Gelfand Challenge: Pragg is back

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/12/2021 – Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, who came from winning the first event of the Julius Baer Challengers Tour, did not have a strong first day in the Gelfand Challenge. However, an impressive streak of five straight wins on day 2 prompted him to the top of the standings, as he is currently sharing the lead on 8/10 points with Nodirbek Abdusattorov. Three players stand a full point behind with nine rounds to go. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

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Five out of five

For a second day in a row, one of the twenty young talents participating in the Gelfand Challenge scored a perfect 5 out of 5. While Awonder Liang had a perfect first day, it was Praggnanandhaa — the winner of the previous event of the tour — who won game after game on the second day of action.

Pragg is now sharing first place with Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who also performed well in the Polgar Challenge back in April. The Uzbek grandamster was, in fact, the only undefeated player after nine rounds, so had he kept his streak he would have finished the day in the sole lead — a loss against Gunay Mammadzada meant he is now tied with his even younger Indian colleague.

Praggnanandhaa, Nodirbek Abdusattorov

Pragg kicked off the day playing black against his compatriot Nihal Sarin. The younger Indian prodigy (Pragg is 15, Nihal is 16) was a pawn up in an endgame with knight versus bishop.


Grandmaster Karsten Müller shows how tough it can be to convert these positions — and how tricky they can be from the defensive side as well!


The 15-year-old went on to beat Zhu Jiner and Leon Mendonca, before facing the ever-combative Vincent Keymer, who also came from winning three in a row. The German star could have become the one scoring a perfect score on day 2 had he found a provocative idea on move 30.


White has two bishops pointing in the direction of the opposite king and two heavy pieces lined up on the c-file, but it is Black who can get his attack going first with 30...b5.

If White goes for 31.a3, preventing the knight from jumping to b4, there is 31...dxe4 when 32.Bxe4 is bad due to 32...Nb4 and White is lost.

After 31.exd5, Black simply plays 32...Nb4 with a winning position.

Bailing out with 31.Qc3 would at the very least give up a pawn.

None of this happened, though, as Keymer instead went for 30...Nb6 and after 31.Rhd1 d4 32.a3 Nc7 White is already in the driver’s seat.


Keymer had missed his chance to grab the initiative, and now the bishop pair proved to be stronger than the knight duo. Pragg scored a crucial 40-move victory.


Standings after round 10


All games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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