Impressive Praggnanandhaa wins Polgar Challenge

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/12/2021 – Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu kicked off the final day of action in the Polgar Challenge with three consecutive wins to secure first place with a round to spare. Four players finished 1½ points behind — Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Gukesh D, Nihal Sarin and Volodar Murzin. | Photo: Alina l’Ami

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“He reminds me so much of young Vishy”

Vladimir Kramnik and Judit Polgar are not only the head coaches of their respective teams in the Julius Baer Challengers Tour, but also the commentators in the live webcasts of the individual events. On day 4 of the Polgar Challenge, once it became clear that Praggnanandhaa would win the tournament, Kramnik reflected:

He reminds me so much of young Vishy. In everything. In the character, it seems to me he’s very sharp, light, quick. [...] And this kind of sharpness, you know.

Anand congratulated Pragg on his victory, noting — as the youngster himself did later on — that the biggest challenge lies ahead, at the next event of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The former world champion tweeted:

In the tweet, Anand mentions that he is also proud of his other students from the Westbridge Academy. It was recently announced that the Indian legend is working directly with five Indian talents — Pragg, Nihal Sarin, Raunak Sadhwani, Gukesh and Vaishali. Not only did one of them win the event but Nihal and Gukesh also had great performances, sharing second place with Nodirbek Abdusattorov (Uzbekistan) and Volodar Murzin (Russia).

This was yet another instance of the Indian representatives demonstrating the results of the effective work done to grow the game in the second most populated country in the world. With Anand as the big ambassador and motivator, we can expect the youngsters to continue rising through the ranks of elite chess.

Polgar Chess Challenge 2021

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As seen in the final standings above, a team competition between the squads headed by Polgar and Kramnik is also taking place. The winning team at the end of the tour will get to travel to Dubai, where Magnus Carlsen is set to play his 5th World Championship match this November. In the first event of the tour, Team Polgar had a clear win, which had a lot to do with Dinara Saduakassova’s decision to quit the competition midway due to complications with her internet connection.

Murzin and Gukesh score 4/4 on Sunday

In terms of rating, the biggest surprise of the tournament was Volodar Murzin (2478). The young Russian IM did not draw a single game in the 19 rounds of the event, and finished the tournament with six consecutive wins. He shared second place with two other players on 14/19 points, and was placed fifth according to the tiebreak criteria.

Murzin kicked off the day with a win over second seed Nihal. Murzin, playing black, found the precise moment to go for a pawn break on the c-file:


Black grabbed the initiative against White’s uncoordinated army with 31...c5 32.dxc5 Bxc3 33.bxc3 Rxa3


Murzin continued playing precisely, as after 34.Ne2 he found 34...d4 35.Nxd4 Rxc3+ and White is clearly worse. Nihal resigned nine moves later.

Volodar Murzin, Praggnanandhaa

Volodar Murzin and Praggnanandhaa — future world title contenders? | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Gukesh also won all his games on Sunday, taking down the American duo of Awonder Liang and Christopher Yoo in consecutive rounds. Against Yoo, he was in deep trouble, but managed to take advantage of his opponent’s blunder on move 28:


Yoo could have gained a piece with 28.f4, avoiding the trap he fell for in the game — he directly played 28.Nxc4 allowing 28...Rd1+ 29.Rxd1 Qxc3. Gukesh grabbed the a-pawn on the next move and went on to prove that his queen and passed pawns were much stronger than White’s rook and knight. 

‘Veterans’ Abdusattorov and Nihal do not disappoint

The top two seeds finished in second and fourth places respectively according to the tiebreak criteria — both of them scored 14/19 points. The fact that Abdusattorov and Nihal have played more often against strong (older) opposition showed, as they had a more stable performance than most of his young colleagues.

Endgame specialist Karsten Müller analysed Abdusattorov’s victory over Belarusian IM Olga Badelka in round 16. The Uzbek was a piece down, but had two strong connected passers already on the third rank.

Müller sent two more instructive endings extracted from the games Liang v Bjerre and Shuvalova v Zhu.


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Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Praggnanandhaa R 15,5 0,0
2 Abdusattorov Nodirbek 14,0 2,0
3 Gukesh D 14,0 1,5
4 Nihal Sarin 14,0 1,5
5 Murzin Volodar 14,0 1,0
6 Keymer Vincent 13,5 0,0
7 Liang Awonder 12,5 0,0
8 Yoo Christopher Woojin 12,0 1,0
9 Mendonca Leon Luke 12,0 0,0
10 Bjerre Jonas Buhl 10,5 0,0
11 Lei Tingjie 10,0 1,0
12 Zhu Jiner 10,0 0,0
13 Salimova Nurgyul 7,0 0,0
14 Shuvalova Polina 6,5 0,5
15 Abdumalik Zhansaya 6,5 0,5
16 Khademalsharieh Sarasadat 5,5 1,0
17 Mammadzada Gunay 5,5 0,0
18 Yip Carissa 4,0 0,0
19 Badelka Olga 3,0 0,0
20 Saduakassova Dinara 0,0 0,0

Tie Break1: Direct Encounter (The results of the players in the same point group)
Tie Break2: The greater number of victories (variable)
Tie Break3: Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break variable
Tie Break4: Koya Tie-Break


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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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