Kramnik Challenge: Keymer in the sole lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/13/2021 – Vincent Keymer took an early lead at the Kramnik Challenge after scoring 3½ points in the four rounds played on Thursday. The German star stands a half point ahead of a 3-player chasing pack, which includes Christopher Yoo, Awonder Liang and Nodirbek Abdusattorov. Expert analyses by GM Karsten Müller. | Photo: Schach-Bundesliga

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A reduced field

Unlike the two previous events in the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour, the field at the Kramnik Challenge was reduced from 20 players to 16 after a number of players were unable to compete. A large Indian contingent of Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh and Nihal Sarin is in action in the RTU Open in Riga, while Gunay Mammadzada, Olga Badelka and Nurgyul Salimova are all playing the European Women’s Championship in Iasi, Romania. 

As a consequence, instead of playing five games per day, the participants are playing four games per day this time around. 

German grandmaster Vincent Keymer, who finished the Gelfand Challenge in sole third place, had the best start, scoring three wins and a draw on Thursday. The 16-year-old from Mainz beat Christopher Yoo with the black pieces in round 2, a result which might turn out to be critical for the final standings, since Yoo is currently in shared second place.


Yoo got in trouble early on — 13...Bxc3 14.Qxc3 Nb4 15.Kd2 Rc8 16.Qa3 and Black has made the most of his initiative, activating his pieces while weakening White’s king. 


There followed 16...Rc2+ 17.Ke1 Qxa3 18.bxa3 Re8, bringing yet another piece to the attack and creating a bind that lasted until the very end of the game. Yoo defended stubbornly, but his position was simply busted.


Also in round 2, a duel between Russian rising stars saw Volodar Murzin getting the better of Polina Shuvalova with the black pieces. In a rook endgame a pawn down, Shuvalova could have saved a draw had she found the right rook check on move 77.


77.Rh4+, which was played in the game, was not the way to go. As endgame specialist Karsten Müller demonstrates by showing all relevant variations, 77.Rc8+ would have defended for White.


In another lengthy game — this one lasting over 100 moves — Dinara Saduakassova did not find the correct plan to break the fortress put up by Balaji Daggupati in an ending with rook and pawn against knight and pawn.


Three moves after playing 99...Rh8, Saduakassova accepted a draw, since there was no way to break through with the rook. However, as GM Müller proves below, 99...Kf5 would have allowed Black to enter a winning pawn endgame after trading the rook for the knight.


Standings after round 4


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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