Vidit dismantles Firouzja, enters World Top 20

by Tanmay Srinath
2/17/2020 – The 2020 Prague Masters has reached the half-way mark, and it has been a one man show so far! Vidit Gujrathi has exhibited amazing composure and concentration, drawing with Black and winning with White. Today he dismantled Alireza Firouzja in the Exchange Slav after the latter mistakenly grabbed a poisoned pawn and found himself resigning on move 24. David Navara also showed some fighting spirit to best Nils Grandelius in the symmetrical English. Sam Shankland missed too many opportunities, letting David Anton escape. Nikita Vitiugov was close to winning against Harikrishna, but missed some nuances that could have killed the game off and had to split the point. Markus Ragger confidently held J-K Duda to a draw in the Exchange Ruy Lopez. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

The Semi-Slav: A GM guide for the tournament player The Semi-Slav: A GM guide for the tournament player

The Semi-Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6) can arise via various move orders, has decided World Championships, and is one of Black's most fascinating replies to 1 d4. Magnus Carlsen's second, Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen explains in detail what this opening is all about.

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Vidit's shrewd opening choice

I have exhausted words of praise for Vidit's performance in this tournament. It is not that he has played perfectly — he was clearly worse in one of his Black games. However, what is striking is how Vidit is using chess psychology in his favour. His opening choices seem to indicate surety in his approach, and he has not experimented much. His objectives are clear for each of his opponent.

Vidit 1-0 Firouzja

Vidit started the tournament with a bang, and if current form is to be trusted, he is the favourite to win the event! He has been solid with Black and deadly with White, and is currently comfortably placed on 4/5.

Vidit turned on the afterburners today! | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Let's examine this latest miniature:

 

The Exchange Slav is the perfect choice against a dynamic player like Firouzja. 

 

Here 9...♝d6! is the best way for Black to get a defensible position. Instead, 9...b6? by Firouzja took him on a one-way road to destruction.

 

10...xb2?! is a very greedy pawn grab, but was the point of 9...♛b6. Why is the plan flawed? Black is far too behind in development, and after 11.a4! Vidit never lets up!

 

A pawn up, yet close to lost! The best for Alireza would have been to take another pawn on a3. But he decided to play 12...a5. After White's 13.b3, there was no good way to defend the b7 pawn.

 

Frankly, one more tempo and Black will be at least equal, but White has a lot of threats, chiefly ♖c8+ winning a piece. Thus, Black is lost.

 

Again, Black is materially not yet worse, but will soon lose a piece, because of unfortunate locations of the bishops on b4 and f5, which are hit by ♘c6 and g4.

 

To show what good form Vidit is in. He could have taken ♘xb4 here. But here he simply didn't want to give his opponent any counterplay and went 23.g4! getting rid of all back rank threats.

 

IM Sagar Shah analyzes the game between Vidit and Firouzja in detail

This is the first time that Vidit has entered top 20 in the world:

Source: 2700Chess.com

Navara 1-0 Grandelius

A very creative contest. Grandelius again got a very good position out of the opening, but as has been the trend in this tournament he has blown hot and cold, and today this unfortunately cost him a point! Credit to Navara for fighting on and on — dropping to -2 in a tournament can off sap a player's motivation. Here are a few highlights:

 

Here the main move these days is 7.♘db5!?, but Navara chose the classical main line of 7.b3.

 

Here the natural move 12...0-0 played by Nils is surprisingly an inaccuracy. Instead, Black has two decent alternatives in ♞eg4!? and ♝c5!?.

 

The game suddenly turned in Black's favour here, and Nils chose the wrong capture with 20...exf4?. Instead, 20...♜fxc8! grants Black a serious advantage.

 

White's best move please!

 

Here 25...♜ad8! and ♛c7 is the best way for Black to get an acceptable game. Instead, 25...h5?! allowed White to seize the initiative with 26.xh5 xc3 27.f5!

 

Here the last chance for Black to stay in the game is 34...c6! followed by ♜a5. Instead, 34...fe8 quickly led to a demolition after 35.d7!

 

A pair of fighters, David Navara vs Nils Grandelius | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Is this the start of Navara's Renaissance in this tournament? | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Shankland ½-½ Anton

Sam is having a bad time in Prague, as he missed numerous opportunities to finish David Anton off, and had to settle for a half-point. Here are a few critical moments:

 

Here 10.exd5! is the only way to keep the game level. Instead, after 10.e5? e8! Black gets a serious advantage.

 

12...♛a5! is the only move for Black to maintain his advantage. But, 12...b6? is a grave error, and hands White a clear advantage.

 

20.♗g3! followed by ♗h4 is the best plan White has as his disposal, but Shankland didn't play this, and his move 20.f1?! is an inaccuracy.

 

Possibly the biggest miss of the game. 29.e4? is a serious mistake, which Shankland played in the game. Instead, after 29.f4, Black is lost. There were some other moments where Shankland could have won, but I will only mention the last one:

 

Here 46.♖c7! is White's last chance to win. Instead, after 46.a1? Black managed to draw by sacrificing his bishop and play ♜h3xh2.

 

David Anton stays on 50%, but only just | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Vitiugov ½-½ Harikrishna

Despite his plus score, Vitiugov has not been himself. He had two clear chances to gain a winning advantage, but he either failed to find them over the board or failed to assess them properly. Here is one such instance:

 

Here White's best move is 15.a5! fixing the weakness on c6 and beginning play against two clear weaknesses. Also, now c5 is impossible because of ♘b6 ♜b8 ♕a4+, followed by ♖fd1, with a winning game. Instead, Nikita's 15.♘e5? is not such a bad move, but it does drastically reduce White's advantage. There were a couple other chances as well, but this was the main one, and after this Harikrishna somehow managed to hang on.

 

Harikrishna has had an insipid first half in Prague | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Duda ½-½ Ragger

The last game Duda-Ragger was a rather quiet draw:

 

Can Duda mount a fresh challenge for the top places in the last four rounds? | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Chess legend Boris Gelfand arrived in Prague on Sunday | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Standings after Round 5

 

Replay all games

 

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Tanmay Srinath has been writing for ChessBase India since quite some time now. His tournament reports and depth of analysis have been widely appreciated. Pursuing a full-fledged career in engineering Tanmay doesn't get enough time to pursue chess, but he loves to follow top-level encounters and analyzes those games with his Fat Fritz engine. We hope you find his analysis useful in your games.