Polgar Challenge: Three leaders

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/9/2021 – Three players are sharing the lead after round 5 at the Polgar Challenge, the first event of the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour. Praggnanandhaa, Christopher Yoo and Nodirbek Abdusattorov each scored 4 points on the first day of competition. Three players stand a half point behind, including Lei Tingjie, who was the sole leader after round 4 and was inches away from scoring a win in her last game of the day. | Photo: David Llada

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The youngest in the field 

The new tour organized by the Play Magnus Group counts with the support of two legends of the royal game, former world champion Vladimir Kramnik and the strongest woman player in history Judit Polgar. Both stars had been working on projects related to chess after retiring from professional competition. Polgar organized the Judit Polgar’s Global Chess Festival while Kramnik worked with Boris Gelfand in training camps for young Indian talents

In their latest enterprise, they are the leaders of two teams of youngsters at the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour. The first tournament of the tour, the Polgar Challenge, kicked off on Thursday, with the first 5 rounds of a 20-player single round robin event. 

Three players are sharing the lead after day 1, including the youngest player in the field, 14-year-old Christopher Yoo. Of course, in a tournament with an average age of 17.8, in order to figure out who is the youngest we need to specifically look at dates of birth — Volodar Murzin and Gukesh are also 14 years old, but were born earlier than Yoo in 2006.

Polgar Challenge

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The Korean-American wunderkind has as many points as Praggnanandhaa (15 years old) and Nodirbek Abdusattorov (16). Yoo won his three games with white, and got to checkmate Sarasadat Khademalsharieh in round 3:

 

Black faltered with 20...Re8, as it allowed 21.Bb2, pinning the knight (again). After 21...Qb6 22.Bxd4 Nxd4 the h7-square is no longer defended — 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.Qh8+ followed, and instead of resigning the Iranian player allowed Yoo to checkmate her king seven moves later.

Praggnanandhaa joined the leaders in the very last round of the day, as she defeated Lei Tingjie, who was the sole leader after 4 rounds and in fact had a chance to take down the Indian star to end the day with an impressive 4½/5 score. First, it was Pragg who failed to make the most of his chances:

 

26.Nxg7 looks good at first sight, planning to place the dark-squared bishop on the long diagonal with decisive effect. However, White does not immediately grab the knight and plays the crucial 26...d4, cutting off the bishop. White was now on the back foot. 

The game continued 27.Qd3 Rxg7 28.Bf4 Qf6 29.Bg3 Bf5 30.Qf3

 

Lei is a piece up and considered that brining another piece to the kingside was good enough at this point — 30...Rag8. But she in fact needed to play actively with 30...Ng5 to keep her advantage. 

Pragg continued with 31.Rc5, and after 31...Nh6 (a mistake) 32.Be5 the dark-squared bishop had finally made it onto the long diagonal. White was again in the driver’s seat. Pragg did not falter again and won the game in 51 moves.

Plenty of exciting chess was seen on Thursday, but the nicest move of the day was undoubtedly Awonder Liang’s incredible checkmate against Gunay Mammadzada:

 

36.Nb6# Black is pinned in all directions.


All games

 

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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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