16-year-old Vincent Keymer leads on 3.5/4 after Day 1 of the Kramnik Challenge, half a point ahead of Christopher Yoo, Awonder Liang and Nodirbek Abdusattorov. Vincent’s only draw was in fact a great escape from a seemingly hopeless position against Polina Shuvalova, and a good day for the female participants saw Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, Lei Tingjie and Dinara Saduakassova all finish on a plus score, just a point behind Keymer.
You can replay all the games from the Kramnik Challenge, the 3rd event on the $100,000 Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour, using the selector below.
And here’s the day’s live commentary from Challengers’ coaches Surya Ganguly, Anna Muzychuk and women’s no. 1 Hou Yifan.
German rising star Vincent Keymer has come close in the previous two events on the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour. Before the final round of the Polgar Challenge he’d won seven games in a row and would have taken clear second behind Praggnanandhaa with a win. Instead he lost that game, while in the Gelfand Challenge he won all five games on the penultimate day to go into the final day as the sole leader, only to lose two of the next three games and finish half a point behind Gukesh and Praggnanandhaa.
Now, with the two Indian stars not in action, Vincent is one of the big favourites to earn a spot in the last event on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour before the final, and he started well.
His victory over Christopher Yoo was significant, given the US player won his remaining three games. Vincent was better with the black pieces in just 10 moves and had soon demolished the white position.
20…Nd3+! 21.Rxd3 Rexe2+ established the black rooks on the second rank, and eventually they went on to weave a mating net.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Vincent, however, as 2019 World Girls U20 Champion Polina Shuvalova was completely winning their Round 3 game.
Two pawns down and with a terrible bishop against a powerful knight, Vincent decided drastic measures were needed and went for 46.Bxe4!? dxe4 47.Rxe4. The surprise was that it actually worked, with Vincent’s queen keeping constant pressure on the black position until the game ultimately ended in bare kings.
It was a good day for the female stars in the Kramnik Challenge, with Dinara Saduakassova, Lei Tingjie and Sarasadat Khademalsharieh all ending on a +1 score of 2.5/4, but it could have been better! Balaji Daggupati announced his debut on the tour in style by playing the King’s Gambit against Dinara in Round 1, but was very nearly punished for it, while top seed Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who knocked Anish Giri out of the FIDE World Cup, got into trouble twice.
Polina Shuvalova had a chance to play an exotic-looking winning move in Round 1.
24…Qg6!! was the move, exploiting the fact that 25.hxg6 Rxh1# is checkmate. The b1-rook is targeted, and if it moves then Rxh5 gives Black an overwhelming position. After 25.Bd3 it’s good enough to play 25…Qxd3+, though 25…Rxh5!! turns out to be even better.
In the game after 24…Qh7 Black’s advantage faded until the game soon ended in a draw by repetition. Nodirbek also ran risks in the final game of the day against Sarasadat Khademalsharieh.
It turns out 44.e7! was winning for White — 44…Rf3 45.e8=N+! would have been nice — while after 44.Kxg3 Qd6+ Nodirbek was able to force a draw by repetition.
The game of the day, however, was the draw between 15-year-old Russian Volodar Murzin and 17-year-old Jonas Bjerre from Denmark. Initially there were chances for Jonas, but on move 32 Volodar got to take over.
32.Nxf7! has the point that after any capture on f7 the f6-knight will be pinned, so Rxe4! will win back the piece with a huge attack. Jonas tried 32…Nd2 but was dead lost after 33.Nxh6+ Still, the attack had to be finished off!
Instead after 41.Ndf5+ Kg6 42.h5+ Kxh5 43.Qe2+? Nf3 44.g4+ Kg6 Surya commented, “if this is not mate, then what is mate?”, but in fact there’s no longer any way to force checkmate. White has some advantage, but the game soon finished in a draw by repetition.
The standings after Day 1 of the Kramnik Challenge look as follows, though with three days and 11 rounds to go anything can happen.
Tune into the Day 2 action from 16:00 CEST on Friday the 13th, with Surya Ganguly this time joined by Tania Sachdev for live commentary.