2024 FIDE Candidates and Women's Candidates: Only One Decisive Result, But No Shortage Of Fighting Chess

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A fishbowl view of the playing hall from the balcony (Photo courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE)


The highly anticipated 2024 FIDE Candidates and Women’s Candidates tournaments kicked off in Toronto, Canada on Thursday. Catch Chess Life Online's preview here.



In the Open tournament, this year’s field is comprised of a nice mix of experience and youth, with three of the players being under the age of 21. As always, the players came well prepared with enterprising opening ideas and showed great fighting spirit. Nevertheless, in a result uncharacteristic for this tournament, all the games ended peacefully.


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A number of candidates from the opening ceremony. From left: Humpy, Muzychuk, Abasov, Vidit, Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa, Nepomniachtchi (Photo courtesy of Michal Walusza/FIDE)


In fact, the last time round one of an Open Candidates featured draws on all four boards was in 2013. Moreover, the past two Candidates featured two decisive results in each opening round, and 2018 saw three decisive results. 


An exciting clash between the two Americans ended peacefully, but not without opening surprises from Nakamura and a serious initiative from Caruana. (Photos courtesy of Michal Walusza/FIDE (L) and Maria Emelianova/Chess.com (R))


Of course, for the American fans, the main game of interest was the battle between American GMs Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura.



The other two games of interest that could have produced a decisive result were the matches between two juniors and between two of the three Indian players.


Firouzja (L) and Praggnanandhaa played the wildest game of the opening round. (Photos courtesy of Maria Emelianova/Chess.com)


In the battle between 20-year-old French GM Alireza Firouzja and 18-year-old Indian GM Praggnanandhaa R., a youthful love of complications shone through in a highly complex game:


With players from the same country paired against each other in the first rounds of each half of the event, the two other players from India — GM Gukesh D.  and GM Vidit Gujrathi — delivered the type of battle many were expecting from players who were not expected to settle for quick draws against their colleagues.


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On FIDE's official broadcast, GM Vishwanathan Anand (L, with GM Irina Krush) was impressed with Vidit's powerful 17. ... Bg4!, forcing the draw. (Photo courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE)


Indeed, in each game, the players had some really creative opening ideas, which showed how rich engines have made modern chess.




The Women’s section has mostly the same seasoned players we are used to seeing, with the exceptions of the two young newcomers GM-Elect Vaishali Rameshbabu and IM Nurgyul Salimova. The young Salimova is the lowest rated player by quite a bit and the only non-grandmaster, so she will definitely be targeted by the field, all of whom will be looking to score a full point against her.


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A number of candidates in the Women's field (and some of their seconds). From left: Goryachkina, Lagno, Lei, Tan, Salimova, Vaishali. (Photo courtesy of Michal Walusza/FIDE)


The first round kicked with some fireworks as GM Tan Zhongyi took an early lead by defeating her countrywoman GM Lei Tengjie with the black pieces. Lei has garnered quite the fan base after the previous world championship match due to her expressiveness, as well as her general colorful personality and fashion.


Lei Tan
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Tan Zhongyi (R) stormed out to an early lead with a nice victory on the black side of a Carlsbad against the 2023 Women's World Championship runner-up. (Photo courtesy of Michal Walusza/FIDE)


Lei also eliminated Tan in the previous Candidates tournament to earn the right to challenge GM Ju Wenjun, so the revenge must have been sweet!



In a rematch of their 2023 Women’s World Cup semifinal match, GM Anna Muzychuk tried, but did not manage to succeed, in cracking Salimova’s Petroff defense.



Round two begins at 1:30 p.m. CDT with a number of exciting match-ups. Highlights include Caruana with the white pieces against last-seeded Abasov, Tan looking to build to her lead with the white pieces against Vaishali, and a potentially bloody Nepomniachtchi – Firouzja clash.


Quick Links

Official Website

Play begins daily at 1:30 p.m. CDT, except on rest days (Schedule | Pairings | Crosstables)

Follow the games live on Chess.com (Open | Women's) and Lichess.org (Open | Women's)

Stream Today in Chess, courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club (YouTube | Twitch)

Catch up on Chess Life Online (CLO) Candidates coverage

Review all annotated games from CLO

Follow on social media with the tag #FIDECandidates