India’s Vidit Gujrathi lost his second consecutive match at the 2024 Candidates in Toronto as he went down against the reigning champion Ian Nepomniachtchi in the Round 4 of the tournament early on Monday.

Playing with the black pieces, the 29-year-old Gujrathi was outplayed in an unsual Berlin endgame. The Indian did well to keep the pressure on even as Nepomniachtchi found an interesting play with his knight, but eventually had his rook placed in an awkward spot at the b3 square.

“Vidit reacted well up to a point,” said Viswanathan Anand in his post match analysis. “He managed to get his rook out with some counterplay in a complicated position, but after rook b3 the rook was just cut off.”

With this win, Nepomniachtchi moves to the top of the standings as the sole leader of the competition before the rest day.

“Usually in Berlin you gracefully go home after some sort of theoritical draw but somehow I had an idea in the endgame, which is very fashionable these days,” he said.

Gujrathi, on the other hand, drops to the seventh place with 1.5 points in four rounds with a win, a draw, and two losses.

Vidit Gujrathi had his rook misplaced at b3 in the 26th move, which came back to haunt him. (Source: Lichess))

Humpy loses to Salimova

Meanwhile, veteran Koneru Humpy lost to a lower-rated Nurgyul Salimova with the black pieces in the women’s event. The 37-year-old Grandmaster is yet to win a game in the tournament with three draws and a loss in four rounds.

Humpy started off well in the match against Salimova, with the Bulgarian admittedly out of preparation as early as the fifth move.

“I was out of preparations very early. She surprised me in the opening with knight e4 idea,” Salimova said after her win.

But the position soon turned into something known for the 20-year-old International Master and though both players were involved in a time scramble with around 20 moves left to make with just over two minutes left on the clock, Salimova managed to pull through an easy end game.

“At some point when she started pushing pawns it looked scary, but I felt like I was in control,” she said.

“Although I wasted a lot of time, I am not sure if it was a complicated game. In time trouble I started the King walk, then I was sure I was fine, but it was stressful. The end game was easy winning.”

The Ne4 move from Humpy which left Salimova surprised (Source: Lichess)

Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa, Vaishali draw

Meanwhile, the three other Indians in action ended up playing out draws in their respective matches in Round 4.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, who entered the contest on the back of a win over compatriot Gujrathi, held his own against world No 3 Hikaru Nakamura with the black pieces. The 18-year-old Indian now has two points in four rounds and is placed fourth in the standings.

His sister, GM Vaishali, on the other hand, earned a draw against the women’s top seed Aleksandra Goryachkina with the black pieces to be on two points after four rounds.

Gukesh Dommaraju, meanwhile, played out a draw with world No 2 Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces.

The youngest player in the competition, Gukesh did seem in some trouble in the match but the American Grandmaster failed to take advantage.

““I thought I had a large advantage at some point. He sacrificed a pawn, I did not think it was correct,” said Caruana after the match.

“It is difficult to prove the advantage but I thought I am a pawn up and I should be pressing seriously for a win but something went wrong. I was still pressing but I didn’t feel like I was really much better after we got into the position which was simplified with the bishop against the knight,” he added.

Candidates points table

Rank Player Rating Points
1 GM Ian Nepomniachtchi 2758 3
2 GM D Gukesh 2743 2.5
3 GM Fabio Caruana 2803 2.5
4 GM R Praggnanandhaa 2747 2
5 GM Hikaru Nakamura 2789 1.5
6 GM Nijat Abasov 2632 1.5
7 GM Alireza Firouzja 2760 1.5
8 GM Vidit Gujrathi 2727 1.5
After Round 4

Women’s Candidates points table

Rank Player Rating Points
1 GM Tan Zhongyi 2521 3
2 GM Aleksandra Goryachkina 2553 2.5
3 GM Kateryna Lagno 2542 2
4 IM Vaishali R 2475 2
5 IM Nurgyul Salimova 2432 2
6 GM Koneru Humpy 2546 1.5
7 GM Lei Tingjie 2550 1.5
8 GM Anna Muzychuk 2520 1.5
After Round 4