FIDE Candidates Open: Gukesh, Pragg, 3 Others Have Realistic Chance To Win Title, Says GM Susan Polgar


(MENAFN- IANS) Chennai, April 17 (IANS) It is too close to predict who will come out on top of the Open category in the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament in Toronto with five players, including two young Indian chess Grandmasters (GM), D. Gukesh and R. Praggnanandhaa, in the race, said former women's world champion (1996-99), GM Susan Polgar.

The winners of the Candidates Tournament -- Open and Women's categories -- will get a shot at the world title against the incumbent world champions from China -- GM Liren Ding (Open) and GM Wenjun Ju (Women's).

“It is too close to call. Nepo (Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi) has the experience, but Gukesh also looks very motivated. So are GMs Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Praggnanandhaa,” Polgar told IANS.

“This is one of the more exciting Candidates Tournament, with five players having a realistic shot to win,” added the Hungarian-American GM, who at 15 became the top-ranked female chess player in the world in 1984.

For the first time, a large contingent from India -- three in the Open category, GMs Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, and Vidit Gujrathi, and two in the Women's section, GMs Koneru Humpy and R. Vaishali -- are in the fray.

At the end of the 10th round, Gukesh (World No. 16) and Nepomniachtchi (World No. 7) are at the top with 6 points each, followed by Italian-Amerian Caruana (World No. 2), Nakamura of the US (World No. 3), and Praggnanandhaa (World No. 14) with 5.5 points apeice.

Gujrathi (World No. 26) is placed sixth with 5 points, followed by Iranian-French GM Alireza Firouzja (World No. 6) with 3.5 points, and GM Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan (World No. 114) with 3 points.

The three Indian GMs are punching above their weight as all the other competitors barring Abasov are higher-ranked players.

Asked about the Indian player who can win the tournament, Polgar said:“Gukesh, but Praggnanandhaa will be right in contention until the final round.”

In fact, Polgar had said before that Gukesh (17) would go the furthest with a maturity beyond his years.

“Gukesh has the talent, motivation, fearless mentality, strong nerves, determination, and the X-factor. But he has to make sure not to get into time pressure. The difference between him and Nepo is that Nepo managed to save a few bad games,” Polgar said.

Incidentally, Gukesh could be termed as the Rajinikanth of Indian chess, given the Tamil superstar's many stupendous feats on the silver screen. Gukesh is the son of is D. Rajinikanth, an ENT surgeon. At the Chess Olympiad held here in 2022, Gukesh had won the first seven games, a record of sorts.

While two-time world title challenger Nepomniachtchi remains unbeaten in Toronto, Gukesh lost to Firouzja in the seventh round.

Polgar said the performance of the Indian players has been as per her expectations, though she didn't expect Gujrathi to beat Nakamura twice.

Similarly, Gukesh outperformed her initial expectations, Polgar remarked.

Earlier, when asked about the chances of an Indian player challenging Liren for the world title, GM Emil Sutovsky of Israel, the CEO of FIDE, the international governing body for chess, told IANS:“India is represented by three players (in the Open section) and of them are worthy contenders. However, none of them is among the favourites. A combined probability of one of the three winning the tournament is less than 50 per cent, but I'd rate it above 25 per cent.”

“So, yes, it could happen that the title match at the end of 2024 would be between Chinese and Indian players, which would be exciting. But, say, a contest between Chinese and American players will be no less exciting,” Sutovsky said.

In the Women's section, India's Humpy and Vaishali are out of contention for the top spot with 4.5 and 3.5 points at the end of the 10th round, respectively.

(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be reached at ...)

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IANS

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