Candidates R7: Nepo sole leader as Firouzja beats Gukesh

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/12/2024 – At the halfway mark in the Candidates Tournament, Ian Nepomniachtchi tops the standings with 4½ points to his name. Former co-leader Gukesh D was defeated by Alireza Firouzja, who came from losing 3 out of the first 6 games he played in Toronto. Gukesh is now sharing second place — a half point behind Nepomniachtchi — with Praggnanandhaa R and Fabiano Caruana. Rounds 8-10 will take place between Saturday and Monday, following the tournament’s second rest day. | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

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Firouzja bounces back

After Ian Nepomniachtchi grabbed the sole lead in round 4 of the Candidates Tournament, we pointed out that the Russian GM had similarly climbed to sole first place in the tournament’s previous edition (which he ended up winning). Three rounds later, Nepomniachtchi regained the sole lead thanks to Firouzja’s victory over former co-leader Gukesh D.

Nepo was also the sole leader at the halfway mark in Madrid, though back then he had impressively collected 5½ points by round 7 (he beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Ding Liren in rounds 5 and 6), while he is now atop the standings ‘only’ with 4½ points to his name.

If we continue looking for coincidences between the two editions, we note that Fabiano Caruana also stood a half point behind Nepo in 2022 — back then, though, he was in sole second place, while now he is tied for second with Praggnanandhaa R and Gukesh D.

Two other parallelisms can be made between the events in Madrid and Toronto: i.e. the number of points achieved by Firouzja and Hikaru Nakamura after seven rounds of play. Nakamura finished the first half of both events with 3½ points, while an out-of-form Firouzja collected 2½ points on both occasions.

Firouzja signed 3 draws and suffered 3 losses in the first six rounds of the tournament in Toronto. After a painful loss against Vidit on Wednesday, though, the 20-year-old bounced immediately back with a victory over Gukesh. Since Nepo did not have a first half as strong as his first half in Madrid, Firouzja stands not 3 but 2 points behind the leader this time around — still with outside (yet realistic) chances of fighting for the title.

Results - Round 7

Fabiano Caruana

A half point behind the leader — Fabiano Caruana drew Praggnanandhaa with white in the seventh round | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Firouzja 1 - 0 Gukesh

Analysis by André Schulz

Dommaraju Gukesh

Dommaraju Gukesh | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Nakamura ½ - ½ Nepomniachtchi

Analysis by André Schulz

Ian Nepomniachtchi

On his way to a third Candidates victory in a row? — Ian Nepomniachtchi | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Standings after round 7

All games

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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