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Chess

Symphony of youth and experience: Indians set to make history at Candidates 2024

At the Candidates 2024, starting on April 3, five of the 16 candidates are Indians, emphasising the rise of Indian chess in the international arena.

Symphony of youth and experience: Indians set to make history at Candidates 2024
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The sibling-duo of R Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa are in contention for the top-prize at the Norway Chess tournament. (Photo credit: ChessBase India)

By

Arjun Mylvahanan

Updated: 2 April 2024 1:34 PM GMT

The calendar year's premier chess event, the Candidates 2024 is set to get underway in Toronto, Canada, on Wednesday.

The tournament, starting on April 3 and ending on April 22, will feature 16 candidates. The Open Candidates and the Women's Candidates events will be held simultaneously consisting of eight candidates each.

Interestingly, five of these 16 candidates are overwhelmingly Indians, emphasising the rise of Indian chess in the international arena. Before this, India had only one representation at the event, with Viswanathan Anand, the former five-time world champion, participating in this competition between 1991 and 2014.

The tournament is significant as it determines a challenger to the current world champions. The winner of the Open Candidates event will face China's Ding Liren, and the winner of the Women's Candidates will face China's Ju Wenjun.

From India, R Praggnanandhaa (18), D Gukesh (17), and Vidit Gujrathi (29) will participate in the Open Candidates events while R Vaishali (22) and Koneru Humpy (36) will feature in the Women's Candidates event.

This year's event will be the first time both categories are held simultaneously under one roof.

For, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, and Gujrathi, this will be their debut at the Candidates.

Can young Indians pull off upsets?

With the participants being young, it gives them a very big opportunity to experience the event first-hand and learn valuable lessons from it. Winning must not be the sole aim. Rather their objective should be to settle down, observe, and learn, grandmaster Anand proposed.

"They should first settle into the tournament and try to play good games. Let the big decisions come later." This was Anand's advice to the five Indians set to feature in the competition. "If a late opportunity presents itself, they can grab it," Anand added, further reiterating the importance of learning from the experience of being in this prestigious event.

The current crop of players has consistently shown that they are ready for the big stages by beating stronger players consistently, and have shown they have the stomach for standing tall in elite world tournaments.

The strongest and most promising of the bunch, Praggnanandhaa will be keen to have a good run in the competition. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Pragga pull off some upsets, a feat he has become used to doing regularly. He has the skills and the temperament to battle it out against the world's best.

Gukesh, the 17-year-old prodigy from Chennai, is not to be taken lightly either. The teenager has made a remarkable rise in the world of chess and is capable of taking anyone down on his day. His ability to be patient and seize the opportunity when it comes is what sets him apart. This also makes him a dark horse along with his compatriots.

Gujrathi is somewhat underrated in the chess circle but is still a very able and skilled competitor. He has the youthful flare on one side and is also having the experience of being in world events and that is a combination other competitors will be vary of.

Humpy, the hope

Over on the women's side, world no.5 Humpy will come into this event as the one with the best chance to win amongst the five Indians. The 37-year-old also happens to be the most experienced in the bunch and will be poised to put that experience to good use to do well in this competition and return home as a challenger for the world champion.

World no. 5 Koneru Humpy is the most experienced Indian at the Candidates 2024.

22-year-old Vaishali, the elder sibling of Praggnanandhaa, is capable of standing her ground in tough matches and has shown that she can handle her nerves in pressure situations. Although she is not considered a favourite, she must be determined to have a good run and further seal her credentials in the Chess arena.

With a symphony of youth and experience, these five Indians are ready to take on their rivals in what will be a very important moment in the growth of the sport in India. It remains to be seen how well the Indians fare.

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