Nepomniachtchi Survives Praggnanandhaa’s Killer Preparation, Gukesh Joins Lead

Nepomniachtchi Survives Praggnanandhaa’s Killer Preparation, Gukesh Joins Lead


After close to six hours of play and in the longest round of the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament so far, GM Gukesh Dommaraju defeated GM Nijat Abasov to catch GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in the lead. Nepomniachtchi, on the other hand, survived a lost position out of the opening by a miracle against GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu.

GM Hikaru Nakamura was the only other player to win, against GM Alireza Firouzja, and is a point behind the leaders. GM Vidit Gujrathi had a golden opportunity against GM Fabiano Caruana but had to settle for a draw after missing a critical response.

There were no decisive results in the Women’s Candidates, leaving GM Tan Zhongyi in the lead by half a point. 

Round six will be on Wednesday, April 10, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET / 20:30 CEST / 12:00 a.m. IST.

Standings – Candidates

Standings – Women’s Candidates

The tournament’s first rest day, between rounds four and five, coincided with the 2024 solar eclipse. GMs Nijat Abasov and Anna Muzychuk were the two candidates, along with seconds, commentators, and FIDE officials, to take a chartered boat into Lake Ontario to view it (see video below). The next total solar eclipse in North America will be in 20 years.

The Candidates Blitz tournament also took place on the rest day. Unsurprisingly, none of the candidates played, but a few of their seconds did. GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Abasov’s second) and GM Ivan Cheparinov (IM Nurgyul Salimova‘s second) shared first with 8/9.

Rk. Title FED Name Rtg Pts.
1 GM Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2700 8
2 GM Cheparinov, Ivan 2593 8
3 IM Sai, Krishna G V 2404 7.5
4 IM Vettese, Nicholas 2272 7
5 GM Tari, Aryan 2579 7
6 GM Sambuev, Bator 2422 7
7 IM Thavandiran, Shiyam 2354 7.5
8 GM Golubka, Petro 2434 6.5

Knox, Christopher 2210 6.5
10 GM Tregubov, Pavel V. 2445 6.5

Gavrilin, Roman 2076 6.5
12 IM Plotkin, Mark 2401 6.5
13 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2473 6.5
14 GM Roussel-Roozmon, Thomas 2457 6.5
15 FM Keleberda, Tymur 2198 6

(See full standings here.)

Regarding the main tournament, Nepomniachtchi’s sole lead was eclipsed by a soaring Gukesh.

Candidates: Big Scare For Nepomniachtchi, Disappointment For Praggnanandhaa

There wasn’t so much history between the matchups in round five. Just eight lifetime games among the players preceded this day, with only two of them being decisive.

Italian singer Andrea Bocelli (center) was the celebrity guest in round five. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Across 32 games and three Candidates Tournaments, Nepomniachtchi has always had at least a share of the lead—the longest streak in FIDE Candidates history. That streak came painfully close to ending this Tuesday, but it’s now been extended to 33 games.

“Probably I have to repeat my lines a bit more next time,” said the survivor Nepomniachtchi. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nepomniachtchi played the novelty in his game against Praggnanandhaa, being the first person outside of correspondence chess to grab a sacrificed pawn with 13…Qxc3N. Over the next five moves, Praggnanandhaa sacrificed another pawn and then a piece, and had 50 extra minutes on the clock.

Despite playing the technically game-losing move 23.Nc5?, Nepomniachtchi fought resourcefully. And after the unprovoked error by his opponent 26.Bf5?, he traded queens and held comfortably. After the game, Praggnanandhaa said: “There were more crazy lines than this, but what I got in the game felt like I achieved the maximum in the Petroff. Still, I couldn’t put more pressure.”

… what I got in the game felt like I achieved the maximum in the Petroff.

—Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

GM Rafael Leitao goes over the Game of the Day below.

The Indian prodigy admitted he was disappointed with the result “because you don’t get too many chances here and you have to make use of the ones that you get.”

It was a miraculous save for the tournament co-leader, who’s still got nine rounds to go.

A near-miss for Praggnanandhaa against one of the tournament favorites. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Gukesh’s victory against the lowest seed was anything but clean. In fact, he spoiled several chances, most critically just before and then after move 40, and only converted in a queen endgame that could have been defended by his opponent—if the latter had found every one of the computer’s defenses.

With this victory, the youngest candidate, at just 17 years of age, joins Nepomniachtchi in the lead. He also jumps back into the world top-10, one rating point above GM Viswanathan Anand.

A good, though somewhat shaky, start for Gukesh. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura and Firouzja had only played three classical games in person before Tuesday, despite frequent encounters online. It was a tense Italian Game where, despite the complexity, chances remained more or less equal for the entire affair.

A wild endgame liquidated into the imbalance of a knight and two extra pawns vs. rook. Firouzja, under serious pressure, played the losing move 62.Kxd3? with just one second on the clock—and resigned after making one more move.

An unfortunate ending to a long game for Firouzja. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura’s back on 50 percent and is a point behind the leaders. In his recap video, he called it a “very, very big win [that] certainly gives me some hope to try and mount a comeback, to try and play for first place.”

More than getting the win… you have to try and stay positive about the situation. I do firmly believe that in life everything happens for a reason.”

More than getting the win… you have to try and stay positive about the situation.

—Hikaru Nakamura

You can watch his full recap below.

After losing his previous two games, Vidit had a rare shot at taking down the top seed. A victory would have put him half a point behind the leader, as well as on a +1 lifetime score against Caruana. Their only previous game was a draw.

After outplaying the world number-two in the middlegame, he suddenly achieved a winning position after 22…e5? 23.Qg3!, a move Caruana said he completely overlooked. Three moves later, Naroditsky suggested the natural 26.Qe5? for Vidit to centralize the queen, a move the engine severely disapproved of. And then it appeared on the board—falling into a forced draw by repetition.

Like Nepomniachtchi, Caruana survived miraculously and continues to trail the leaders by half a point. For Vidit fans, it’s heartbreak again. He shared: “To win a game here requires a lot of effort and after doing all the best possible—and then not finishing it off, of course it’s disappointing.”

The game was all decided by just one move, 26.Qe5?. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana, on the other hand, was realistic about what this meant: “If I continue to play like this, it’s not like I’ll get lucky every day. So hopefully my play improves.”

If I continue to play like this, it’s not like I’ll get lucky every day.

—Fabiano Caruana

Without question, the most critical matchup on Wednesday will be Nepomniachtchi vs. Caruana. In addition, Gukesh vs. Nakamura will be a great test for the Indian youngster. That is, can he keep it up?

Women’s Candidates: More Missed Opportunities And Cunning Escapes 

The storyline in the women’s tournament was the same as the round before: missed opportunities. GMs Kateryna Lagno and Anna Muzychuk had winning positions but couldn’t get the job done against, respectively, GMs Lei Tingjie and Vaishali Rameshbabu.

A victory for Lagno would have seen her ascend to shared first. She seized the initiative on move 24 and her attack materialized most dramatically after the “sacrifice” 30…Bxh3!. At the end of the game, Lei’s desperate attempt 39.Nf5!? ended up saving the game.

Lei vs. Lagno. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other game that came close to being decisive was Vaishali-Muzychuk—though the path was not nearly as clear-cut as the game above. After winning a pawn in the middlegame, Muzychuk’s task was to break through an attempted fortress, and after 41.Nxc5? by Vaishali this became possible. But Muzychuk’s 46…cxd5? prematurely released the tension, and there wasn’t another chance after that.

It is the third consecutive game in which Muzychuk hasn’t converted a winning advantage. With this escape, Vaishali remains in the top half of the scoreboard, a point behind the leader.

Tan achieved an advantage—and at one point a very large one—in the Caro Kann against Salimova, but the international master sacrificed a pawn for activity. In practice, it was enough to make the draw.

“I felt like I was better, but I did not see any determined advantage. I felt like I missed out on some opportunity to give her more pressure,” said Tan after the game.

“I feel that I don’t have a huge lead right now,” said Tan about her lead. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Humpy-Goryachkina was the shortest and least exciting game, with the players trading queens in a symmetrical Queen’s Gambit Accepted. 

Tan will have the white pieces against a possibly dispirited Muzychuk on Wednesday. Goryachkina, half a point behind, will have the black pieces against Salimova.

You can watch video recaps of the Candidates in our playlist below (click here).

How to watch?
You can watch the 2024 FIDE Candidates Tournament on Chess24’s YouTube and Twitch, and the 2024 Women’s FIDE Candidates on’s YouTube and Twitch. The games can also be followed from our Events Page.

The FIDE Candidates Tournaments are among the most important FIDE events of the year. Players compete for the right to play in the next FIDE World Championship match against current World Chess Champions GMs Ding Liren and Ju Wenjun.

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