Robson Wins Prague Chess Festival Masters After Beating Deac With Black In Blitz Tiebreak

Robson Wins Prague Chess Festival Masters After Beating Deac With Black In Blitz Tiebreak


GM Ray Robson won the Prague Chess Festival Masters after finishing in shared first with GM Bogan-Daniel Deac on 5.5/9 points. In the blitz tiebreak, the American grandmaster won the first game with Black and then offered a draw in a winning position (it was accepted) to attain the title.

With a black victory in the final round, Polish number-three GM Mateusz Bartel won the Challengers with 6.5/9, just a half point ahead of GM Alexander Motylev, who also won (with White) on the final day. No tiebreak was needed. By winning the Challengers, Bartel will participate in next year’s Masters.

See what happened:

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GM Vincent Keymer, who qualified by winning the Challengers last year, took the early lead in round one after defeating the top-rated player and formerly retired GM Wang Hao. He would, however, not win another game in the tournament and would lose to Robson in round seven.

In round three, Robson earned his first win, against former world championship challenger GM Boris Gelfand, and co-led with the German number-one.

Round four was a critical moment of the tournament as Deac entered the lead with his first win, against Robson. In the notorious Berlin Defense, known for being “drawish,” Black made one inaccuracy shortly after the opening novelty and then a clear mistake. It led, surprisingly quickly, to a completely lost position. The Romanian grandmaster made it look easy.

Deac would go on to have a solid tournament, winning two games and drawing seven overall—importantly, not losing a single one. He beat GM Nguyen Thai Dai Van in round eight and closed out the tournament with a draw vs Wang to finish in shared first.

After the loss to Deac, however, Robson came back swinging. He bounced back in the next game with a win over Wang (who would finish +2 -3 =4). After a draw, he then beat the young and promising Keymer in round seven. Two more draws in the end was enough to finish in tied-first and qualify for the tiebreak.

Robson’s win in round five curiously featured the same opening variation as his win in game three (Wang deviated with 11…Nf6). Down a pawn but with chances due to the opposite-color bishops, the Chinese grandmaster went for a creative counterattack that did not fully pan out. Robson found the correct defense, where he allowed his opponent to promote to a queen, and went on to win with two extra pawns.

GM Pentala Harikrishna, who had won the 2022 edition of this tournament, just barely missed out on the tie for first, finishing with five points in the end. It seemed he had a chance when he, too, beat Wang in round eight, However, in the last round, where every single game ended in a draw, he was left out of the tiebreak match.

Tiebreak Match

With that, the tiebreaks were set: Robson vs. Deac. Two blitz games (5+3 time control) would be played; if the score remained equal, an armageddon game would follow (five minutes for White, four minutes for Black, with a three-second increment starting on move 61). 

The first game was a Berlin Defense in the Ruy Lopez, but an exciting one! After White overestimated his attacking chances, his center collapsed and he lost decisive material. 

Still, he held on, and after a long maneuvering phase, Black made an error in time trouble. The game was once again equal.

The solutions included below would have been impossible to find with little time—credit to the players—and Robson still managed to win the game once again, brilliantly sacrificing his rook to keep the game going. Remarkably, after his rook sacrifice, he had the material parity of just one rook against a queen, but was able to win regardless.

Needing just a draw, he was better or winning at most stages of the second game. In a winning position, he offered Deac a draw, which was accepted. The champion was crowned.

Masters – All Games 

Masters – Final Standings


Bartel scored four wins overall in the tournament, with five draws. The most important round of the tournament was definitely the last one as several players went all-out for glory. Just one game was drawn in round nine, with four decisive results on the other boards.

Bartel’s last-round opponent, GM Paulius Pultinevicius, did not shy away from battle, and the players entered a crazy line of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted that has been quite topical lately, with GM Levon Aronian being its strongest practitioner (with both colors!).

It was a brutal slugfest and it was White who went on to decline a threefold repetition on move 34. In a chaotic position where both kings were weak, the far-advanced black passed d-pawn decided the game. Bartel won the game and the tournament.

Although he finished in the bottom half of the scoreboard with 4/9, GM Jergus Pechac deserves an honorable mention. His games were shared and reshared on social media due to the quirky (one of many possible adjectives) openings. Some of his opening moves looked like mouse slips, but this was an in-person classical event where he played against strong grandmaster opposition.

Just take a look at his opening in round one. He drew.

In round seven, he played 1.h4 against approximately 2650-rated GM Benjamin Gledura—and drew. He also drew round eight and caught GM Ian Nepomniachtchi‘s attention. Something to consider before you buy your next Chessable opening course.

Challengers – All Games 

Challengers – Final Standings

The Prague Chess Festival 2023 took place June 20-30, 2023, in Prague, Czech Republic. The format was a 10-player single round-robin. The time control was 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 more minutes for the rest of the game, plus a 30-second increment per move starting on move one. 


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