Prague: Maghsoodloo beats Pragg, leads

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
2/29/2024 – Parham Maghsoodloo became the first sole leader at the Masters section of the Prague Chess Festival after beating Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu with the white pieces. Maghsoodloo thus ended Pragg’s undefeated streak of 47 games. In the one other decisive game of the round, Dommaraju Gukesh got the better of Thai Dai Van Nguyen. Meanwhile, Ediz Gurel scored a win to join Anton Korobov in the lead of the Challengers section. | Photo: Petr Vrabec

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The end of Pragg’s 47-game unbeaten streak

Five weeks away from the start of the Candidates Tournament, the Indian trio of Vidit, Gukesh and Praggnanandhaa are facing tough opposition in Prague. Gone are the days of most elite players avoiding showing their preparation before important events. In fact, all three Indian stars had also participated at the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee. While Gukesh finished tied for first with 8½/13 points, Vidit and Pragg each scored a very respectable 7½/13. However, out of the three, the only one to remain undefeated throughout the event was Pragg.

Pragg, who began the tournament in Prague with a win, actually went undefeated in classical chess for 47 games, as he had lost a slow game for the last time in the quarter-finals of the FIDE World Cup, when Arjun Erigaisi beat him with the black pieces — Pragg then bounced back and eventually reached the final, where he was defeated by Magnus Carlsen.

The streak was broken on Wednesday, when Parham Maghsoodloo made the most of a blunder by the 18-year-old amid a sharp tactical struggle.

White had been putting pressure on the kingside for a while now, which prompted Pragg to err with 37...Ne6 in deep time trouble. Maghsoodloo quickly found 38.Rxf6, which was followed by Pragg’s resignation — i.e. 38...Rxf6 39.Qg8+ Rxg8 40.Rxg8#, while defending the knight with 38...Rfe8 or escaping with 38...Nd4 also fail to quick checkmate patterns.

(Find analysis of the full game below).

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu | Photo: Petr Vrabec

The game between Maghsoodloo and Pragg was a clash of co-leaders, as both players had scored full points in the first round. Since the remaining co-leader after round 1, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, drew his game against Vidit Gujrathi, Maghsoodloo is now the sole leader with a perfect 2/2 score.

Standing a half point behind Maghsoodloo are Abdusattorov and Gukesh. The latter drew with Richard Rapport on opening day and defeated Thai Dai Van Nguyen in round 2.

While Maghsoodloo is set to face Vincent Keymer with black on Thursday, Gukesh will have the white pieces against Vidit in a prelude of their Candidates Tournament confrontation.

Results - Round 2

Dommaraju Gukesh

Gukesh beat Thai Dai Van Nguyen | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Maghsoodloo 1 - 0 Praggnanandhaa

Analysis by André Schulz

Standings after round 2

All games

Challengers: Gurel joins Korobov in the lead

A rather quiet couple of rounds in the Challengers saw only 2 out of 10 games ending decisively. Vaishali Rameshbabu, Pragg’s sister, was on the losing side both times — and we surely hope she recovers her usual form soon.

While top seed Anton Korobov was the one grabbing a full point on Tuesday, it was Ediz Gurel who scored a victory in the second round. Gurel (b. 2008) made headlines recently, as he stunned Velimir Ivic in brilliant style on the first day of action at the 2023 FIDE World Cup.

In the decisive game of round 2, Vaishali erred right out of the opening in a Sicilian Defence, and on move 17 saw it necessary to give up a crucial pawn with her king still in the centre.

The sequence 17...Bd7 18.Qxd6 Rb6 19.Qc5 leaves Black struggling to find piece coordination with her king in constant danger. Gurel made the most of the great position he got out of the opening as he upped the pressure until resignation came on move 28.

In round 3, Gurel will play black against Israeli GM Maxime Rodshtein, while Korobok will play white against Czech IM Richard Stalmach.

Results - Round 2

Anton Korobov

Co-leader Anton Korobov | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Standings after round 2

All games


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.