Three and out
The two players who qualified for the Julius Baer Challengers Tour final certainly made a strong impression on Saturday. As Christopher Yoo beat Awonder Liang 3-0, Praggnanandhaa got the better of Vincent Keymer with a score of 2Â½-Â½ – moreover, the Indian prodigy agreed to draw in a winning position in the third meeting! Thus, we were a few centimeters away from seeing a clean slate of the two finalists.
Vladimir Kramnik, who comments with Judit Polgar, praised Pragg, who made it easy against the player who won the last two âChallengesâ of the tour. The former world champion went so far as to say that the Indian’s game was in the top 10. Kramnik pointed out later:
I have no words! He plays absolutely fantastic. Incredible failures. He almost plays like a real world champion, a level close to Magnus Carlsen. Very strong, really!
Meanwhile, Liang’s back-to-back blunders gave Yoo an almost insurmountable advantage in the other semi-final. The young American (Liang is 18, while Yoo is still 14) made the most of Liang’s risky play and scored a third victory to advance to the final. Yoo later confessed:
I was really excited about the game. I didn’t get much sleep, but I feel extremely good after the game!
Pragg started the day with the black pieces. On move 27, he had an advantage thanks to his majority of mobile pawn on the queen wing.
Here Keymer hesitated with 27.Bh5, which turned out to be too slow – the German’s best chance to fight for a draw was 27.bxa5 Ra8 28.Rf1 Rxa5 29.f4, with faster counter play than in the game. text, Pragg immediately took the initiative with 27 … axb4 28.axb4 Rd4.
Six strokes later, the Indian prodigy showed the strength of his active tower in the fourth row.
34 … Rb4 was the critical move throughout the variation. Black then captured Keymer’s b-pawn and scored a fairly straightforward technical victory.
In Game 2, Pragg was in the driver’s seat again and handled his advantage almost flawlessly, save for one tactical trick he hadn’t anticipated.
Whites 41.Ng1 seems logical, preparing to get rid of the annoying dark knight on e2. However, this is a mistake. Keymer could have changed the course of the match if he had found the surprising 41 … Ne3 +, while White’s only move 42.fxg3 is met by 42 … Ng3 + 43.Kf2 Ne4 +, followed by the seizure of the turn in e2. Knights are delicate pieces!
However, none of this appeared on the board, as Keymer was playing 41 … Rxa5 instead and quit the game 12 moves later.
The first match of the match was analyzed by our in-house finals specialist Karsten MÃ¼ller.
In addition to the pressure of playing in a prestigious event, the fact that the tournament is being held online with quick time control can make any player wobble with either a blunder or a swipe of the mouse. In the semifinals, Liang twice suspended pieces to enter completely lost positions.
In Game 2, Liang was worse with the white pieces, but there was still a lot to play on a board full of pieces. However, after 25.Qe4 Black can simply capture a tower with 25 … Qxa4 – maybe Liang thought he was just giving up on a trade, because he had 26.Dxe7, but didn’t notice that his other turn now hangs at d1.
The resignation came four strokes later.