FIDE Candidates 2024, Round 11: Vidit, Praggnanandhaa lose; Gukesh settles for draw against Caruana to stay second

The day saw all three Indians playing with white pieces, but ended in gloom with Vidit’s agonizing loss after Nakamura’s domination of Praggnanandhaa. Gukesh had a strong position after the opening but could only draw Caruana

Published : Apr 18, 2024 12:36 IST , NEW DELHI - 3 MINS READ

Vidit Gujrathi during his Round 11 match against Ian Nepomniatchtchi.
Vidit Gujrathi during his Round 11 match against Ian Nepomniatchtchi. | Photo Credit: Walusza Fotografia

Vidit Gujrathi during his Round 11 match against Ian Nepomniatchtchi. | Photo Credit: Walusza Fotografia

In the field of sports, it is said that it is easier to reach a winning position than to win from a winning position.

In the FIDE Candidates 2024, Vidit Gujrathi has created more winning opportunities than any player but found it difficult to land the knockout punch. Sadly, even after a series of brilliant displays, he has been left to deal with the despair of not slamming the door shut on some of his rivals.

On Wednesday, Ian Nepomniachtchi became the latest to elude Vidit’s grasp. The Russian made it worse by inflicting a defeat that’s shattering to say the least. At the end of the most visually-emotional encounter of the day, the sight of Vidit standing next to his chair, face covered with both hands, and a lost-in-thought Nepomniachtchi staying back in his chair, served as the lasting image.

ALSO CHECK | Candidates 2024 Points Table after Round 11

Indeed, this fortuitous victory was a reward for Nepomniachtchi’s fortitude. He not only gained a half-point lead over fellow-overnight leader D. Gukesh, who drew with top seed Fabiano Caruana, but also lent strength to his campaign aimed at winning a third successive Candidates title.

Like Vidit, R. Praggnanandhaa too lost from the white side and reignited second seed Hikaru Nakamura’s title hopes. Nakamura joined Gukesh at the second spot.

In the shortest encounter seen in the competition, Alireza Firouzja won the battle of the last-two placed players in just 24 moves after a blunder by Nijat Abasov.

The day, which saw all three Indians playing with bright pieces, ended in gloom for the fans with Vidit’s agonizing loss after Nakamura’s domination of Praggnanandhaa. Gukesh did have a pleasant position after the opening but the eventual draw was not hard to guess.

For Vidit, the best chance was to punish Nepomniachtchi’s erroneous pawn move on the 36th move by not only capturing the it but also triggering off a series of exchanges. Instead, Vidit opted for a defensive alternative and lost his advantage.

Vidit decisively erred on the 60th move when he delivered a knight-check from deep in his own territory instead of a check that could have helped him grab Nepomniachtchi’s kingside pawn. Thereafter, the Russian gave nothing away. His proactive king served a major piece and a ‘queening’ pawn left Vidit with no option but to resign.

Nakamura had it much easier against Praggnanandhaa, who clearly had an off-day. The American surprised the Indian youngster in the opening after which Praggnanandhaa struggled to find the precise continuation. After the early queen trade, Nakamura took complete command once Praggnanandhaa made a poor choice of advancing his king instead of bringing it back to its starting block.

Nakamura tightened his grip further and eventually trapped Praggnanandhaa’s knight. Long after the outcome was apparent, Praggnanandhaa resigned when he had three pawns to Nakamura’s rook, bishop and a pawn.

Gukesh’s position was better against Caruana on this day. He did have a chance to put the rating-favourite under pressure by attacking a queen side pawn but the decision to go for the king side a tad aggressively did not help. Eventually, Caruana forced a draw by perpetual checks.

D. Gukesh (6.5) drew with Fabiano Caruana (USA, 6) in 40 moves in Queen’s Gambit Declined; R. Praggnanandhaa (5.5) lost to Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 6.5) in 54 moves in Queen’s Pawn Game; Vidit Gujrathi (5) lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE, 7) in 67 moves in Petroff Defence; Alireza Firouzja (Fra, 4.5) bt Nijat Abasov (Aze, 3) in 24 moves in Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack.
 Abasov-Gukesh; Nepomniachtchi-Praggnanandhaa; Caruana-Vidit; Nakamura-Firouzja.
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