Nepomniachtchi Defeats Vidit, Takes Sole Lead; Tan Survives Major Scare

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi has taken a half-point lead at the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament. On the white side of the Berlin Defense, he dispatched GM Vidit Gujrathi. Draws on the remaining three boards leave GMs Gukesh Dommaraju and Fabiano Caruana in equal second.

In the women’s event, a day of missed chances saw GM Tan Zhongyi hold onto her half-point lead after a miracle effort against GM Kateryna Lagno, while GM Anna Muzychuk missed a win against GM Lei Tingjie. The only decisive game of the round was IM Nurgyul Salimova-GM Humpy Koneru, which fell in favor of the Bulgarian player.

Following a rest day on Monday, round five will start on Tuesday, April 9, at 2:30 p.m. ET / 20:30 CEST / 12:00 a.m. IST.

Standings – Candidates

Standings – Women’s Candidates

Candidates: Nepomniachtchi Takes The Sole Lead

Nepomniachtchi vs. Vidit: 1-0

Cognizant of Vidit’s ability to produce vicious opening preparation with Black, Nepomniachtchi steered his opponent straight toward the Berlin Defense endgame where White gains a classic kingside pawn majority.

Unwilling to be ground down, Vidit attempted to derail Nepomniachtchi’s advantage with the creative 23…h5! before following up with a clever rook lift on the queenside. Though Leko felt that the position had become “murky,” IM Tania Sachdev highlighted that Vidit had begun to “make progress.”

Vidit played soundly for most of the combative middlegame. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

With the commentator’s curse in full swing, Vidit went astray soon after with 26…Rb3?, ensnaring his rook and allowing Nepomniachtchi to blast open the center. A passed pawn that was the consequence of the fireworks ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Our Game of the Day, which has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao, can be viewed below.

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Nepomniachtchi’s victory drew the admiration of the commentators, with GM Daniel Naroditsky expressing: “You really can’t overstate the elegance of Ian’s play in this game.”

This wasn’t just a game by Nepomniachtchi; this was a masterpiece.

—Tania Sachdev

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Further adding to the intrigue around Nepomniachtchi’s performance was his confirmation that GM Jan Gustafsson, who worked for GM Magnus Carlsen during the world championship match against him in 2021, is working with him for this event. The unlikely duo came together earlier for the Sinquefield Cup, partly because Nepomniachtchi had fewer visa issues in bringing Gustafsson to St. Louis.

In terms of facial expressions, Nepomniachtchi is probably the most transparent player, and you can normally tell how he feels about the position. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana vs Gukesh: 0.5-0.5

The most tantalizing matchup of the day was the top-of-the-table clash between Caruana and Gukesh. What was revealed in this game is that both players have brought top-notch form to the Candidates. Playing with the white pieces, Caruana threw it back to his Italian roots and by move 16 he had planted a threatening knight on the f5-square.

Superpowered skirmish! Both players were adequately prepared for their showdown. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Sensing trouble, Gukesh devised a pawn sacrifice that allowed him to shred Caruana’s queenside before exchanging into a queen-and-pawn ending. Though he played with the utmost precision, Caruana’s extra pawn proved insufficient; however, both players take solace in knowing they head into the rest day unbeaten.

Nakamura vs. Praggnanandhaa: 0.5-0.5

Praggnanandhaa was a picture of solidity in his clash with Nakamura in round four. According to GM Peter Leko, he seemed to “know everything” when it came to extinguishing any initiative that stemmed from Nakamura’s Ruy Lopez Opening.

Naroditsky stated that Praggnanandhaa’s start has been “mature.” Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

For the Indian superstar, the position would have had a tinge of familiarity as the middlegame started to resemble the deciding game between him and GM Magnus Carlsen in the 2023 FIDE World Cup final, albeit with colors reversed.

While reliving the memory may have felt torturous for Praggnanandhaa, against Nakamura it was a case of liquidation gone right as the world number-15 secured a draw by threefold repetition “from a position of strength” after taking control of the open a-file.

Even the roof couldn’t help Nakamura break down Praggnanandhaa’s defense on Sunday. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In his post-match recap on YouTube, Nakamura lauded Praggnanandhaa: “The future is looking really bright for Pragg,” even entertaining the idea that the Indian GM is a potential successor to Carlsen’s number-one rating spot in the future.

Abasov vs. Firouzja: 0.5-0.5

GM Alireza Firouzja‘s positive head-to-head score against GM Nijat Abasov (+2-0=1) gave him a psychological edge heading into their matchup. The Frenchman quickly showed his intention to play for a win with Black, opting for the dazzling developing move 13…Bb7!!. With nerves of steel forged by a trial of fire at the 2023 FIDE World Cup, Abasov riposted with a shot of his own, 15.Bxb5!!, evaporating any initiative Firouzja had concocted and sending the game to an equal ending.

Despite the 150-point rating gap between him and most of the field, Abasov has proven to be a difficult opponent. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Left with some imbalance to experiment with, Firouzja played on optimistically, but a confident Abasov staunchly defended until move 64 when a draw was agreed upon, recalling his aplomb in the match-based World Cup.

In round five, Praggnanandhaa will aim to derail Nepomniachtchi while Firouzja and Nakamura fight to keep their world championships dreams alive.

Women’s Candidates: Missed Chances Aplenty

Salimova vs. Humpy: 1-0

Salimova has been quite the enigma since breaking onto the international circuit at the 2023 FIDE World Cup. Despite being the only IM in the field (Vaishali is GM-elect), a win over Humpy shows that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Sighs all around as chances came and went during round four. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

After the opening transposed into a Stonewall Dutch, Salimova settled in for a slugfest—and that it was.

Following a series of suboptimal king moves by both players, Humpy, who was feeling the heat, opted to offer a queen trade on move 26. Salimova graciously accepted before winning her Indian opponent’s loose g4-pawn.

Lagno vs. Tan: 0.5-0.5

Tan is well-known for her uncompromising style regardless of color. Playing from the black side of a 6.Be2 Najdorf Sicilian, she probed for an opportunity to pick up her third win of the event.

Barrelling down the c-file with a triple stack of her rooks and queen, Tan pressed but was deftly punished for pinching the poisoned a4-pawn, opening the floodgates for Lagno’s pieces to temporarily trap Tan’s queen and induce material loss.

Lagno had the advantage early against an always aggressive Tan. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Lagno looked as though she would go on to convert the position, but things went awry when she refused to give up her passed d4-pawn, and the evaluation spiraled back to drawn. Lagno was visibly upset after the game and was left ruing what could have been an immense result that would have seen her join Tan in the lead.

Muzychuk vs. Lei: 0.5-0.5

Much like in the Lagno-Tan game above and her own match against Lagno in round three, Muzychuk failed to convert a winning position against the previous women’s world championship challenger Lei. In a rook vs. two pawns ending, Muzychuk needed to find a way to bring her king back to stop Lei’s running pawns but instead played one too many checks.

Goryachkina vs. Vaishali: 0.5-0.5

The most tame game of the day was between GM Vaishali Rameshbabu and GM Aleksandra Goryachkina, which ended in a draw after 40 moves. Playing against the English Opening, Vaishali took on an isolated queen’s pawn and maneuvered her pieces expertly to trade into a simple endgame which, for Vaishali, is an important hold against the tournament’s top seed.

For Goryachkina, the half-point propels her into clear second place; however, a daunting challenge against Humpy, who will be seeking a win to avenge her loss to Salimova, will be a major hurdle to overcome.

Goryachkina had one eye on Lagno-Tan. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

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 live broadcast was hosted by GMs Daniel Naroditsky, Peter Leko, and IM Tania Sachdev.The live broadcast was hosted by GM Robert Hess and IM Jovanka Houska.

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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