Gritty Gukesh wins Gelfand Challenge

Praggnanandhaa also tied for the top spot with 14 points from 19 rounds

Exceeding all expectations, D. Gukesh sensationally won the $15,000 Gelfand Challenge chess title on Sunday and with it, a ‘wild card’ for the elite Meltwaters Champions Chess Tour.

Placed two points behind leader Vincent Keymer, and 1.5 points from second-placed R. Praggnanandhaa at the start of the final day, Gukesh scripted the improbable in the field that featured world’s 20 handpicked talents.

Gukesh, 15, won all four rounds, including the key battle against Praggnanandhaa, and emerged on top after a series of favourable results from the games involving other title-contenders.

It was a global advertisement for the chess talent in India when Gukesh tied with Praggnanandhaa for the title at 14 points from 19 rounds. He took the title due to his 17th-round win over Praggnanandhaa.

Great honour

“It’s just a great honour to play in the Champions Chess Tour. I haven’t thought about it and I don’t have many expectations. I just want to enjoy playing the top players and learn something from them!” said Gukesh.

The results (involving Indians):

19th round: D. Gukesh bt Lei Tingjie (Chn); Nurgyul Salimova (Bul) lost to R. Praggnanandhaa; Volodar Murzin (Rus) bt Nihal Sarin; Awonder Liang (USA) drew with Leon Mendonca.

18th round: Jonas Buhl Bjerre (Den) lost to Gukesh; Praggnanandhaa drew with Olga Badelka (Blr); Nihal bt Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (Iri); Mendonca bt Nurgyul Salimova (Bul).

17th round: Gukesh bt Praggnanandhaa; Awonder lost to Nihal; Olga drew with Mendonca.

16th round: Mendonca lost to Gukesh; Praggnanandhaa bt Christopher Yoo (USA); Nihal lost to Nurgyul.

Final standings (leading finishers, including Indians): 1-2. D. Gukesh, R. Praggnanandhaa (14 points each); 3. Vincent Keymer (Ger, 13.5); 4. Volodar Murzin (Rus, 13), 5. Nihal Sarin (12); 9. Leon Mendonca (10).

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