Prague: Le and Harikrishna share the lead in the Masters

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/12/2022 – Le Quang Liem and Pentala Harikrishna are sharing the lead with 3 points after 4 rounds at the Masters section of the Prague Chess Festival. The two co-leaders have three players standing a half point back going into the event’s one rest day. Meanwhile, Vincent Keymer is the sole leader in the Challengers section, also with 3 out of 4. | Photo: Petr Vrabec

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Hari’s marathon win

All six decisive games in the first three rounds of the Masters tournament at the Prague Chess Festival saw the player marshalling the white pieces getting the full point. In Saturday’s fourth round, on the other hand, two out of three decisive games were won by the black player. Paco Vallejo beat David Anton in the all-Spanish confrontation, while Pentala Harikrishna joined Le Quang Liem in the lead by beating Parham Maghsoodloo.

Harikrishna worked hard during five hours before securing the win over Maghsoodloo. Out of a Slav Defence, White castled queenside, and a closed structure appeared on the board. Black was two pawns down and had his knights on a8 and b8 at some point in the game — Hari knew that such a strategy was acceptable given the circumstances, though.

 

Black began to untangle his position with 27...c5, and the manoeuvring struggle continued.

Shortly before reaching the time control, Maghsoodloo played an imprecise move, which allowed his more experienced opponent to greatly constrain White’s position.

 

38.Bf3 (instead of the correct 38.Bd3) allowed Black to play the good-looking 38...Ra1, when White cannot capture the rook with 39.Rxa1 due to 39...Nc2+ 40.Ka5 Ra8#. Note how Maghsoodloo’s king is ‘walled off’ on b4, unable to move either to the a-file or the c-file.

Such a binding position is difficult to handle for both sides. The engines evaluated the setup as favourable for Black for a while, but Maghsoodloo ably created counterplay on the kingside to regain a dynamic balance.

The complex battle continued, until it all came down to an extremely rare ending: Hari had two knights and king against Maghsoodloo’s pawn and king.

 

With five men on the board, tablebases give a perfect assessment of these positions — but finding the precise moves over the board is extremely difficult for both sides. The piece constellation in the diagrammed position was reached on move 57, and now, eight moves later, tablebases evaluate this setup as drawn.

However, only 66.Kh7 draws for White. The young Iranian went for 66.Kh6 instead, and Harikrishna began to make progress. The Indian GM also played an imprecision shortly after in 69...Nf7, but his opponent did not find the refutation. On move 74, Maghsoodloo resigned with mate-in-three on the board.

 

There might follow 75.Kh7 Nf6+ 76.Kh8 Nh4 77.b6 Ng6# 0-1

 

Parham Maghsoodloo, Pentala Harikrishna

Parham Maghsoodloo and Pentala Harikrishna | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Round 4 results - Masters

 

Standings after round 4

 

All games

 

Keymer sole leader in the Challengers

After winning his first two games, both with the white pieces, Vincent Keymer drew Jergus Pechac and rating favourite Hans Niemann to go into the rest day as the sole leader with 3 points to his name. Pechac and Nodirbek Abdusattorov stand a half point back, in a field that does not include any player with anything worse than a -1 score (i.e., 1½/4 points).

Niemann, who lost in the second round against Jiri Stocek, bounced back with a victory over Max Warmerdam. The youngsters entered a forcing, sharp line in the opening, and they followed theory until move 22 — although, given how long they spent on each decision starting at around move 10, they apparently did not know that the same sequence had already been played in a 2013 correspondence game.

 

Only at this point did Niemann played a novelty, as he deviated from 22.Qe2 with 22.Qxf7+, and a double-rook endgame emerged after 22...Kxf7 23.Bc4+ Rxc4 24.Rxb6 Rd7 25.Rfb1 Rcc7

 

As so often happens, a sharp skirmish in the opening can lead to a purely technical, simplified position. But, as Magnus Carlsen has demonstrated throughout his career, being able to find small chances in ‘dry’ positions is an extremely valuable asset for a chess player.

In this case, Niemann outplayed his Dutch opponent to grab his first full point of the event.

 

Prague Chess Festival 2022

The playing hall during Friday’s third round | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Round 4 results - Challengers

 

Standings after round 4

 

All games

 

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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