Julius Baer Challengers: Praggnanandhaa stuns Nihal, shares lead

After a shock loss to Russian talent Volodar Murzin, third seed Praggnanandhaa scored over Gunay Mammadzada (Azerbaijan), second seed Nihal Sarin, Olga Badelka and Lei Tingjie to share the lead at four points.

R. Praggnanandhaa

Praggnanandhaa scored over Gunay Mammadzada (Azerbaijan), second seed Nihal Sarin, Olga Badelka and Lei Tingjie to share the lead at four points.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Prodigious R. Praggnanandhaa made light of his opening round loss to win the next four games and lead with two others in the Polgar Challenge, the first leg of the online Julius Baer Challengers Tour on Thursday.

After a shock loss to Russian talent Volodar Murzin, third seed Praggnanandhaa scored over Gunay Mammadzada (Azerbaijan), second seed Nihal Sarin, Olga Badelka and Lei Tingjie to share the lead at four points with his Team Kramnik teammates, top seed Uzbekistan’s Nodirbek Abusattorov and USA’s Christopher Yoo.

On a day when Team Kramnik and Team Polgar were locked at 25-all after five rounds, D. Gukesh (3.5) shared the fourth spot with Germany’s Vincent Keymer and China’s Lei Tingjie. 14 more rounds remained.

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Like Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh started with a defeat but recovered through victories over China’s Zhu Jiner, Keymer, a drawn encounter with compatriot Leon Mendonca and signed off with a victory over Kazakhstan’s Zhansaya Abdumalik.

The only undefeated Indian in the first round following a draw with Lei Tingjie, Nihal defeated Carissa Yip (USA) but lost rather tamely to Praggnanandhaa owing to poor time management. Out of the 10 minutes of allotted time at the start for both players, at one stage Nihal was down to 40 seconds when Praggnanandhaa had almost seven minutes on his clock.

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Nihal won the fourth round against Nurgyul Salimova and then drew with Dinara Saduakossova to be seventh in the 20-player field.

Leon Mendonca, who like Praggnanandhaa is part of Team Kramnik, was sharing the 12th spot with three others. He lost the first and fifth rounds to Christopher Yoo and Keymer. In between, he drew with Polina Shuvalova (Russia) and Gukesh. His lone victory came in the third round against Denmark’s Jonas Bjerre.

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