D. Gukesh underlined his presence among the chess elite by finishing an incredible third in the 10-player Norway Chess after proving equal to World No. 8 Wesley So in their classical ninth-round encounter in Stavanger in Norway, on Friday.
Though the draw was enough to seal Gukesh’s place among the top-three finishers, the 17-year-old went on to hold So with black pieces in the Armageddon to sign off with an extra half-point for a tally of 14.5 points.
Soon thereafter, the title race saw a dramatic twist with Hikaru Nakamura beating US teammate Fabiano Caruana in the classical game to snatch the title.
Caruana, who never trailed in the competition, needed only a draw to emerge champion. But Nakamura cracked Caruana’s defence and the resultant triumph - worth three points – raised his tally to 16.5 points for a half-point winning margin.
For the record, Nakamura collected 750,000 Norwegian Krone (NOK) which works out to about $68,732, Caruana NOK 400,000 ($37,190) and Gukesh, NOK 250,000 ($23,244).
In addition, Nakamura regained his World No. 2 spot with a live rating of 2787 after gaining 12 points from his victorious campaign.
World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen finished sixth in an event that saw him go winless in the classical time-format for the first time since 2007. That also resulted in the home favourite losing 18 rating points for a live rating of 2834.
But the talking point of this premier event was Gukesh’s debut performance in an event that attracted six players from the world’s top-10, including the top-three.
The youngster scored over Alireza Firouzja and Aryan Tari in the classical games and lost only to Nakamura after running into trouble under time-pressure. Significantly, Gukesh stayed undefeated in five of the six Armageddon games, a fact admired by his idol and five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand.
The consistent performance from the youngest player in the field also raised his live world ranking to 13 with a rating of 2744. Gukesh is now just 10 rating points behind India’s number one and world number nine Anand (2754).
Gukesh’s next classical tournament is likely to be the World Cup knockout tournament from July 31 to August 26 in Baku (Azerbaijan).
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