The Formidable Four of the Challengers Tournament
The leaderboard of four hottest Challengers favourites consists of the Spanish player Jaime Santos Latasa, the current junior world champion in rapid chess Raunak Sadhwani, an Israeli GM residing in Prague Maxim Rodshtein and a an American young pal Abhimanyu Mishra.
It has been just over two years since Mishra shattered Sergey Karjakin's nearly 20-year-long record, becoming the youngest player ever to achieve the Grandmaster title. This year, the 14-year-old prodigy has made a significant mark, participating in the TePe Sigeman & Co tournament where he competed against formidable opponents, earning a shared second-place and finishing just after Peter Svidler. He also showcased his skills at the recent USA Championship, scoring 6,5 points out of 11 and sharing the second-place spot with Wesley So and Dominguez. It's no surprise that he has been awarded a wildcard entry to the ongoing Grand Swiss tournament, and Mishra the record-breaker also sets his sights high for Prague.
Indian Grandmaster Raunak Sadhwani, who will turn 18 in December, defended the second board for Magnus Carlsen's golden team at the European Club Cup in October. „It was a good experience playing alongside the GOAT [or Greatest of All Time] Magnus,“ said Sadhwani for the Indian sport website Scroll.in. „It was a fantastic experience being with him for so many days. I got to learn so many things from him like how he usually prepares before the game, physical fitness, and after game analysis.“
Sadhwani left Albania to participate in the World Junior Rapid & Blitz Chess Championship in Sardinia, a 7-day mission that culminated in success. Thanks to this, Prague fans will have the pleasure of witnessing the Junior Rapid Chess World Champion and the Blitz Chess World Vice-Champion in action.
It could have been different if not for a small twist of fate. Raunak Sadhwani had always dreamed of pursuing a career in cricket. However, he was denied entry into competitions due to his young age, and that's when his passion for the 64-square game gained strength. As soon as he became the 9th youngest Grandmaster in history at the age of 13, his path became clear.
Maxim Rodshtein brings an overwhelming amount of experience to the table. In the 2008 Olympics in Dresden, the Israeli team was at its peak, and Rodshstein's impressive 7/9 performance played a significant role in securing their historic silver medal. Four years later, Maxim became a part of Boris Gelfand's team, competing for the chess crown against Vishy Anand. The intense atmosphere of those more than 20 days in Moscow was vividly captured in Halil Efrat's documentary about Gelfand, titled 'Album 61,' which was also screened during PICF 2020 at Aero cinema.
Jaime Santos Latasa from Spain, currently holds the title of Europe Rapid Chess champion. He claimed this title at the end of last year in Katowice, narrowly defeating the silver medalist, David Navara.
Spain could have witnessed their hero in the Challengers tournament during the very first year of the festival, and Jaime Santos Latasa undoubtedly aspires to replicate the success of his slightly older colleague David Anton.
After three years the Festival is returning to its traditional February-March schedule. The event is set to take place from February 26 to March 7 2024 at the Don Giovanni Hotel Prague. Registrations for the Open and rating tournaments are currently in full swing. Festival regulations download (pdf)