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Chess: Caruana and Nakamura join leaders as Grand Swiss nears finale

It’s tight at the top as the $460,000 Grand Swiss at Douglas, Isle of Man, reaches its final stages this weekend. The closing rounds can be followed, live and free, on the official website with commentary by England’s David Howell and Jovanka Houska. Games begin at 2.45pm on Saturday and 2.15pm on Sunday. Two winners will qualify for the April 2024 Candidates in Toronto, and a possible shot at Ding Liren’s world crown.

Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, the world Nos 2 and 3, are the rating favourites. Both remain unbeaten and the US pair seemed to have timed their finishing spurts well. After drawing in 16 moves in round eight, Nakamura said: “You can try to be the hero sometimes, but if you mess up, especially with the white pieces, you can ruin a tournament in less than 20 minutes.”

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In the critical ninth round, Nakamura converted an extra pawn against Bulgaria’s Ivan Cheparinov in 61 moves, after his opponent missed drawing opportunities. Caruana broke through in round eight, as he took advantage of an endgame error by France’s Étienne Bacrot to win in 60 moves.

After nine of the 11 rounds, the leaders are Andrey Esipenko (Russia), Gujrathi Vidit (India), Bogdan-Daniel Deac (Romania), Caruana and Nakamura (US) and Parham Maghsoodloo (Iran) all 6.5, then six players on 6. Unfortunately for the US duo, they are paired together in Saturday’s 10th and penultimate round.

Earlier, Uzbekistan’s Javokhir Sindarov, 17, won a vintage 24-move miniature against Samuel Sevian of the US, then displayed impressive analytical skills as he explained his ideas in his post-game interview. Sindarov is already an Olympiad gold medallist, and Caruana singled him out as a future top-10 player.

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Nikita Vitiugov, the former Russian who is now England No 1, is unbeaten with 5.5/9, within striking distance of the leaders, after a complex ninth-round draw against Hans Niemann.

Shreyas Royal has had a fine tournament. The 14-year-old from Greenwich has met 2600+ grandmasters in all his nine games and this performance must count as the best yet of his fledgling career. His round-seven win was impressive.

However, in the ninth round, when Royal required only a draw for his second grandmaster norm (of three needed for the title), he had an early edge against Volodar Murzin’s King’s Indian. But then Royal misplaced his rook at h4, was hit by the tactical bombs 18…Bh6! and 19…Nf6! which transformed the position, and a later queen sacrifice led to checkmate for the Russian. Royal can still achieve a GM norm if he scores at least 1.5 in the final two rounds.

With two rounds left in the $140,000 Women’s Grand Prix, India’s Rameshbabu Vaishali, 22, the older sister of Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, leads with 7/9, half a point ahead of China’s former world champion Tan Zhongyi and Ukraine’s Anna Muzychuk. Top seeded Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia has lost her last two games. If Vaishali finishes in the first two and qualifies for the women’s Candidates, as her brother has already done in the open version, it will be a family record unprecedented in chess history.

England’s players have had mixed fortunes in the world senior championships for over-50s and over-65s, which are also in their closing stages at Terrasini, Sicily. Top seeded John Nunn won his first five over-65 games, but suffered a round seven loss to Argentina’s Daniel Cámpora.

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Terry Chapman, who once took on Garry Kasparov in a match, receiving odds of pawn and two moves, shared the lead with Cámpora after eight rounds, but lost in round nine to Rainer Knaak (Germany)

With two rounds left, Cámpora leads on 7.5/9, ahead of Knaak, Nunn, Rafael Vaganian (Armenia) and Lubomir Ftacnik (Slovakia) 7. Chapman has 6.5.

Top seeded Michael Adams has drawn his last four games in the World over-50 Championship, and is now on 6.5/9, in a group of five players half a point behind the joint leaders Suat Atalik (Serbia) and Hannes Stefánsson (Iceland).

3892: 1 Rf3! f5+ (f6 2 Kf5) 2 Kxf5! Kxd5 3 Nb6 mate.