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Asian 2019 Round 3-4: Praggnanandhaa pulls off a shocking upset against Vidit, Bhakti is now an IM

by Satanick Mukhuty - 11/06/2019

Praggnanandhaa R. pulls off a shocking upset by defeating the top-seed and compatriot Vidit Gujrathi. Nihal Sarin cruises through with the King's Indian while Abhijeet Gupta falters against Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja. Murali Karthikeyan foils Vishnu Prasanna's ambitious exchange sacrifice and holds Sethuraman to a steady draw. Elsewhere in the Women's section Bhakti Kulkarni draws against higher rated IM Dinara Saduakassova and emerges as the latest International Master of the country. Four rounds have ended in the Asian continental open and women's championships 2019, in this report we bring you the glimpses of the most important moments of rounds 3 and 4. 

Open Section

In round 3, Murali Karthikeyan continued his brilliant streak by winning against Vishnu Prasanna V. The following was a key moment from their encounter when the latter decided to sacrifice an exchange for just a pawn:


Vishnu Prasanna - Karthikeyan Murali, Round 3

Black has just played 25...Nc7

In the above position White could have gone for 26.Rxd8 Rxd8 27.Qc2 Rxd1 28.Qxd1 Qxe4 29.Bxc5 which gives a perfectly equal position. But White ventured with 26.Bxc5 instead!

White decides to sacrifice an exchange. How do you assess this position?

After 26...Nxd5 27.exd5 b4 28.d6 Rd7 White hopes to generate counter-play with his d-pawn but how?

Position after 28...Rd7, Can you find a plan for White here?

In the game 29.Nd2?! was played but this is a mistake and Black immediately seized the opportunity with 29...Re5!

Position after 29...Re5! Black's pieces spring to action! 

After 30.Qc4 Rd5 31.Qc2 Bc3 any initiative that White had was gone.

After 31...Bc3 the white pawn on d6 will fall soon!

How could white's play be improved? To know check the annotated game below!

With 3.0/3 Karthikeyan was one of the leaders

In round 4 today, Praggnanandhaa R. pulled off a stunning upset when he defeated Vidit Gujrathi with the black pieces. Vidit, who is more than 150 points higher rated than Prag, gave up a rook for a knight and three pawns but thereafter failed to assess the right continuation and ended up in a completely lost ending. Let us have a look at this critical moment from the game.


Vidit Gujrathi - Praggnanandhaa, Round 4

Position after 30...Rc7-c5

Vidit decided in the above position to give up a rook for a knight and three pawns. The game went 31.Qxb6 Nd7 (fork) 32.Qxa6 Nxe5 33.Nxe5 Qe4 34.Nxf7

Position after 34.Nxf7. What is the evaluation of this ending?

It soon became apparent that Black's rooks were way too active and White's queen-side pawns way too loose, with 34...Rf8 35.Qe6 Qxe6 36.dxe6 Re8 the queens were off the board and Black easily picked up the extra white pawns! 

After 36...Re8 it became clear that White's isolated pawns on a2, c3, and e6 will soon fall off!

So the question is, where did Vidit actually go wrong? Well, 31.Qxb6 itself wasn't a bad idea but after 31...Nd7 the very instinctive reply 32.Qxa6 is a mistake. Better would have been 32.Qb7 Nxe5 33.Nxe5 Qh5 34.Nc6!

The idea with 34.Nc6! isn't easy to find!

Disconnecting the rooks, the point being that now the d5 pawn can't be easily captured due to the existence of Ne7+ fork. White has nice activity on the queen-side and the position in this case is dynamically balanced.


Replay the full game here:

Vidit and Praggnanandhaa have played against each other before with Vidit having a huge plus score. This was the first time that the youngster was able to beat India no.3 | Photo: John Saunders at Isle of Man 2018

Nihal Sarin found an easy victory today against Xu Zhihang when the latter played a dubious move in the King's Indian Defense. The following shows position after Black's 9...exd4

Black has just captured the d4 pawn...How should white proceed?

In the game White went 10.Qxd4 and after 10...Nxe4 11.Qxe4 Bxc3 12.Qh4 Bxb2 he lost two pawns with very little compensation.

To give away free pawns against the World's youngest 2600 rated player isn't the best idea!

However, White could have done things differently, the right alternative is pointed out in the annotations below:

With some solid chess Nihal has moved to 3.0/4

Abhijeet Gupta suffered a tough loss against Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja. Let us check the key moments from their encounter.

The above is position after 11...c3, arising out of a Semi-Slav.

White has to be very careful here or else the black pawn on c3 will become a real problem for him. The game went 12.a3 a5 13.axb4 Bxb4 14.Ra4 0-0 15.Ba3 Qe7 and the following position was reached:

Black has just played 15...Qe7... How should White proceed?

Abhijeet Gupta could have gone for a simplification with 16.Bxb4 axb4 17.Rxa8 Bxa8 18.Qa1 f6 19.Nd3 after which White still has to keep an eye on the c3 pawn but the position is dynamically balanced. In the game however 16.Qc1 was played and after 16...Rd8 17.e3 Black broke out with 17...c5

17...c5 is a major break-through in the position

This forced a series of exchanges: 18.Bxb7 Qxb7 19.dxc5 Na6 20.Nc4 Nxc5 21.Nxa5 Rxa5 22.Rxb4

Position after 22.Rxb4 - the c3 pawn is now starting to look really menacing!

Pair of rooks and minor pieces were further exchanged and the following position was reached:

Position after 25.exd4 - this ending looks completely winning

From here White tried to defend in vain... The c3 pawn was pushed further and the game was resigned on move 39.

Alireza Firouzja is one of the leaders after round 4 | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Rank after round 4

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
GMFirouzja AlirezaIRI26823,525588,09,50,043,52,760,74107,4
GMKarthikeyan MuraliIND25933,525438,010,00,043,52,441,061010,6
GMSethuraman S.P.IND26133,525347,59,50,043,52,560,94109,4
GMPraggnanandhaa RIND25373,026948,09,00,0431,601,401014,0
GMLiu YanCHN25043,026528,09,00,0431,691,311013,1
FMZou ChenCHN24153,025928,010,00,0431,111,891018,9
GMAravindh Chithambaram Vr.IND25983,025456,58,00,0432,460,54105,4
GMKarthik VenkataramanIND24993,025206,57,50,0432,260,74107,4
GMLu ShangleiCHN26243,024946,58,00,0432,790,21102,1
GMJumabayev RinatKAZ26253,024927,09,00,0432,770,23102,3
GMAdhiban B.IND26763,024886,07,00,0433,07-0,0710-0,7
GMNihal SarinIND26063,024798,010,00,0432,770,23102,3
GMXu XiangyuCHN25833,024586,07,50,0432,740,26102,6
GMZeng ChongshengCHN25613,024355,57,00,0432,720,28102,8
GMLalith Babu M RIND25713,024027,08,50,0432,900,10101,0
GMVishnu Prasanna. VIND25112,526129,09,50,042,51,850,65106,5
GMXu YinglunCHN25482,525996,58,00,042,52,010,49104,9
GMGupta AbhijeetIND26062,525738,510,50,042,52,360,14101,4
GMMaghsoodloo ParhamIRI26652,525306,58,00,042,52,81-0,3110-3,1

Women's Section

In the women's section Bhakti Kulkarni maintained her remarkable form by winning her round 3 encounter against Mahalakshmi M. and drawing her round 4 encounter against Dinara Saduakassova. Bhakti began the Asian Championships 2019 with a rating of 2380. The 3.5/4 start helped her gain 20 Elo points and go past the 2400 Elo mark, thus making her India's latest International Master!

Let us check out the key moments from her round 3 win against Mahalakshmi.


Bhakti vs Mahalakshmi, Round 3

Position after 23.h4

The above roughly equal position was reached out of a closed Catalan. Black here lashed out with 23...g5?! which let's White to gain a dangerous initiative with 24.hxg5 Qxg5 25.a5! b5 26.Ne5 Bxe5 27.Rc5 But in the game Bhakti chose a less deadly continuation with 24.hxg5 Qxg5 25.Nd2 

Position after 25.Nd2

Next, after 25...Qe7 26.a5 h4 27.gxh4 c5 28. Bxb7 Qxb7 the following position was reached:

Position after 28...Qxb7... What's the winning move for White here?

29.Rxc5 is a crushing move in this position - 29...Rxc5 30.dxc5 Qa6 31.cxb6 axb6 32.Qxb6 is completely winning. Bhakti went for 29.dxc5 in the game which spared Black a little but was still enough to bring home the full-point. Fast forward a few more moves and White has created a winning passer on the queen-side:

Position after 38.Qxa6 - White is winning!

In round 4 Bhakti Kulkarni held the higher rated IM Dinara Saduakassova to a comfortable draw, this game is presented below:

Standings after round 4

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
WGMKulkarni BhaktiIND23803,523328,510,50,043,52,401,102022,0
IMSaduakassova DinaraKAZ24583,523138,510,00,043,52,850,65106,5
IMSukandar Irine KharismaINA23783,522947,59,00,043,52,600,90109,0
WGMKurbonboeva SarvinozUZB22593,023898,09,00,0431,761,242024,8
Li XueyiCHN23053,023547,08,00,0432,100,902018,0
Ren XiaoyiCHN22552,523898,510,00,031,50,970,532010,6
WGMVo Thi Kim PhungVIE23372,523317,08,50,042,52,330,17101,7
WIMMahalakshmi MIND22452,523278,08,50,042,52,080,42208,4
WGMZhai MoCHN23582,523158,09,00,042,52,430,07100,7
WGMHoang Thi Bao TramVIE22932,522807,59,00,042,52,310,19101,9
WIMDauletova GulmiraKAZ22522,522766,56,50,042,52,270,23204,6
IMKaravade EeshaIND23702,522627,58,50,042,52,70-0,2010-2,0
IMPham Le Thao NguyenVIE23702,522536,58,00,042,52,81-0,3110-3,1
WGMVaishali RIND23382,522226,07,50,042,52,73-0,2320-4,6
WIMGu TianluCHN21832,521745,06,50,042,52,210,29205,8
WFMLi YunshanCHN22642,023318,09,50,0421,980,02400,8
WIMSan Diego Marie AntoinettePHI20802,023066,57,50,0421,040,962019,2
WFMMunkhzul TurmunkhMGL23712,023028,010,00,0422,53-0,5320-10,6
WFMMendoza Shania MaePHI21712,022906,57,50,0421,730,27205,4
IMMunguntuul BatkhuyagMGL24202,022216,07,00,0423,08-1,0810-10,8