Top seed Nodirbek Abdusattorov is the only player still unbeaten after Day 2 of the Kramnik Challenge and is now co-leader with Awonder Liang, who won four games in a row before falling to Polina Shuvalova in the final game of the day. Previous leader Vincent Keymer had a frustrating day, failing to grind out wins against Sarasadat Khademalsharieh and Nodirbek before losing an innocuous-looking ending to Volodar Murzin.
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 Tania Sachdev and Surya Ganguly.
At the last Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour event we saw a curse of the leader, with the player who’d done well on any particular day seeming to struggle on the next. Something similar happened on Friday, as everything went right for Vincent Keymer only for a game and a half. The 16-year-old German prodigy convincingly beat Marc Maurizzi and then seemed well on course to grind out a win with the black pieces against Sarasadat Khademalsharieh. The Iranian star was unbeaten since the first round, however, and managed to hold on.
Vincent was then unable to win an opposite-coloured bishop with two extra pawns against Nodirbek Abdusattorov. There was no shame in that at all as the position appears to have been a tablebase draw from the moment it appeared on the board on move 51.
That didn’t stop Vincent playing on until move 95. Then in the final round of the day he collapsed against Volodar Murzin, simply dropping two pawns in what seemed to be a harmless endgame. It was a good end to the day for Volodar, who also won with two extra pawns in the previous game against Carissa Yip.
Vincent’s troubles were a chance for the other contenders, with two of his big rivals seizing the opportunity. Nodirbek Abdusattorov from Uzbekistan is the top seed, and, while he hasn’t been setting the world on fire, he’s also the only player still unbeaten. That record looked under threat against Carissa Yip…
…but ultimately Nodirbek escaped, helped by a draw by 3-fold repetition spread out over eight moves — over-the-board it’s unlikely Nodirbek would have spotted it and claimed correctly, but online the Playzone instantly ends the game when a 3-fold repetition has occurred.
Nodirbek also struggled against Keymer, as mentioned before, but he won both games with the white pieces, giving mate against Balaji Dagguparti and scoring a stylish win over Volodar Murzin despite an opening that didn’t have Surya Ganguly singing his praises!
He correctly spotted that 20…Nhg6? was a mistake (20…g5!)
He seized the moment with 21.Ndxe6!, when 21…Nxe6 is met by 22.Nxg6. In the game after 21…Nxf4 22.Nxd8 Nxg2 23.Nf7 Rh7? it was all over, with Nodirbek’s 24.Bg5! just one of the winning replies. 23…Qe6, offering up the second rook, was the only way to stay in the game.
The most impressive player for most of the day, however, was 18-year-old US star Awonder Liang, who began by showing that a pawn was a pawn and more against Dinara Saduakassova.
Awonder then rolled over Yahli Sokolovsky and Christopher Yoo and could have taken a full-point lead if he’d beaten Polina Shuvalova in the final round of the day. That’s where the run stopped, however, with the 2019 World Girls Under 20 Champion clinching victory after an exciting game. Awonder had good winning chances himself, but in trying to trade queens he left the a-file open to Polina, who took the chance to launch a sudden mating attack.
Awonder knew he’d missed a great opportunity to take the sole lead, while Polina’s celebration was no doubt partly down to winning a second game in the row after losing the first two games of the day to the Chinese players. The second loss, to Lei Tingjie, was painful. In a position where 49.Nd1 or 49.Kc3 should easily have held a draw, she played 49.Ka3??, only to get hit by the study-like 49…Bc2!
It’s suddenly zugzwang, with 50.Ka2 ready to be met by 50…Kb4 51.Ka1 Kb3 and White would have run out of king moves and have to move the knight to a square it could be taken, or make the one pawn move in the position. Polina started with 50.f5 gxf5 but resigned after 51.Ka2 Kb4.
So the standings look as follows after Day 2, with Christopher Yoo joining Keymer just half a point behind the leaders. Lei Tingjie and Sarasadat Khademalsharieh are within striking distance, while Marc Maurizzi’s comeback of winning his last three games to climb to 50% is noteworthy after a tough tour debut for the French prodigy.
As you can see, Team Polgar has also opened up a comfortable lead! Tune into the Day 3 action from 16:00 CEST on Saturday the 14th, with Tania Sachdev and Surya Ganguly commentating live.