Candidates home stretch: Nerves, pressure and the Indian hope

Candidates home stretch: Nerves, pressure and the Indian hope

Four rounds remain in the Candidates, with six players in the race. Three of the six players are Indians and one of them – D Gukesh – is in the shared lead with two-time Candidates winner Ian Nepomniachtchi. Only the first place matters.

Still from the Candidates Tournament
Still from the Candidates Tournament

On paper, Gukesh’s path ahead appears to be relatively less troublesome compared to his Russian co-leader. In two of his remaining four rounds, the 17-year-old Indian is paired to face Nijat Abasov and Alireza Firouzja, who are at the bottom of the standings and pretty much out of contention. The minor detail here is that Abasov has yet to lose a game with White, and Gukesh’s only loss came against Firouzja in a time scramble.

HT launches Crick-it, a one stop destination to catch Cricket, anytime, anywhere. Explore now!

Ahead of the Candidates, Americans Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura were considered the overriding favourites and the three Indian players – R Praggnanandhaa, Vidit Gujrathi and Gukesh – were handed a combined odds of less than 20 per cent. Gukesh was quick to dismiss the numbers. “I wouldn’t say anyone is a favourite,” Gukesh told HT before the tournament, “It will come down to players’ state of mind I suppose. Once someone is in the rhythm, it can go quite well.”

Like it has for him so far.

Barring the blip of a time scramble defeat, the Indian teen has been on a steady, impressive run. He’s shown maturity beyond his years and has been unfazed under the bright lights of a high-stakes tournament. A lot will come down to how he handles the final stretch.

The only player who remains unbeaten so far is Nepomniachtchi. The Russian has, to his credit, salvaged bad to hopeless positions with Black so far in the tournament. It’s one of the reasons that former world No. 2 Levon Aronian believes that he might be a favourite to win a record third time. “Luck counts for a lot in such tournaments and so far, I think Ian has been the luckiest participant. He’s been dodging bullets and I think he has a good chance to become a legend by winning the Candidates a third time…I’ve also been quite impressed with how Vidit has fought back after tough losses and Pragg’s ability to take risks.”

In many ways, less experience also makes for less emotional baggage in such tournaments, which can be a good thing for young Indian players. “I remember I wasn’t worried at all at my first Candidates tournament, but I also had no one to turn to…The Indian guys playing today have Vishy (Anand) for anything they need. Huge help.”

After 10 rounds, Nakamura and Caruana are half a point out of the lead.“America is back, baby,” Nakamura declared on his stream, “We both will be playing Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi in the final round so hopefully one of us can get through and win the tournament.” Nakamura, who refers to streaming as his regular job, has often spoken of not being under pressure in the tournament. “He understands that he has to have a coping mechanism,” said Aronian, who’s played a fair number of Candidates, “so it’s a way to program yourself to not care. It’s important to have something to keep you sane.” Nakamura’s step-dad and earliest chess trainer Sunil Weeramantry arrived in Toronto and was seen with the world No. 3 ahead of Round 11.

The other American, Caruana – who’s been rather unremarkable in the tournament – may have found some momentum with his Round 10 win going into the final stretch. “I try not to think about statistics because my play has been suffering clearly,” said Caruana, “If I play well, I’ll get some chances, maybe it’s enough, maybe it’s not enough. I just need to focus on my play.”

On the rest day ahead of Round 11, half the Candidates participants – Caruana, Nakamura, Vidit and Firouzja, chose to play Titled Tuesday,’s online blitz event. With only a few rounds to go, everyone is looking for ways to cope with the pressure and get themselves into a good headspace.

“In the final rounds, you begin to suffer…it’s psychology over preparation,” said Aronian, “You have to keep looking for chances till the very end. It’s going to be close. I have a feeling we might be in for a big surprise.”

The final stretch

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Round 12: White vs Praggnanandhaa (reverse game was drawn)

Round 13: White vs Nakamura (reverse game was drawn)

Round 14: Black vs Caruana (reverse game was drawn)

D Gukesh

Round 12: Black vs Abasov (Gukesh won the reverse game)

Round 13: White vs Firouzja (Gukesh lost the reverse game)

Round 14: Black vs Nakamura (reverse game was drawn)

R Praggnanandhaa

Round 12: Black vs Nepomniachtchi ( reverse game was drawn )

Round 13: White vs Caruana (reverse game was drawn )

Round 14: Black vs Abasov (Pragg won the reverse game)

Vidit Gujrathi

Round 12: Black vs Caruana (reverse game was drawn)

Round 13: White vs Abasov ( reverse game was drawn )

Round 14: Black vs Firouzja (Vidit won the reverse game)

Source link



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.