Indian GMs Set to Rattle Favourites in Candidates


Several Indian chess players expect Caruana to emerge victorious in the Candidates and become the challenger to World Champion GM Ding Liren (Elo rating 2,780-World Rank 4th)….writes Venkatachari Jagannathan

The three Indian chess Grandmasters who have qualified for the open category Candidates 2024 tournament to be held in Toronto though not fancied to win, can surely upset the chances of higher rated and fancied foreign competitors.

This can be seen from the past game scores of the three Indian GMs in the open category are: GM R.Praggnanandhaa (2,743, World Rank 13th), GM D.Gukesh (2,725-25th) and GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (2,742 – 14th) – against the other fancied competitors.

Apart from the three Indians, the five players in the open category are: GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (2,769, World Rank 5th), GM Fabiano Caruana (2,804, ranked 2nd), GM Hikaru Nakamura (2,788, ranked 3rd), GM Alireza Firouzja (2,759, 6th) and GM Nijat Abasov (2,641, rank 102nd), the replacement player if Magnus Carlsen decides to withdraw from the event.

Barring Abasov, the other four players are ranked above the Indians.

Several Indian chess players expect Caruana to emerge victorious in the Candidates and become the challenger to World Champion GM Ding Liren (Elo rating 2,780-World Rank 4th).

“In the classical game format Praggnanandhaa has a score of 1.5 – 2.5 against Caruana, 1-1 against Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi 0.5-0.5, Firouzja 0.5-1.5, Gujrathi 2-3 and Gukesh 3-3. He has not played against Abasov,” Shahid Ahmed, Senior Editor and Coordinator, ChessBase India told IANS.

Ahmed said the scores in the case of others are as follows:

Gujrathi against: Caruana 0.5-0.5, Nakamura 0.5-0.5, Nepomniachtchi 2-4, Firouzja 0.5-0.5, Abasov 1-2, Praggnanandhaa 3-2 and Gukesh yet to play.

Gukesh against: Caruana 1.5-1.5, Nakamura 0-1, Nepomniachtchi 0.5-0.5, Firouzja 1-1, Abasov 1.5-0.5, Praggnanandhaa 3-3, Gujrathi-yet to play.

“Further, all the Indian players are in good form and qualified for the Candidates by winning or scoring well in very strong qualifying tournaments. So Indian players do have a good chance,” Ahmed said.

As regards the chances of an Indian player to challenge the World Champion and China’s Liren, GM Emil Sutovsky, CEO, FIDE or International Chess Federation, told IANS: “India is represented by three players (in the open section). All of them are worthy contenders, however none of them is among the favorites. Combined probability of one of the three to win it is clearly less than 50%, but I’d rate it above 25%.”

“So, yes, it could happen that the Title Match at the end of 2024 will be contested between Chinese and Indian players – and it would be exciting. But, say, the match between Chinese and American will be no less exciting,” Sutovsky added.

This time around for the Indian players, their major worry – financial condition- has been partly taken care off by the All India Chess Federation (AICF).

The Federation has announced reimbursement of expenses for players under various heads – coach fees, travel, lodging and other expenses- to the tune of Rs.2 crore for five players – three players in the open category and the two players in the women’s category GM Koneru Humpy and Woman GM R.Vaishali.

As an added incentive, the AICF Interim Secretary Ajeet Kumar Verma told IANS that the Federation will support Indian players winning the Candidates Tournament 2024 with financial assistance up to a sum of Rs.1 crore to prepare for the world title.

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