Prague: Sharp chess, three winners

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/9/2022 – An extremely entertaining first round in the Masters section of the Prague Chess Festival saw Le Quang Liem, David Navara and Pentala Harikrishna scoring the first victories of the event to grab an early lead. Coincidentally, three players also won their first games in the Challengers. All six full points were collected by the player marshalling the white pieces. | Photo: Petr Vrabec

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Le, Navara and Harikrishna score

Prague Chess FestivalThe fourth edition of the Prague Chess Festival kicked off on Wednesday. In the Masters section, three players returned to the Czech capital after participating in the 2021 edition: defending champion Sam Shankland, and local representatives David Navara and Thai Dai Van Nguyen. The Indian duo of Vidit Gujrathi and Pentala Harikrishna skipped last year’s event after playing the first two editions, and are now back in the mix.

In the first round, the Indians were paired against each other, with Harikrishna getting the better of his younger compatriot. Seven weeks from now, Vidit and Harikrishna will play on boards 1 and 2 for the local team at the Chess Olympiad in Chennai.

The all-Indian confrontation was quite an exciting affair, but perhaps one of the quietest games of the day! That only goes to show how entertaining the remaining four encounters were. David Navara and Le Quang Liem scored fine victories with white, while Parham Maghsoodloo and Paco Vallejo failed to make the most of their superior positions with the black pieces.

As stated by the organizers, they want to create a long-lasting festival comparable to the traditional event held yearly in Wijk aan Zee — by what we saw in the first round, they seem to be on the right track!

 

Pentala Harikrishna

Pentala Harikrishna | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Not surprisingly, a sharp struggle quickly emerged early in the game between David Navara and David Anton. The two Davids, who are close to the 2700-rating mark, are known for their willingness to enter sharp positions whenever they get a chance. On Wednesday, Navara gladly gave up two pawns for activity right off the bat.

 

This is still a theoretical position, and Navara’s 10.Qd2 had also been seen in the past. The first to deviate was Anton, who responded by 10...Qe4, when 10...e5 had been tried by Alexandr Fier in 2021 — note that 10...Qxh1 fails to 11.0-0-0, when in case of 11...Qe4, White counts with the beautiful 12.Be7!

 

In the game, Anton spent over a half hour as early as on move 12, while Navara needed 14 minutes and 16 minutes to decide what to do on moves 13 and 15 respectively.

Despite the queens leaving the board on move 14, the battle did not lose in excitement, as Navara never stopped creating threats to make up for his material disadvantage. As confessed by the Czech star, “there were definitely some mistakes”, but he nonetheless emerged on top.

 

Anton’s 44...f4 was the final mistake, as 44...Ne6 leaves Black still in a very difficult position but with chances to create problems for his opponent. After the text, Navara found the winning 45.h5+, and the only reasonable response, 45...Nxh5, means the knight will not return to the queenside on time.

The game lasted five more moves.

Prague Chess Festival

The playing hall | Photo: Vladimír Jagr

Standings after round 1

 

All games - Masters

 

Challengers

Peter Michalik

Peter Michalik kicked off with a win | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Round 1 results

 

Standings after round 1

 

All games - Challengers

 

Links


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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