Firouzja blitzes past Vidit to conquer Prague!
After Round 7 the question to be answered was who would take 2nd place behind Vidit, and just 2 games later it was Vidit taking 2nd place after 3 harrowing losses on the final day! Duda was merciless, exploiting every inaccuracy and mistake to blow Vidit off the board, and keep himself in contention. Alireza Firouzja survived a really complex battle against David Anton, who missed a beautiful win at one point, and by the end of the round Vidit and Firouzja were to engage in a Blitz tiebreak to determine the winner, as the two had the best tiebreak among the lot tied on 5/9. A shocked Vidit bravely mustered up the strength to fight, but his nemesis, the clock, managed to win the battle, as he lost on time in the second game, to concede the tournament to the rising Iranian.
These last two days have been very disheartening for Vidit Gujrathi. First he blundered in time trouble against David Navara, after rejecting the draw, then he makes one mistake and is ruthlessly punished by Duda. Thanks to his previous rounds however Vidit had the best tiebreak, along with Alireza Firouzja, and the two play a blitz tiebreak. Vidit played good chess, managed to put pressure, but couldn't make the switch from the classical to blitz time control. Vidit lost in a drawish position in game one getting into a mating attack and got lost of time in the second game. The Indian had to cede the 1st place he had occupied for most part. Kudos to Alireza Firouzja though - he came into this tournament as a last minute replacement for Wei Yi, and while his play wasn't as good as it was in the 1st half of Wijk Ann Zee, it was consistent enough. Most importantly, he took his chances when it mattered.
Before going into the decisive tiebreak, let us take a look at the games that had the greatest impact on the standings - Duda-Vidit and David Anton - Firouzja:
In the other clash between the two chasers, it was David Anton who started off on the right foot, neatly outplaying Alireza Firouzja and landing himself in a won position, till the Spaniard spoilt the win in time trouble:
After horribly misplaying his position in time trouble Anton was soon in a dead lost position, but now it was Firouzja who gifted his opponent a half point:
Sam Shankland was lucky to win today - Nikita Vitiugov missed an elementary combination on the 14th move to win atleast a pawn:
Shankland - Vitiugov
After winning his game, Sam made a very emotional post on Facebook:
After coming back from the brink yesterday, David Navara played very ambitiously, and was aptly punished by Pentala Harikrishna:
Now then, on to the tiebreaks!
Well, according to the rules of the tournament, there will be a tiebreaker between the best two players for the 1st place, in case of a multi-way tie at the top. Here are the exact rules:
In case of a tie for the first place, there shall be a playoff between the top two players which shall be determined as follows:
3)More number of games with Black
4)Drawing of lots
The match will consist of 2 Blitz games, with a time control of 5 minutes + 3 seconds increment per move from move 1. Colors shall be determined by the toss of a coin, conducted by the Chief Arbiter. The winner of the toss shall have choice of color.
If the score is still level after the blitz game, the players shall play a single decisive “Armaggedon” game.
Thus, it was Vidit-Firouzja for the title of the Prague Masters 2020!
The game was a very complex strategic battle, with a lot of nuances. Vidit had a great chance at one point, which he failed to take:
Firouzja managed to outplay Vidit from this position on, but gave White a surprising chance on move 36:
The onus was on Vidit to win and he tried his best. He played really aggressively as Black - opting for the Sicilian Defense. Firouzja avoided theory with the delayed Alapin, and it was a really crazy battle. When it seemed that Vidit would start pressing for a win, disaster struck!