Having watched his younger compatriots hog the spotlight so far in the FIDE World Cup, Vidit Gujrathi found a spectacular way of hitting global headlines.
Starting as an underdog against two-time World championship finalist and fourth seeded Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, Vidit pulled off a stunning 4-2 triumph to grab the last quarterfinal slot and kept company of teammates D. Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi and R. Praggnanandhaa in Baku, Azerbaijan.
After Vidit twin-wins over the strongest Russian in the Open category, D. Harika fell to the strongest Russian in the women’s section. Second seeded Russian Aleksandra Goryachkina stopped Harika 4.5-3.5 by winning the penultimate five-minute blitz game after the last Indian challenger fought back to make it 2-2.
Vidit, after holding Nepomniachtchi in the two-game mini-match in classical time-control over the past two days, proved equal in the two 25-minute rapid games, in 52 and 45 moves, before scripting an absolutely stunning climax.
In the first 10-minute game, the 20th seeded Indian trailed the Russian on the clock. He was down to under two minutes against his rival who had more than seven minutes, but found the defensive moves accurately. On the 37th move, Nepomniachtchi erred and Vidit, despite all the pressure, saw his chance and seized it.
For the remainder of this 60-move thriller, Vidit consistently found the right continuation. He managed to promote his queen-rook pawn to the seventh rank, supported it with a rook, and soon left the Russian feeling increasingly helpless by decisively getting his king into play. With his rook tied down behind Vidit’s advanced pawn and king almost out of play, Nepomniachtchi resigned. Interestingly, when the game ended, Vidit had only 49 seconds to Nepomniachtchi’s 5.01 minutes.
Back on the board to avenge the loss with black pieces, Nepomniachtchi gambled with the Dutch Defence but an alert Vidit gave nothing away. The 28-year-old Vidit displayed fine temperament and played proactively and for not the much-needed draw.
Nepomniachtchi did try to complicate matters but Vidit kept improving his position and gained a rook for a knight. Soon, down a rook and staring at defeat, Nepomniachtchi resigned after 52 moves.
The quarterfinal line-up: 8-D. Gukesh (2744) v 1-Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 2835); 20-Vidit Gujrathi (2719) v 69-Nijat Abasov (Aze, 2632); 3-Fabiano Caruana (USA, 2782) v 11-Leinier Dominguez Perez (USA, 2739); 23-Arjun Erigaisi (2690) v 31-R. Praggnanandhaa (2690).
The results (involving Indians, prefix denotes seeding):
Open (pre-quarterfinal): 20-Vidit Gujrathi (2719) bt 4-Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE, 2779) 4-2.
Women (quarterfinal): 2-Aleksandra Goryachkina (FIDE, 2557) bt 10-D. Harika (2500) 4.5-3.5.
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