Nepomniachtchi Survives Praggnanandhaa’s Killer Preparation, Gukesh Joins Lead

After nearly six hours of play and in the longest round of the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament so far, GM Gukesh Dommaraju defeated GM Nijat Abasov to take the lead from GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. Nepomniachtchi, on the other hand, miraculously survived a lost opening position against GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu.

GM Hikaru Nakamura was the only other player to win, against GM Alireza Firouzja, and is one point behind the leaders. GM Vidit Gujrathi had a golden opportunity against GM Fabiano Caruana but had to settle for a draw after missing a critical response.

There were no decisive results among the female candidates, leaving chief executive Tan Zhongyi in the lead with a half-point lead.

The sixth round will take place Wednesday, April 10, from 2:30 p.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. CEST / 12:00 a.m. IST.

Rankings – Candidates

Ranking – Female Candidates

The first rest day of the tournament, between rounds four and five, coincided with the solar eclipse of 2024. General managers Nijat Abasov and Anna Muzychuk were the two candidates, as well as runners-up, commentators and officials of the tournament. FIDE, to take a charter boat on Lake Ontario to see it (see video below). The next total solar eclipse in North America will occur in 20 years.

TThe Candidates Blitz tournament also took place on the day off. Unsurprisingly, none of the contestants played, but a few of their runners-up did. General manager Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Abasov’s second) and GM Ivan Cheparinov (second from IM Nurgyul Salimova) shared first place with 8/9.

Rk. Title FED Name RTG Points.
1 General manager Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2700 8
2 General manager Cheparinov, Ivan 2593 8
3 I AM Sai, Krishna G.V. 2404 7.5
4 I AM Vettese, Nicolas 2272 7
5 General manager Tari, Aryan 2579 7
6 General manager Sambouev, Bator 2422 7
7 I AM Thavandiran, Shiyam 2354 7.5
8 General manager Golubka, Petro 2434 6.5
9 Knox, Christopher 2210 6.5
ten General manager Tregubov, Pavel V. 2445 6.5
11 Gavriline, Romain 2076 6.5
12 I AM Plotkin, Mark 2401 6.5
13 General manager Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2473 6.5
14 General manager Roussel-Roozmon, Thomas 2457 6.5
15 FM Keleberda, Timur 2198 6

(See the full ranking here.)

As for the main tournament, Nepomniachtchi’s lone lead was eclipsed by a surging Gukesh.

Candidates: big scare for Nepomniachtchi, disappointment for Praggnanandhaa

There wasn’t much story between the fifth-round clashes. Only eight lifetime matches between the players have preceded this day, of which only two were decisive.

Italian singer Andrea Bocelli (center) was the celebrity guest in the fifth round. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Over the course of 32 matches and three Candidates Tournaments, Nepomniachtchi always had at least a share of the lead – the longest streak in FIDE Candidates history. That streak almost ended on Tuesday, but it has now been extended to 33 games.

“I’ll probably have to rehearse my lines a little more next time,” survivor Nepomniachtchi said. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nepomniachtchi was a novelty in his game against Praggnanandhaa, being the first person outside of correspondence chess to recover a sacrificed pawn with 13…Dxc3N. Over the next five moves, Praggnanandhaa sacrificed another pawn and then a piece, and had 50 more minutes on the clock.

Despite the technically losing move 23.Nc5?, Nepomniachtchi fought with ingenuity. And after his opponent’s unprovoked error 26.Bf5?, he exchanged queens and held comfortably. After the match, Praggnanandhaa said: “There were crazier lines than that, but what I got in the match was like I maxed out in the Petroff. Still, I couldn’t don’t put more pressure.”

…what I got in the game was like I maxed out in the Petroff.

— Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

General manager Rafael Leitao reviews today’s game below.

The Indian prodigy said he was disappointed with the result “because we don’t have many opportunities here and we have to take advantage of the ones we have.”

It was a miraculous save for the tournament co-leader, who still had nine rounds to go.

A near miss for Praggnanandhaa against one of the tournament favorites. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Gukesh’s victory against the lowest seed was anything but clean. In fact, he wasted several opportunities, the most critical just before then after move 40, and only converted in a queen final which could have been defended by his opponent, if the latter had found all the defenses of the ‘computer.

With this victory, the youngest candidate, at only 17 years old, joins Nepomniachtchi in the lead. He also returns to the world top 10, one point above general manager Viswanathan Anand.

A good, if somewhat fragile, start for Gukesh. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura and Firouzja had only played three classic matches in person before Tuesday, despite frequent meetings online. It was a tense Italian match where, despite the complexity, the chances remained more or less equal throughout.

A wild endgame liquidated in the imbalance of a knight and two additional pawns against the rook. Firouzja, under heavy pressure, played the losing move 62.Rxd3 ? with just one second on the clock – and resigned after making one more move.

An unfortunate end to a long match for Firouzja. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura is back at 50 percent and is one point behind the leaders. In his recap video, he called it “a very, very big win (that) definitely gives me some hope to try to come back, to try to play for first place.”

More than achieving victory… you must try to stay positive about the situation. I firmly believe that everything in life happens for a reason.”

More than achieving victory… you must try to stay positive about the situation.

—Hikaru Nakamura

You can watch his full recap below.

After losing his previous two matches, Vidit had a rare chance to defeat the top seed. A win would have put him within half a point of the leader, as well as a +1 lifetime score against Caruana. Their only previous match was a draw.

After dominating the world number two in the middle of the match, he suddenly reached a winning position after 22…e5? 23.Qg3!, a decision Caruana said he completely overlooked. Three moves later, Naroditsky suggested the natural 26.Qe5? for Vidit to centralize the queen, a move the engine severely disapproved of. And then he appeared on the board, falling into a forced tie by repetition.

Like Nepomniachtchi, Caruana miraculously survived and continues to be half a point behind the leader. For Vidit fans, it’s still heartbreaking. He shared: “Winning a match here takes a lot of effort and after giving it your best – and not finishing it, of course, it’s disappointing.”

The game was decided by a single move, 26.Qe5?. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana, on the other hand, was realistic about what that meant: “If I keep playing like this, it’s not like I’ll get lucky every day. So I hope my game improves .”

If I keep playing like this, it’s not like I’ll get lucky every day.

—Fabiano Caruana

Without a doubt, the most critical match on Wednesday will be Nepomniachtchi against Caruana. Additionally, Gukesh vs Nakamura will be a great test for the young Indian. In other words, can he continue like this?

Female candidates: more missed opportunities and clever escapes

The scenario of the women’s tournament was the same as that of the previous round: missed opportunities. GM Kateryna Lagno and Anna Muzychuk took winning positions but couldn’t get the job done against, respectively, GMs Lei Tingjie and Vaishali Rameshbabu.

A victory for Lagno would have seen her move into first place. She took the initiative on move 24 and her attack materialized more spectacularly after the “sacrifice”. 30…Bxh3!. At the end of the game, Lei’s desperate attempt 39.Nf5!? ended up saving the game.

Lei versus Lagno. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other match that came close to being decisive was Vaishali-Muzychuk, although the path wasn’t as clear as the match above. After winning a pawn in the middle game, Muzychuk’s task was to break through an attempted fortress, and after 41.Nxc5? thanks to Vaishali, this became possible. But Muzychuk’s 46…cxd5? released the tension prematurely, and there was no other chance after that.

This is the third straight game in which Muzychuk has failed to convert a game-winning advantage. With this escape, Vaishali remains in the top half of the scoreboard, one point behind the leader.

Tan gained an advantage – and at one point a very large one – in the Caro Kann against Salimova, but the international master sacrificed a pawn for the activity. In practice, this was enough to draw.

“I felt like I was better, but I didn’t see any definite advantage. I felt like I missed an opportunity to put more pressure on her,” Tan said after the match.

“I feel like I don’t have a huge lead right now,” Tan said of his lead. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Humpy-Goryachkina was the shortest and least exciting game, with players exchanging queens in a symmetrical accepted Queen’s Gambit.

Tan will have the white pieces against a possibly discouraged Muzychuk on Wednesday. Goryachkina, half a point behind, will have the black pieces against Salimova.

You can watch video recaps of the candidates in our playlist below (click here).

How to watch?
You can watch the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament on Chess24’s YouTube and Twitch, and the 2024 FIDE Candidates on’s YouTube and Twitch. Games can also be followed from our Events page.

The FIDE Candidates Tournaments are among the most important FIDE events of the year. Players compete for the right to participate in the next FIDE World Championship match against current world chess champions Ding Liren and Ju Wenjun.

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