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Gritty Gukesh takes joint lead

The 17-year-old Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi have tallied five points apiece after the latter was held to a draw by the last seed Nijat Abasov. Incidentally, Nepomniachtchi has drawn both his encounters against Abasov.
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 13:22 IST
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 13:22 IST

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Gukesh Dommaraju showed incredible mental strength and spirit to defeat fellow countryman Vidit Santosh Gujrathi in the eighth round of the FIDE Candidates 2024, and once again joined two-time challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi at the top of the standings table.

The 17-year-old Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi have tallied five points apiece after the latter was held to a draw by the last seed Nijat Abasov. Incidentally, Nepomniachtchi has drawn both his encounters against Abasov.

In another sensational result, Hikaru Nakamura, the second-highest rated player in the fray outwitted top seed Fabiano Caruana while R Praggnanandhaa eked out a draw against Alireza Firouzja.

Pragg and Nakamura are within striking distance of the leaders, a mere half point separating them.

Six more rounds remain of this elite eight player double round robin event to select the Challenger for reigning World Champion Ding Liren of China.

In the women’s section, Lei Tingjie scored over fellow compatriot Tan Zhongyi and now joins her at the top of the standings along with Alexandra Goryachkina, all three having aggregated five points.

Koneru Humpy managed to score that elusive victory against compatriot R Vaishali while the other two encounters ended in draws.

Losing in an advantageous position just before a rest day is often considered a psychological blow as it doesn’t allow the player to be in a good mental frame, but Gukesh after losing against Alireza in the seventh round exhibited strong mental resolve after a day’s rest to bounce back with a superb game in a Bishop’s Opening against Vidit.

Vidit, wielding White, decided to focus on the queenside by pushing his pawns and opening the crucial rook file, a decision that backfired. Gukesh operated through the open file to infiltrate with his rook and here Vidits defence started crumbing with some inaccurate moves. On the 32nd turn Gukesh’s queen also joined the rook on the 8th rank and along with his double knights trapped Vidit’s King in a checkmating net on the 38th turn.

Fabiano, playing with Black pieces, against Nakamura was a tad too defensive and allowed his fellow compatriot to gain a positional edge. A knight retreat on the 28th turn followed by another queen retreat on the next turn by Caruana had Nakamura unleashing a strong King-side attack. A blunder on the 33rd turn and Nakamura wasted no time in setting up a checkmating net leading to victory after 35 moves.

Pragg preferred to play solidly without taking risk against Alireza in a Sicilian game and peace was signed after 40 moves with each having a knight and four pawns.

The Petroff encounter between Nepomniachtchi and Abasov did not have many interesting moments as the pieces kept flying off the board at regular intervals with draw sealed on the 63rd turn with each having a rook and same-colour bishop.

In a Queen’s bishop opening, Zhongyi went all out for a King-side attack but it backfired and it was Tingjie’s Queen, rook and knight managed a successful king hunt to pocket a point after 51 moves.

Results (Round 8): Men: Hikaru Nakamura (4.5) bt Fabiano Caruana (4); Ian Nepomniachtchi (5) drew Nijat Abasov (2); Praggnanandhaa (4.5) drew Alireza Ferouzja (3); Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (3.5) lt to D Gukesh (5). 

Women: Kateryna Lagno (4.5) drew Aleksandra Goryachkina (5); Nurgyul Salimova (3.5) drew Anna Muzychuk (3); Tan Zhongyi (5) lt to Lei Tingjie (5); Koneru Humpy (3.5) bt Vaishali R (2.5). 

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Published 14 April 2024, 13:22 IST

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