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Candidates 2024: Humpy, the best-placed Indian, Praggnanandhaa, the dark horse, eye for a shot at glory

Humpy is the most experienced player among the five Indians, while debutant Praggnanandhaa could be the dark horse, pulling off major upsets.

Koneru Humpy Chess

Koneru Humpy is the most experienced Indian chess player at the Candidates 2024. (Photo credit: FIDE)


Arjun Mylvahanan

Updated: 3 April 2024 12:22 PM GMT

The curtain will be raised for the most anticipated and challenging chess tournament of the season, the Candidates 2024, on Wednesday. This year's event is of extra significance given that five out of the 16 players competing at the Candidates will be Indians, and two of them are siblings.

R Praggnanandhaa, D Gukesh and Vidith Gujrathi will feature in the Open Candidates, while Vaishali, the sister of Praggnanandhaa, and world no. 5 Koneru Humpy will compete in the Women's Candidates. The winner of the Candidates will play the next World Championship match.

As India keeps a keen eye on the event, Koneru Humpy carries India's best hopes for a triumph followed by teenager Praggnanandhaa.

Can Humpy defy the odds?

With almost two decades of chess career behind her, Humpy, the only Indian amongst the five with prior Candidates experience, will be looking to add a Candidate triumph to her long list of achievements.

At 37, she has shown remarkable grit, determination and skill to be competitive and is currently the world no.5 heading into the event.

Her healthy record against her current competitors in previous matchups shows why Humpy is well-placed to go for the triumph. She has previously won against Aleksandra Goryachkina and has a 4-0 record against defending champion Lei Tingjie, both of whom are considered firm favourites in the women's category.

Not just that, Humpy has a better head-to-head against Kateryna Lagno and Tan Zhongyi as well and that should serve as a big motivating factor for the veteran grandmaster from India.

Although she has had previous success against her opponents, Humpy would not want to take them lightly and would also be watchful of 20-year-old Nurgyul Salimova of Bulgaria, who qualified for the Candidates following a brilliant performance in the World Women’s Cup, finishing runner-up.

Humpy will play against Salimova for the first time in the upcoming Candidates tournament.

The classical format of chess is very demanding and will test the patience of the candidates. Hence, Humpy's experience could become handy in her pursuit to make a mark. Given the fact that each player will play the others twice, once with white and once with black, Humpy is expected to do well.

Being the 2011 World Championship runner-up and the champion of the 2019 World Rapid Chess Championship, Humpy has a big game pedigree in her and knows how to deal with pressure and nerves.

Praggnanandhaa, the dark horse!

17-year-old Praggnanandhaa has taken the chess world by storm and has grown leaps and bounds in a short time. While getting into the Candidates as a teenager is itself an achievement, a feat that he now shares with Gukesh, one can be sure Praggananadhaa will not settle down for the mere tag of a participant. He will be determined to give his best shot despite the odds are stacked against him.

Teenager Praggnanandhaa will be a dark horse at the Candidates 2024.

Praggnanandhaa stunned everyone when he finished the runner-up in last year's World Cup, losing to the legendary Magnus Carlson. With Carlson opting out of the Candidates, Pragganandhaa will eye for a shot at victory.

He has an extraordinary temperament and is quick-witted. Even during tense situations, he has shown his ability to remain calm, picking out the best moves possible.

His biggest challenge will be the two-time defending champion Ian Nepomniachtchi who has won the previous two Candidates event. Seasoned players Fabiano Caruana and Nakamura from the USA are certainly two of the main favourites. Praggnanandhaa will have to be at his very best to get past them.

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