Perfect Scores By Praggnanandhaa and Hou Make WR Chess Unstoppable

Perfect Scores By Praggnanandhaa and Hou Make WR Chess Unstoppable


After two days, WR Chess soars ahead of the field at the World Rapid Team Championship. Led by perfect scores from GMs Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu and Hou Yifan, this star-studded team has won eight matches in a row to gain a three-point margin over their closest rivals, Freedom―whom they defeated in round five. 

The World Rapid Team Championship concludes on Monday, August 28, at 7:30 a.m. ET / 13:30 CEST / 5:00 p.m. IST.

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WR Chess not only leads the tournament by a convincing margin, but they have already faced and defeated all of their closest competitors: the teams currently in second to sixth place. 

With several top players competing on the opposing teams, how has WR Chess been able to sweep the field so far?

For one, several of their players are simply on fire. In addition to the perfect 4/4 scores by Praggnanandhaa and Hou, GMs Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Ian Nepomniachtchi have also been virtually flawless, each scoring 5.5/6. 

GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov has turned in a compelling 4.5/6, including a couple of critical wins to seal team victories. Additionally, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk is undefeated with 3/4. 

Their amateur board, Wadim Rosenstein, is on plus two with 5/8. Even GM Wesley So, who faces the top competition on board one and has been having an uncharacteristically tough event is on an even score at 3/6. 

Essentially, the team has four players who are winning virtually every game they play and have no weak points, excelling in both strength and reliability. With the stellar individual performances combined with team spirit, such as having a training session together before the event, it’s no wonder they have been unstoppable. 

In round five, WR Chess faced the only team higher ranked than they are, Freedom, led by the 15th world champion, Viswanathan Anand. While the top two boards drew, it was a bloodbath on the four lower boards with wins from Duda, Pragnanandhaa, Hou, and Rosenstein. 

Praggnanandhaa closed out his win vs. GM Evgeniy Najer with a dazzling tactical shot. 

Position after 43…Nde3+!

Duda was the hero of their matchup vs. Team MGD1 in round six. Playing black, he repelled GM Arjun Erigaisi‘s kingside pressure and then sprung forward with one piece after another until it was his opponent’s king that was begging for mercy. 

In round seven, with the match vs. Germany and Friends on the line, it was Abdusattorov’s turn to score a much-needed victory. He defeated GM Matthias Bluebaum with a combination of tactical insight and endgame technique.

In the final round of the day, WR Chess faced the Kompetenzakademie Allstars. This team, featuring the dangerous trio of GM Fabiano Caruana, GM Levon Aronian, and GM Dommaraju Gukesh, hoped to give the leaders a real run for their money. 

Yet, WR Chess didn’t just win the match―they won 5.5 out of six games. The Allstars’ not-so-secret weapon, Gukesh, had an amazing 6.5/7 score heading into the round, but his winning streak was halted by Duda. With his team in mind, Gukesh went all in as Black, but Duda accurately fended off his kingside play. The Indian prodigy found himself hitting air until his 25-year-old opponent seized the chance himself to attack. 

On board four, Praggnanandhaa faced GM Sebastian Siebrecht. For opposing teams, it might feel almost unfair to have a player like Praggnanandhaa who would hold his own on board one playing on a lower board. In fact, the 18-year-old super-GM knocked out the Allstars’ board one, Caruana, at the World Cup. 

Praggnanandhaa unleashed chaos while down a knight to rip open the center and hunt after his opponent’s king. 

After a rest day to recover from the World Cup, Praggnanandhaa swept his opponents on Sunday. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

Freedom is in clear second. They bounced back with a near sweep of the Berlin Chess Federation in round six, scoring 5.5/6. IM Polina Shuvalova found a clever way to spark her kingside attack vs. GM Elisabeth Paehtz.

A creative attacking victory by Shuvalova. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

They closed out the day with two more match wins vs. ASV AlphaEchecs Linz (GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alexander Grischuk‘s team) and Germany and Friends, led by GM Alexander Donchenko. GM Vidit Gujrathi flipped the script on GM Rasmus Svane to create mating threats out of nowhere.

Vidit has scored a potent 5/7. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

One of the most shocking games of the day was GM Etienne Bacrot‘s 18-move victory vs. GM Richard Rapport. Can you find the idea that the Romanian grandmaster overlooked?

With so many of their rivals already beaten, who is left for WR Chess to play? Their next opponents will be the Chess Pensioners, led by GM Leinier Dominguez. Though they are underdogs vs. WR Chess, the Pensioners feature the legendary forces of GMs Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler, making this a fascinating upcoming duel. 

The Chess Pensioners (right). It’s unusual to think of a team featuring three players who have reached the world top-10, one of whom was a world champion, as underdogs. Photo: Niki Riga/FIDE.

Standings – Day 2 (Top 20)

All Games – Day 2

The World Rapid Team Championship 2023 takes place August 25-28, 2023, in Dusseldorf, Germany. The format is a 12-round team Swiss. The time control is 15 minutes plus a 10-second increment starting on move one. Official website.

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