International Chess Federation
Monday, 15 Apr 2024 02:56
FIDE Candidates: Tan Zhongyi takes sole lead again 

Round nine of the FIDE Candidates brought us two decisive results, one of which put Tan Zhongyi in the sole lead again. 

The ceremonial first moves today were made by Laksshana Deepak, Canadian Junior Chess Champion, for Humpy Koneru, and Aaron Reeve Mendes, current ChessKid Speed Chess Champion, for Alireza Firouzja. They were accompanied by Dana Reizniece-Ozola, Deputy Chair of the FIDE Management Board.

The first game to finish was a quick win by Tan Zhongyi against Vaishali R. Playing with Black, Tan played solidly and “did not expect a chance to come her way” in this game. However, Vaishali misplayed her position after the opening, and by move 16, Black had a big advantage. A blunder by the Indian soon followed (18. c5), and on move 21, the game was over.  

Anna Muzychuk did not manage to get an advantage out of the Ruy Lopez against Aleksandra Goryachkina. By move 26, the players exchanged most of the pieces and entered an equal endgame, but one filled with double-edged play. On move 27 (27. g4), Muzychuk committed to giving up her bishop, but her active rook and three pawns promised solid compensation for the piece. The game ended in a draw. 

“It was difficult, given that I did not have much time to figure it out, and my opponent played very quickly,” shared Goryachkina after the game. “She had enough pawns [for a piece]. Maybe I missed some opportunities to capitalize, but so far, I don’t see it.”

The other two games in the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament were rather anticlimactic. Playing with White against Nurgyul Salimova, Lei Tingjie went for 5. Rg1 in the Philidor Defence, followed by 6. g4 and 7. h4. This ambitious choice promised an interesting fight, but the players steered into an equal endgame fairly early on move 18 and soon found a threefold repetition. 

The game between Humpy Koneru and Kateryna Lagno was a long positional battle without any real chances for either side. Lagno, playing with Black, managed to win a pawn, but Koneru did not have a problem with defending her position in an easily drawn rook endgame. 

The results of round nine mean that in the FIDE Women’s Candidates, Tan Zhongyi is once again the sole leader with 6 points. She’s closely followed by Aleksandra Goryachkina and Lei Tingjie, who are both on 5.5 points. 

In the FIDE Candidates Tournament, the game between Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and Hikaru Nakamura was a showstopper. In the trendy Italian Game, Nakamura chose an ambitious line with an early 6…g5 and reached a fine position out of the opening. 

After the game, Vidit mentioned that the first move he found dubious was 15…Nh5, and remarked that he started to get optimistic from this moment onwards. After the position opened up a few moves later, Nakamura started to miscalculate, made a series of mistakes, and had to resign.

“It’s hard to be unhappy about it, as this is what I was aiming for with the opening choice,” said Nakamura after the game. “Obviously, I did not find the right moves, but my time usage was absolutely horrible. It was a huge reason why I could not find decent ideas, especially around moves 24-25.”

Ian Nepomniachtchi, playing with Black, found himself in a difficult position against Alireza Firouzja but stood his ground and found all of the right defensive ideas. The Frenchman chose the rarely-seen Nimzo-Larsen Attack to take Nepomniachtchi out of his preparation. His approach paid off as by move 20, White had a solid advantage and easy gameplay on the kingside. Nepomniachtchi decided to evacuate his king to the queenside with 23…Kf7, 24…Ke7, and 25…Kd6, hiding behind the long pawn chain.

Firouzja sacrificed an exchange in an attempt to break through, but it was not enough, and the game ended in a draw. 

The Abasov – Caruana and Gukesh – Praggnanandhaa matchups were drawn as well. Both games were very solid and played exceptionally accurately. As a result, Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi continue to be the co-leaders of the FIDE Candidates Tournament with 5.5 points. 

The 10th round of the event will commence on the 15th of April at 14:30 EDT (Toronto).

Standings after Round 9:


1-2. Gukesh, Nepomniachtchi – 5½
3. Praggnanandhaa – 5
4-6. Caruana, Nakamura, Vidit – 4½
7. Firouzja – 3½
8. Abasov – 3


1. Tan – 6
2-3. Goryachkina, Lei  – 5½
4. Lagno – 5
5-6. Koneru, Salimova – 4
7. A. Muzychuk – 3½
8. Vaishali – 2½

Round 10 pairings:


Nakamura – Abasov
Caruana – Firouzja
Nepomniachtchi – Gukesh
Praggnanandhaa – Vidit


Lagno – A. Muzychuk
Goryachkina – Lei
Salimova – Vaishali
Tan – Koneru

Written by WGM Anna Burtasova

Photos: Michal Walusza and Maria Emelianova/

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