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Vidit's heartbreak

by Tanmay Srinath - 21/02/2020

What a turnaround! After 32 moves it looked like Vidit Gujrathi had the Prague Masters 2020 title in his hands. Another 32 moves later, he suffered his 1st loss in the tournament to David Navara, that too with his last White, changing the narrative completely! The fight for 1st place has suddenly been blown wide open, as now there is a pack of 3 players chasing Vidit, the most recent addition being David Anton, who crushed Nils Grandelius with Black to return to +1. Nikita Vitiugov's masterful handling of the London System left him with a clearly winning position against Duda, but instead of finishing Black off immediately Vitiugov opted to win technically, and ended up allowing a fortress that the latter managed to hold comfortably. An exhaustive report by Tanmay Srinath.

For a change, I decided to look at some of the positions before going off to sleep for the night. What I immediately noticed was how sharp Vidit was playing against David Navara. It looked like he wanted to win the tournament with his last white colour game. It was inspiring to see the Indian GM go for it with some really aggressive moves, but I was slightly apprehensive, as he was playing in a style that he usually never does. It eventually took its toll on the clock, and Vidit missed wins several times, before over-pressing and losing the game. The result is depressing for all Indian fans, but there is a lot that we all can learn from this game. Let's take a look:

The toughest thing to do in chess is to win a won game! | Photo: Petr Vrabec


Vidit began the game with the aggressive Petrosian-Kasparov variation against the Queen's Indian. This would have already come as a surprise for Navara, as in the 37 games Vidit has played White against the Queen's Indian, he has almost exclusively gone 4.g3 (26 times!).

Already on White's 8th move we have potential for fireworks. Vidit's 8.e4 is perfectly fine, but the comps point out an incredible line - 8.Qc2! a6 9.e4 N5f6 10.d5! simply giving up a pawn for positional compensation. See the notes to the game for a detailed explanation.

White to play his 12th move - should you immediately go 12.d5, as Vidit did, or are there stronger alternatives?

Black played 12...exd5? in the game and was soon objectively lost. Can you do better than the Czech No.1?

Navara has played too softly, and Vidit takes advantage - 15.Bxf7+!!

16.e6+! The move that Navara confessed (in the interview after the game) he missed. Now White tears Black's position to shreds, but the fun has only begun!

Both sides have played perfectly since the sacrifice, but White is completely winning. The best move here is 21.Qc2! following the principle of keeping queens on the board when attacking, and Black will soon get blown off the board. Instead, after Vidit's surprisingly passive 21.Qxe7+? Black was significantly worse, but not lost anymore.

Here Black's best defense is 22...Nc5!, and the computers manage to hold on for life after 23.Nxc5 Bxc5 24.Ne5 Kg8!!. Instead, Navara's human idea of 22...Nf6? gifted Vidit a winning advantage.

Here it was already time to calculate and finish the game off - 26.bxa3! Nc3+ 27.Kd2 Nxd1 28.Nd6! Rd8 29.Nef7+- with a trivial win. Instead, 26.Nxc6 was played, and the move is definitely not bad, but not as clinical as the alternative.

You are Vidit here - you are already in time trouble, and your opponent's continued struggle amazes and muddles your brain. His last move 32...Rd8! is a final throw of the dice, and all you have to do is find one precise sequence, after which he is lost. Question is simple - do you allow the rook trade with 33.b3, or do you play the preliminary 33.Rdf7+ Ke8 and now play 34.b3?

As one can already observe, after taking the wrong decision Vidit no longer had an advantage, and the game is now equal.

This is in my view one of the decisive moments of the game. On the face of it, you can understand Vidit's decision of playing 53.Kd4(?). It doesn't lose, and White still has an extra pawn. However, in rook endgames, its not the pawns that matter - its how much far they have advanced. Here Black is already equal, and any more pressing will result in a loss, so why not play 53.Kc2, sign the draw and go? Vidit could have been on 5.5/8, with still having excellent chances of winning the tournament provided he at least drew the final round. Chess can sometimes drive you mad!

55.c5? by Vidit is a bad mistake - while it doesn't lose Black is the one pressing after the precise 55...b5!. Instead, as Navara pointed out in his interview, passing with Ra1 and Ra2 holds the draw quite comfortably.

Now it is your turn - after finding all the wins, can you now find White's only route to a draw?

Vidit went down the one way road to a loss, and from here on Navara efficiently converted the point.

Well, as far as Vidit is concerned I wish him the very best for the final round, and hope he doesn't lose his composure. He has played brilliantly so far, and in this game he was the better player, so he should trust his instincts in the final round and just play chess! But as far as the readers are concerned, I would like to point out a few things we can learn from this game:


1.Never give up! This might sound like a cliche, but sometimes you can create something out of nothing, like how Navara managed to do today. Chess is a sport after all - fight till the bitter end!

2. Be clinical! Don't give the opponent any chance of getting back into the game once you've got a serious/winning advantage. Be as precise as possible - even the small misses help your opponent!

3. Don't come under time pressure! It's almost impossible to play well when you have less time on the clock. The best idea is to avoid time pressure. Because once you are down to those last few seconds on your clock, things are no longer in your control.

4. Be objective! When Vidit had a draw in his hand, and he (probably) knew the position was a draw, he continued playing for a win, and was punished. Thus, if you had a winning advantage, and it disappeared because of a mistake, be objective and take the draw! 

After a bad 1st half, Navara has rebounded back to an even score! | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Now, onto the other decisive game of the day - David Anton taking advantage of Grandelius' sloppy middlegame play to score an impressive win - here the highlights:

Again, a lack of objectivity on the part of the White player - 23.Rg2 and the game ends in a draw. Instead, after 23.Kh1 Black sacrifices a piece with 23... Nxe5! and starts pressing.

White's last chance to hold on - 26.f4! followed up by Nf3. Instead 26.Nh3? passed the initiative to Black.

David Anton has finally found his rhythm. | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Here is one more missed win - as a puzzle!



White to play and win.

Alireza Firouzja missed numerous opportunities to get a good grip, and is on tied 2nd with 4.5/8. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Photo Gallery:

Russia's greatest hope of the next decade - Andrey Esipenko is sharing the lead in the Challengers. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Kacper Piorun, former World Problem Solving Champion, is sharing the lead with Esipenko after beating Stefansson. | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Having some fun are we David? | Photo: Petr Vrabec

Shankland with his best game prize from Round 7. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Ediz Gurel has almost guaranteed 1st place in the Futures. | Photo: Vladimir Jagr

Results of Round 8

Rankings after Round 8. The tiebreaks favour Vidit, but can he hold on?

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