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Candidates Tournament: D Gukesh One Step Away From History – How Can He Win?

D Gukesh is one step away from becoming the youngest Candidates Tournament winner. Here's what he needs to do to win

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After thirteen rounds of gruelling, high-octane chess action at the 2024 Candidates Tournament, Indian prodigy Dommaraju Gukesh is standing on the verge of history. Only 17 years of age, Gukesh is all but a round away from becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Candidates Tournament.

We will take a look at where Gukesh stands and what he needs to do to win, but before that, let us revisit what happened in round 13 of the competition.

Playing with white pieces against Alireza Firouzja, Gukesh secured a win in a 63-move tussle. This was Gukesh’s fifth win of the tournament. Barring him, two other candidates to become the champion – Ian Nepomniachtchi and Hikaru Nakamura – played out a draw, while Fabiano Caruana defeated Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa.

In a game of the Ruy Lopez Classical Deferred, Nakamura tackled Nepomniachtchi’s initial advantage to get a draw in a 27-move game. Caruana, however, went aggressive against Praggnanandhaa, considering he needed a win to keep his hopes alive, and secured a win after 89 moves.

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How Does the Points Table Look? 

Gukesh is currently the sole leader in the points table, with 8.5 points after 13 rounds. The chasing pack of Nepomniachtchi, Nakamura and Caruana are all on 8 points apiece.

Leading the quartet of players who are not in contention to win is Praggnanandhaa, with 6 points, followed by Indian compatriot Vidit Gujrathi with 5.5 points. Alireza Firouzja is played seventh with 4.5 points, with Nijat Abasov at the last place with 3.5 points.

2024 Candidates Tournament Points Table:

  • D Gukesh – 8.5 points

  • Ian Nepomniachtchi – 8 points

  • Hikaru Nakamura – 8 points

  • Fabiano Caruana – 8 points

  • R Praggnanandhaa – 6 points

  • Vidit Gujrathi – 5.5 points

  • Alireza Firouzja – 4.5 points

  • Nijat Abasov – 3.5 points

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Who Will the Contenders Face in the Last Round?

Gukesh will take on Nakamura in the final round, where he will be playing with black pieces. In the previous meeting against the American, where he played with white pieces, the teenager got a draw.

Caruana and Nepomniachtchi, meanwhile, will cross paths, where the latter will be playing with black pieces. The previous encounter between these two players ended in a draw as well.

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What Does Gukesh Need To Do To Become the Champion?

Let us have a look at every possible scenario:

  • Scenario 1: If Gukesh beats Hikaru Nakamura

In case Gukesh beats Nakamura, he will finish on top with 9.5 points. In this case, he will not have to worry about the Nepomniachtchi-Caruana clash, as he will enjoy an unassailable lead and will be crowned champion.

  • Scenario 2: If Gukesh draws against Hikaru Nakamura

In this scenario, Gukesh will finish on 9 points and Nakamura on 8.5, subsequently eliminating the latter from contention. Should this happen, Gukesh will have to hope that the game between Nepomniachtchi and Caruana ends in a draw. In case it does not, Gukesh will be tied with either of the two on 9 points, triggering a tie-breaker.

  • Scenario 3: If Gukesh loses against Hikaru Nakamura

In the worst-case scenario, if Gukesh suffers a defeat, he will finish on 8.5 points and will not be in contention to become the champion. However, it must be noted that he has lost only one game in this competition, with only Nepomniachtchi having remained unbeaten so far.

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Why Is Gukesh on the Verge of Scripting History?

Gukesh had already scripted history when he became the youngest Indian to participate in the Candidates Tournament, and the third-youngest overall, after Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen.

However, he has the opportunity of enlisting himself in the annals of chess history should he win this tournament, as he will then be crowned as the youngest-ever champion of the Candidates Tournament. The record currently belongs to Garry Kasparov, who had won the competition at 20 years of age in 1984.

(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.)

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