Gukesh Takes a Late Lead, while Tan is Almost Home at 2024 Candidates

The penultimate round of the 2024 FIDE Candidates’ Tournament and Women’s Candidate Tournament took two divergent paths on Saturday in Toronto.

In the Women’s event, five players entered with a mathematical chance (albeit a slim one for three of them), but now the situation is clear. GM Tan Zhongyi wins the tournament outright with at least a draw, whereas a loss and then a GM Lei Tingjie win forces a tiebreak. This scenario — where the leaders have separated from the field by the 14th round of play — is what we can call the “normal” outcome.

In the Open event, only four players entered yesterday’s round with any chance of winning. Now, those same four players are all still very much in the hunt, and they are all playing one another today. This is what we can call the “Hollywood” or “unbelievable” outcome.

So, let’s get to the games! Today’s commentary comes from WGM Katerina Nemcova. Play resumes at 1:30 p.m. CDT today, and any needed tiebreaks will occur tomorrow.



GM-Elect Vaishali Rameshbabu won her fourth consecutive game, this time taking down Lei and effectively (although not mathematically) ending any chance she had of catching Tan.


Lei Tingjie vs Vaishali Rameshbabu
Image Caption
Lei versus Vaishali (photo courtesy FIDE / Michal Walusza)

This is a serious comeback for Vaishali, who entered the tournament with the second-lowest rating and was in a tie for last place at the mid-point.


WGM Vaishali Rameshbabu
Image Caption
photo courtesy FIDE / Michal Walusza


She now boasts a share of third place (along with three other players!) with an even score of 6½/13.

Vaishali’s final game will be against GM Kateryna Lagno, who is also in the four-way tie for third. Lagno could have made more of a run for the bronze in yesterday’s game, where she was outplaying IM Nurgyul Salimova.


Salimova versus Lagno
Image Caption
Salimova versus Lagno (photo courtesy FIDE / Michal Walusza)

Instead, some inaccuracies after the time control allowed the 20-year-old Bulgarian to stubbornly hold on for a half-point yet again.



After consecutive losses, GM Alexandra Goryachkina was content to let Tan off with a relatively quick draw in their encounter. Today, Tan does not have the luxury of playing with the white pieces, but a draw against GM Anna Muzychuk will clinch her tournament victory. Lei needs to win (with the white pieces) over GM Humpy Koneru as well as a Tan loss force a tiebreak.

2024 Women's Candidates Round 13 xtable



GMs Gukesh D., Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Hikaru Nakamura entered yesterday’s round atop the standings with 7½/12 scores. Trailing them was GM Fabiano Caruana with a close 7/12. Moreover, Nepomniachtchi was playing Nakamura, so it was at least possible (with, say, a Caruana loss and a victor in the Nepo-Naka battle) to see some separation. Instead, we got the opposite of separation.

Nepomniachtchi versus Nakamura
Image Caption
Nepo vs Nakamura (photo courtesy FIDE / Michal Walusza)


First, Nepomniachtchi and Nakamura chose to play things relatively safe in their encounter, opting for a Ruy Lopez with at least some solidity. Nakamura once again deviated first (as Black), going for an early … Ng8-e7 setup that gave Nepomniachtchi some brief chances of pressing before Nakamura equalized.


This outcome made it easier for Caruana to stay in the hunt, which is exactly what he did in over five-and-a-half hours of Sicilian torture against GM Praggnanandhaa R. Opting for a Sicilian, Caruana got a serious initiative after one odd choice from White led to a passive position against an imposing wave of kingside pawns.

Pragg versus Caruana
Image Caption
Pragg versus Caruana (photo courtesy FIDE / Michal Walusza)


However, Caruana seemed over-eager to cash in on his advantage, “winning” an Exchange while giving up his best piece and giving Praggnanandhaa serious chances of holding a fortress. Eventually, Caruana wound down his junior opponent in a battle of nerves and the clock, breaking though and realizing his material advantage.



This left just Gukesh. The 17-year-old is the youngest participant in the field (and the youngest in any Open Candidates since Fischer) had a match-up against the unpredictable GM Alireza Firouzja. The Frenchman had been having a lackluster event in terms of the standings, but has been playing uncompromising, complicated chess throughout.


Firouzja resigns against Gukesh
Image Caption
Firouzja resigns (photo courtesy FIDE / M. Emelianova)


Indeed, Firouzja was the only player to defeat Gukesh in this event. Could Gukesh claim outright first with a revenge victory? With the way this tournament has been playing out, of course he could!



Gukesh now enters the final day with a half-point lead over Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi, and Caruana. This cushion is particularly important since Gukesh takes the black pieces against Nakamura in today’s game. Caruana plays an equally important game against Nepomniachtchi, and has the white pieces.


2024 Candidates Round 13 xtable


The stakes for today's final round couldn’t be higher. If Gukesh wins, he wins the tournament outright. If Gukesh draws, he still wins outright if the other game is a draw, and otherwise ties for first with the victor of Caruana – Nepomniachtchi. If Nakamura defeats Gukesh, however, he wins the tournament outright with a draw in Caruana – Nepomniachtchi, and otherwise ties for first with the victor of that game.

In other words, Caruana and Nepomniachtchi must each play for a win. If one of them succeeds, then they’ll tie for first unless Gukesh wins. But if Caruana and Nepomniachtchi draw, then the winner of Nakamura – Gukesh wins the tournament (and Gukesh gets draw odds).


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 (Open | Women's) and (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