2nd Prague Masters
Prague, Czech Republic
Feb. 11-22, 2020
1-5. Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2721, Alireza Firouzja FIDE 2726, Jan-Krzysztof Duda POL 2755, David Anton Guijarro ESP 2697, Samuel Shankland USA 2683, 5.0/9
6-7. Nikita Vitiugov RUS 2731, Penteala Harikrishna IND 2713, 4.5/9
8-9. Markus Ragger AUT 2670, David Navara CZE 2717, 4.0/9
10. Nils Grandelius SWE 2659, 3.0/9
Tie-Break for first Place
Alireza Firouzja defeated Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2-0
Average Rating 2707 Category 19
Time Control: 90 minutes for first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes play-to-finish with a 30-second increment starting from move one.
Indian GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (born Oct. 24, 1994) is currently the second highest-rated player from India behind, of course, Viswanathan Anand. He has won a lot of regional and youth tournaments, but his first strong closed tournament win was at the Biel International Chess Festival. This was a category 16 (Average ELO of 2641) 8-man tournament against Abdusattorov, Shankland, Leko, Georgiadis, Cori, Bogner and Maghsoodloo.
The 2020 Prague Masters was a different animal completely. With an average ELO of 2707 it can be truly classified as a super GM tournament. Vidit showed good form and preparation by starting out with three wins and two draws (4/5). He is known as a player with very good positional sense but the sudden assault he whipped up in the following game against a player known for power play himself is really impressive.
Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi (2721) — Shankland,Samuel L (2683) [E52]
Prague Masters Prague (1.4), 12.02.2020
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0–0 5.Bd2 b6 6.Nf3 Bb7 7.Bd3 d5
Black had to rush his knight to the defense of his kingside with 15…Nbd7! Shankland probably had no inkling that the attack was already coming.
16.e4! right away is even better, but let us not get into that. Vidit has already seen a straightforward way to an advantage and goes for it.
POSITION AFTER 16…BC8
Now it starts.
17.e4! dxe4 18.Nxe4 Nxe4 19.Bxe4
Attacking both h7 and c6.
19…h6 20.Rfd1! Ra7 21.Ne5 Rc7 22.h3 Qh4 23.Re1 Rce7 24.Bh7+! Kf8
[24…Kh8 25.Nxf7+ Rxf7 26.Rxe8+ Rf8 27.Rxf8+ Bxf8 28.Qe4 is an easy win for White]
Shankland now realizes that his queen is lost after 25…Qh5 26.Bg6!! (wow!) fxg6 27.g4 Qxh3 28.Re3 so he thrashes around trying to get more material for it.
[26.Bg6? no longer works because of 26…Bxe5! and the tables have turned]
Alas! Shankland has outsmarted himself. It turns out that 26…Qe6 27.Ng6+ loses the queen for even less than if he had played 25…Qh5.
27.Rxf6 Bxf6 28.Bf4! Bg5 29.Bd6 g6 30.Bxg6! fxg6 31.Qxg6 Nd7
[31…Bxc1 32.Qf6+ Kg8 33.Bxe7 followed by Qg6+]
Yes, Vidit was really showing some powerful chess. He became undone though in the penultimate round.
Vidit,Santosh Gujrathi (2721) — Navara, David (2717) [E12]
Prague Masters Prague (8.5), 20.02.2020
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Bb7 5.Bf4 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bg3 Nd7 8.e4! N5f6 9.e5 Nh5 10.Nc3 Be7 11.Bc4 a6!?
Navara could have castled here but with this move he is provoking 12.d5 which he thinks is unsound.
After the game Navara admitted that he had underestimated this move and that all his counterplay was a tempo short.
12…exd5 13.Bxd5 Nxg3
[13…Bxd5 14.Qxd5 looks dangerous for Black: 14…0–0 15.e6 Ndf6 16.exf7+ Rxf7 17.Qa2]
14.hxg3 c6?! 15.Bxf7+!
Vidit spent 20 minutes on this move. No doubt he was also debating with himself whether he should take this risk, given that he was a point ahead of the field in this penultimate round and a draw would almost assure himself of tournament victory. The sacrifice is completely sound though so he made the right choice.
15…Kxf7 16.e6+ Kxe6 17.Qe2+
Vidit spent another 20 minutes on this move.
Navara initially planned to bring his king to c7, but when the position came up on the board realized that 17…Kd6 18.Rd1+ Kc7 19.Ne5! wins back the piece with the attack still in full blast. Take note that 19…Bd6 is met by 20.Rxd6 Kxd6 21.Nf7+ winning the black queen.
18.0–0–0 Bf6 19.Ne4 Qe7 20.Nd6+!?
Vidit decides to win back his sacrificed material right away. This is something I am always talking about — why do people sacrifice material and then follow-up by playing as if they lost the material? He should have continued the attack with 20.Qc4+! Kf8 (20…Qe6? 21.Rxd7+ Kg6 22.Qxe6 mate will follow) 21.Rhe1 Ne5 22.Nxe5 Bxe5 23.Nd6 with an easy win.
20…Kf8 21.Qxe7+ Bxe7 22.Nxb7 Nf6 23.Ne5
Material is equal but White is still very much ahead.
[25.Ng6+? Kf7 26.Nxh8+ Rxh8 the white knight on b7 is lost]
[26.bxa3 Nc3+ 27.Kc2 Nxd1 28.Kxd1 Rc7 29.Nd8 White is clearly better]
26…Bb4 27.Nxb4 Nxb4 28.Rd7 h5 29.Nd6 Ra8 30.Ree7 Rh7 31.Ne4
White’s position is overwhelming, but to his credit David Navara really digs in and finds resource after resource.
[31…Re8 32.Rxe8+ Kxe8 33.Nf6+ gxf6 34.Rxh7]
There is a trap here. If the White d7–rook moves to, say, b7, then he is mated by …Rd1#. It does not help that Vidit was down to his last two minutes here.
He should have gotten his rooks into position first with 33.Rdf7+ Ke8 34.Re7+ Kf8 and now 35.b3.
33…Rxd7 34.Rxd7 a5
White is still better with a pawn plus, but his g-pawns are doubled, so the win is already problematic.
35.f3 Rc6 36.Rd2 Kf7 37.Kb2 Ke6 38.Nc3 Rd6 39.Re2+ Kf5 40.Ne4 Rd1 41.Nc3 Rd3 42.Nb1 Nd5 43.Kc2 Nb4+ 44.Kb2 Nd5
A tacit draw offer, which is refused. This is a danger sign. The position was already equal but we see that Vidit is unable to accept that there is no more win in sight and keeps forcing the position. His mindset is that the game is either a win or a draw and did not consider he might even lose it now.
45.Na3 45.Ne3 46.Nc4 Nxc4+ 47.bxc4 a4 48.Kc2 Rb3 49.Rd2 Rb4 50.Kc3 Rb3+ 51.Kc2 Rb4 52.Kc3 Rb3+
Again a tacit offer of a draw.
53.Kd4 a3 54.Ra2 Ke6 55.c5?
A blunder from trying too hard to win.
Another blunder. Simply 56.f4 holds.
56…hxg4 57.fxg4 b4 58.g5 Rb2 59.Ra1 a2 60.g6 b3
Black’s pawns are faster.
[61.g7 Kf7 62.c6 Rc2]
61…Rc2 62.Rf1 b2 63.g7 Rxg2 64.c7 Kd7 0–1
Navara’s comment at the end of the game: “I was extremely lucky in this game, but it happens sometimes in chess when you don’t give up and try to search for your chances.”
This was a real disaster for Vidit. He also lost the last round game and was forced to play a tiebreak with Firouzja for 1st place and he lost both games as well. Four straight losses! We will continue the story on Tuesday.
Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.