The dream becomes a reality: Gukesh’s victory in a historic event

by Shahid Ahmed
4/24/2024 – Records were shattered and history was made at the 2024 FIDE Candidates. Two events — open and women’s — took place simultaneously for the first time at the same hall. We saw the first brother-sister duo, R Praggnanandhaa and R Vaishali, participating. In the end, D Gukesh broke a number of records: he was the youngest ever to win the Candidates Tournament and thus become the youngest ever challenger to the World Championship. Gukesh was interviewed by Sagar Shah in what turned out to be a conversation lasting close to two hours. | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

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A lengthy conversation with the champ

10 reasons why the Candidates was special for Indian chess

1. The youngest-ever to win a FIDE Candidates tournament

At the age of 17, D Gukesh became the youngest player to ever win a Candidates Tournament. Last year, on 1 September 2023, Gukesh became the first player in 37 years to surpass Vishy Anand as the highest-rated Indian player in the world.

So it is fitting that Gukesh break another major record, something that will be very difficult to match, let alone break it.

2. First Candidates to hold open and women’s events simultaneously

The recently concluded event in Toronto was the first in which both the open and the women’s Candidates Tournament took place in the same hall.

Lei Tingjie, Humpy Koneru, Tan Zhongyi

The top three finishers in the women’s tournament — Lei Tingjie, Humpy Koneru and tournament winner Tan Zhongyi | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

3. India’s prevalence and the first ever brother-sister participation

Vishy Anand and Koneru Humpy were the only two Indians that had qualified to Candidates Tournaments prior to this edition. This year, five Indians — three in the open and two in women’s — earned spots. India had the highest number of players in the open, with three representatives.

It was also the first time that a brother-sister duo, R Praggnanandhaa and R Vaishali, played in the same edition of a Candidates event.

The mathematical odds were certainly in India’s favour. Gukesh’s win and Humpy’s second place finish is a testament to that.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Praggnanandhaa had a strong start in Toronto, but fell off the race for first place in the second half of the event | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

4. How you deal with a loss is more important than the loss itself

...if I had to pinpoint a moment where I felt this could be my moment was probably after the seventh game. After I lost to Firouzja. I was obviously quite upset after that, but during the rest day I already felt so good, even though I just had a painful loss. I was feeling at my absolute best and, I don’t know, maybe this loss just gave me so much motivation. After the seventh round, I really started to feel at my absolute best.

D Gukesh thus answered to a journalist who asked him about when he felt like he could win this tournament.

5. The importance of a strong support system

To be successful in anything, one needs to have a great support system. D Gukesh was surrounded by his father Dr. Rajini Kanth, his second Grzegorz Gajewski, and Westbridge Capital sponsor Sandeep Singhal.

Gukesh also mentioned that during the tournament he stayed disconnected from the outside world. He remained focused on his games and preparation.

Dommaraju Gukesh

The Dream Team (L to R): Dr. Rajini Kanth (father), D Gukesh, Grzegorz Gajewski (second) and Sandeep Singhal of Westbridge Capital (Sponsor) | Photo: Sagar Shah

6. Seizing his final opportunity

D Gukesh did not qualify to the Candidates via the FIDE World Cup, while the Grand Swiss is a tournament he would like to forget. He was very close to gaining the crucial points at the London Chess Classic, but it did not turn out to be enough.

Then, ChessBase India’s co-founder and CEO Sagar Shah brainstormed and put together the Chennai Grand Masters, which was sponsored and supported by the Tamil Nadu Government and the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu. The event was organized by MGD1, NODWIN Gaming and ChessBase India, and it was announced on Vishy Anand’s 54th birthday.

Gukesh won that tournament and secured a spot at the Candidates Tournament. There were some permutations and combinations that could have led to a different outcome at the World Rapid and Blitz Championships, but everything worked in Gukesh’s favour.

7. When it comes to chess, Vishnu Prasanna understands Gukesh better than anyone

Whatever D Gukesh has achieved in chess, it had plenty to do with one man’s contribution: GM Vishnu Prasanna. When it comes to chess, Vishnu knows Gukesh better than anyone — Gukesh himself said it after winning the Chennai Grand Masters.

Speaking of Vishnu, it would be remiss if I do not mention this sweet trivia: Vishnu scored 9/9 to win the 2024 Olympiad Curtain Raiser Rapid Rating Open. It took place at the same hall and on the same boards where the 2022 Chess Olympiad took place.

We all know Gukesh scored eight straight wins at the historic team event, including a win over Fabiano Caruana. Gukesh eventually won an individual gold medal on the top board and a team bronze medal for the India-2 team.

Vishnu Prasanna

Vishnu Prasanna with a smile on his face (find here an interview with Gukesh’s trainer) | Photo: Shahid Ahmed

8. Dream turned into reality

There was a dream to organize India's first Classical Super tournament in India. Rapid and Blitz super tournaments annually take place in the form of Tata Steel Chess India since 2018. However, there was a void in Classical Super tournament. Gukesh won Chennai Grand Masters on 21st December 2023. Exactly four months later on 21st April 2024, he won the FIDE Candidates 2024. What was very nice is that Gukesh's journey enabled India's first super tournament to happen.

The strongest ever classical super tournament of India was enabled thanks to Gukesh and Arjun Erigiaisi having a chance to qualify to the Candidates via FIDE circuit

9. Humpy’s second-place finish

Despite a winless start of only 2½/7 points in the first half, Koneru Humpy bounced back like the warrior she is and scored an unbeaten 5/7 score in the second half to finish in second place. We all know what an amazing legend she is.

Humpy Koneru

Humpy Koneru | Photo: FIDE / Michal Walusza

10. Vaishali’s epic comeback

After losing four games in a row in a tournament as important as the Candidates, it is not easy to make a comeback. Not only did Vaishali make a strong comeback, but she got to win five games in a row. She scored the same number of points, 7½ out of 14, as the runner-up. Only due to tiebreak criteria, she was placed fourth.

And this was her debut at the Candidates!

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Shahid Ahmed is the senior coordinator and editor of ChessBase India. He enjoys covering chess tournaments and also likes to play in chess events from time to time.
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