Indians prevail in FIDE Grand Swiss: Vidit and Vaishali triumph!

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/6/2023 – A clutch win — his seventh in ten games — gave Vidit Gujrathi tournament victory in the open section of the FIDE Grand Swiss. The Indian grandmaster thus qualified to the 2024 Candidates Tournament. Joining him in Toronto will be Hikaru Nakamura, who finished in clear second place a half point behind. Meanwhile, another Indian player prevailed in the women’s section, as Vaishali Rameshbabu grabbed clear first place after drawing Batkhuyag Munguntuul on Sunday. Anna Muzychuk, who was already qualified to the Candidates, got second place, allowing third-placed Tan Zhongyi to secure the second Candidates’ spot. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

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An incredible comeback

Even the most reckless of betting men would find it hard to pick a non-undefeated player as the winner of the strongest open chess tournament of the year. Coming back from a loss is a tall order with such motivated, well-prepared elite grandmasters fighting for a spot in the prelude to the World Championship match. And that is precisely what Vidit Gujrathi achieved in the 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss.

Following a painful first-round loss, the 29-year-old grandmaster from Maharashtra scored 7 wins in 10 games to clinch clear first place with 8½/11 points and a 2876 rating performance.

On his way to a memorable victory, Vidit defeated rising stars Hans Niemann, Bogdan-Daniel Deac and Javokhir Sindarov — and, importantly, held Hikaru Nakamura to a draw in round 8. His deciding win on Sunday was achieved in his game with white against an in-form Alexandr Predke, who had defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Sam Shankland in previous rounds.

Vidit thus gained a spot in the next edition of the Candidates Tournament, where he will join compatriot Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu as the second Indian player in the field. We might even see a third Indian in the 8-player lineup if Gukesh manages to qualify via the FIDE Circuit (although Anish Giri surpassed him in the leaderboard thanks to a strong performance on the Isle of Man).

Now that a semi-retired Vishy Anand is not fighting to regain the world title, India’s current number 2 and number 3 have taken the baton and will surely be very motivated to gain the right to face Ding Liren in the next World Championship match. The rise to the top of the new Indian generation is coming more quickly than some might have expected!

Vidit outplayed Predke in a dynamic, queenless position. Playing white, the eventual tournament winner correctly calculated that he could grab a pawn on move 21.

After using 13 of his remaining 33 minutes (this is move 21), Vidit assessed that it was safe to play 21.Nxa6. White will need to be precise to keep his advantage while untangling his pieces, as Black will surely attack the somewhat restricted knight on a6.

Once the dust had settled, White had both the extra pawn on the queenside and a more flexible minor piece.

29.a4 gains space and cements White’s advantage. Predke tried to create counterplay on the kingside, but to no avail — Vidit dealt with the threats around his king while pushing his outside passer all the way to the seventh rank.

Resignation came in the following position.

Check out Karsten Müller’s Endgame Magic show featuring Vidit!

Vidit Gujrathi, Alexandr Predke

Vidit Gujrathi facing Alexandr Predke | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Nakamura reaches Candidates

A 38-draw with white against Arjun Erigaisi allowed Hikaru Nakamura to finish the tournament in sole second place, a half point behind Vidit.

Both for Nakamura and Vidit, getting a draw on Sunday was no guarantee of finishing in the top two, as Andrey Esipenko, who entered the round sharing the lead with them, was sure to end the event with a better tiebreak score than both (average rating of opponents excluding the lowest-rated rival).

Esipenko, however, erred in a queenless position against Anish Giri, after having amassed a 26-minute advantage on the clock by once again showing excellent opening preparation. An inspired Giri, who came from scoring back-to-back wins, made the most of Esipenko’s positional mistake and went on to grab his third consecutive victory.

20.Rb5 was one of the many precise manoeuvres that Giri found on his way to victory.

Anish Giri

Anish Giri | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Hikaru Nakamura

Calm and collected — Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: Anna Shtourman

The fact that Nakamura qualified to the Candidates via the Grand Swiss means Alireza Firouzja is now the favourite to get the rating spot...

...although Giri’s strong performance left him 8 points behind the Frenchman in the live ratings list, and both players are set to participate in the Sinquefield Cup later this month.

Giri’s strong run also allowed him to climb to first place in the FIDE Circuit (below Fabiano Caruana, who already qualified to the Candidates), so things are looking up for the Dutch star — who, by the way, is a good friend of Vidit’s!

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 8,5 2671
2 Nakamura, Hikaru 8 2687
3 Esipenko, Andrey 7,5 2702
4 Erigaisi, Arjun 7,5 2681
5 Keymer, Vincent 7,5 2673
6 Maghsoodloo, Parham 7,5 2660
7 Giri, Anish 7,5 2657
8 Sindarov, Javokhir 7 2707
9 Predke, Alexandr 7 2702
10 Caruana, Fabiano 7 2684
11 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 7 2650
12 Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 7 2648
13 Praggnanandhaa, R 7 2637
14 Yakubboev, Nodirbek 6,5 2706
15 Ter-Sahakyan, Samvel 6,5 2701
16 Yilmaz, Mustafa 6,5 2699
17 Cheparinov, Ivan 6,5 2698
18 Bacrot, Etienne 6,5 2695
19 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 6,5 2674
20 Deac, Bogdan-Daniel 6,5 2671

...114 players

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Vaishali in control, Tan (barely) reaches Candidates

The third Indian player to secure a ticket to Toronto is Vaishali Rameshbabu, who will be travelling to Canada with her brother Praggnanandhaa after qualifying to the Women’s Candidates by claiming outright victory in the Grand Swiss.

Soon after getting her third GM norm in Qatar, Vaishali won the 11-round Swiss tournament by scoring six wins and five draws in Douglas. The 22-year-old collected crucial wins over direct contenders Mariya Muzychuk, Antoaneta Stefanova and Tan Zhongyi on her way to victory. In the final round, she safely held a draw with black against Batkhuyag Munguntuul.

After gaining 30.1 rating points, the Indian IM climbed to the 14th spot in the women’s live ratings list, with 2497.1 Elo points to her name — just 3 points shy of reaching the 2500-mark, which is what she needs to get the GM title!

Vaishali Rameshbabu

Permanent support — Vaishali Rameshbabu and her mom | Photo: Anna Shtourman

The second spot in the 2024 Women’s Candidates was given to Tan Zhongyi, who actually finished in third place. Anna Muzychuk, who finished second, had already qualified via the FIDE World Cup.

Tan bounced back from her loss against Vaishali by beating Gunay Mammadzada with the white pieces. Mammadzada missed a winning move in the sharp middlegame, though.

The forcing 24...Qc3 gives Black a large advantage here, since White must trade queens — 25.Qc1, for example, fails to 25...e4 and Black mates on the long diagonal — which leads to Black gaining a pawn: i.e. 25.Qxc3 Rxc3, and there is no way to defend both the f3-pawn and the d5-pawn after ...Ra8-a5.

None of this was seen on the board, however, as Mammadzada, after thinking for 12 minutes, erred with 24...Rf8 in the first diagrammed position.

Tan quickly replied by 25.c4, getting the upper hand. She would then convert her advantage into the 34-move win that gained her a ticket to the Candidates. The Chinese grandmaster finished the tournament with the same score as Munguntuul, and outscored the Mongolian underdog by merely 3 points in the first tiebreak criterion!

Tan Zhongyi

Tan Zhongyi | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Anna Muzychuk

Anna Muzychuk | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Vaishali, Rameshbabu 8,5 2456
2 Muzychuk, Anna 8 2446
3 Tan, Zhongyi 7,5 2444
4 Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 7,5 2441
5 Garifullina, Leya 7 2465
6 Stefanova, Antoaneta 7 2430
7 Cramling, Pia 7 2409
8 Muzychuk, Mariya 7 2403
9 Tsolakidou, Stavroula 6,5 2465
10 Cori T., Deysi 6,5 2464
11 Narva, Mai 6,5 2463
12 Socko, Monika 6,5 2439
13 Assaubayeva, Bibisara 6,5 2437
14 Javakhishvili, Lela 6,5 2405
15 Kamalidenova, Meruert 6 2481
16 Milliet, Sophie 6 2474
17 Goryachkina, Aleksandra 6 2440
18 Divya, Deshmukh 6 2414
19 Dronavalli, Harika 6 2413
20 Bulmaga, Irina 6 2409

...50 players

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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.