Candidates 2024, Round 8: Gukesh vanquishes Vidit, regains lead; Praggnanandhaa draws with Firouzja

Candidates 2024, Round 8: India’s D. Gukesh beat compatriot Vidit Gujrathi with black pieces.

Published : Apr 14, 2024 03:50 IST , New Delhi - 4 MINS READ

India’s D. Gukesh and Vidit Gujrathi in action during the eighth round of Candidates 2024.
India’s D. Gukesh and Vidit Gujrathi in action during the eighth round of Candidates 2024. | Photo Credit: FIDE/Michał Walusza

India’s D. Gukesh and Vidit Gujrathi in action during the eighth round of Candidates 2024. | Photo Credit: FIDE/Michał Walusza

In the space of just under 48 hours, D. Gukesh lifted himself from the depths of despair to experience pure exhilaration.

Distraught after letting Alireza Firouzja elude his grasp and inflict a painful defeat on Thursday, Gukesh returned after a day’s rest in the FIDE Candidates 2024 to score an impressive victory over Vidit Gujrathi.

This timely triumph in Toronto not only saw the youngster temporarily become the sole leader but also brought Gukesh the added satisfaction of beating R. Praggnanandhaa and Vidit, that too, with black pieces.

The eighth round saw three results within minutes around the four-hour mark.

Before R. Praggnanandhaa and Firouzja listlessly dished out the last few moves to reach the stipulated 40-move mark before the Indian could make a draw offer to bring a logical end to an evenly-fought battle, second seed Hikaru Nakamura brought his campaign on track by nailing Fabiano Caruana. The top seed blundered by overlooking a tactical shot, leading to an imminent loss.


Later, in a drawn game where the players made almost 99 per cent accurate moves, Nepomniachtchi appeared disappointed with the impending result against the lowest-rated Nijat Abasov, even before the last few moves were made.

Ahead of the Vidit-Gukesh clash, their time management was a point of discussion. So far in the competition, both players were seen taking too much time for the first 20-25 moves before almost blitzing out to just about 40 moves in the stipulated two hours.

On this day, Vidit once again felt the pressure from the clock. He burnt 27 minutes on Move 10 and faltered on the 19th to leave Gukesh much better placed.

As it turned out, Gukesh gained early control after Vidit allowed him to monopolise the queen-rook file. With his pieces in a bind, Vidit sacrificed a pawn to let one of his knights come into play, but that did not help his cause.

Following a locked centre, Gukesh mounted a well-calculated offensive from the queenside. Soon evicted the white king by planting his queen and rook on the last rank.

Staring at defeat, Vidit could have resigned at once but gamely continued until Gukesh came within a move of delivering an impressive checkmate.

Besides the flawless execution from Gukesh that saw him find 96.4 per cent top-choice moves against Vidit’s 81.4 accuracy, it was the timing of this victory that made it so memorable.

Having played with black pieces on either side of the rest day, Gukesh now prepares to play white against Praggnanandhaa. It may be recalled that Gukesh proved superior to Praggnanandhaa in the second round. Since then, Praggnanandhaa, too, has been truly impressive.


Around the time Vidit accepted defeat, unlike the Indian, Caruana resigned without letting Nakamura execute his impressive winning plan.

The end to Nakamura’s third consecutive victory over Caruana with white pieces came rather suddenly. After Nakamura developed his pieces well in contrast to Caruana whose rook, bishop and knight were stranded on the back-rank alongside the castled king, a one-move blunder brought a quick finish.

With Nakamura relentlessly mounting pressure, Caruana overlooked the decisive tactics of his rival. He stared at the disastrous option of losing his queen for a knight or worse, getting checkmated in one move. Caruana resigned immediately.

The result saw Nakamura overtake Caruana in the standings and join Praggnanandhaa in third place.

In the last game to finish, Abasov did Gukesh a favour by holding Nepomniachtchi to a draw for the second time, his first with black pieces in the competition. Though the position was equal throughout, Abasov raised his level to match his fancied rival move for move and did not yield any ground. The consistency with which Abasov found the precise response left Nepomniachtchi visibly exasperated.

Eighth-round results (Indians unless stated): Vidit Gujrathi (3.5) lost to D. Gukesh (5) in 38 moves in Two Knights Defence; R. Praggnanandhaa (4.5) drew with Alireza Firouzja (Fra, 3) in 40 moves in Sicilian Paulsen; Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 4.5) bt Fabiano Caruana (USA, 4) in 35 moves in Ruy Lopez Anderssen; Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE, 5) drew with Nijat Abasov (Aze, 2) in 63 moves in Petroff’s Defence.

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

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