ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Explained: Chess Crusade Hits India, Fab Five Qualify for Candidates Tournament

Only one Indian has ever been at Candidates. Now, there will be 5. Here's how chess crusade is captivating India

Updated
Explainers
4 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large

The reaction to chess prodigy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa’s defeat at the Chess World Cup final in August 2023, against Magnus Carlsen, was not in synchronisation with the usual trait of the nation. For, more than dissension, there was celebration.

Not only had Praggnanandhaa become the youngest-ever World Cup finalist, but he had also qualified for the prestigious Candidates Tournament, being the second Indian to do so, after Viswanathan Anand.

The joy has since quintupled, as five of the sixteen participants at the prestigious competition will be Indians. Praggnanandhaa will be accompanied by four Indian chess stalwarts – D Gukesh, Vidit Gujrathi, Koneru Humpy, and his sister, R Vaishali – in his flight to Toronto for the Candidates Tournament.

Let’s take a detailed look into what is a remarkable occasion for the Indian chess community:

Explained: Chess Crusade Hits India, Fab Five Qualify for Candidates Tournament

  1. 1. What Makes the Candidates Tournament Important?

    Making the Candidates Tournament a crucial affair is the prize at stake – a chance to compete against the world champion. The name, hence, is self-explanatory, for every competitor is a ‘candidate’ to become the next world champion.

    Since its inception in 1950, the competition has had only Anand as an Indian representative, but five of the 16 competitors in the 2024 edition will be Indians, making it the nation with the highest representation.

    Expand
  2. 2. Whom Will the Indians Compete With?

    The pathway to compete with the Chinese pair of Ding Liren and Ju Wenjun, who are the current men’s and women’s world champions respectively, is an arduous one.

    The Indian trio in the men’s section – Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and Gujrathi – will be up against 2023 World Championship runner-up Ian Nepomniachtchi, five-time US champion Hikaru Nakamura, third-highest rated player in history Fabiano Caruana, and France’s Alireza Firouza, who holds the record for being the youngest player to go north of a 2800 FIDE rating.

    That, Magnus Carlsen – a five-time champion – is planning not to compete can be seen as a respite, albeit he will be replaced by Azerbaijan’s Nijat Abasov, who pulled off upsets aplenty in 2023.

    In the women’s section, Vaishali and Humpy will be competing against Lei Tingjie, Kateryna Lagno, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Nurgyul Salimova, Anna Muzychik and Tan Zhongyi.

    Expand
  3. 3. How & When Did the Five Indians Qualify?

    Let’s check out how the five Indian players qualified for the Candidates Tournament:

    • Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa: The first Indian to qualify for the competition, Praggnanandhaa secured his seat by finishing among the top three at the Chess World Cup, held last year in August.

    • Vidit Gujrathi: The 29-year-old from Maharashtra, Vidit Gujrathi confirmed his participation by finishing among the top two at the 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament, held from 25 October to 5 November. Despite being the 15th seed in that competition, he won the title by beating Hikaru Nakamura.

    • Rameshbabu Vaishali: Like Vidit, Vaishali’s participation was confirmed when she finished among the top two at the Grand Swiss Tournament. She, too, won the title in Isle of Man, by beating Anna Muzychuk.

    • D Gukesh: Gukesh qualified for the Candidates Tournament by finishing second at the 2023 FIDE Circuit – a series of competitions throughout the year. Albeit the place is reserved for the Circuit topper, Gukesh got the entry as Fabiano Caruana, who finished first, had already qualified for the Candidates by finishing third at the World Cup.

    • Koneru Humpy: The latest, and also the oldest Indian at the Candidates, Koneru Humpy qualified on 1 January 2024, by virtue of her FIDE rating. Albeit China’s Hou Yifan is currently ranked first among the female players, she did not meet the minimum criteria of 30 matches, with the position then going to the second-ranked Humpy.

    • Praggnanandhaa's Candidates qualification was confirmed at the Chess World Cup

      (Image: FIDE/Lennart Ootes)

    Expand
  4. 4. How Did Praggnanandhaa Inspire Koneru Humpy?

    In the idiosyncratically beautiful world of chess, there is provision for a 37-year-old know-it-all veteran seeking inspiration from the next-big-thing 18-year-old, as is the case with Koneru Humpy.

    During a conversation with The Quint after Praggnanandhaa’s World Cup achievement, she said:

    Praggnanandhaa’s performance at the World Cup was miraculous. He is making people interested in chess. He is also the first Indian to qualify for the (2024) Candidates Tournament, which is quite inspiring for me.
    Koneru Humpy

    Referring to the particular Praggnanandhaa match she found to be the most inspiring, Humpy said “His match against Arjun Erigaisi. He lost the first classical match, but came back in the second round. The tie-breaker was quite tough and challenging, but he fought till the end and took the opportunity.”

    Expand
  5. 5. What Did Koneru Humpy Say About India’s Ever-Growing Chess Crusade?

    With the Indian representation at the Candidates Tournament skyrocketing from one to six, all in the span of a few months, excitement and optimism among Indian fans are at an all-time high.

    Echoing the same, Humpy says “Definitely, there is a very bright future for Indian chess. I think in the future, we will see a world champion from India.”

    Speaking on the new crop of chess masterminds, she adds:

    I think the youngsters have been great over the past few years. The performance has been good in the world circuit, and the number of Indian Grandmasters has increased. Nowadays, everybody is gaining an advantage through online chess, so being young is an advantage. They are more energetic and more determined.
    Koneru Humpy

    Albeit the optimism is justified, Humpy advises to harbour realistic expectations, especially in the women’s category, for she feels “They (female youngsters in chess) have great talent, but still need more experience and strength.”

    Expand
  6. 6. When Will the Candidates Tournament Be Held, & What Is the Format?

    Coming back to the competition, the Candidates Tournament will be played from 3-22 April. The format will be double round-robin, meaning every player will play fourteen matches in total – two each against the other seven competitors in their bracket.

    With a point awarded for a win, a player will be able to score a maximum of fourteen points. There will be half-a-point on offer for each draw. The table-topper after all fourteen rounds will qualify to compete against the incumbent world champions.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Makes the Candidates Tournament Important?

Making the Candidates Tournament a crucial affair is the prize at stake – a chance to compete against the world champion. The name, hence, is self-explanatory, for every competitor is a ‘candidate’ to become the next world champion.

Since its inception in 1950, the competition has had only Anand as an Indian representative, but five of the 16 competitors in the 2024 edition will be Indians, making it the nation with the highest representation.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Whom Will the Indians Compete With?

The pathway to compete with the Chinese pair of Ding Liren and Ju Wenjun, who are the current men’s and women’s world champions respectively, is an arduous one.

The Indian trio in the men’s section – Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and Gujrathi – will be up against 2023 World Championship runner-up Ian Nepomniachtchi, five-time US champion Hikaru Nakamura, third-highest rated player in history Fabiano Caruana, and France’s Alireza Firouza, who holds the record for being the youngest player to go north of a 2800 FIDE rating.

That, Magnus Carlsen – a five-time champion – is planning not to compete can be seen as a respite, albeit he will be replaced by Azerbaijan’s Nijat Abasov, who pulled off upsets aplenty in 2023.

In the women’s section, Vaishali and Humpy will be competing against Lei Tingjie, Kateryna Lagno, Aleksandra Goryachkina, Nurgyul Salimova, Anna Muzychik and Tan Zhongyi.

How & When Did the Five Indians Qualify?

Let’s check out how the five Indian players qualified for the Candidates Tournament:

  • Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa: The first Indian to qualify for the competition, Praggnanandhaa secured his seat by finishing among the top three at the Chess World Cup, held last year in August.

  • Vidit Gujrathi: The 29-year-old from Maharashtra, Vidit Gujrathi confirmed his participation by finishing among the top two at the 2023 FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament, held from 25 October to 5 November. Despite being the 15th seed in that competition, he won the title by beating Hikaru Nakamura.

  • Rameshbabu Vaishali: Like Vidit, Vaishali’s participation was confirmed when she finished among the top two at the Grand Swiss Tournament. She, too, won the title in Isle of Man, by beating Anna Muzychuk.

  • D Gukesh: Gukesh qualified for the Candidates Tournament by finishing second at the 2023 FIDE Circuit – a series of competitions throughout the year. Albeit the place is reserved for the Circuit topper, Gukesh got the entry as Fabiano Caruana, who finished first, had already qualified for the Candidates by finishing third at the World Cup.

  • Koneru Humpy: The latest, and also the oldest Indian at the Candidates, Koneru Humpy qualified on 1 January 2024, by virtue of her FIDE rating. Albeit China’s Hou Yifan is currently ranked first among the female players, she did not meet the minimum criteria of 30 matches, with the position then going to the second-ranked Humpy.

  • Praggnanandhaa's Candidates qualification was confirmed at the Chess World Cup

    (Image: FIDE/Lennart Ootes)

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

How Did Praggnanandhaa Inspire Koneru Humpy?

In the idiosyncratically beautiful world of chess, there is provision for a 37-year-old know-it-all veteran seeking inspiration from the next-big-thing 18-year-old, as is the case with Koneru Humpy.

During a conversation with The Quint after Praggnanandhaa’s World Cup achievement, she said:

Praggnanandhaa’s performance at the World Cup was miraculous. He is making people interested in chess. He is also the first Indian to qualify for the (2024) Candidates Tournament, which is quite inspiring for me.
Koneru Humpy

Referring to the particular Praggnanandhaa match she found to be the most inspiring, Humpy said “His match against Arjun Erigaisi. He lost the first classical match, but came back in the second round. The tie-breaker was quite tough and challenging, but he fought till the end and took the opportunity.”

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

What Did Koneru Humpy Say About India’s Ever-Growing Chess Crusade?

With the Indian representation at the Candidates Tournament skyrocketing from one to six, all in the span of a few months, excitement and optimism among Indian fans are at an all-time high.

Echoing the same, Humpy says “Definitely, there is a very bright future for Indian chess. I think in the future, we will see a world champion from India.”

Speaking on the new crop of chess masterminds, she adds:

I think the youngsters have been great over the past few years. The performance has been good in the world circuit, and the number of Indian Grandmasters has increased. Nowadays, everybody is gaining an advantage through online chess, so being young is an advantage. They are more energetic and more determined.
Koneru Humpy

Albeit the optimism is justified, Humpy advises to harbour realistic expectations, especially in the women’s category, for she feels “They (female youngsters in chess) have great talent, but still need more experience and strength.”

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

When Will the Candidates Tournament Be Held, & What Is the Format?

Coming back to the competition, the Candidates Tournament will be played from 3-22 April. The format will be double round-robin, meaning every player will play fourteen matches in total – two each against the other seven competitors in their bracket.

With a point awarded for a win, a player will be able to score a maximum of fourteen points. There will be half-a-point on offer for each draw. The table-topper after all fourteen rounds will qualify to compete against the incumbent world champions.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Published: 
Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More
×
×