Gukesh Dommaraju set to create history as youngest World Chess Championship contender | World News - Hindustan Times
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Gukesh Dommaraju set to create history as youngest World Chess Championship contender

Apr 21, 2024 08:04 PM IST

The breakthrough came on Saturday evening at The Great Hall venue, where Gukesh defeated his French adversary Alireza Firouzja in the Open section of the 2024 Candidates Tournament, organised by the International Chess Federation (FIDE)

Indian grandmaster Gukesh Dommaraju will have the opportunity to create history on Sunday by becoming the youngest player to vie for the world chess championship, as he ended the penultimate round of the ongoing Candidates tournament in Toronto as the sole leader.

Indian grandmaster Gukesh D during his encounter with fellow Indian Praggnanandhaa R during the ninth round of the FIDE Candidates tournament in Toronto. (Walusza Fotografia)
Indian grandmaster Gukesh D during his encounter with fellow Indian Praggnanandhaa R during the ninth round of the FIDE Candidates tournament in Toronto. (Walusza Fotografia)

The breakthrough came on Saturday evening at the venue, The Great Hall, as Gukesh outplayed his French opponent Alireza Firouzja in the Open section at the 2024 Candidates Tournament, held by the International Chess Federation or Fédération Internationale des Échecs or FIDE. The winner of the tourney will play for the world crown against its holder Ding Liren of China, later this year.

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Asked about his thoughts about his final game during the post-game press conference in Toronto, Gukesh said, “I’ll just play a good game tomorrow and see what happens.”

Asked about the game plan, he said, “I guess I’ll go with the same strategy, try and play a good game. I’ve managed so far and hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to follow the plan.”

There’s a potential for a two- or three-way tie for the lead on Sunday, which could result in a tie-breaking game on Monday, but Gukesh wasn’t concerned about that but on the immediate task before him, as he said, “It’s too early to think about it. I’m focused only on tomorrow’s game.”

While his lack of experience has been raised as a potential factor going into the stretch, Gukesh felt his youth may have helped him to retain concentration through the gruelling tourney.

Gukesh, just 17, will enter play on Sunday with 8.5 points after 13 rounds, but just half a point ahead of his two American challengers Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura and Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, who was runner-up at the 2023 world championship and is playing under the FIDE flag.

Nepomniachtchi and Nakamura played out a draw while Caruana bested another Indian teenager Praggnanandhaa R. With 6 points so far, Praggnanandhaa is out of the contest as is Santosh Gujarathi Vidit, at 5.5.

India’s challenge in the Women’s category has faded, with Vaishali Rameshbabu and Koneru Humpy, with 6.5 points each, out of contention. Vaishali, though, has struck a winning streak in the latter days of the tourney, with four victories in a row, the latest coming on Saturday against Lei Tingjie of China. That was a setback for the latter’s hope of catching the leader of the pack, compatriot Tan Zhongyi, who has 8.5 points, a full point ahead and needing just a draw on the last day to challenge world champion Wenjun Ju.

The tournament is being held for the first time in Canada and could reach a tense conclusion on Saturday, as Gukesh plays Nakamura with Nepomniachtchi against Fabiano Caruana. Each of the four top players on the leaderboard will be hoping for a positive outcome, though Gukesh alone has the chance to clinch with a win.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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