Candidates Round 10: The Americans are Back, and China Surges Ahead in Women's Event


It was a great day for American chess fans as both GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Fabiano Caruana won their games.  Nakamura obtained a comfortable position as White against GM Nijat Abasov. At first, it seemed like he was cruising to victory.


What began as a dominant game for Nakamura turned into a heartbreaker for Abasov (Photos courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE)


Instead, in a flashback to yesterday’s game, he hesitated at key moments, and was even worse at one point.  But in his opponent’s time pressure, Abasov himself played too quickly and allowed Hikaru to win an Exchange and convert it without much difficulty.


A victorious Nakamura with FM Sunil Weeramantry (L) and posing with fans (Photos courtesy Maria Emelianova/



Caruana surprised GM Alireza Firouzja with a rare (but trendy!) 6. Rg1 idea in the Najdorf. The French player reacted creatively and, for the first time ever in Candidates history, we had an actual Dragondorf on the board! (The Dragondorf is one of GM Perelshteyn’s recommendations, via transposition, in his Chessable Lifetime Repertoire course on the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon - Ed.)


Caruana put on a strong performance against a struggling Firouzja (Photos courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE)


However, the excitement was short-lived as the game entered an endgame. Firouzja kept missing easy drawing possibilities, and, as a result got himself into a horrible time scramble. Fabi showed good nerves under pressure, won a pawn, and eventually converted his advantage.


Firouzja was unable to survive a time-scramble (L, Photo courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE), but provided great insight in the post-mortem (R, Photo courtesy Maria Emelianova/



In the final All-Indian battle, GM Praggnananadhaa R. tried to put some pressure on GM Vidit Gujrathi in an anti-Berlin, but Black was just too solid against White’s early-d3 setup. Co-leaders GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and GM Gukesh D. made a solid draw.


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Courtesy FIDE


With their wins, the two Americans now join Pragg in trailing Nepo and Gukesh by only one game. In other words, with four rounds to go, this is legitimately a five-player race. After today’s rest day, Nepomniachtchi will take the black pieces against an unpredictable Vidit, while the other four players atop the standings face off, with Praggnandandhaa and Gukesh playing the white pieces against Nakamura and Gukesh, respectively.



GMs Aleksandra Goryachkina and Lei Tingjie entered the day tied for second in the standings and played an absolute barn-burner of a game. Lei’s victory created serious separation between the two Chinese candidates and the rest of the field, with Goryachkina and her Russian compatriot (GM Kateryna Lagno) tied for third a full-point behind the leaders.

After starting the tournament with a loss, 2023’s challenger is once again tied for first place with her compatriot GM Tan Zhongyi. Lei was able to catch Tan after beating Gorychkina as Black in a very exciting Exchange Slav. 


Goryachkina was unable to survive a tense endgame in time pressure (Photos courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE)


Goryachkina perhaps pushed too hard and ultimately had to defend a tough endgame. It seemed like she got very close but messed up in the final time pressure and lost. 



Lei Song
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Lei Tingjie with her boyfriend (and second, along with GM Teimour Radjabov) GM Raymond Song (Photo courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE)


The most dramatic game was clearly between IM Nurgyul Salimova and GM-Elect Vaishali Rameshbabu, as the 21-year-old from Bulgaria was able to take advantage of Vaishali’s mistakes to reach a winning endgame. 


Vaishali won a thrilling come-from-behind to score a second win over Salimova in this event. (Photos of the game courtesy Michal Walusza/FIDE, and photo of Vaishali with her mother, Nagalakshmi, courtesy Maria Emelianova/


However, nerves and time pressure must have had a big impact as first Salimova missed a clear win and then blundered into a losing rook-and-pawn endgame. 



In the other games, Tan drew with GM Humpy Koneru in a very exciting battle of heavy pieces that liquidated into a rook rook-and-pawn endgame. Lagno also reached an endgame directly from the opening in her game against GM Anna Muzychuk, and neither player was able to prove any advantage, leading to a peaceful result.


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Courtesy FIDE


In the next two rounds, Lagno plays Tan (as Black) and then Lei (as White). Then, in round 13, Goryachkina faces Tan, albeit also with the black pieces. These will be the best chances for the two closest challengers to shake up the standings. Lei takes the white pieces on Thursday against Muzychuk, while Goryachkina will play as Black against Vaishali.


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