Prague: Abdusattorov catches Maghsoodloo, Pragg blunders

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/1/2024 – An eventful third round in the Masters section of the Prague Chess Festival saw Nodirbek Abdusattorov beating David Navara to catch Parham Maghsoodloo in the lead of the standings. Richard Rapport and Thai Dai Van Nguyen also scored full points — Rapport inflicted Praggnanandhaa’s second loss in a row after the Indian prodigy blundered twice from a superior position. In the Challengers, Abhimanyu Mishra defeated Vaclav Finek to join Anton Korobov and Ediz Gurel in the lead. | Photo: Petr Vrabec

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Two painful defeats in a row

Praggnanandhaa has played three decisive games in a row at the start of the Prague Masters. After beating Vincent Keymer in the first round, he got a good position with black against Parham Maghsoodloo, but a few oversights and a blunder in time trouble led to a 38-move defeat on Wednesday.

Things went from bad to worse for the youngster in round 3, as he first mishandled a clearly advantageous position and then failed to adjust to the new situation to end up losing his game with white against Richard Rapport.

The first blunder came on move 29.

White has a knight for three pawns, but more importantly, he is well-positioned to create direct threats against the black king. Perhaps due to the latter consideration, Pragg rejected playing the correct 29.Qxf4, when he would be able to keep a strong (and winning) initiative after 29...exf4 30.Rdd8 — e.g. 30...g2 fails to 31.Rg8+ Kf6 32.Ne4+.

The prodigy from Chennai instead opted for 29.Rh1, to which Rapport quickly replied by 29...Qxd2+ 30.Kxd2 Rf2+, and engines now evaluate the position as balanced.

31.Kd3 here fails immediately to 31...Bf5+. Pragg did find the correct 31.Ke3, but after 31...Rxc2 he faltered once again with 32.Rhh8

Rapport had no trouble finding 32...Be6, covering the all-important g8-square. The idea is that after 33.Rxa8, Black can freely push his g-pawn with 33...g2, and there is no good way for White to prevent the passer from queening. Pragg resigned.

Richard Rapport

Richard Rapport | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Round 3 saw two more games finishing decisively in the Masters. Nodirbek Abdusattorov climbed to shared first place after beating David Navara with the white pieces. In a sharp struggle, Navara was the one that made the last mistake.

Despite White’s menacing minor pieces, Black is in fact better here. Abdusattorov had obtained an advantage in the early middlegame, but erred a few times in the complexities that ensued. However, it was Navara’s 28...Rxf7 which decided the game.

Instead, the Czech star could have kept his clear advantage with the cool 28...Bh7, and White has no good follow-up:

  • 29.Ne6 Qxf7 30.Nxd8 (or 30.Nxf8) leaves Black in the driver’s seat with his strong pair of bishops
  • 29.Qh5, trying to insist on the attack, fails to 29...Bxf2 30.Rec1 (not 30.Re2 Rd1+ with mate next move) Be3, and the knight has to leave its attacking spot

After the text, Abdusattorov found the good-looking tactical refutation of Navara’s mistake — 29.Rd6

29...Rxd6 would be followed by 30.Qe8+ Rf8 31.Qxf8#, while after 29...Rc8, as seen in the game, White simplifies into a winning endgame via 30.Nxf7+ Qxf7 31.Rxd4 b3

Abdusattorov demonstrated that White has no trouble winning the race of passed b-pawns with his extra exchange. Resignation came four moves later.

David Navara

David Navara | Photo: Petr Vrabec

The one remaining decisive encounter saw Thai Dai Van Nguyen bouncing back from his consecutive losses in the first two rounds by beating Mateusz Bartel.

In the duel of Candidates, Gukesh got a slight advantage out of the opening against Vidit, but the latter managed to control the situation and get a half point with the black pieces.

Co-leader Abdusattorov will play white against Gukesh in the marquee matchup of round 4.

Results - Round 3

Vidit Gujrathi

Vidit Gujrathi | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Standings after round 3

All games

Challengers: Abhimanyu scores, Vaishali bounces back

A plus-one score continues to be enough to share the lead in the Challengers section. In round 3, Abhimanyu Mishra joined Anton Korobov and Ediz Gurel in the lead of the standings thanks to a victory with the black pieces over Czech IM Vaclav Finek.

Engines evaluate this position as close to equal, but for us humans, it is easier to picture Black eventually getting a win with his knight manoeuvring around the closed structure.

Abhimanyu, who in 2021 became the youngest player to ever get the GM title, showed good technique and obtained a 62-move win.

The other decisive game of the day saw Vaishali Rameshbabu beating Stepan Hrbek with white. Pragg’s sister had a rough start in Prague, as she came from losing her first two games — though she played with the black pieces both times.

Results - Round 3

Abhimanyu Mishra

Abhimanyu Mishra | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Standings after round 3

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.