FIDE Candidates 2024: Gukesh becomes youngest Candidates champion, to challenge Ding Liren for World title

Following title, Gukesh gained 20 rating points to become a career-best World No. 6 with a revised rating of 2763

Published : Apr 22, 2024 10:42 IST , NEW DELHI - 4 MINS READ

Gukesh looks over the board during the last round of Candidates 2024 tournament.
Gukesh looks over the board during the last round of Candidates 2024 tournament. | Photo Credit: Maria Emilia

Gukesh looks over the board during the last round of Candidates 2024 tournament. | Photo Credit: Maria Emilia

Seldom does one witness two draws on the chess board which leave three players feeling like losers.

For the fourth player, 17-year-old D. Gukesh, the outcome was bigger than the biggest wins of his young career. The draw against World No. 3 Hikaru Nakamura proved enough to make Gukesh the FIDE Candidates 2024 champion and the challenger to the reigning World champion Ding Liren later this year.

The last-round victory for R. Praggnanandhaa at the expense of Nijat Asabov and Vidit Gujrathi’s quick draw with Alireza Firouzja were pushed to the background after the 109-move draw involving World No. 2 Fabiano Caruana and the new World No. 4 Ian Nepomniachtchi, confirmed Gukesh as the champion.

ALSO READ | Social media reacts as Gukesh win Candidates 2024

For the record, sixth-seeded debutant Gukesh tallied nine points from 14 rounds and finished half-a-point ahead of Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi and Caruana. In the last three editions of the Candidates, Caruana won in 2018 before Nepomniachtchi emerged the strongest in 2020 and 2022.

The biggest title of Gukesh’s career was worth €111,000 (approximately Rs. 98,68,525), consisting of €48,000 as the first prize and an additional €63,000 for scoring nine points. As per the tournament regulations, every half-point made the players richer by €3,500.

In this eight-man double-round robin format, Gukesh drew his games against Nepomniachtchi, Caruana and Nakamura. With Praggnanandhaa and Vidit, Gukesh posted a 1.5-0.5 scoreline. he won and lost a game each to Firouzja and defeated Abasov twice.

Following the performance, Gukesh gained 20 rating points to become a career-best World No. 6 with a revised rating of 2763. In the process, he overtook the eighth-placed compatriot Arjun Erigaisi (2761) and became the highest ranked Indian in the world.

On the final day, the drama lasted close to six hours before the dust settled.

Up against a resurgent Nakamura with white pieces, Gukesh produced an impressive display. Looking for a win to keep alive his chances of becoming the challenger, Nakamura tried his best but Gukesh was equal to the challenge. Eventually, the draw was agreed with only the kings on the board.

ALSO CHECK | D. Gukesh vs Hikaru Nakamura Round 14 FIDE Candidates 2024

There was far more drama on board involving the other two contenders, Caruana and Nepomniachtchi. Once it became clear that Gukesh was giving nothing away to Nakamura and a draw appeared inevitable, Caruana slowly enlarged his advantage and inched closer to victory.

For the better part of this game, Caruana looked like winning and joining Gukesh in the tie-break games on Monday.

But close to the four-hour mark, Caruana came under time-pressure and his hurried moves allowed Nepomniachtchi to hold the position. The Russian sacrificed his rook for a potentially dangerous pawn and a bishop to breathe a bit easy.

However, Nepomniachtchi offered another opportunity. Caruana once again held the upper hand but poor time management saw him miss the precise continuation in a tricky position. In a desperate bid to avoid draw by perpetual checks, Caruana returned the rook for a knight and tried to cash in on the extra pawn after the queens returned to the board. But the position was easy to hold for Nepomniachtchi and the players, needing no reminder that a draw would not help their chances of forcing the tie-break games, eventually signed peace.

Praggnanandhaa finished on a winning note by beating Abasov. Playing black, Praggnanandhaa gained control around the 15th move and slowly improved his position. A series of exchanges took place before Praggnanandhaa’s fine rook play in Abasov’s territory delivered the decisive blow.

Vidit, playing black, took 152 seconds to Alireza Firouzja’s 32 seconds in their 14-move draw by repetition of moves. The shortest draw of the competition and the manner in which it came about clearly showed the players were in no mood to spend their time over the board after being firmly pushed out of contention for the title.

Hikaru Nakamura (USA) drew with D. Gukesh in 71 moves in Queen’s Gambit Declined; Nijat Abasov (Aze) lost to R. Praggnanandhaa in 52 moves in King’s Indian Fianchetto; Alireza Firouzja (Fra) drew with Vidit Gujarathi in 14 moves in Ruy Lopez Berlin; Fabiano Caruana (USA) drew with Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE) in 109 moves in Queen’s Gambit Declined Exchange variation.
1. Gukesh (9 points), 2. Nakamura (8.5 points), 3. Nepomniachtchi (8.5 points), 4. Caruana (8.5 points), 5. Praggnanandhaa (7 points), 6. Vidit (6 point), 7. Firouzja (5 points), 8. Abasov (3.5 points).
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