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Praggnanandhaa holds Firouza; Gukesh draws with Gujrathi

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Toronto, April 5: Indian Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa overcame some tense moments before settling for a draw against France’s Firouza Alireza while D Gukesh could do little against compatriot Vidit Gujrathi and shared the spoils in the first round of the Candidates chess tournament here.
It was a quiet start as all four games in the men’s section ended in draws while in the women’s event Zhongyi Tan drew the first blood at the expense of compatriot Tingjie Lei with the remaining three games ending in draws.
India’s R Vaishali played out a draw against countrymate Koneru Humpy, Russians Aleksandra Goryachkina and Kateryna Lagno signed peace while the lowest ranked and only non-Grandmaster Nurgyul Salimova of Bulgaria had a good start holding Anna Muzychuk to a draw.
In the men’s section the all-American battle between Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura also ended in a draw while Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan started off with an easy draw as white against Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia.
The opening surprises hold a key point in everyone’s preparation for a tournament like the Candidates and the opener was not devoid of it. Praggnanandhaa sprang the first one going for the open Ruy Lopez as black against Alireza.
The Frenchman went for the complications he is pretty much known for right from the early middle game. Praggnanandhaa took his chances going for a king side attack after puncturing white’s pawn structure.
However as it turned out, the open centre gave enough counterplay and the game took a sharp turn when Alireza went for a pawn sacrifice on move 29 and followed it up with a knight sacrifice on the next turn.
Praggnanandhaa had to find the only possible defense which the Indian did in quick time. The game was drawn vide repetition on move 39.
Another game to end through repetition of moves was between Gukesh and Gujrathi.
Gukesh was up against the Tarrasch defence which does not find many takers at the highest level. The choice by Gujrathi had the right effect as Gukesh decided not to test his opponent in the main lines and his sedate approach only yielded a stable position.
Gujrathi kept looking for his chances in a balanced position and came up with a spectacular Bishop sacrifice on the 17th move. Gukesh immediately figured that accepting the Bishop would be fatal and went for a forced repetition.
“I had not seen the Bishop sacrifice coming,” Gukesh said after the game.
The Indian had seen a decent idea for black in the same position and was content with the outcome.
Gujrathi was in a jovial mood in the post-game chat.
“I found this idea in about 5-10 minutes and I spent the next 25 minutes trying to resist playing it,” he said indicating that he was sure he had a draw as happened in the game.
Gujrathi added that Surya Shekhar Ganguly and Daniel Vocaturo (Italy) have been working with him and are both present here to help.
For Gukesh, it is Gregorz Gajewsky of Poland who is now his second for a long time. “There are some others in the team but I would not like to reveal them”, said Gukesh.
In the women’s section, Vaishali was quite up to the task in holding off Humpy. The Italian opening by Vaishali gave an easy game to the latter and there wasn’t much action as the players exchanged pieces quickly. The minor piece endgame did not offer any chances and the draw was a just result after 41 moves. (PTI)

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