FIDE Candidates Round 2: Vidit Ends Nakamura's 47-Game Unbeaten Streak On All-Decisive Day

With a novelty followed by three sacrifices, GM Vidit Gujrathi broke GM Hikaru Nakamura‘s 47-game undefeated streak, as enterprising play at the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament led to an all-decisive day two. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi prevailed in the labyrinth of complexity he created with his opponent, GM Alireza Firouzja.

In the battle of prodigies, GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu sacrificed three pawns vs. GM Gukesh Dommaraju, who fought back with resilience and resourcefulness. GM Fabiano Caruana capitalized on a startling blunder by GM Nijat Abasov.

Leading the 2024 FIDE Women’s Candidates, GM Tan Zhongyi won a second game in a row, defeating GM-elect Vaishali Rameshbabu. Rising into clear second, top seed GM Aleksandra Goryachkina scored her first victory, vs. GM Anna Muzychuk.

Round three starts on Saturday, April 6, at 2:30 p.m. ET / 20:30 CEST / 12:00 a.m. IST.

Standings – Candidates 

Standings – Women’s Candidates 

Seconds at the Candidates

Often, behind a great player is a team of supporting grandmasters. Known as “seconds,” these training buddies can help competitors in a myriad of ways. While their main focus is assisting in preparation and developing a player’s unique arsenal of opening surprises, they can help with many elements of the competitive process. GM Robert Hess shared his insights on the role of seconds:

It’s really important for players to have a second that makes them feel as relaxed as possible. You don’t want someone who will heighten the temper and make it so that you’re riled up. You really need to focus on the chess when you get to the board. And seconds take care of all of the stuff away from the board.

It’s really important for players to have a second that makes them feel as relaxed as possible. 

―Robert Hess

Here are the known seconds for several of the Candidates. Caruana is working with his C-Squared Podcast partner, GM Christian Chirila, and GM Grigoriy Oparin. Nakamura is working with longtime second, Kris Littlejohn, an untitled player who specializes more in chess research than competing himself.

Praggnanandhaa’s longtime coach, GM Ramachandran Ramesh, is assisting him from Chennai. Ramesh shared with Indian Express:

You have to get something out of the openings to play for a win. That’s becoming increasingly difficult because of computers. Every top player has access to good computers and has good preparation. So if everything goes normally, most games will end in a draw. So if you want to play for a win, you need to have something special.

You have to get something out of the openings to play for a win.

―Ramachandran Ramesh

It can especially help to have seconds in different time zones, as then they can work round the clock to keep up with the depth of computer analysis. GM Anish Giri shared an example of this benefit in his Candidates podcast:

When I was playing in America, I had a coach in Europe, and he had the whole day to prepare. As I go to sleep, I say: OK, this is what I want. I go to sleep. He wakes up and works the entire day. His evening comes, I wake up, and I have the whole day—It was so helpful.

Additionally, Praggnanandhaa has arrived in Toronto with GM Peter Svidler helping him on site. Seconds can also offer advice from their own competitive experience. Giri shared how Svidler’s influence could be uniquely beneficial for the 18-year-old grandmaster:

Svidler I think also adds the experience to the situation because he’s been through this situation. Svidler is one of the most successful World Cup players. There is maybe some link, maybe he gives him some advice: when to go for a walk, when to prepare, even these human things, when to eat, how to set up when you have tiebreaks—Svidler is one of the best tiebreak players of all time maybe because he did tremendous in the World Cup, a lot of tiebreaks… These little [pieces of] advice are very helpful.

Nepomniachtchi is working with GM Jan Gustafsson. Vidit’s seconds are GMs Surya Ganguly and Daniele Vocaturo.

Vidit with Vocaturo, Vedika Gujrathi (his sister and manager), and Surya. Photo: Michal Walusza/FIDE.

Gukesh is working with GM Grzegorz Gajewski. Perhaps helping to level the playing field, the lowest-rated Abasov has arrived with the highest-ranked known second, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Does Abasov’s choice of second in Mamedyarov, known for his emphasis on attack, reveal his aggressive intentions? Photo: Michal Walusza/FIDE.

Candidates: Fierce Choices Lead To All-Decisive Games

Nakamura vs. Vidit: 0-1

Starting with a novelty that he prepared with his team, Vidit played three sacrifices in a row vs. Nakamura, catching the American grandmaster completely off-guard. GM David Howell described the rarity of the situation:

I think this might be the only time in the whole event we see Nakamura down by half an hour this early in the game. We’re just nine moves in. He’s been thinking for a long time, Hikaru. This is because Vidit has been surprising him.

This is Vidit’s first ever classical win vs. Nakamura. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

While Nakamura grappled to understand the position, Vidit moved quickly and confidently, striking his opponent’s kingside at the cost of his light-squared bishop.

As the game progressed, Nakamura looked visibly worried at the board.

As a last resort, Nakamura brought his king out while his undeveloped queenside pieces watched from the sidelines.

Vidit sacrificed another piece and chased the opposing king down for the final blow. Can you find the satisfying yet simple way that Vidit finished the game?

Black to move.

This game is Nakamura’s first loss since the last round of the 2022 Candidates, breaking his 47-game unbeaten streak in classical chess.

After the game, Nakamura shared his experience in his recap below.

Praggnanandhaa vs. Gukesh: 0-1

The two youngest competitors arrived determined to outwit each other. Praggnanandhaa opened the game on a pawn-sacrificing rampage, offering three by move 15.

Though the eval bar looked on with suspicion, the quick pace of Praggnanandhaa’s moves indicated that he was still well within his preparation. Meanwhile, Gukesh seemed to be bewildered by his opponent’s gifts of material. Time burned off his clock as he considered a path through the minefield laid out by his slightly older opponent. Still on move 15, Praggnanandhaa had an extra hour left. Hess reflected:

I would be shaking in my seat if somebody sacrificed three pawns against me and spent no time doing it. It’s the Candidates. You’re putting all your effort into this event. Credit to team Praggnanandhaa, but we’ll see if Gukesh is resilient.

I would be shaking in my seat if somebody sacrificed three pawns against me and spent no time doing it. 

―Robert Hess

The only teenagers in the field were out for each other’s blood. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

When Gukesh declined the third sacrifice, Praggnanandhaa began to dash his pieces into the black kingside. The pressure mounted on all levels: on the board, on the clock, and psychologically. Yet, Gukesh defended resiliently and resourcefully. He regrouped his forces while staying vigilant of his opponent’s threats and began to catch up on the clock.

Praggnanandhaa found a brilliant knight sacrifice, but when he followed it up inaccurately, Gukesh seized the chance to attack himself. GM Judit Polgar observed:

We could see that he was calculating during the whole game. He was focused. He would keep himself there at the board. In the very, very critical moments, he grabbed the opportunity and didn’t let go… We can see that he is extremely strong mentally.

 We can see that [Gukesh] is extremely strong mentally.

―Judit Polgar

Gukesh’s brilliant display of resourcefulness under pressure is our Game of the Day, with analysis by GM Dejan Bojkov below.

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Nepomniachtchi vs. Firouzja: 1-0

Nepomniachtchi and Firouzja engaged in a relentless dynamic duel. Nepomniachtchi started by sacrificing a pawn and his king’s shelter in the opening. He then spent three moves propelling his h-pawn into the enemy’s castled king position like a battering ram. Yet, Firouzja took over the attacking chances by journeying his knight across the board to become a weapon on the kingside.

The journey of Firouzja’s knight

The players jousted for the initative, trading blows. As they navigated the complications, Firouzja spent more time calculating than Nepomniachtchi. In the end, the 20-year-old grandmaster found himself in a dire time scramble, and Nepomniachtchi’s king escaped to safety in the center of the board.

A stormy battle between two fighters. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana vs. Abasov: 1-0

Abasov chose a visually unappealing yet playable setup vs. Caruana in the hopes of surprising the top seed. Though Abasov succeeded, the arising position was ripe for the kind of methodical maneuvering chess that Caruana excels at. He created weak points in the enemy camp and gradually built up pressure across both sides of the board.

In the end, Abasov blundered, winning back a pawn―at great cost to his kingside. When Caruana planted his rook on the seventh with unstoppable threats, Abasov appeared bewildered as he resigned.

In round three, Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi meet after both coming off a victory. Meanwhile, Vidit will have his shot at White vs. Praggnanandhaa as the latter tries to recover from his loss.


Women’s Candidates: Tan Reaches 2-0, Goryachkina In Clear Second

Several seconds are also known in the Women’s Candidates. Tan has American GM Jeffery Xiong working with her on site in Toronto. The 2023 challenger, GM Lei Tingjie, has the highly experienced GM Teimour Radjabov in her corner. Vaishali works with Ramesh like her brother and also trains with GM Sandipan Chanda, a former second of GM Viswananthan Anand. IM Nurgyul Salimova‘s team includes GMs Ivan Cheparinov and Cem Kaan Gokerkan.

Salimova with her trainers Cheparinov (left) and Gokerkan at the opening ceremony. Photo: Michal Walusza/FIDE.

Tan vs. Vaishali: 1-0

Seeking revenge for their encounter at the Grand Swiss, Tan built up an attacking position while Vaishali’s pieces lacked targets. Tan’s play culminated in a spectacular knight sacrifice.

Goryachkina vs. Muzychuk: 1-0

Goryachkina chose an opening that seemed calm on the surface, but left Muzychuk’s king without the ability to castle. Goryachkina’s pieces circled the stranded enemy monarch until they found a tactical opportunity.

The top seed strikes. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Lagno vs. Humpy: 1/2-1/2

GM Kateryna Lagno pressed with White vs. GM Humpy Koneru into a queen ending. Yet, Humpy held the balance with active defense.

Salimova vs. Lei: 1/2-1/2

Despite the 100+ point rating difference, Lei seemed content to stablize her score after her loss the day before. She and Salimova traded queens early. Though Salimova tried to generate pressure on the queenside, most of the tension was soon traded away.

In round three, the two top seeds, Goryachkina and Lei, will meet. In addition, Humpy and Tan, two of the top women in the world for decades, will face off.

You can watch video recaps of the Candidates in our playlist below (click here).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

How to watch?

You can watch the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament on Chess24’s YouTube and Twitch, and the 2024 Women’s FIDE Candidates on Chess.com’s YouTube and Twitch. The games can also be followed from our Events Page.

The FIDE Candidates Tournaments are among the most important FIDE events of the year. Players compete for the right to play in the next FIDE World Championship match against current World Chess Champions GMs Ding Liren and Ju Wenjun.


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