Vidit Gujrathi moved within a draw from entering the World Cup chess pre-quarterfinals after nailing Frenchman Etienne Bacrot in just 30 moves in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday.
After the first game of the fourth round, Arjun Erigaisi could have been the other Indian winner had he not let Uzbek Sindarov Javokhir off the hook following an inaccurate continuation on the 62nd move during their 81–move draw.
On a day when favourite Magnus Carlsen crashed to a 58-move defeat against young German Vincent Keymer and Wesley So lost to Serbian Alexey Sarana in 34 moves, eighth seed D. Gukesh drew with Russian Andrey Esipenko in 32 moves.
Two impressive results, involving Indians, came when R. Praggnanandhaa kept second seed Hikaru Nakamura at bay in 46 moves and Nihal Sarin gave nothing away to fourth seed Ian Nepomniachtchi during their 55-move draw.
However, in the women’s section, third seed K. Humpy suffered a jolt at the hands of Georgian Bella Khotenashvili, rated over 100 points below, in 42 moves. The Indian spearhead faces a must-win situation in the second game on Thursday.
D. Harika, the other Indian in the fray, was extremely lucky to escape defeat against Eline Roebers in 70 moves after her Dutch rival blundered on the 50th move in a winning position.
Open (Round 4, Game 1, prefix denotes seeding): 8-D. Gukesh (2744) drew with 40-Andrey Esipenko (FIDE, 2683); 20-Vidit Gujrathi (2719) bt 52-Etienne Bacrot (Fra, 2662); 4-Ian Nepomniachtchi (FIDE, 2779) drew with 36-Nihal Sarin (2688); 55-Javokhir Sindarov (Uzb, 2659) drew with 23-Arjun Erigaisi (2710); 2-Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 2787) drew with 31-R. Praggnanandhaa (2690) Women (Pre-quarterfinals, Game 1): 3-K. Humpy (2553) loses to 14-Bella Khotenashvili (Geo, 2475); 26-Eline Roebers (Ned, 2419) drew with 10-D. Harika (2500).