Candidates 2024, Round 2: Vidit stuns Nakamura, Gukesh beats Praggnanandhaa

FIDE Candidates 2024: Vidit Gujrathi, D Gukesh, Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi secured wins in round two to kickstart their campaign.

Published : Apr 06, 2024 04:42 IST , NEW DELHI - 3 MINS READ

Vidit Gujrathi and Hikaru Nakamura in action during their Round 2 game.
Vidit Gujrathi and Hikaru Nakamura in action during their Round 2 game. | Photo Credit: Walusza Fotografia

Vidit Gujrathi and Hikaru Nakamura in action during their Round 2 game. | Photo Credit: Walusza Fotografia

Hikaru Nakamura’s expressions said it all. From being surprised by Vidit Gujrathi’s opening preparations to suffering for the rest of their second-round battle in the FIDE Candidates, he found it extremely painful to deal with what hit him. He then chose to end his agony, over the board, by extending his hand and accepting Vidit’s supremacy on this day.

An hour later, R. Praggnanandhaa was left to rue his aggressive approach of sacrificing two pawns early against Chennai-mate D. Gukesh and then could not find the right continuation after a brilliant bishop-sacrifice. He gauged the situation well and shook hands with his conqueror.

After a day of draws, Friday provided decisive results on all four boards, with defending champion Ian Nepomniachtchi getting the better of Alireza Firouzja and top seed Fabiano Caruana defeating lowest-ranked Nijat Abasov.

But the day clearly belonged to Vidit.

“I am quite proud of it (the victory),” declared Vidit during the press conference and thanked his team for finding the ‘novelty’ that foxed Nakamura following the sixth move. But the move that left Nakamura off-balance for the rest of the battle was Vidit’s smart bishop-offer on capturing a pawn that disfigured his rival’s kingside castle.


Nakamura neither captured the bishop nor found the precise continuation. His immediate knight-retreat swung the tide in Vidit’s favour and the Indian went on to consolidate. Soon, Nakamura’s poor choice of a bishop-move on the 18th turn met with Vidit’s brilliant response.

Nakamura, who later revealed to Vidit that he believed the game could still end as a draw, found no respite from the pressure on his king. He did manage to move his king to the queen’s side but by then, Vidit’s queen, rook and knight were all in position to launch the final assault. Faced with the inevitable loss of a rook for a knight, Nakamura resigned.

After Vidit, Gukesh became the second player to win from the black side but not before facing some very tough time against a deeply-prepared Praggnanandhaa. In a game that saw the opening lines of Queen’s Gambit Declined transposed into Catalan - a line that Praggnanandhaa is not known to employ - Gukesh took his time to find the responses.

At one stage - after 18 moves to be precise - Gukesh had only 34 minutes to Praggnanandhaa’s 71 on the clock, to complete 40 moves. But once Gukesh managed to force Praggnanandhaa to find ways to justify the sacrifice of two pawns and the offer of a third, he could use his rival’s thinking time to his advantage. Soon, a series of exchanges followed and Gukesh kept improving his position. Eventually, the extra piece of Gukesh proved too much for Praggnanandhaa and he gave up.

The evenly-fought battle involving Nepomniachtchi and Firouzja turned one-sided once the latter launched a miscalculated kingside offensive by sacrificing his bishop on the29th move. Firouzja, repeatedly rated very high by World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen, could have captured a knight immediately but his choice to go for the rival king soon backfired. Nepomniachtchi brought his king safely to the centre of the board and an exasperated Firouzja accepted defeat.

Caruana, after a quiet start in the first round, asserted his supremacy to post the most expected victory over Abasov. Until the 32nd move, Abasov was up to the challenge but serious errors of judgement on two successive moves resulted in a quick end to the proceedings.

Second-round results (Indians unless stated)
Open category
R. Praggnanandhaa (0.5) lost to D. Gukesh (1.5) in 33 moves of Queen’s Gambit Declined; Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 0.5) lost to Vidit Gujrathi (1.5) in 29 moves of Ruy Lopez Berlin; Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE, 1.5) bt Alireza Firouzja (Fra, 0.5) in 45 moves of Ruy Lopez Berlin; Fabiano Caruana (USA, 1.5) bt Nijat Abasov (Aze, 0.5) in 37 moves of Sicilian Rossolimo.
Third-round pairings: Vidit-Praggnanandhaa; Gukesh-Nepomniachtchi; Firouzja-Caruana; Abasov-Nakamura.

Match of the round - Vidit Gujrathi vs Hikaru Nakamura

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