The Calm Before the Storm - FIDE Candidates Round 13

"VAN" (Sports Desk - 21.04.2024) :: Nothing is clear in the FIDE Candidates! The penultimate round saw some important results but everything will be decided in the final round. Gukesh is in the clear lead after defeating Firouzja, with Caruana, Nakamura, and Nepomniachtchi trailing by half a point. In the last round, it’s Nakamura vs Gukesh and Caruana vs Nepomniachtchi: it will be one of the most exciting final rounds of the Candidates ever.

Mack Hollins, wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL), made the first ceremonial move for Ian Nepomniachtchi in Round 13. The game between Nepomniachtchi and Hikaru Nakamura finished in an uneventful draw, postponing the climax to the last round.

Gukesh D started somewhat slow against Alireza Firouzja and did not gain an advantage from the opening in the Ruy Lopez as White. However, as the game progressed, Firouzja opened up his position, providing White with chances to play on. “After he played 17…Re8 I felt that the position is getting a bit messy,” commented Gukesh. “After 22. Bb3, I think he got overoptimistic and started pushing for more. Although my pieces looked passive, strategically, if I consolidate, I will be better.” This is exactly what happened in the game. “I was quite happy to see 27…f5 because I wanted to win and I thought this move will give some chances.” This is when Gukesh started to slowly outplay his opponent and obtained a promising position after the 40-move time control. A serious mistake on move 45 (45…Qg6) allowed White to trade queens and enter the technically winning endgame, which Gukesh converted without difficulties.

Fabiano Caruana won an excruciating 89-move game against Praggnanandhaa R while playing Black. White committed a serious mistake on move 15 (15. Qh3), which allowed Caruana to advance his kingside pawns with tempo and secure a solid advantage. He won an exchange, but for a time, it appeared that White had managed to establish a fortress and maintain the position. However, from a practical standpoint, it was challenging to defend, as Praggnanandhaa acknowledged post-game, because White always had to anticipate potential queenside breakthroughs. Caruana exercised patience and gradually improved his position, eventually opting for the 54…b5 break, which conferred a clear advantage. Nonetheless, he mishandled the situation, and White gained reasonable drawing chances. It was then Praggnanandhaa’ s turn to err. Instead of pursuing active play with 67. g5 or 67. Ra1, Pragg chose the passive 67. c3 and 68. Ba1, which ultimately led to a losing position.

This crucial victory places Caruana on equal footing with Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi, with all three half a point (8) behind the leader, Gukesh (8.5).

Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and Nijat Abasov made a draw, a game that has no influence on the outcome of the tournament.

Every chess fan will be glued to the screens during Round 14 of the FIDE Candidates. All the contenders for first face one another and three of them are in a must-win situation. Nakamura is White against Gukesh and has to push for a win. Caruana is White against Nepomniachtchi and both of them will be playing for a win too as this is the only chance to catch up or overcome Gukesh.

“It’s like some sort of a movie,” remarked Fabiano Caruana about this exciting finale.

“I will try to play some decent chess. If I manage, then it’s already not bad,” was Nepomniachtchi’s comment. “I am Black so I am a but short on options. But Fabiano will only need a win so it will be an interesting game.”

“I guess I’ll go with the same strategy and try to play a good game tomorrow,” said Gukesh.

Who will emerge as the last man standing, and will we witness a tiebreak for first place? Should one or more players tie for the top spot, the champion will be determined in a rapid tie-break on April 23.

In Round 13 of the Women’s Candidates, the sole decisive match resulted in Vaishali R securing her fourth consecutive victory, this time defeating Lei Tingjie. Consequently, Tan Zhongyi, who settled for a brief 29-move draw against Aleksandra Goryachkina, now leads Lei by a full point. With 8.5 points to Lei’s 7.5, Tan Zhongyi will face Anna Muzychuk with White in Round 14, where a draw will be sufficient for her to clinch the Challenger title.

Kateryna Lagno was on the verge of victory against Nurgyul Salimova but failed to execute the most potent continuations, ultimately agreeing to a draw. This tournament has been a series of missed chances for Lagno. Nevertheless, she remains in contention for third place (and theoretically even second), alongside Goryachkina, Vaishali, and Humpy Koneru, who drew with Anna Muzychuk.

The 14th and final round of the Candidates Tournament will commence on the 21th of April at 14:30 EDT (Toronto).


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