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Candidates Chess: Gukesh draws with Nepomniachtchi to stay in joint lead

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TORONTO, April 16: Indian Grandmaster D Gukesh held on to the joint top spot with Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi after they played out an easy draw in the 10th round of the Candidates chess tournament here.
The all-Indian duel between R Praggnanandhaa and Vidit Gujrathi also ended in a draw while Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura defeated Firouza Alireza and Nijat Abasov respectively to come back within striking distance of the two leaders.
With just four rounds to come in the biggest event of the year, Gukesh and Nepomniachtchi have an identical six points each with Praggnanandhaa, Caruana and Nakamura close on their heels half a point behind.
Gujrathi, on six points, is sole sixth while for all practical purposes, Alireza and Abasov are out of the race with 3.5 and two points respectively.
Nepomniachtchi has not been taking many risks in the event with either colour and his solid play makes him the only player who is unbeaten after 10 rounds.
The Ruy Lopez as white gave the Russian just an optical advantage after the opening and the 17-year-old Gukesh ensured parity with some timely exchanges leading to a rook and pawns endgame.
The contest was almost uneventful other than the opening part and in the endgame, the players exchanged another pair of rooks and a few pawns to reach a theoretically drawn position.
Praggnanandhaa has also been very solid with just a lone loss early in the second round against Gukesh. The 18-year old faced the Berlin defense by Gujrathi who equalised easily as black.
With three minor pieces and the queen off the board early, the rook and opposite colour Bishop endgame did not quite offer chances to either player. The game was drawn after 39 moves.
Caruana faced the Sicilian Najdorf by Alireza and secured the advantage out of a side variation. The players overlooked a simple tactic but Caruana still remained ahead in endgame after winning a pawn on the 29th move. Alireza fought on but the result of the game was never in doubt.
Nakamura transposed to a French exchange out of a Petroff defense and piled up pressure on the queen side.
At one point in a complex middle game, Abasov missed the thread of the position and ended up losing a rook for a Bishop. The rest was just a matter of time and the American wrapped the issue in 58 moves.
In the women’s section, Tinjie Lei of China ended the unbeaten run of Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia and regained joint lead with compatriot Zhongyi Tan who played out a draw with Koneru Humpy.
R Vaishali bounced back after a string of losses in a roller-coaster game with Nurgyul Salimov of Bulgaria while Russian Kateryna Lagno drew with Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine.
With 6.5 points apiece, the Chinese duo of Lei and Tan are sitting pretty with a full point lead over Goryachkina and Lagno.
Humpy is a distant fifth on 4.5 points, a half point ahead of Salimova and Muzychuk and Vaishali, despite the victory still holds the last spot on 3.5 points.
To keep her chances alive, Humpy had to win and even though she tried hard, Tan proved a tough nut to crack.
The battle went on for 72 moves and in the end the Chinese split the point.
Vaishali played a game of fluctuating fortunes against Salimova out of a Grunfeld defense game. The middle game saw advantage going to Salimova but Vaishali fought back while in the endgame the Indian was able to turn the tables despite blundering. This game lasted 88-moves.
Tuesday is a rest day and the battle will resume on Wednesday.
Results round 10 (Indians unless specified):
Ian Nepomniachthi (6) drew with D Gukesh (6); R Praggnanandhaa (5.5) drew with Vidit Gujrathi (5); Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 5.5) beat Nijat Abasov (Aze, 3); Fabiano Caruana (Usa, 5.5) beat Firouza Alireza (Fra, 3.5).
Women: Nurgyuaal Salimova (Bul, 4) lost to R Vaishali (3.5); Zhongyi Tan (6.5) drew with Koneru Humpy (4.5); Aleksandra Goryachkina (Rus, 5.5) lost to Tingjei Lei (Chn, 6.5); Kateryna Lagno (Fid, 5.5) drew with Anna Muzychuk (Ukr, 4). (PTI)

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