Prague: Korobov and Gurel grab crucial wins in the Challengers

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/2/2024 – After a quiet round in the Masters section of the Prague Chess Festival — with five draws — Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Parham Maghsoodloo continue to share the lead with 3/4 points each. On the other hand, the Challengers saw three games ending decisively in round 4, with co-leaders Anton Korobov and Ediz Gurel (pictured) both scoring full points to remain atop the standings. The third winner of the day was Vaishali R, who now has a fifty-percent score after having kicked off the event with two losses in a row. | Photo: Petr Vrabec

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Challengers: Korobov and Gurel co-leaders

The Challengers section of the Prague Chess Festival counts with four players rated 2600 or above in the line-up: Anton Korobov (2666), Erwin l’Ami (2636), Abhimanyu Mishra (2627) and Jaime Santos (2612).

Out of these four, the highest-rated participant had the strongest start, with two wins and two draws in the first four rounds of the event. Korobov defeated Vaishali Rameshbabu in the first round and got the better of second seed L’Ami on the fourth day of action. The Ukrainian GM is currently sharing the lead with Ediz Gurel, the young prodigy (b. 2008) from Turkey.

On Friday, Korobov managed to dominate both sides of the board in his game with black against L’Ami.

After the sequence 22...Nxf4 23.gxf4 b3 24.Qd2 Qg6+ Black both has a spatial advantage on the queenside and is the one creating threats on the kingside.

Korobov further increased his positional advantage with 25...Bc8 on the next move.

L’Ami soon began pushing his h-pawn, looking for counterplay. But just when things were finally under control on the kingside, Korobov pushed his c-pawn, making good use of the principle of two weaknesses.

White’s position soon collapsed, as L’Ami threw in the towel four moves later.

Known for his affable and good-humoured nature, Korobov later gave an interview, noting that the key to his success was a small change in his “preparation” — he switched from Pilsen to Krušovice for the first time in his life (he was, of course, talking about Czech beers!).

Meanwhile, Gurel got the better of Czech IM Stepan Hrbek with the white pieces. Gurel, like Korobov, had also defeated Vaishali in previous rounds.

Vaishali, who recently became the third Indian woman player to get the GM title, bounced back from the consecutive losses in style, as she beat Hrbek and Richard Stalmach to return to a fifty-percent score.

In Saturday’s fifth round, the last one before the rest day, Korobov will play white against Abhimanyu in a crucial encounter.

Results - Round 4

Abhimanyu Mishra

Abhimanyu Mishra | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Standings after round 4

All games

Masters: Five draws

Following an eventful third round — filled with blunders and turnarounds — the Masters section saw well-prepared GMs showing their theoretical knowledge and technical abilities to keep the balance until signing draws on all five boards.

The most anticipated game of the day saw Abdusattorov failing to get much of an edge with the white pieces against Gukesh. The Uzbek grandmaster found the cleanest way to simplify into a completely drawn position on move 36.

Instead of trading queens at once, Abdusattorov got rid of the minor pieces with 36.Ne7+ Qxe7 37.Qxc8+ Kg7. None of the contenders has much to play for in the queen endgame, so the draw was agreed soon after.

Dommaraju Gukesh

Gukesh playing 2...e6 against Nodirbek Abdusattorov | Photo: Petr Vrabec 

Abdusattorov thus continues to share the lead with Parham Maghsoodloo. While the Uzbek GM will play black against Mateusz Bartel on Saturday, Maghsoodloo will get the white pieces in his game against Richard Rapport.

In the second clash of Candidates of the tournament, Praggnanandhaa will play white against Vidit in round 5.

Results - Round 4

Richard Rapport

Richard Rapport | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Standings after round 4

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.