Prague: Abdusattorov sole leader, Pragg beats Vidit

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/3/2024 – A smooth victory over Mateusz Bartel allowed Nodirbek Abdusattorov to become the sole leader of the Masters section in the Prague Chess Festival. Praggnanandhaa R and David Navara also scored full points in an eventful fifth round, the last one before the rest day. In the Challengers, Anton Korobov and Ediz Gurel continue to be the co-leaders, as both players obtained victories on Saturday. | Photo: Petr Vrabec

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Abdusattorov now world number 5

Nodirbek Abdusattorov is already a member of the chess elite. At 19, the cool-headed Uzbek has led his national team to overall victory at the last Chess Olympiad and has now climbed to world number 5 in the live ratings list — having surpassed the likes of Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alireza Firouzja. Unfortunately for the youngster, he has not yet managed to qualify for a Candidates Tournament, but if he continues to play at this level, he is sure to get a shot at qualifying in the next World Championship cycle.

In round 5 of the Prague Masters, Abdusattorov found himself in a better position by move 18 of a Sicilian Defence while facing Mateusz Bartel with the black pieces.

Trying to keep the initiative at all costs, White has failed to protect all his weaknesses. With 18...Qa5, Abdusattorov attacked both the pawn on d5 and the pawn on a2.

Understandably, Bartel protected his central pawn with 19.Qe4, to which Black did not shy away from capturing the other pawn with 19...Qxa2. At this point, the engines consider that White should defend the b2-pawn passively with 20.Rb1, though it is perfectly natural for a human to go for counterplay with 20.Qh5.

Once again, however, Abdusattorov made the right decision and grabbed yet another pawn with 20...Qxb2

Since White did not have much of an attack on the kingside, Black simply emerged two pawns up after finding a few more precise manoeuvres in the middlegame.

This is how the position looked by move 27.

Bartel threw in the towel after 28.Qf3 Qb3, as Black has fully consolidated his advantage and is bound to push his strong passers on the queenside.

Mateusz Bartel

Mateusz Bartel | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Since Abdusattorov won his game rather quickly, the attention turned to the duel of Candidates between Praggnanandhaa and Vidit. A complex struggle in the middlegame led to a simplified position with major pieces still on the board and both kings somewhat vulnerable to attacks.

On move 43, Pragg played a strong pawn push that allowed him to grab the initiative.

43.e5 is the only move that gives White an edge, attacking the queen — thus preventing a potential Qf3+ — and getting ready to activate his rook with 43...Qxe5 44.Rxd4.

Moreover, Vidit immediately blundered with 44...axb4 (44...Ra2 or 44...Ra1 were better).

Pragg duly punished his compatriot’s mistake: 45.Re4 Qd5 46.Kh2 (breaking the pin) Ra2 47.Qc8+ Kh7 48.Rh4+

Getting the initiative is all that matters in these setups. Despite having three unopposed pawns on the queenside, Vidit resigned the game four moves later.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu | Photo: Petr Vrabec

The third winner of the day was David Navara, who first survived a clearly inferior position and then made the most of Gukesh’s mistakes in the endgame to score his first victory of the event. Both Navara and Gukesh are now sharing fourth place with Pragg, all with 2½/5 points.

Standing in sole second place is Parham Maghsoodloo, who escaped with a draw in a 4 v. 3 rook endgame against Richard Rapport. The game lasted 97 moves.

After the rest day, the sixth round will see Abudsattorov playing white against Pragg in a duel of the two highest-rated junior players in the world.

Results - Round 5

David Navara

David Navara defeated Dommaraju Gukesh with the black pieces | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Standings after round 5

All games

Challengers: Korobov and Gurel keep on winning

For a second day in a row, co-leaders Anton Korobov and Ediz Gurel both scored full points to remain tied for first place in the Challengers section.

While Gurel obtained a 36-move win over Stepan Hrbek with white, Korobov needed to play no fewer than 123 moves to take down Abhimanyu Mishra from a rarely seen endgame setup.

This position was reached on move 96, and the manoeuvring battle began. Abhimanyu, aged 15, showed resourcefulness in defence, but the experienced Korobov ended up prevailing in this unusual configuration.

Anton Korobov

Anton Korobov | Photo: Petr Vrabec

For the first time in the Challengers, all five games ended decisively, with Jaime Santos beating Maxim Rodshtein to climb to sole third place.

Much like in the Masters, three players are tied for fourth place with 2½ points each: Abhimanyu, Erwin l’Ami and Richard Stalmach. Both L’Ami and Stalmach obtained victories with the black pieces on Saturday.

Results - Round 5

Standings after round 5

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.