Anton wins Prague Challengers and ticket to Masters

by Macauley Peterson
3/15/2019 – The Challengers tournament of the Prague Chess Festival ended yesterday with a victory of Spanish GM David Anton, who drew his last round game with Praggnanandhaa. Runner-up was Jan Krejci from the Czech Republic while Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun came third. In the Masters, Nikita Vitiugov coasted to tournament victory today. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

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David Anton wins Challengers

The young Spaniard David Anton has had few opportunities to compete in elite events so far, and his Elo rating has been basically flat for the past five years, with a peak of 2679 in April 2017. But thanks to his clear first place in the Challengers tournament here in Prague, he has a ticket in his pocket for the planned 2020-Masters tournament, and he is neck and neck with Alexei Shirov for the number two spot in his native Spain. (Shirov lives in Latvia, but in the Spring of 2018 he switched his federation back to Spain, where he also has citizenship and which he represented from 1995 to 2011.)

Here's how they stand at the close of the nine rounds of play in Prague:

Rank Chang Name Classical Elo Change Age
95 ↓21 Shirov 2656.9 −10.1 46
96 ↑21 Anton Guijarro 2656.1 +13.1 23

Source: 2700chess.com

Anton finished with 6.0/9 and a performance rating of 2712. It very nearly could have been higher. In the final round, Anton met Praggnanandhaa and got a clearly superior position with White, leading to a much better endgame.

The key moment came just before the time control when Anton missed a golden opportunity to exchange rooks which would have dramatically simplified his task:

 

Here 38.d5! would have capitalised on the awkward placement of the black rook as 38...xh2 is impossible due to 39.g1 h4 and the rook is "trapped", so after 40.a4 Black is forced to give up the bishop immediately or else it will just sail through to a8!

Anton vs Pragg

By contrast 38.h3 was too timid, giving Praggnanandhaa a chance to bring his rook back "onside" with 38...e5 39.d5 (one move too late) e8 and the game continued. Anton never did advance his a-pawn, ignoring the Reuben Fine adage that "passed pawns must be pushed".

From this point on, the young Indian grandmaster showed resiliency in defence and was rewarded with half a point.

When I asked Anton after the game whether he approached the situation with a "safety first" mentality, he said no, but rather he just didn't find a way to make progress, although he suspected the position was winning.

It was a relief when the game of Jan Krejci against Ju Wenjun ended in a draw, as that allowed Anton to offer a draw without fear that his Czech pursuer could catch him. He hadn't calculated the Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak scenarios (see our report on Round 8) in advance and was just happy to have gotten a much better position out of the opening, while keeping an eye on the Krejci-Ju game.

Anton played on for some time after it was clear that a draw would give him sole first, but when he could find no path forward, he took the half point.

 

Anton will next try his luck at the European Individual Championship in Skopje, starting on March 18th.

Challengers podium

Ju, Anton (with trophy and "ticket" to the 2020 Masters) and Krejci | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Second place went to Krejci, the 27-year-old Czech GM should be moving up to number five nationally on the next FIDE rating list. Third was Ju Wenjun, who was cheering on her compatriots as they won the Women's World Team Championship in Astana handily without her.

Krejci

Jan Krejci and his partner | Photo: Macauley Peterson

Ju Wenjun

Ju Wenjun also won a prize for her eighth round win over Jiri Stocek | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

The Elo favourite of the tournament was Alexei Shirov, who had to settle for just 4½ points, a 50% score, placing him in the middle of the pack. He noted at the closing ceremony, however, that his experience has been that a bad result is sometimes a precursor to a new winning streak. Something he looks forward to as he heads to his next tournament in Mexico.

At the closing ceremony, Shirov and David Navara briefly engaged in a lively discussion over the correct pronunciation of the name of the fourth World Champion Alexander Alekhine. Shirov explained the "correct" way to say the Russian surname (Але́хин) is with the emphasis on the 'e' which sounds more like "low", but Navara noted that Alekhin himself claimed it was pronounced with a shorter 'e' as in "lend".

Navara Bartel and Nguyen

Navara, Mateusz Bartel and Thai Dai Van Nguyen | Photo: Macauley Peterson

Perhaps inspired by this, Bartel later took on festival organiser Petr Boleslav (known as "Bolek"), in a friendly game of 5-minute blitz in which he trotted out 1.e4 Nf6!

Bartel, in genial self-deprecating style, joked that his last place finish should be seen as an audition for the Open tournament in 2020!

Petr Boleslav and Mateusz Bartel

Petr Boleslav and Mateusz Bartel (playing Alekhine's Defence) | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

The youngest participant in the field, Praggnanandhaa, finished with 4 points. He is sticking around to watch the end of the Masters and Open tournaments, as he's travelling with a friend playing in the Open which finishes only on Saturday.

Pragg

Praggnanandhaa, now a spectator for the Masters | Photo: Macauley Peterson

Results of Round 9

 

Final standings

 

All games

 

André Schulz contributed reporting

Links




Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 3/16/2019 02:01
bravo praggna!
1