Candidates 2024: Leaders Squeak by in Tense Ninth Round

Today we saw only two decisive games total, with one in each section. Still, the results we got still impacted the leaderboards substantially! Round 10 begins today at 1:30 p.m. CDT, with a rest day tomorrow.



GM Hikaru Nakamura came out swinging with an aggressive … g7-g5 setup against GM Vidit Gujrathi in the Two Knights Defense.  However, after obtaining the complex and fighting middlegame he sought out — and getting ahead on the clock — Nakamura started to make poor decisions. 


Photos courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE


He blamed his loss on bad time management in critical moments, and, perhaps, playing too hard for a win. The result was some risky decisions and ultimately a pawn blunder. Vidit seized the opportunity to inflict a second loss to the American, having also beaten Hikaru in the first half of the tournament.  Is Vidit Hikaru’s kryptonite?



GM Alireza Firouzja could have played the role of spoiler after outplaying GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in a reversed King’s Indian pawn structure.  However, “Nepo” was able to evacuate the king from the danger zone and set up a fortress.



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A frustrated Firouzja settles for a draw against a stubborn Nepo (Photo courtesy Maria Emelianova/


The game’s drama did not end with the handshake, however. After the game was over, Firouzja took to social media to claim that the Chief Arbiter’s comments about his footwear led to distraction.



Back to the board, the young Indians GM Gukesh D. and GM Praggnanandhaa R. showed great restraint and eventually drew in a roughly even positional battle.

Finally, GM Fabiano Caruana tried his best to recover from a poor game against Nakamura in his game against GM Nijat Abasov but, once again, the Azeri turned out to be a strong defender and held a slightly worse endgame with ease.


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Abasov has proven to be difficult to beat, particularly with the white pieces (Photo courtesy Maria Emelianova/


Earlier in the game, Abasov missed a shocking opportunity for an Exchange sac that astounded several top commentators, but not GM Judit Polgar:



Replay the full game below:



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Courtesy FIDE


Nepomniachtchi plays with the white pieces against Gukesh today in a battle of the leaders. Will Nepo play it safe, or will he look to separate himself from the field? Praggnanandhaa is currently in sole third, and will have the first-move advantage against his countryman Vidit in the final All-India matchup of the event. Caruana and Nakamura both play with the white pieces against the two tail-enders: Firouzja and Abasov, respectively.



In the women’s section, GM Tan Zhongyi received a gift from GM-Elect Vaishali Rameshbabu, and regained the sole lead in the tournament. 



Vaishali Tan
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The only decisive game of the Women's event saw Tan (R) regain the outright lead (Photo courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE)


Other games were long and fighting draws. In particular, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina had some chances to topple GM Anna Muzychuk with the black pieces, which would have helped her catch Tan once again.


As a result, Goryachkina and GM Lei Tingjie (who drew with the white pieces against IM Nurgyul Salimova) are tied for second, each a half-point behind Tan.


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Courtesy FIDE


Today’s matchups could really shape the final four rounds. Tan takes the white pieces against GM Humpy Koneru, who has not been having the best event. Goryachkina takes the white pieces against Lei, and a decisive result there would create separation in the standings. GM Kateryna Lagno could use a win against GM Anna Muzychuk, and Salimova will look for “revenge” against Vaishali after losing their first encounter.


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