Candidates Chess: Gukesh loses to Alireza; Praggnanandhaa holds Caruana

Toronto, Apr 12 (PTI) Grandmaster D Gukesh slipped from the joint top spot after suffering his first defeat, at the hands of Frenchman Firouza Alireza, but teen prodigy R Praggnanandhaa played out an easy draw with American Fabiano Caruana in the seventh round of the Candidates chess tournament here.

Following the loss, the 17-year-old Gukesh was down to the joint second spot on four points along with Caruana and Praggnanandhaa.

Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi regained his slender half-point lead inching to 4.5 points out of a possible seven at the half-way stage following a draw with American Hikaru Nakamura.

After a draw with Nijat Abasov, Vidit Gujrathi took his tally to 3.5 points to share the fifth spot with Nakamura while Alireza pulled himself up a little on 2.5 points to take the seventh spot. Abasov with two points is still in the last place.

In the women’s section, R Vaishali seemed to have run out of steam as she suffered her third loss in the event. Tingjie Lei of China proved too good for the Indian on a day when the other three games ended in draws.

Zhongyi Tan of China remained half a point ahead of the pack after drawing with closest rival Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia.

Kateryna Lagno, Russia, played out a draw with Nurgyul Salimova of Bulgaria and in the other game of the day, Anna Muzychuk signed peace with India’s Koneru Humpy.

The Indian challenge in the women’s section might already have ended as Zhongyi stood firmly ahead on five points while Goryachkina had 4.5 points in her kitty.

Lagno and Lei shared the third spot on four points each and Salimova, on three, was occupying the sole fifth position.

Humpy, Vaishali and Muzychuk need a miracle in the second half of the event to make a comeback as the trio has just 2.5 points.

Alireza was a bit lucky to beat Gukesh out of a London system.

It was one of those days for Gukesh when things did not go as planned and even though the Indian enjoyed a good position in the middle game, going for unwarranted complications proved costly.

Gukesh ended up losing a piece but his position would still have been holdable despite the material deficit. However, as things unfolded, Alireza won this race with some timely checkmate threats.

Praggnanandhaa employed the French defense and it was already a surprise for Caruana who went for the advance variation.

The 18-year-old Indian did not have much trouble in maintaining the balance in the ensuing middle game as the players reached an equal endgame with no chance of a breakthrough. The draw was agreed to after 41 moves.

Vidit Gujrathi came close against Abasov. The Berlin defense has been the go-to opening for the Nasik-based player and this time too, it gave him a good position after Abasov misplayed in the middle game.

However, as it turned out, the Azerbaijani defended quite well in the latter part of the game and split the point.

Ian Nepomniachtchi went for a very complicated Petroff defense as black against Nakamura and the American looked in control after gobbling up material on the queen side.

With an exchange and a pawn plus, Nakamura put up stiff defense against his vulnerable king but Nepomniachtchi won the queen eventually for three pieces to force a draw.

Tingjie won in style against Vaishali, who did not have many answers against a king side attack out of an Italian opening.

The Indian got a balanced middle game but the position started to drift in the Chinese favour in the middle game ultimately allowing a Knight sacrifice. The game lasted 36 moves.

Humpy faced the Ruy Lopez as black against Muzychuk. The trade of queens and many pawns later, the players arrived at a theoretically drawn rook and pawns endgame where peace was signed after 40 moves.

The players will get their second rest day of the event on Friday. There are seven rounds still to be played in the double round robin event that will decide the next challengers for the world championships.

Results round 7 (Indians unless specified): =========================== Firouza Alireza (Fra, 2.5) beat D Gukesh (4); Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 3.5) drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi (Fid, 4.5); Nijat Abasov (Aze, 2) drew with Vidit Gujrathi (3.5) Fabiano Caruana (Usa, 4) drew with R Praggnanandhaa (4).

Women: Tingjei Lei (Chn, 4) beat R Vaishali (2.5); Anna Muzychuk (Ukr, 2.5) drew with K Humpy (2.5); Aleksandra Goryachkina (Fid, 4.5) drew with Zhogyi Tan (Chn, 5); Kateryna Lagno (Fid, 4) drew with Nurgyul Salimova (Bul, 3).

Source: PTI News


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