Reports Mar 12, 2019 | 8:40 AMby Colin McGourty

Duda and Praggnanandhaa impress in Prague

Chess talents appear in waves and the Prague Chess Festival is showcasing two of those waves. 20-year-old Jan-Krzysztof Duda is, like contemporaries Vladislav Artemiev and Wei Yi, knocking on the door of the elite right now, and the Polish star became the sole leader of the Prague Masters after winning three of his first five games. 13-year-old Praggnanandhaa is one of a generation of Asian kids who may dominate chess in a decade, and after beating Ju Wenjun and Alexei Shirov in consecutive rounds he joined the leading group in the Prague Challengers.

13-year-old Praggnanandhaa beat Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun | photo: Vladimír Jagr, official website

Duda’s no-holds-barred chess pays off

The Prague Masters players had a rest day on Monday after five action-packed rounds – you can replay all the games from the tournament using the selector below:

We’ve seen some wild positions in Prague, with perhaps no move having greater shock effect that Nikita Vitiugov’s 15.Bh6! against Harikrishna in Round 2:


The point is that 15…gxh6? is met by 16.e6!, and in fact we got a variation of that in the game when Hari spent 16 minutes on 16…d4? 16.Nxd4 gxh6 17.e6! Bxe6 18.Nxe6 Rg8 19.Nf4. Despite material being equal Black’s structure was in ruins with no refuge for the king, and Vitiugov went on to win in style.

Nikita Vitiugov got to play some Romantic chess, with a little help from his computer! | photo: Vladimír Jagr, official website

He admitted afterwards that his computer had shown 15.Bh6! in that line of the Berlin on the morning of the game, and that if Black had replied 15…Rg8! then after 16.Bd2 White would only have gained a slight advantage:     

That game could have been a hard blow to recover from, but in the following round it was Hari who got to have all the fun as he out-prepared Duda in an obscure variation of the Sicilian. He commented that 10…Ng6 (10…d6!) was already the “crucial mistake”, with the last straw coming with 13…e6? 14.Ba5!

After 14...b6 15.Bxb6 Nf4 16.Qh4!, the move Hari felt Duda missed, Black was soon simply a piece down, with the remaining moves superfluous. Hari suggested 13…e5 instead, while 13…b6 is the computer choice for Black.

Duda bounced straight back against Navara | photo: Vladimír Jagr, official website

The pattern of players shrugging off crushing defeats continued, however, as in the next round Duda suddenly got to pounce in what he admitted hadn’t been a perfectly played game up until that point against Czech no. 1 David Navara:


34.Rxa4!, a tactic Duda had seen when the queen was on b7 and it didn’t yet work, was instantly crushing here. The main point is that 34…Bxa4 is met by 35.Qc4+!, and taking on c8 next move.

Another player to bounce back from misfortune was Sam Shankland. The US Champion was under pressure against Boris Gelfand in Round 3, but at worst could have sacrificed his bishop for the e7-pawn and played the theoretically drawn Rook vs. Rook + Bishop ending. Instead he blundered with 57…Kf7??


Boris swiftly executed the beautiful finish: 58.Bd5+! Kg6 (58…Ke8 59.Bc6+ Kf7 60.e8=Q#) 59.e8=Q+ and Black resigned due to 59…Rxe8 60.Bf7+, picking up the rook. 

That was in turn a bounce-back victory for Gelfand - yes, it's hard to keep up! - as he'd lost to Vidit in the previous round | photo: Vladimír Jagr, official website

Boris Gelfand was asked afterwards if he’d been inspired to find that study-like ending by the presence of his countryman Yochanan Afek in Prague:

In the very next game Shankland did well out of the opening against Vidit, though the Indian grandmaster later got to play an attractive X-ray move that seemed to solve his problems:


21.Qxa7!, and after 21…Rd8 22.Bxd4 Rxd4 23.Qb8+ Qd8 24.Qxb7 Rd2 25.Qa7 Qf6 White would likely have held with 26.Qe3, but instead Vidit grabbed a third pawn with 26.Qxc7:


In his own analysis Vidit describes what came next as “a brilliant resource” – 26…h5!! He explains that the point is that if immediately 26…Qb2 then White has 27.h5! and after 27…Rxe2?? White gives mate with: 28.Qd8+ Kg7 29.h6#

In the game after 27.Qb8+ Kh7 28.Qb3 Qd4 29.Qe3 Qb2 Black had a powerful attack despite being three pawns down and went on to win convincingly. Sam was happy to get that win after what he described as the “disaster” the day before:

As we saw with 21.Qxa7 there, not all beautiful moves work out. Richard Rapport found that out in the following position:


30…Qe6? was perhaps hard to resist for a creative player like Rapport, attacking two pieces and offering a queen sac, though of course 31.Bxe6 runs into 31…Rb1+ and White is mated. The problem was that Radek Wojtaszek replied with the even better double (or triple) attack 31.Qc7!!, and White was simply winning. Instead 30…Qh4! (or 30…Rb1+ first) was a draw, with one line continuing 31.Qe1 Rb1! and White can’t take the rook without losing the queen to 32.Qxb1 Qh2+ 33.Kf1 Qh1+.

Wojtaszek joins Vitiugov as the only unbeaten players in the Prague Masters, after Navara missed a great chance to beat him in Round 5. That left local heroes Navara and Viktor Laznicka as the only players yet to get a win, with Duda top of the table:

Rk. NameRtgFED12345678910Pts. TB2  TB3 
1Duda Jan-Krzysztof2731POL0½1113,56,753
2Vitiugov Nikita2726RUS1½½½½3,06,753
3Wojtaszek Radoslaw2722POL½½½1½3,06,252
4Harikrishna Pentala2730IND10½½½2,57,252
5Gelfand Boris2655ISR½½10½2,56,753
6Shankland Samuel2731USA½½01½2,56,253
7Vidit Santosh Gujrathi2711IND½10½½2,55,753
8Navara David2739CZE0½½½½2,05,502
9Rapport Richard2738HUN00½½12,04,002
10Laznicka Viktor2670CZE0½½½01,54,252

Praggnanandhaa makes his move        

When we first reported on events in Prague 13-year-old Indian Grandmaster Praggnanandhaa had lost his first game with the white pieces to Poland’s Mateusz Bartel. Fast forward 5 rounds, though, and Bartel is in joint last place after losing three games, while Praggnanandhaa is in a 5-way tie for first place after picking up wins in Rounds 5 and 6. You can play through all the action below:

The sole leader going into Round 5 had been Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun, but Praggnanandhaa went on to beat her after preparing an idea in the Petroff line Wenjun had used in Round 1. He went on to grind out an impressive endgame victory:

Then in the very next round he again came well-prepared for a Giuoco Piano against top seed Alexei Shirov, gaining an extra pawn by move 15. 

Alexei Shirov is a fine endgame player, but Praggnanandhaa matched him all the way | photo: Vladimír Jagr, official website

Long-suffering Praggnanandhaa fans were left biting their nails in the mutual time trouble that followed, but the youngster didn’t put a foot wrong, and in the end it was again a carefully nurtured passed pawn that won the day:

That earned Praggnanandhaa praise from his highly respected coach:

With 3 rounds to go Praggnanandhaa is second on tiebreaks behind Peter Michalik, whose Round 5 escape was memorable!

Every player in the Challengers has won and lost at least one game:

Rk. NameRtgFED12345678910Pts. TB2  TB3 
1GMMichalik Peter2565CZE011½½½3,511,004
2GMPraggnanandhaa R2532IND1½½10½3,510,002
3GMJu Wenjun2580CHN10½½½13,59,753
4GMAnton Guijarro David2643ESP0½½½113,59,504
5GMKrejci Jan2570CZE0½½11½3,59,253
6GMStocek Jiri2592CZE½½½½103,09,503
7GMNguyen Thai Dai Van2546CZE½½½0½13,08,502
8GMShirov Alexei2667ESP000½112,55,503
9GMBartel Mateusz2600POL½1½0002,07,004
10GMParavyan David2627RUS½0½1002,06,502

There are no more rest days in any of the events and you can follow the action in Prague from 15:00 CET each day here on chess24: Masters | Challengers | Open

See also:


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