On the 11-22 of February, Don Giovanni Hotel in the capital of the Czech Republic is hosting the second edition of the Prague International Chess Festival that includes several tournaments. The inaugural festival was held a year earlier, in the spring of 2019. The organizers (the major one is Nový Bor Chess Club) who had nurtured the idea of such chess forum since 2017 formulated their mission on the official site: "One of the main ideas is to give top Czech players, national team pretenders and aspiring juniors a chance to face the world's absolute top players on home soil. We also hope our festival and its format will encourage players' fighting spirit, incite their will to win, strengthen self-confidence and motivate further personal chess growth in a healthy way. The long-term goal of the project is to establish a tradition of organizing a chess festival on par with the world's finest events, at both tournament strength and organizational levels".
For the second time in a row, the main event called Masters brought together several 2700+ players who don't get many invitations to elite tournaments. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), Nikita Vitiugov (Russia) and Alireza Firouzja who substituted Wei Yi (the Chinese GM withdrew from the tournament at the last moment because of coronavirus epidemic) entered the competition as the favorites, but after 5 rounds they are chasing 25-year old Indian Vidit Santosh Gujrathi. The #26 in the rating list has recently become the second player in the Indian chess hierarchy. After this tournament, Vidit might come very close to a long time leader of Indian chess Vishy Anand.
Vidit won three games with White routing Sam Shankland (USA) and one of his main competitors Alireza Firouzja. The 16-year old native of Iran rarely suffers a shellacking in the opening, but his encounter with the Indian was an exception. After this defeat Firouzja rolled back to 50% mark. Duda and Vitiugov are still in contention but they are a full point behind the leader.
An even bigger sensation is brewing in a lower profile Challengers event. The tournament is featuring Jorden Van Foreest, who made a big splash in Wijk aan Zee last month and coming fresh from his tie for the first in Gibraltar Open Andrey Esipenko, but after 5 rounds the leader is a 47-year old GM from Iceland Hannes Stefansson (2529) with an excellent score 4/5 (no defeats). Esipenko and Mateusz Bartel (Poland) are a half-point behind, whereas Van Foreest drew all his five games.
Young talents, including the highest-rated player in the U-10 category Vaclav Finek (Czech Republic, 2220), are fighting in the tournament called Futures. Predictably, the percentage of decisive outcomes in this event has been very high so far. As for the leader, the 11-year old Ediz Gurel from Turkey is ahead of the pack with 4/5.
Play will resume on Tuesday with four rounds to go in all the events. FIDE.com will continue to follow the Prague International Chess Festival.
Official site: https://praguechessfestival.com/
Photo: Petr Vrabec and Vladimir Jagr