Praggnanandhaa continued his march on Day 2 of the Polgar Challenge as he racked up 8 wins in a row to take the sole lead on 8.5/10. The last of the wins was a formality, as Dinara Saduakassova unfortunately had to drop out due to internet issues, but that didn’t stop her Team Kramnik matching Team Polgar again, with the scores locked at 50:50. Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Christopher Yoo are just half a point behind after scoring 4/5 for the day. Nodirbek shrugged off his first loss, while Christopher is now the only unbeaten player. 

You can replay all the games from the Polgar Challenge, the first event on the $100,000 Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour, using the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik, who were joined by fellow legend Boris Gelfand.

Praggnanandhaa snatches the sole lead

15-year-old Indian star Praggnanandhaa showed he meant business on Day 2 of the Polgar Challenge by beginning with a brutal win with the black pieces over Carissa Yip. He would go on to win the next three games as well, though it wasn’t all plain sailing. He had to work very hard against Zhu Jiner, who joins her Chinese compatriot Lei Tingjie as one of just two female players in the top half of the table, and at one point he completely lost control against Nurgyul Salimova.

43…Ng6! would simply have trapped the white queen, but after 43…Nd3 44.Rxd3! the Indian youngster eventually went on to win, despite some great defence from his Bulgarian opponent.

The 8th win in a row for Praggnanandhaa didn’t require a pawn to be pushed in anger, since Dinara Saduakassova sadly had to admit defeat in her battles with the internet. The regulations, that allowed for stopping the clock after being disconnected for 30 seconds and resuming when the internet was back, made it possible for her to struggle through the first two games of the day, but she eventually lost on time in a winning position against Lei Tingjie. Lockdown restrictions in Kazakhstan left her with little hope of improving her connection and she decided to forfeit the last three games of the day. 

After that break Pragg faced one more challenge, birthday boy Awonder Liang. The US star got his 18th birthday off to the worst possible start with an opening disaster against Nihal Sarin, but 15.Ne4!, taking advantage of the unusual queen-pin on the 5th rank to target the trapped f6-knight, was easy to overlook.

Nihal made no mistake attacking the crippled black kingside after 15…Qd8 16.Nxf6. 

Awonder is a wonderful tactician, however, and despite some shaky positions he hit back with three wins in a row. The conclusion to his win over Lei Tingjie was particularly impressive.

Awonder’s g6-rook is doomed, but after 24…Qb6! it turns out it’s White who’s doomed. Play continued 25.hxg6 Nxe4+! 26.Kg2 Qf2+ 27.Kh1 Qh4+ 28.Kg2 Qg3+ and Lei resigned rather than choosing how to get mated next move. 

Awonder therefore went into the last round of the day in high spirits, and he was close to taking down the leader. Praggnanandhaa was forced to give up his queen, and was in trouble until move 41.

Black is winning due to the passed a-pawn, but 41…a4? threw it away! 42.Re4! Qa3 43.Nb1! forced Liang to abandon the defence of the pawn to save his bishop, and the game fizzled out into a draw. 

Abdusattorov and Yoo keep up the pressure

Top seed Nodirbek Abdusattorov was in supreme form for most of the day and might have ended as the sole leader after scoring a perfect 5/5, but he spoilt a great position against Leon Mendonca.

49…Bxb5+ or 49…Rxb5! are both completely winning, but here Nodirbek played 49…Rxd4? and after 50.Bc1 Bd7 Boris Gelfand spotted 51.Bxe3! before it appeared on the board. Black’s advantage had gone, but it would get much worse for Abdusattorov, who struggled to switch to the defensive and instead went on to lose to his Indian opponent. 

Kramnik and Gelfand both thought it was the kind of game that’s an important lesson for a young talent.

That left 14-year-old Christopher Yoo as the only unbeaten player after the US IM made two solid draws before winning the next three games. He lived dangerously against his compatriot Carissa Yip, but won in spectacular style against Lei Tingjie, whose 16…e4 only looked as though it was seizing the initiative.

17.Bh5+ Ke7 was hit by 18.Nd5+!!

The equally amazing 18…Kd6!! was Black’s best hope, while after 18…exd5 19.Qxd5 Be6 20.Qe5! it turned out White was simply hunting down the black king.

The three frontrunners all play for Team Kramnik, but once again the teams are neck and neck, with the score 50:50 after crossing the halfway mark of the tournament.

The prospect of the single qualification spot in the next Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event is getting ever closer for the players at the top, with Saturday’s Day 3 starting with Yoo-Praggnanandhaa. Don’t miss all the action with commentary from Vladimir Kramnik and Judit Polgar live here on chess24 from 16:00 CEST (10:00 ET, 19:30 IST).

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