Chess

The Polgar Challenge

24 April 2021

9:00 AM

24 April 2021

9:00 AM

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, at 15 years old one of India’s most exceptional young players, emerged as the winner of the Polgar Challenge, an online event between 20 of the world’s brightest talents which took place earlier this month. It was the opening event of the $100,000 Julius Bär Challengers Chess Tour, and Praggnanandhaa earned himself a qualifying spot in the next Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event, alongside Carlsen and others.

The mixture of ten male and ten female players gave the event an interesting spin. The top two women were both from China: Lei Tingjie and Zhu Jiner scored 10/19. The examples below show each get the better of a sharp tactical exchange.


Lei Tingjie–Nurgyul Salimova
Polgar Challenge, April 2021

Strategically, Black is busted. The queenside pawns are weak, while White controls the only open file. But her next move is a crucial resource. 25… Nxf4! 26 Nc6! 26 exf4? Qxd4+ and Black wins the c1 rook by force, e.g. 27 Kh1 Qe4+ 28 Kg1 Qe3+ 26… Nh3+ This very nearly works, but in fact 26… Qc7 27 exf4 Qxf4 28 Qf1 Qxg5+ 29 Kh1 Re8 was preferable, as Black has full compensation for the knight. 27 Kg2 Qd7 28 Kxh3 f4+ So tempting, but in fact 28… Re8 might well have saved the game in practice. It would take exceptional composure to find White’s strongest moves, e.g. 29 Kg3! Rxe3+ 30 Kf2 Qe8 31 Qxd5! This invites Re2+ 32 Kf1 Qe3 but now comes the counterattack: 33 Qd8+ Kg7 34 Qf6+ Kg8 35 Ne7+ Qxe7 36 Rc8+ and wins. 29 Kh4 The only move, as 29 Kg2 Qg4+ is disastrous. 29… h5! 30 h3 Capturing en passant with 30 gxh6 exposes the White king too much: 30… Re8 leads to a winning attack. 30… Re8 The counterplay with Re8-e3 looks fierce, but White finds the only way to refute the attack. 31 Na7! A knight on the rim is dim, except this one, which is full of vim. 31… Qe6 31… Qxb5 32 Nxb5 fxe3 33 Kg3 and the e3-pawn will not last long. 32 Qxe8+! Qxe8 33 Rc8 Qxc8 34 Nxc8 fxe3 35 Kg3 Black resigns

Jonas Buhl Bjerre–Zhu Jiner
Polgar Challenge, April 2021

20… c3! 21 Qxc3 21 Rxa6 was the right reaction. After 21… cxd2 22 Rxb6 Rxb6 23 Bxd2 Bxd4 24 Nxd4 Ne5 25 Bg2 Rxd6 26 Bc3 the b-pawn and strong pair of bishops grant White real hopes of a draw. 21… Bxb5 22 Rxb5 Other captures drop a bishop or knight immediately. 22… Bxd4! This is why Black needed to draw the White queen to c3. 23 Rxb6 Bxc3 24 Rxb8 Nxb8! One final twist: the bishop hangs on c6. 25 bxc3 Nxc6 White’s passed pawns pose little threat, and soon drop off. 26 c4 h6 27 Ra1 Rc8 28 Ra4 Kf8 29 Ra6 Ke8 30 Rb6 Nd7 31 Rb7 Na5 32 Rb1 Nxc4 33 Re1+ Kf8 34 Re7 Ncb6 35 Be3 Rc6 36 Bxb6 Nxb6 White resigns

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