With two grandmaster groups, a tournament for talents and multiple opens, it’s tempting to describe the Prague Chess Festival as the Czech Republic’s version of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament. The festival has a prize fund of 44,000 euros ($48,000) and starts tomorrow.
You can follow the tournament here in our live portal. The tournament runs February 12-21 with a rest day on February 17. The rounds start at 15:00 CET which is 6 a.m. Pacific time. The last round starts an hour earlier.
The Czech Republic’s strong chess tradition—think of Oldrich Duras, Richard Réti, Rudolf Charousek, Salo Flohr, Lubomir Kavalek and of course Vlastimil Hort, who in the photo gives a kiss on the hand to Ju Wenjun in last year’s edition—was revived last year with the first edition of the Prague Chess Festival.
The second edition takes place February 11-21 in the Don Giovanni hotel in Prague, Czech Republic. Similar to the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, the main events consist of two round-robins. Both have 10 players (instead of 14 in Wijk aan Zee), but they bear the same names: Masters and Challengers.
The Masters tournament was already in the news last week when the organizers announced that the Chinese GM Wei Yi had to cancel his participation as the effects of the coronavirus in China had made it too complicated for him to travel to the Czech Republic. The substitute for Wei is none other than Alireza Firouzja, the hottest chess player on the planet right now.
Firouzja told Chess.com that he learned a lot from his participation in the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, adding: “It will be another great opportunity for me to again play some interesting games.”
The top seed is Jan-Krzysztof Duda, also a participant in Wijk aan Zee and the subject of a recent interview here on Chess.com. He revealed what may be one of the secrets behind his success. “I’m studying at the Academy of Physical Education in Krakow, and through this, I have an opportunity to work with top Polish trainers and sports specialists, for example, the physiologist of former Polish tennis star Agnieszka Radwanska.”
Other favorites for the title include the strong Russian grandmaster Nikita Vitiugov, the Indian GM Vidit Gujrathi, and the more seasoned GMs David Navara and Pentala Harikrishna—both being local heroes at this event.
— Harikrishna (@HariChess) February 10, 2020
Although there are no players from the world’s top 15, the field does include six players from the top 30, and all 10 are from the top 100.
2020 Prague Masters | Participants
|4||26||Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi||2721||1994|
|7||41||Anton Guijarro, David||2697||1995|
The Challengers group is a mix of experienced players and young talents, with Nijat Abasov, Jorden van Foreest and Andrey Esipenko representing the latter category while forming a trio of favorites based on ratings. The oldest participant in either group is Hannes Stefansson, a 12-time Icelandic champion.
2020 Prague Challengers | Participants
|2||69||Van Foreest, Jorden||2667||1999|
|6||396||Nguyen, Thai Dai Van||2560||2001|
The time control for both groups is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move, starting from move one. No draw offers before move 30 are allowed.
There is one more similarity with the tournament in Wijk aan Zee. There will be a Vugar Gashimov Prize for fair play (in both groups) in memory of the Azerbaijani grandmaster who died in 2014 at the age of 27. His brother Sharkan Gashimov will personally hand over the trophies.
The total number of participants in the side events is close to 400, with 273 players competing in the main Open. The top seed is the Norwegian Grandmaster Johan-Sebastian Christiansen, followed by GM Nikita Petrov of Russia and GM Alexei Fedorov of Belarus.