Candidates Round 3: A Peaceful Round and Two Sibling Victories

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The calm after the storm. Yesterday’s round was absolutely wild, so it’s only natural that the collective energy of the players is now returning to baseline. Sibling pair extraordinaire Praggnanandhaa and Vaishali, however, did not seem to be interested in calm play as they bounced back from their round 2 losses by defeating Vidit and Salimova, respectively.

As well as broadcasting the live games from the two tournaments, Lichess is providing a live stream for every day of the Candidates. Make sure to tune in to our Twitch or YouTube channels, with streams starting from 14:15 Toronto time (18:15 UTC).

We’re also providing daily annotations on some of the games from GM Brandon Jacobson and IM / WGM Padmini Rout.

Schedule

Round Recap

Open Section

The Open section was relatively quiet today, but, there’s always a pair willing to spice it up!

Praggnanandhaa showed that he was not at all affected by yesterday’s loss and wanted to bounce back immediately with the Black pieces against a confident Vidit. Playing the enterprising Schliemann Defense Deferred (the proper Schliemann would exclude the early a6), Praggnanandhaa got a playable position out of the opening and soon even equalized. Clearly put off balance, Vidit started making small inaccuracies, eventually allowing Praggnanandhaa to get a highly dynamic position where Praggnanandhaa’s pawn deficit mattered little. Vidit showed tenacious defense, though, but, in the end, he succumbed to Praggnanandhaa’s brilliant play, resigning on move 45. GM Brandon Jacobson unravels the swashbuckling chess that unfolded:

https://lichess.org/study/Mj0wdEVK/rvIZaLv3#0

Firouzja and Caruana played a fresh position out of the Nyezhmetdinov-Rossolimo Attack, but fresh doesn’t always mean exciting. The game showcased a nominal advantage for White, as is usual in such positions, but Caruana was able to equalize with a timely d5! break on move 16. There was not much left to play for as Black’s bishop pair never got active and Firouzja traded pieces. The game was drawn by repetition on move 38.

https://lichess.org/study/embed/xQgaUu2y/Gy57hl9T#0

There was some intrigue as to whether or not Nakamura would risk it all against the tournament’s lowest rated seed, Abasov. Seeing that he would leave too much on the table, though, Nakamura did not take incredible risks to imbalance the position after Abasov made it clear from his opening choice, the Exchange Slav, that he was there to recover after yesterday’s loss to Caruana. With the major pieces getting siphoned off, peace was reached on move 29.

https://lichess.org/study/embed/xQgaUu2y/VsfGAT8L#0

Gukesh’s Catalan did give him a lot to play for against Nepomniachtchi, but it seemed difficult to create much as Nepomniachtchi was finding some tough-to-crack defensive ideas. Of course, Gukesh’s advantage would rarely snowball into a winning advantage, especially against Nepomniachtchi, but it could be said that there were perhaps better ways to go about posing problems for Nepomniachtchi. Alas, not a bad result for both players, who are definitely happy to remain on +1 after 3 rounds.

https://lichess.org/study/Mj0wdEVK/JyuEa2e2#0

Following these results, our simulations show no major changes to the current favourites who mainly continued to consolidate. Some players have continued to drop; notably Vidit after his loss today, but also Nakamura, given his draw with the white pieces against a player over 150 rating points lower than him.

Player Win probability Most frequent predicted position Predicted points average
Fabiano Caruana 45.5% (+3.6%) 1 (=) 8.6 (+0.1)
Ian Nepomniachtchi 23.1% (+4.5%) 2 (=) 8.0 (+0.2)
Gukesh D 14.1% (-0.2%) 3 (=) 7.6 (=)
R Praggnanandhaa 5.7% (+3.8%) 5 (+2) 6.9 (+0.6)
Hikaru Nakamura 4.1% (-2.3%) 6 (-1) 6.8 (-0.3)
Vidit Gujrathi 4.1 (-9.7%) 6 (-3) 6.7 (-0.9)
Alireza Firouzja 3.3% (+0.2%) 7 (=) 6.6 (+0.1)
Nijat Abasov 0.1% (-0.1%) 8 (=) 4.7 (+0.2)

Women’s Section

The Women’s section today followed a similar script to that of the Open, except that another game apart from the decisive game also had some very exciting moments.

The Petrov Defense has a, perhaps somewhat undeserved, drawish reputation. With kings castled on opposite sides of the board, though, any deviation from Stockfish’s self-play games means that fireworks would ensue. Ensue they did! Vaishali played a spectacular knight sacrifice on move 14, drawing Salimova’s king out in the open. Salimova simply did not find the way to survive and was just lost on move 18, eventually throwing in the towel on move 33, seeing as Vaishali had four extra pawns. IM / WGM Padmini Rout tells you all about the subtleties of this game in her annotations:

https://lichess.org/study/Mj0wdEVK/DufZX0gb#0

After playing a relatively topical setup in the Ruy Lopez, Muzychuk and Lagno seemed well on their way to a draw, but, as the game progressed, Muzychuk found herself with a powerful passed a-pawn that Lagno simply did not know how to deal with. Trading one advantage for another, Muzychuk jettisoned her prized passed pawn to make Black’s king unsafe, a trade worth its weight in gold. Unfortunately for Muzychuk, though, she did not find the winning idea, and a draw had to be forced. IM / WGM Padmini Rout explains the winning idea and other important moments of the game in her annotations:

https://lichess.org/study/Mj0wdEVK/3bO5XUNE#0

Lei Tingjie was not looking for an easy day at the office today as she essayed the spicy Evans Gambit against Goryachkina. Goryachkina showed that she knows her ancient gambits quite well, however, going for a safe but basically-equalizing line. Tingjie couldn’t get anything going against Goryachkina’s solid setup and soon found herself forced to trade more and more pieces, achieving a peaceful result on the 45th move.

https://lichess.org/study/embed/iHJboPh9/RoydUq0U#0

The tournament leader, Tan Zhongyi, played an equal and drawish game against Koneru Humpy. As they left theory, mass liquidation occurred and there was nothing better to do than repeat moves.

https://lichess.org/study/embed/iHJboPh9/dRXwUvF6#0

Following these results, our simulations show that Zhongyi and Goryachkina continue to be well in the head of the field, with veterans Lagno and Koneru their closest threats. Meanwhile, Vaishali’s win over Salimova didn’t give her a significant bump, with the simulation finding that the rest of the field would still be a struggle for her.

Player Win probability Most frequent predicted position Predicted points average
Tan Zhongyi 39.2% (+4.0%) 1 (=) 8.6 (+0.1)
Aleksandra Goryachkina 30.9% (+0.3%) 1 (=) 8.4 (+0.1)
Kateryna Lagno 11.9% (-1.1%) 3 (=) 7.6 (=)
Humpy Koneru 11.6% (-2.7%) 3 (=) 7.5 (-0.1)
Lei Tingjie 2.7% (-0.7%) 6 (-1) 6.6 (+1.6)
R Vaishali 1.8% (+1.0%) 7 (+1) 6.2 (+0.5)
Anna Muzychuk 1.6% (-0.4%) 7 (-1) 6.2 (=)
Nurgyul Salimova 0.2% (-0.5%) 8 (=) 4.9 (-0.6)

Round 4 Preview

In the Open, Nakamura will face Praggnanandhaa, the player who beat Vidit, the same Vidit who beat Nakamura in round 2. Will it thus be a game of rock paper scissors? Nepomniachtchi will look to create an opening in the standings as he faces Vidit, who is just coming off a loss against Praggnanandhaa. Caruana faces Gukesh in what promises to be a very important battle for the fledgling standings. Abasov plays White against Firouzja, who has not been having the best tournament so far especially considering the pre-tournament predictions, so that promises to be an exciting battle, too!

In the Women’s section, Zhongyi’s closest rivals, Goryachkina and Vaishali, will face off against each other. Zhongyi in turns will have to contend with the ever-solid and highly-experienced Lagno. It will be intriguing to see if Salimova will play it safe against Humpy or go for broke and try to win as White. Muzychuk and Tingjie, both off to a bad start to the tournament with -1, will play against each other.

Make sure to follow the action with us in Round 4!

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