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Gukesh beats Firouzja to take sole lead, Nepo-Nakamura draws, Caruana beats Pragg

Vaseline 4 weeks ago

NAGPUR: Gukesh D is turning out to be the surprise package of the Candidates Chess tournament in Toronto.

In a dramatic 13th and penultimate round, the 17-year-old and youngest Indian prospect defeated French No. 1 Alireza FirouzJa to take the sole lead with 8.5 points, while second-seeded American GM Hikaru Nakamura drew with two-time challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi on Saturday. In another exciting match, top seed Fabiano Caruana defeated R Praggnanandhaa to join Nepo and Nakamura in joint second position with 8 points.

With Gukesh scoring a full point and Nakamura-Nepo sharing the honors, the three-way tie at the top has been broken and a new sole leader has emerged among the Candidates for the first time in six years.

Since Caruana joined his American compatriot Nakamura and Russia’s Nepo in second place, half a point behind Indian prodigy Gukesh, the battle for the sole challenger spot between a prince and three elite kings will be an intense affair that will conclude on Sunday round starts. . Gukesh is now just a win away from emerging as the youngest challenger.

In the final round, the four best candidates face each other. While Nakamura will take on Gukesh, Caruana will take on Nepo in the 14th and final round.

In the dramatic 13th round, Gukesh put his opening advantage with the white pieces to good use to defeat Firouzja in a lengthy match that lasted 63 moves. Gukesh started with the king’s pawn move, Firouzja opted for the Berlin defense in Ruy Lopez.

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Despite being in an unfavorable position from the opening, Gukesh continued to play fearlessly. After a complex middle game, Gukesh leveled the score and came up with creative play to achieve a favorable endgame. Gukesh took full advantage of a mistake by Firouzja when the Iranian-born French GM traded his queens in the 46th move and took control of the proceedings. And with Firouzja’s dismissal in the 63rd move, Gukesh collected a full point to take the lead.

In a marathon match played over 89 moves, world number 2 Caruana defended well with his black pieces and outplayed 18-year-old Pragg in a game of Sicilian defense with Rossolimo Variation to take the full point. With this win, Caruana joined Nepo and Nakamura in second position.

International Chess Federation (FIDE) CEO Emil Sutovsky shared his thoughts on X after the exciting penultimate round. Sutovsky said: “What a drama. For the first time in the history of FIDE candidates, four players can win if they go to the final round. Moreover, they face each other. A draw may suit Gukesh, but not others.”