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Praggnanandhaa beats the highest rated player of his career - Veselin Topalov (2738)

by Sagar Shah - 26/01/2020

He was the strongest chess player on the planet at one point of time and in 2005 he showed his true power when he won the San Luis World Championship ahead of all the top players to become the FIDE World Champion. Veselin Topalov is now nowhere close to what he was as a player some years ago, but with a rating of 2738, he is still quite a potent as a competitor. Pragg faced him in the 6th round of the Gibraltar Masters 2020. Playing with the white pieces, the youngster gave his opponent absolutely no chances and won the game with some powerful moves. This is the highest rated player that Pragg has ever beaten in his classical chess career. We bring you the detailed analysis of the game with PGN, video analysis and Pragg's interview after the win. 

"One game at a time" has been the mantra for Praggnanandhaa after his first round loss at the Gibraltar Masters 2020. After winning four games in a row, he faced a real challenge in round 6. Pragg was up against the former FIDE World Champion and World Championship 2006 and 2010 challenger Veselin Topalov. Topalov is no longer as good as he used to be at one point of time. But he is still a very competent player. If his rating of 2738 is not a good enough proof then you must know that in July 2019 (five months ago) Topalov managed to eliminate Hikaru Nakamura at the first round of the Riga FIDE Grand Prix. How did Pragg fare against Topalov? Let's have a look at this epic encounter, step by step.

One of the great players of the past versus a future world class player! The game between Topalov and Praggnanandhaa was eagerly anticipated by the spectators | Photo: John Saunders

How Pragg managed to beat Topalov

Praggnanandhaa vs Topalov, Round 6

Topalov's main weapon has always been the Sicilian. Next he prefers the king's pawn opening with e4-e5. However, against Pragg he went for the French. Also the system chosen by Veselin is slightly off-beat as the knight has not been developed on c6. Black wants to take his time and use the knight on b8 to play b6 and exchange the light squared bishops.

Developmentally, this looked bad, but Black has the idea of exchanging the light squared bishop.

A move like f5 is possible and is powerful only because the knight on a6 is out of the game for the time being. Topalov could have gone Bg5 here. Instead he took exf5, which was clearly a mistake.

The knight took the pawn on d5 and with c4 coming up, it is a dominating piece

The move Qh4 was a very tricky one. The rook is coming to d1 and the knight along with the queen create some very menacing kingside threats.

Topalov blinks and plays his queen to d8. How do you continue with White? White to play and win!

Pragg managed to find Nf6+ gxf6 and now...

Rad1! This move is easy to miss as it is an intermediate move!

Very impressive was how Pragg did not relax in the better position. Here it is White to play and find the most direct way to win.

g4! A powerful stroke. The strength and purpose of this move becomes absolutely clear once you see it!

Pragg has a queen for a rook and forced his opponent to resign

Absolutely brilliant sportsman's spirit by Topalov that he agreed to analyze the game in spite of losing | Photo: Niki Riga
IM Sagar Shah analyzes Praggnanandhaa's win over Topalov

Pragg now moves closer to the leaders with 5.0/6. To reach this score after losing the first round is simply amazing! | Photo: Niki Riga
Pragg analyzes his win over Topalov in the studio with IM Tania Sachdev

Results of round 6:

Bo.No.NameRtgPts. ResultPts. NameRtgNo.
111GMCheparinov Ivan 2686 0 - 1 GMEsipenko Andrey 265416
213GMMaghsoodloo Parham 2674 ½ - ½ GMParavyan David 262922
331GMPraggnanandhaa R 26024 1 - 04 GMTopalov Veselin 27384
447GMAntipov Mikhail Al. 25624 1 - 04 GMJones Gawain C B 267912
521GMNarayanan.S.L 26374 ½ - ½4 GMYuffa Daniil 256646
627GMKobalia Mikhail 26094 1 - 04 GMHjartarson Johann 252464
763GMKotronias Vasilios 25264 0 - 14 GMPichot Alan 260630
81GMMamedyarov Shakhriyar 2770 ½ - ½ GMAryan Chopra 256248
92GMVachier-Lagrave Maxime 2770 1 - 0 GMPeralta Fernando 257443
1045GMSanal Vahap 2569 1 - 0 GMLe Quang Liem 27136
117GMAlekseenko Kirill 2704 1 - 0 GMKaidanov Gregory 254654
1250GMLalith Babu M R 2558 0 - 1 GMAdams Michael 269410
1351GMMaze Sebastien 2550 ½ - ½ GMSaric Ivan 265514
1415GMAdhiban B. 2654 1 - 0 IMFlom Gabriel 251069
1517GMLagarde Maxime 2651 0 - 1 GMGagare Shardul 248180


Standings after round 6

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1 
116GMEsipenko AndreyRUS26545,52941
247GMAntipov Mikhail Al.RUS25625,02913
33GMWang HaoCHN27585,02884
413GMMaghsoodloo ParhamIRI26745,02798
522GMParavyan DavidRUS26295,02788
627GMKobalia MikhailRUS26095,02737
731GMPraggnanandhaa RIND26025,02697
830GMPichot AlanARG26065,02694
952GMIbarra Jerez Jose CarlosESP25484,52774
1011GMCheparinov IvanGEO26864,52764
1156GMWerle JanNED25454,52757
1246GMYuffa DaniilRUS25664,52725
132GMVachier-Lagrave MaximeFRA27704,52723
1480GMGagare ShardulIND24814,52718
157GMAlekseenko KirillRUS27044,52714

The sole leader of the tournament with 5.5/6 - the young Russian talent Andrey Esipenko | Photo: John Saunders

Esipenko beat Ivan Cheparinov with the black pieces and moved to 5.5/6 | Photo: John Saunders

Adhiban played an aggressive game against Gabriel Flom (2510) and won in style! | Photo: John Saunders

Another great result for Indian players was youngster Aryan Chopra holding Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to a draw.

Mikhail Antipov managed to beat Gawain Jones | Photo: John Saunders

S.L. Narayanan drew his game against Daniil Yuffa and is now on 4.5/6 | Photo: John Saunders

Raunak Sadhwani managed to win a nice game against IM Lawrence Trent. Raunak is now on 4.5/6. | Photo: Niki Riga

Pratyusha Bodda beat IM Jovanka Houska | Photo: Niki Riga

IM Rishi Sardana has been showing some solid chess at the event and is on 3.5/6. The sixth round loss to Donchenko was his first loss of the event. | Photo: Niki Riga

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