Hou Yifan Challenge: Pragg still perfect

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/18/2021 – Day 1 of the Hou Yifan Challenge, the last regular event of the Julius Baer Challengers Tour, saw Praggnanandhaa scoring five wins in as many games to take the sole lead. Vincent Keymer won his first four games, but lost against Christopher Yoo in the final round of the day, and now stands in sole second place. Pragg’s sister Vaishali was the strongest among the women, as she collected 2½ points in four games. | Pictured: Vaishali and Pragg with their mother, Nagalakshmi | Photo: Amruta Mokal

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Barely any draws

Due to the odd number of players, five players had a bye round on Saturday. Rating favourites Praggananandhaa and Vincent Keymer — the only two players with a 2600+ rating — were not among them though, and they finished the day as the top scorers with 5/5 and 4/5 points respectively.

Much like Pragg, Keymer collected four wins in the first four rounds, but a loss against Christopher Yoo prevented him from keeping up with his younger colleague’s pace — Keymer was born nine months before Pragg. Yoo’s victory over the German star was no fluke, as the 14-year-old Californian IM was the only player other than the leader to finish the day undefeated (Yoo is in third place at the moment, with 3½/4 points).

Among the girls — six female participants are in the mix — Vaishali Rameshbabu, Pragg’s sister, had the strongest performance on the first day of action. The Indian WGM is on 2½/4, as she only lost against her sibling on Saturday.

Hou Yifan Challenge 2021

Pragg is not only an excellent tactician, but he also knows how to convert a strategic advantage into a win when the opportunity arises. Facing Balaji Daggupati in the first round, the Indian star showed good technique in a good knight vs bad bishop position.


35.Rd5 was Daggupati’s losing mistake. Pragg quickly swapped the rooks, as his knight will be the stronger minor piece in the technical endgame. Daggupati resigned 20 moves later.

Endgame specialist Karsten Müller sent a more in-depth analysis of Pragg’s instructive win.


While her brother got the better of Daggupati, Vaishali was defending an inferior endgame against Polish IM Pawel Teclaf.


GM Müller reminds us that we should not rush in the endgame, as Teclaf’s 44...f5+ came too early. At this point, the winning move was 44...h4, leaving White in zugzwang.

After Teclaf’s mistake, Vaishali continued to defend until getting the draw six moves later. Do not miss GM Müller’s instructive analysis in the replayer below.


Standings after round 5


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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