24 April 2024

Toronto Candidates - Third Week

Last week's post, Toronto Candidates - Second Week (April 2024), identifying typical patterns that have held in recent Candidates tournaments, predicted that GMs Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi were the two most likely players to win the event. Many observers were expecting Nepo to repeat his overwhelming success of the two most recent Candidates events, where he won both outright by a comfortable margin. Caissa, the goddess of chess, had another outcome in mind.

Going into the final round, Gukesh held a half-point lead over three of the pre-tournament favorites, Nepo included. Here's how Chessbase.com summarized the standings after the penultimate round (see below for a link to the full report).

Chessbase.com rd.13 report • Gukesh D, at 17, is a win away from becoming the next World Chess Championship challenger. The Indian prodigy beat Alireza Firouzja on Saturday to go into the final round of the Candidates Tournament as the sole leader. Three experienced contenders, who are also the top seeds in Toronto, stand a half point behind: Ian Nepomniachtchi, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana.

That summary didn't mention that all four of the leading players were due to play each other in the final round. In the crosstable, for each of the four players I've circled the first result against the only remaining opponent.

Top: Candidates R13: Gukesh beats Firoujza, enters final round as sole leader (chessbase.com; Carlos Alberto Colodro)
Bottom: Gukesh becomes World Championship challenger at 17! (ditto)

The report preceding the bottom crosstable started,

Chessbase.com rd.14 report • Gukesh D, an incredibly level-headed 17-year-old from Chennai, became the World Chess Championship challenger by winning the very strong 2024 Candidates Tournament in Toronto. Gukesh entered the final round as the sole leader, and safely held a draw with black against direct contender Hikaru Nakamura. Either Fabiano Caruana or Ian Nepomniachtchi could have caught the youngster with a win, but their direct encounter saw Caruana failing to make the most of a number of winning chances before agreeing to a 109-move draw in what turned out to be a titanic struggle.

For an interview with the winner by Chessbase.com, see The dream becomes a reality: Gukesh’s victory in a historic event (chessbase.com; Shahid Ahmed). It started,

Records were shattered and history was made at the 2024 FIDE Candidates. Two events -- Open [sic] and Women’s -- took place simultaneously for the first time at the same hall. We saw the first brother-sister duo, R Praggnanandhaa and R Vaishali, participating. In the end, D Gukesh broke a number of records: he was the youngest ever to win the Candidates Tournament and thus become the youngest ever challenger to the World Championship. Gukesh was interviewed by Sagar Shah ['ChessBase India’s co-founder and CEO'].

I'll have a wrapup report on the entire event and a separate report on the Women’s Candidates as soon as I get a chance. Congratulations to GM Gukesh on a historic victory that very few knowledgeable observers had expected.

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