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Humpy leads Indian challenge; Goryachkina, Tingjie start as favourite in Women’s Candidates

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New Delhi, Apr 2 (PTI) Grandmaster Koneru Humpy will spearhead the Indian challenge in the Women’s candidates’ chess tournament that will get underway in Toronto, Canada from Wednesday.

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While Grandmaster Aleksandra Goryachkina of Russia starts as the rating favourite for the crown and former women’s world champion Lei Tingjie of China is a close second, a lot will depend on how these two fair against the rest of the six participants, including Humpy.

While on paper Indian challenge is spearheaded by Humpy, the significance of R Vaishali in the tournament cannot be ruled out thanks to her never-say-die approach and unique uncompromising style.

Humpy’s qualification came through on her high rating, while Vaishali won the biggest tournament of her career when she annexed the crown in the women's grand prix last year to make it to the second biggest stage.

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The winner of this event gets to play a match for the world championship title.

Sister of Praggnanandhaa, Vaishali made history by qualifying for the event. These two are the strongest ever siblings the game has ever seen and this is the first time that both have qualified to the Candidates.

Humpy has fought for the world championship before and knows what it takes. If there is one title that has eluded the biggest star in Indian chess circles, it is the world title.

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At 37, time may be running out for Humpy but with her fierce competitive attitude and remarkable playing skills that still keeps her in top five of world rankings, here is one player who cannot be ruled out of attaining glory.

Tan Zhongyi of China is another player who is likely to be in the thick of things along with Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine. The Chinese is known for her preparation, while Muzychuk on her day can be devastating for any opposition.

The surprise packet comes in the form of Nurgyul Salimova of Bulgaria, who made it through a scintillating performance in the world women’s cup, finishing runner-up ahead of many stars.

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As the lowest seed, she may have little chance to compete for the title but the Bulgarian has the prowess to spoil anyone’s chances when on the prowl.

Like in the open section, there are eight participants in all set to play each other twice over three weeks with four rest days thrown in.

The opening ceremony will be held on Wednesday and the first round will start on Thursday.

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Road to the candidates: Women: • Lei Tingjie (CHN, 2550) – qualified as the previous World Championship match runner-up.

• Kateryna Lagno (2542) – qualified as the 2022−23 Women’s Grand Prix winner.

• Aleksandra Goryachkina (2553) – qualified as the 2022−23 Women’s Grand Prix runner-up.

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• Nurgyul Salimova (BUL, 2426) – qualified as the 2023 Women’s World Cup runner-up.

• Anna Muzychuk (UKR, 2520) – qualified as the third-place finisher at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

• R Vaishali (2481) – qualified as the 2023 Women’s Grand Swiss winner.

• Tan Zhongyi (CHN, 2521) – qualified as the 2023 Women’s Grand Swiss runner-up.

• Koneru Humpy (2546) – qualified as the best by rating on January 1, 2024. The rating spot became available as a replacement for the Women’s World Cup winner, since Goryachkina had already qualified through the WGP. PTI Cor ATK

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