Grand Swiss: Vidit scores fifth win, leads

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/2/2023 – A win over Javokhir Sindarov with black allowed Vidit Gujrathi to emerge as sole leader in the open section of the FIDE Grand Swiss. The Indian grandmaster is the only player in the open to have scored five wins, as he began the event with a loss against Erwin l’Ami. Eleven players stand a half point back, including top seeds Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Meanwhile, in the women’s tournament, Vaishali Rameshbabu and Antoaneta Stefanova collected full points to join Anna Muzychuk in the lead. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

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A second (and third) Indian in the Candidates?

One of the four players already qualified to play in the 2024 Candidates Tournament is Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, who got second place in the demanding Baku World Cup this year. Now that Vidit Gujrathi has become the sole leader in the Grand Swiss, it becomes increasingly likely for us to see a second Indian representative in the 8-player field.

Moreover, Arjun Erigaisi, one of the eleven players sharing second place a half point behind the leader, has been in good form on the Isle of Man, as he got an advantage but failed to convert it into a full point in his round-7 game against Andrey Esipenko. Not to mention the fact that Gukesh is now the frontrunner in the race to get a Candidate spot via the FIDE Circuit.

Vidit emerged as the sole leader on Wednesday after grabbing his fifth win in the event. In fact, the 29-year-old from Maharashtra is the only player who collected five wins so far in the open. Let us not forget that he suffered a painful loss to Erwin l’Ami in the first round.

In round 8, Vidit will face none other than Hikaru Nakamura, who grabbed three consecutive victories in rounds 3-5.

GM Karsten Müller analysed Vidit’s win over Javokhir Sindarov from round 7. Vidit had two minor pieces against a rook in the endgame.

Vidit Gujrathi

Sole leader Vidit Gujrathi | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Eleven chasers

Winning such a strong open, of course, requires a player to keep his or her good form throughout eleven gruelling rounds. As mentioned above, Vidit will face second seed Nakamura in the eighth round. Nakamura is one of eleven players standing a half point behind the leader.

Besides the six former co-leaders who grabbed half points on Wednesday, five players who grabbed wins in round 7 (coincidentally, all with white) have joined this group.

  • Veteran Etienne Bacrot (France, 2669) showed great endgame technique to get the better of Yu Yangyi.
  • Vincent Keymer (Germany, 2717) outplayed the ever-fighting Anton Korobov.
  • Rising star Bogdan-Daniel Deac (Romania, 2701) defeated recent Qatar Masters winner Nodirbek Yakubboev.
  • Yuriy Kuzubov (Ukraine, 2625) beat Vladislav Artemiev.
  • Vladimir Fedoseev (Slovenia, 2691) needed 79 moves to inflict a first loss on Ramazan Zhalmakhanov, the biggest underdog to remain in the fight for first until round 7 on the Isle of Man.

Vincent Keymer

Vincent Keymer | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Karsten Müller analysed the desperado-rook resource used by Alexandr Predke to secure a draw against Nakamura, a tremendous technician himself.

Alexandr Predke, Hikaru Nakamura

Alexandr Predke and Hikaru Nakamura | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Pragg shares his thoughts on his round-7 victory!

Standings after round 7

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 5,5 2648
2 Predke, Alexandr 5 2719
3 Bacrot, Etienne 5 2691
4 Esipenko, Andrey 5 2687
5 Erigaisi, Arjun 5 2670
6 Nakamura, Hikaru 5 2666
7 Caruana, Fabiano 5 2662
8 Kuzubov, Yuriy 5 2662
9 Keymer, Vincent 5 2646
10 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 5 2646
11 Deac, Bogdan-Daniel 5 2633
12 Fedoseev, Vladimir 5 2618
13 Sindarov, Javokhir 4,5 2703
14 Niemann, Hans Moke 4,5 2696
15 Ter-Sahakyan, Samvel 4,5 2688
16 Cheparinov, Ivan 4,5 2678
17 Firouzja, Alireza 4,5 2668
18 Rapport, Richard 4,5 2659
19 Sarana, Alexey 4,5 2654
20 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 4,5 2650

...114 players

All games - Round 7

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Vaishali and Stefanova join A. Muzychuk in the lead

Similarly to the open, only one player in the women’s section has collected five wins in seven rounds: former women’s world champion Antoaneta Stefanova. Like Vidit, Stefanova was defeated once before climbing to the top of the standings. Unlike the Indian, though, she is sharing the lead with two other players.

Anna Muzychuk grabbed the sole lead by beating Bibisara Assaubayeva before the rest day. In round 7, the Ukrainian held top seed Aleksandra Goryachkina to a draw with the black, which allowed Stefanova and Vaishali Rameshbabu to join her in the lead.

Vaishali inflicted Assuabayeva’s second loss in a row by making the most of a mistaken king manoeuvre on move 36.

Despite being a pawn down, Black is better here with her outside passer on the queenside and her more active king. White has good drawing chances, though.

The correct way to continue for Assaubayeva here was with 36.Bf3. After using 6 of the 10 minutes she had on her clock, however, she went for 36.Kg1, allowing 36...Bd4, preparing to push the b-pawn.

After 37.Kf2 b4 38.Bh3+ Kf7 39.Ke2 b3, White is forced to defend against the pawn promotion with the knight.

The king cannot run to the queenside due to ...Bxd4, and White cannot recapture without allowing the pawn to reach the promotion square. Therefore, Assaubayeva had to give up the knight via 40.Nc4 b2 41.Nxb2 Bxb2, and Vaishali went on to convert her material advantage into a 79-move win.

Note that playing 36.Bf3 in the first diagrammed position would have allowed White to defend the b-pawn advancement with an eventual Bf3-d1.

Vaishali Rameshbabu, Bibisara Assaubayeva

Vaishali Rameshbabu beat Bibisara Assaubayeva with black | Photo: Anna Shtourman

To grab her fifth win in the event, Stefanova defended against Mariya Muzychuk’s attack to gain a material advantage, which she later patiently converted into a full point.

Black could successfully deal with the attack with 26...Kf8, but Stefanova found the more accurate 27.Rxh6 Bxh6 28.Nh4, trading a rook for two minor pieces but also consolidating her position around the king.

Muzychuk kept trying to muddy the waters, but Stefanova proficiently defended while advancing her passed d-pawn.

44...d3 was the beginning of the end for Muzychuk, who nevertheless continued fighting until move 62.

Antoaneta Stefanova

Antoaneta Stefanova | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Standings after round 7

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Vaishali, Rameshbabu 5,5 2475
2 Muzychuk, Anna 5,5 2468
3 Stefanova, Antoaneta 5,5 2426
4 Milliet, Sophie 5 2469
5 Goryachkina, Aleksandra 5 2420
6 Tsolakidou, Stavroula 4,5 2481
7 Assaubayeva, Bibisara 4,5 2464
8 Cori T., Deysi 4,5 2464
9 Garifullina, Leya 4,5 2463
10 Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 4,5 2444
11 Tan, Zhongyi 4,5 2434
12 Bulmaga, Irina 4,5 2427
13 Shuvalova, Polina 4,5 2387
14 Ushenina, Anna 4,5 2385
15 Fataliyeva, Ulviyya 4 2463
16 Narva, Mai 4 2452
17 Muzychuk, Mariya 4 2414
18 Efroimski, Marsel 4 2397
19 Cramling, Pia 4 2391
20 Javakhishvili, Lela 4 2371

...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.