FIDE Grand Swiss and Women's Grand Swiss Head Into Final Weekend with Candidates Spots on the Line

The 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss and Women’s Grand Swiss are heading into their final weekend in Douglas, Isle of Man. The 11-round tournaments are not only some of the strongest Swiss System (rather than Round Robin or knockout tournaments, as are common in high-level invitationals) events of the year, but also critical for the 2024 Candidates and Women’s Candidates tournaments to be held in April in Toronto, ON.


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Alone at the top after seven rounds: Vidit Gujrathi (photo courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


After seven rounds, Indian GM Vidit Gujrathi leads the Grand Swiss with 5½/7, half-a-point ahead of a pack of 11 GMs including Fabiano Caruana (who has already qualified via finishing third in the 2023 FIDE World Cup) and Hikaru Nakamura (who has not qualified). Fellow American GMs Sam Sevian, Levon Aronian, and Hans Niemann are also having strong events with 4½/7 each.


A solid start for Hans Niemann (L) included a draw against former candidate Alireza Firouzja (photo courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)
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A solid start for Hans Niemann (L) included a draw against former candidate Alireza Firouzja (photo courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


In the Women’s Grand Swiss, there is a three-way tie for first place between former World Champion GM Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria), GM Anna Muzychuk (Ukraine), and Indian IM Rameshbabu Vaishali. Yes: that would be GM Rameshbabu “Pragg” Praggnanandhaa’s sister. And yes, Pragg has already qualified for the Candidates.


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Co-leaders Anna Muzychuk and Vaishali Rameshbabu played a peaceful draw in round five, but not before Vaishali upset Anna's sister the previous round (photo courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


And, yes, that would make Vaishali the second IM to qualify for the Women’s Candidates this year after IM Nurgyul Salimova (also from Bulgaria). It is also worth noting that Anna Muzychuk has already qualified thanks to her third-place finish in the Women’s World Cup.


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Vaishali Rameshbabu's seconds (photo courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


Unlike the Open section, where 11 players trail the leader by a half-point, the only two players trailing the aforementioned trio in the Women’s Grand Swiss are Russian GM Alexandra Goryachkina and French IM Sophie Milliet. To make things more interesting, Goryachkina has also already qualified for the Women’s Candidates.


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An exuberant Stefanova extolling the virtues of no-castling chess (photo courtesy Anna Shtourman/FIDE)


That said, there is still a lot of chess left, with round eight currently underway and three more rounds to be played over the weekend. Below is a small sampling of game highlights from the tournament thus far.


Caruana set the tone for his tournament with another win over Niemann mere weeks after their U.S. Championship showdown



But Niemann rebounded nicely, defeating the current world champion's beloved second with a flawless game:



Nakamura is as Nakamura does: striking when he senses the opportunity but always content to play for a risk-free draw if that seems prudent. 


Sevian has taken a different strategy to the tournament, playing openings such as the Benoni:



Always a colorful character, even Aronian's losses are instructive: 



The youngest of the American delegation, Mishra has had an up-and-down tournament so far, but it has not been without its highlights:



It's not just Americans here, you know? The following encounter is the author's favorite game of the tournament so far, and it is nice to see the Frenchman in such good form.



FM Alice Lee is the only American playing the Women's Grand Swiss. Her "battle of the generations" game here pitted the youngest participant (happy belated 14th birthday, Alice!) against the most experienced (60-year-old GM Pia Cramling). Experience won this round.



Vaishali's chess has been admirably sharp throughout this event, best exemplified by this combination. 



But defense wins championships, as the former world champion will tell you:



Assaubayeva had a fantastic run until she created too many weaknesses to survive this instructive queen endgame against Anna Muzychuk.



There's a reason she's the top seed: nobody's pieces move quite like Goryachkina's:



Chinese GM Tan Zhongyi was a very trendy pick to top the standings, but Assaubayeva's King's Indian Defense knocked her back a bit:



Check out our study for even more highlights and check back early next week for a recap of the final rounds.