to go for the kill clear when he kept his King in the centre and launched an offensive on the King-side. The dynamic fluid middle-game had both players making some inaccurate moves. On the 37th turn Vidit missed a promising continuation and a blunder on the 60th turn with a wrong knight check had Nepomniachtchi completing the winning formalities on the 67th turn.

At 17 years, the youngest player in the tournament, Gukesh appeared better in a Queen’s Gambit Declined opening against Caruana with the White pieces but could not find the path to victory and Caruana forced a draw by perpetual checks on the 40th turn. Later Caruana commented “ I had a slightly worse position throughout the game, so I cannot really be upset with the draw . It's not a bad result”.

Pragg played the Queen pawn opening where the queens were the first pieces to be exchanged. In the middlegame Pragg had easy equalizing chances. Later reflecting on his decision to try and force a win Pragg explained “At this point I thought that I should press for a win but that was a mistake”. Praggs knight got trapped after venturing deep into enemy territory and he ended on the losing side after 54 moves.

Tomorrow, in the 12th round, Nepomniachtchi will take on Pragg, Gukesh takes on Nijat Abasov with the Black pieces, Vidit is pitted against Caruana and Nakamura plays Alireza. In the Women’s section Humpy plays against Goryachkina and Vaishali plays Muzychuk.

RESULTS of Round 11

R Praggnanandhaa (5.5) lost to Hikaru Nakamura (6.5);

Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (5) lost to Nepomniachtchi (7)

D Gukesh (6.5) drew Fabiano Caruana (6);

Alireza Firouzja (4.5) bt Nijat Abasov (3)

Women’s Section

Tan Zhongyi (7.5) bt Kateryna Lagno (5.5);

Konerun Humpy (5.5) bt Nurgyul Salimova (4);

R Vaishali (4.5) bt Alexandra Goryachkina (5.5);

Lei Tingjie (7) drew Anna Muzychuk (4.5)

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Published 18 April 2024, 06:56 IST

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