Candidates Round 8: Gukesh back in shared lead; Hikaru takes down Caruana - Hindustan Times
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Candidates Round 8: Gukesh back in shared lead; Hikaru takes down Caruana

By, Bengaluru
Apr 14, 2024 10:05 AM IST

Women's contest opens up after Lei Tingjie beats Tan Zhongyi to move into joint lead; Humpy defeats Vaishali

D Gukesh managed to get back in the shared lead at the end of Round 8 in the Candidates without having to break a sweat with the Black pieces against fellow Indian Vidit Gujrathi.

With this win, Gukesh now jumps back into the shared lead at five points with Ian Nepomniachtchi who ended up playing out a draw with Nijat Abasov.(FIDE)
With this win, Gukesh now jumps back into the shared lead at five points with Ian Nepomniachtchi who ended up playing out a draw with Nijat Abasov.(FIDE)

Round 8 marked the start of the second half of the double round-robin tournament and the colours were reversed for the players.

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Vidit, who appears to be having trouble managing time in the tournament so far, got on the wrong side of the clock pretty early, starting with Gukesh’s pawn to a6 on the fourth move. He went into a 20-minute thought over castling, which seemed curious. Gukesh’s second pawn move (5…h6) seemed to throw off Vidit a bit again.

Vidit started ceding the a-file pretty quickly, which went on to haunt him soon enough in the game. His (12…b5) pawn push seemed unnecessary and he followed it up in a few moves with 15…d4 which appeared to have been rushed and didn’t do him any favours.

Black conquered the open a-file and positioned its rook and queen on it. It didn’t take much for Gukesh to threaten mate, if anything he was spoilt for choice with ways to do it.

With this win, Gukesh now jumps back into the shared lead at five points with Ian Nepomniachtchi who ended up playing out a draw with Nijat Abasov. “There’s surely some pressure but I’ve learnt to handle it,” said Gukesh, “So far, I’ve handled it well. Hopefully in the next few rounds too I’ll be able to do a good job.”

After the heartbreaking loss of Round 7 in a time scramble, Gukesh seemed relieved to have driven home a full point from a quiet, clean game that didn’t have his opponent drum up much of a counterplay. “It was a painful game and I was upset for some time but I quickly recovered from it…Having a rest day helped. I didn’t feel any negativity on the rest day…I was quite normal and just looking forward to today’s game.”

Hikaru Nakamura shook up the standings a bit with his win over Fabiano Caruana, to leapfrog ahead of his fellow American. He’s now half a point behind the leaders. Caruana, who came in as a huge favourite into the tournament has looked a bit shaky often enough so far, and blundered a tactic towards the end against Hikaru.

“I feel no pressure in the Candidates I’m playing for fun … For everyone else, it’s probably a big deal…I’m not saying I wouldn’t be happy if I won. I’m just trying to play good chess and not make a fool of myself…seems to be working so far.”

“Fabiano got hesitant pretty early. I got a strange feeling that he prepared something different and wanted to do something aggressive today and then changed it at the last minute. The way he started using time was strange, especially since I’ve played this before.”

This is Hikaru’s fourth straight classical win against Caruana. He puts the reason down to him feeling no pressure anymore. “Earlier I would look at his results and feel a lot of pressure in the matchup because we’ve been the American No 1 and 2 players. But I think now Fabiano feels it against me for some reason.”

Round 8 results

Open

Hikaru Nakamura (4.5) beat Fabiano Caruana (4)

Ian Nepomniachtchi (5) drew Nijat Abasov (2.5)

Praggnanandhaa R (4.5) drew Alireza Firouzja (3)

Vidit Gujrathi (3.5) lost to Gukesh D (5)

Women

Kateryna Lagno (4.5) drew Aleksandra Goryachkina (5)

Nurgyul Salimova (3.5) drew Anna Muzychuk (3)

Tan Zhongyi (5) lost to Lei Tingjie (5)

Humpy Koneru (3.5) beat Vaishali R (2.5)

Round 9 pairings

Open

Vidit Gujrathi - Hikaru Nakamura

Gukesh D - Praggnanandhaa R

Alireza Firouzja - Ian Nepomniachtchi

Nijat Abasov - Fabiano Caruana

Women

Humpy Koneru - Kateryna Lagno

Vaishali Rameshbabu - Tan Zhongyi

Lei Tingjie - Nurgyul Salimova

Anna Muzychuk - Aleksandra Goryachkina

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