Four rounds into the FIDE Candidates 2024 and all three Indians have had their moments. This has made the chess world whole-heartedly acknowledge the prowess of these incredible talents whose time is yet to come.

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In search of a hat-trick of Candidates titles, at Toronto’s The Great Hall, Ian Nepomniachtchi once again is off to a strong start. Top seed Fabiano Caruana, too, is unscathed. Staying impressively unbeaten with these two title-aspirants is D. Gukesh, the youngest in the eight-player field.

Hikaru Nakamura and Alireza Firouzja, the other two contenders trail after suffering a loss each while lower-rate Nijat Abasov has impressed with three draws so far.

R. Praggnanandhaa during his Round 4 match against Hikaru Nakamura of USA.

R. Praggnanandhaa during his Round 4 match against Hikaru Nakamura of USA.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

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R. Praggnanandhaa during his Round 4 match against Hikaru Nakamura of USA.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

But so far, the most eye-balls have been trained on the board involving Vidit Gujrathi. After a closely-contested draw with Gukesh, Vidit has been involved in three decisive battles. His second-round victory over Nakamura was a well-crafted one but on the following two days, he came second best to R. Praggnanandhaa and Nepomniachtchi.

More than the results, the quality of play displayed by the Indians is truly heart-warming. Despite making their debut in the competition, Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa and Vidit have proved they truly belong at this level.

Candidates 2024 Points Table | Nepomniachtchi leads; Gukesh joint-second with Caruana after round 4

After all, despite being out of the World’s top-10, the trio has done remarkably well against more reputed names.

Gukesh, triumphant over Praggnanandhaa, held in-form Nepomniachtchi and World No. 2 Caruana to show that he was not in awe of reputations. Vidit ended World No. 3 Nakamura’s 47-game unbeaten run in Classical time-format and Praggnanandhaa, the man who knocked out Nakamura from the 2023 World Cup, played out a solid draw against the American, a day after bringing down an upbeat Vidit.

Over the next three days, Gukesh faces Abasov, Nakamura and Firouzja , each of whom have lost a game. No doubt, these players are looking to redeem their pride before the next rest day which marks the interval in the double round-robin league.

A softened-up Vidit runs into Caruana, Firouzja and Abasov while a pragmatic Praggnanandhaa deals with Nepomniachtchi, Abasov and Caruana.

D. Gukesh and Ian Nepomniachtchi after their drawn match.

D. Gukesh and Ian Nepomniachtchi after their drawn match.
| Photo Credit:
Maria Emelianova

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D. Gukesh and Ian Nepomniachtchi after their drawn match.
| Photo Credit:
Maria Emelianova

Given the results of the last two rounds, Vidit and Praggnanandhaa are in contrasting moods. Vidit will have to regain his composure and draw from his flawless play displayed against Nakamura. Praggnanandhaa is in a better frame of mind after defeating Vidit and holding Nakamura.

Also look out for some of the much-anticipated clashes, involving Firouzja and Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi and Caruana besides the one featuring Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi in each of the next three rounds. Also note that Abasov plays the Indian trio in this set of three rounds.

When the next rest day arrives on April 12, the first half of the event would be over. It will be a good time to assess the form and quality of play displayed by the contenders even as the players prepare for return-clashes with opposite colours to the one they played in the first half.

FIFTH ROUND PAIRINGS

D. Gukesh (2.5)-Nijat Abasov (Aze, 1.5); Vidit Gujrathi (1.5)-Fabiano Caruana (USA, 2.5); R. Praggnanandhaa (2)-Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus, 3); Alireza Firouzja (Fra, 1.5)-Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 1.5).

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