The Prague Masters 2020 has reached the half-way mark, and it has been a one man show so far! Vidit Gujrathi has shown amazing composure and concentration, drawing with Black and winning with White. Today he dismantled Alireza Firouzja in the Exchange Slav after the latter mistakenly grabbed a poisoned pawn and found himself resigning on move 24. David Navara also showed some fighting spirit, to best Nils Grandelius in the symmetrical English to begin his comeback in the event. Sam Shankland missed too many opportunities, as Anton escaped. Nikita Vitiugov was close to winning against Harikrishna, but missed some nuances that could have killed the game off and had to split the point. Ragger confidently held Duda to a draw in the Exchange Ruy Lopez. A detailed report by Tanmay Srinath.
Vidit's shrewd opening choice
Well, I have lost words of praise for the phenomenal play that Vidit is showing in this tournament. It is not that he has played perfectly - he was clearly worse as Black in one of his games. However, what is striking is how Vidit is using chess psychology in his favour, and his opening choices seem to indicate surety in his approach - he has not experimented much, and his objectives are clear for each of his opponent.
Vidit 1-0 Firouzja:
Vidit Gujrathi started the tournament on a bang, and if current form is to be trusted, he is the favourite to win the event! He has been solid with Black and deadly with White, and is currently comfortably placed on 4/5. We shall look at his win in detail now:
Vidit turned on the afterburners today! | Photo: Vladimir Jagr
The Exchange Slav is the perfect choice against a dynamic player like Firouzja
Here 9...Bd6! is the best way for Black to get a defensible position. Instead, 9...Qb6? by Firouzja took him on the one way road to destruction!
10...Qxb2?! is a very greedy pawn grab, but the point of 9...Qb6. Why is the plan flawed? Black is way too behind in development, and after 11.Na4! Vidit never lets up!
Pawn up, but close to lost. The best for Alireza would have been to take another pawn on a3. But he decided to play Qa5. After White's Qb3, there was no good way to defend the b7 pawn.
The colours show how pathetic Black's position actually is! Frankly, one more tempo and Black will be at least equal, but White has a lot of threats, chief being Rc8+ winning a piece. Thus Black is lost.
Again, Black is materially not worse, but will soon lose a piece, because of unfortunate locations of the bishops of b4 and f5, which are hit by Nc6 and g4.
To show what good form Vidit is in. He could have taken Nxb4 here. But here simply didn't want to give his opponent any counterplay and went g4! getting rid of all back rank threats.
IM Sagar Shah analyzes the game between Vidit and Firouzja in detail
This is the first time that Vidit has entered top 20 in the world| Photo: 2700 Chess
Apart from being an extremely strong player, Vidit is also a fine teacher and he has recorded a two-part series on the Caro Kann for ChessBase. If you would like to learn the opening as Black, learning it from Vidit would be the ideal choice!
Navara 1-0 Grandelius:
A very creative contest. Grandelius again got a very good position out of the opening, but as has been the trend in this tournament he has blown hot and cold, and today this unfortunately cost him a point! Credit to Navara for fighting on and on - not many players can win games after going being on -2! Here are a few highlights:
The Fighter of Top Level Chess - David Navara for you! | Photo: Vladimir Jagr
Here the main move these days is Ndb5!?, but Navara chose the classical main line of Nb3.
Here the natural move 0-0 played by Nils is surprisingly an inaccuracy. Instead Black has two decent alternatives in Neg4!? and Bc5!?.
The game suddenly turned in Black's favor here, and Nils chose the wrong capture with exf4?. Instead Rfxc8! grants Black a serious advantage.
White's best move please!
Here Rad8! and Qc7 is the best way for Black to get an acceptable game. Instead, 25...Nh5?! allowed White to seize the initiative with 26.Qxh5 Bxc3 27.f5!
Here the last chance for Black to stay in the game is Qc6! followed by Ra5. Instead, Rfe8 quickly led to a demolition after Rd7!
Is this the start of Navara's Renaissance in this tournament? | Photo: Vladimir Jagr
Shankland 0.5-0.5 David Anton:
Sam is having a bad time in Prague, as he missed numerous opportunities to finish David Anton off, and had to settle for a half-point. Here are a few critical moments:
David Anton stays on 50%, but only just. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr
Shankland- David Anton
Here 10.exd5! is the only way to keep the game level. Instead after 10.e5? Ne8! Black gets a serious advantage.
Qa5! is the only move for Black to maintain his advantage. Instead, Qb6? is a grave error, and handed White a clear advantage.
Bg3! followed by Bh4 is the best plan White has as his disposal, but Shankland didn't play this, and his move Rf1?! is an inaccuracy.
Possibly the biggest miss of the game. Qe4? is a serious mistake, which Shankland played in the game. Instead, after f4, Black is lost. There were some other moments where Shankland could have won, but I will only mention the last one.
Here Rc7! is White's last chance to win. Instead after Ra1? Black managed to draw by sacrificing his bishop and play Rh3xh2.
Vitiugov 0.5-0.5 Harikrishna:
Despite his plus score, Vitiugov has not been himself. He had two clear chances to gain a winning advantage, but he either failed to find them over the board or failed to assess them properly. Here is one such instance:
Harikrishna has had an insipid first half in Prague. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr
Here White's best move is a5! fixing the weakness on c6 and beginning play against two clear weaknesses. Also, now c5 is impossible because of Nb6 Rb8 Qa4+, followed by Rfd1, with a winning game. Instead, Nikita's Ne5? is not such a bad move, but it does drastically reduce White's advantage. There were a couple other chances as well, but this was the main one, and after this Harikrishna somehow managed to hang on.
One good thing about top players is that they spend their time after the game understanding where they could have played better, irrespective of the result! | Photo: Vladimir Jagr
The last game Duda-Ragger was a rather quiet draw. Here is the game:
Can Duda mount a fresh challenge for the top places in the last 4 rounds? | Photo: Vladimir Jagr
Chess Legend Boris Gelfand visiting the venue in Prague. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr