Candidates 2024: Praggnanandhaa secures maiden tournament win 

Facing an upbeat Vidit Gujrathi, Praggnanandhaa exhibited confidence in executing a tricky plan and posted his first victory in the FIDE Candidates 2024 in Toronto on Saturday.

Published : Apr 07, 2024 04:54 IST , New Delhi - 3 MINS READ

Praggnanandhaa in action during round three of the Candidates.
Praggnanandhaa in action during round three of the Candidates. | Photo Credit: Maria Emelianova

Praggnanandhaa in action during round three of the Candidates. | Photo Credit: Maria Emelianova

It was just the kind of worthy comeback R. Praggnanandhaa needed 24 hours after D. Gukesh saw through his ambitious and proactive plan.

Facing an upbeat Vidit Gujrathi – the talking point of the chess world for his calculated execution of a stunning plan against second-seed Hikaru Nakamura a day earlier – Praggnanandhaa came up with a surprise opening choice exhibited his confidence in executing a tricky plan and posted his first victory in the FIDE Candidates 2024 in Toronto on Saturday.

If the first round saw all draws and the second produced all decisive verdicts, the third witnessed Praggnanandhaa emerge as the only winner.

Gukesh had his chances against defending champion Ian Nepomniachtchi but failed to cash in. Nakamura and Nijat Asabov went on an exchange spree and played out a rather quick draw to soothe the wounds caused by defeats in the previous round. Top seed Fabiano Caruana saw off a resurgent Alireza Firouzja with a fighting draw.

Praggnanandhaa opted for the sharp but rarely played Schliemann variation of Ruy Lopez to surprise Vidit, known for his wide opening repertoire and deep preparation. Described later by Nakamura as an “insane variation,” this line offers some wild tactical possibilities for both sides. From the black’s side, the position resembles much like the sharp-edged Kings’ Gambit, something far more popular among club-level players than the chess elite.

Vidit, who probably knew a thing or two about this variation thanks to the presence of Surya Shekhar Ganguly in his camp went on with a logical approach but ended up investing far too much time compared to an incredibly well-prepared Praggnanandhaa.


As the game progressed, Praggnanandhaa did eventually castle on the queenside, as planned, but also offered Vidit some chances of rebuilding.

Though Vidit had an extra pawn on the board, Praggnanandhaa’s position was a touch better, with his developed pieces ready to cause the damage. Slowly, Praggnanandhaa improved his position further by establishing a queenside pawn-majority.

Thereafter, the youngster displayed perfect execution of his plan in an endgame that had the queens and the rooks on the board. Praggnanandhaa’s rook pair appeared way too powerful and targeted Vidit’s weak pawns. Eventually, Praggnanandhaa had two extra queenside pawns when his senior rival chose to resign.

This victory also meant Praggnanandhaa’s first victory, like those of Vidit and Gukesh, came with black pieces.

“I wanted to play something interesting after yesterday’s game (against Gukesh). This is a very interesting line where white is probably better if it plays accurately,” pointed out Praggnanandhaa.

He indicated that once Vidit accepted the pawn offer, he had to remember the precise response (of pushing a central pawn), otherwise, he would have been staring at an already lost position.

Match of the day - Praggnanandhaa vs Vidit

Meanwhile, Gukesh appeared well-placed for the better part of the game. He enjoyed some serious advantage going into the middle game, but once the rooks were off the board, Nepomniachtchi could breathe a lot easier.

Gukesh pressed hard with his twin bishops against the Russian’s bishop-knight pair. As the game approached the time-control, it became clear that Nepomniachtchi had solidly seen off the worst phase. He offered a draw, and Gukesh accepted.

Third-round results (Indians unless stated):

Vidit Gujrathi (1.5) lost to R. Praggnanandhaa (1.5) in 45 moves in Ruy Lopez; D. Gukesh (2) drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE, 2) in 40 moves in Catalan; Alireza Firouzja (Fra, 1) drew with Fabiano Caruana (USA, 2) in 38 moves in Sicilian Rossolimo; Nijat Abasov (Aze, 1) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 1) in 29 moves of Slav Defence.

Fourth-round pairings: Nakamura-Praggnanandhaa; Nepomniachtchi-Vidit; Caruana-Gukesh; Abasov-Firouzja.

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