Tie for first at Prague
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - February 23, 2020 - 12:00am

The Prague Masters Festival in the Czech Republic was a scramble. Reason? The jostling at the top were done by young and aggressive players.

The tie for first was among teenager Alireza Firoujza, Indian Vidit Santosh Gujarathi (25), Spain’s Anton Guijarro David (24),  21-year-old Jan-Krysztof Duda of Poland and Sam Shankland (USA), each scoring 5.0 points in the nine-round all-play-all tournament. 

In tie-break order, the 16-year-old Iranian exile Firoujza, nosed out his co winners, then beat Vidit, 2-0, in speed chess playoff to capture his first classical major plum.

Other scores read Nikita Vitiugov (Russia) and Pentala Harikrishna (India). at 4.5 each. They were followed by Markus Ragger (Austria) and David Navara (Czech Republic), 4.0 and Nils Grandelius (Sweden), 3.5.

* * * 

 Still in Europe, the strongest Russian International thus far, the Aeroflot Open got underway at the Kosmos Hotel in downtown Moscow. 

67 GMs and 30 IMs are competing for top honors in the nine-round, 140,000 euros, Swiss system competition.

GM Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan took the early lead with a perfect 3.0/3.0..

Tied for second spot at 2.5 points apiece were Indian GMs S. R. Sethuranan and Bharat Subramaniyam,  Chinese GM Zhou Jianchao, Iranian GM  Idani Pouya and Russian GM David Paravyan.

* * *

In the following game, Black’s Queen maneuvers in the middle game proved dubious, and White strangled the Queen without much trouble.

Prague Chess Festival 2020 

W) Santosh Gujrathi Vidit (India)

B)  S. Shankland (USA)

Nimzo-Indian Defense

1. d4      Nf6 

2. c4                       e6 

3. Nc3                    Bb4 

The hyper modern Nimzo-Indian Defense, developed and introduced into master play by the great Danish master and writer Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935).

4. e3                      ....

In answer to the Nimzo-Indian, White adopts this modest reply, recommended by Polish GM Akiba Rubinstein (1886-1961).White achieves, without the slightest risk, a sound position, and can quickly get an advantage should Black plays inaccurately.

4....        O-O 

5. Bd2                    ....

5. Bd3 and 5. Ne2 are more usual here.

5....       b6

5....d5 is the standard continuation, but the text is also sound.

6. Nf3                    Bb7 

7. Bd3                    d5 

8. cxd5                  exd5 

9. Rc1                    Re8 

10. Nb5                 Nc6 

11. O-O                 Bf8 

12. a3                    a6 

13. Nc3                 Bd6 

After 13....Na5 14. Ne5 b5 15. Ne2 c5, the game leads to a balanced middle game.

14. b4                    Nb8?!

Here Black’s ineffective maneuvering starts. The engine recommends 14....Ne7, with chances for both sides after 15.Ne2 Ng6 16. Ng3 Ne4 17. Nf5 Bf8.

15. Qb3                 c6?!

Another weak move which concedes White the initiative. An interesting line, according the engine is 15....Nbd7 16. Rfe1 Ne4!? 17. Nxd5 Nxd2 18. Nxd2 Qg5 19. Be4 Rxe4 20. Nxe4 Bxd5 21. Nxg5 Bxb3 22. Ne4 Kf8 23. Nxd6 cxd6 24. Rc7 Ke7 25. Rec1 a5, with unclear consequences.

16. Qb1!               ....

Prepairing the thematic break e4.

16....                      Bc8?!

This error gives White a decisive advantage. The engine’s choice is 16....Qc7 17. e4 dxe4 18. Nxe4 Nbd7 19. Nxd6 Qxd6 20. Rfe1, with a slight edge for White, if any.

17. e4                    dxe4 

18. Nxe4              Nxe4

19. Bxe4               h6 

20. Rfd1                Ra7 

21. Ne5                 Rc7 

22. h3                    Qh4 

23. Re1                 Rce7 

24. Bh7ch!           ....

A scintillating move, which sets up the attack on the Black Queen.

24....                      Kf8 

25. Re4!                Qf6?

This move loses right off. But after 25...Qh5 26. Bg6! fxg6 27. g4 Qxh3 28. Re3, the Queen has nowhere to run.

26. Rf4!                 ....

Catching the Queen alive. The rest is a routine win for the Indian GM.

26....                      Bxe5 

27. Rxf6                Bxf6 

28. Bf4                  Bg5 

29. Bd6                 g6 

30. Bxg6               fxg6 

31. Qxg6               Nd7

32. Nc3                 1-0

* * *

Solution to last week puzzle

Black to play and win.

White=Kg1, Qa3, Ra1, Re6, Pa4, Pb5, Pf2, Pg2, Ph2

Black=Kh8, Qb6, Rf8, Bg7, Pa7, Pb7,Pd6, Pf3, Pg6, Ph7 1....     Qd4!


If 2. Rae1 Qg4! 3. g3 (3. Qxf3 Rxf3) 3....Qh3 and mates.

* * *

Black to move and win.

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