11 - 22 February 2020
2020 Edition

For the second time, the Prague International Chess Festival will give Czech chess players a chance to confront top world players on home soil. A total of five Czech players have decided to use this particular opportunity in the festival’s second annual. In the first annual of the festival, the average rating of the closed Masters tournament reached a level unheard of in the Czech Republic since the early nineties.

"For the upcoming annual, I can declare that the average rating of the Masters will once again fulfill the requirements of a tournament of the 19th category," states festival director Petr Boleslav. The minimum rating of 2675 was set as a compulsory prerequisite for those wanting to be admitted into the top 10 of the entire festival; the only Czech player to fulfill this requirement was long-time Czech no. 1 David Navara.

"I’m certainly looking forward to the tournament and I’ll prepare myself better than last year," claims the Czech no. 1, also recalling his rather unsuccessful performance in the Masters in March, where he ended up sharing 7th – 9th place. "I liked the first annual very much. It was great in terms of both organization and atmosphere. It was only my result that was weaker."

Four slots in the closed Challengers tournament will once again be taken up predominantly by Czech players. The first seat was taken up in May by international master Lukáš Černoušek, who got qualified thanks to his 2nd place in the Czech National Chess Championship in Ostrava. He already used his first chance to fight for a slot in the Open tournament in the festival’s first annual, which, according to the festival director, is something the organizers deeply admire and this attitude can play a role when it comes to closed tournament invitations. "When I was reconsidering everything during Christmas and by chance came across the website of the Prague International Chess Festival, I immediately remembered my childhood when I wanted to play in tournaments like the Wijk aan Zee, where you could end up playing Garri. And suddenly, the tournament was in Prague, where the first prize in the Open tournament is something like this!" Lukáš Černoušek recalls. "To me, it was the tournament of the century. I felt that winning that Open tournament was so much better than winning the National Championship, or the one in Pardubice. So I asked myself, what would have to happen for me in order to win that tournament and I realized that I would have to do that by winning a lot more games in a row. So I asked myself how and I realized that I would have to play the way I did when I was young. Aggressively, strictly, riskily and a little inconsistently. However, that required a certain change of habit acquired by major league chess tournaments where the objective is to survive, not to slaughter at any cost. Therefore, at the tournament in Mariánské lázně, I honed my new style, which was a very painful and only partially successful process because I only managed to play inconsistently. Then came the long awaited Prague Chess Festival, where I played with ease and where the supertournaments helped me gain strength in those hard moments at the chessboard and overall, where there was a 'different atmosphere'. There, I came to a better understanding what there had to be done for a chance to win the tournament. And then came the sign. Michal Konopka announced the qualifying position from the National Championship and it was then I believed that the medal would be mine despite several botched attempts, a knowledge I shared happily with my fellow travelers in a car to Ostrava. And we all know how that story ends. Or is the just the beginning of the legend of Planinc?"

The rest of the team was announced directly in September. Fresh player Thai Dai Van Nguyen, who is debuting in the national team in the European Team Championship will appear in the Challengers tournament for the second time, just like current Czech no. 5 player, grandmaster Jan Krejčí, as well as international master Tadeáš Kriebel, who will be playing in this particular tournament for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by the nomination.

"It was certainly a nice surprise. I did well in both of the qualifying tournaments – in the Open tournament the first year and in the National Championship in May. In the Open, I achieved another of the grandmaster norms. I did not qualify though. There were more candidates for a deus ex machina qualification, and I believe that I will not waste this opportunity."

His attitude towards training for the closed tournament will be significantly different to that for the open tournament.

"It will certainly have to be more in-depth because there will be qualitatively stronger players in the Challengers tournament. Should you get off on the wrong foot, there will no time to rest, unlike in the Open tournament. More likely, everyone will see you as an easy target and shoot you down," states Tadeáš Kriebel.

Czech players in the Masters tournament

Name FED Year of birth ELO
1 David Navara CZE 1985 2734

Czech players in the Challengers tournament

Name FED Year of birth ELO
1 Jan Krejčí CZE 1992 2574
2 Van Nguyen CZE 2001 2545
3 Tadeáš Kriebel CZE 1995 2536
4 Lukáš Černoušek CZE 1983 2458