The first classic match of the World Chess Championship final between R Praggnanandhaa and Magnus Carlsen ended in a 35-move draw in Baku, Azerbaijan on Tuesday. And on the surface, the outcome is in favor of both players.
Praggnanandhaa, the white player, played solidly from the start. He seems to have found his lines. He should have been exhausted from Monday’s semi-final draw with Fabiano Caruana, but the moves were quick and confident.
On the other hand, Carlsen seems a bit too laid back. He spent seven minutes on his first three moves. Usually, Grandmasters make moves in the opening and then settle, trying to find a variation or move that will leave their opponents unprepared. But after Praggnanandhaa moved his black statue to a3, the Norwegian took 27 minutes and 53 seconds to move.
Now, this is not normal. Carlsen can take his time and we also saw him do this against D Gukesh in the quarterfinals. But this seems to indicate that he was taken by surprise. So he needed to take his time and solve the problem in front of him.
From that point on, both players played very accurately and in the end, it seemed like a draw was right. But when Carlsen revealed after the match that he had food poisoning and hadn’t really eaten for two days, it looked like the Indian had missed his chance to put the world No. little bit.
Carlsen said: “Like usual, I would probably have a slight advantage of having a day off while he had to play a tough tie-break yesterday, but I had a tough couple of days. “. “I have food poisoning and have actually been unable to eat for the past two days. But it also means that I’m really calm because I don’t have the energy to worry.”
A protracted match will drain whatever energy Carlsen might have and could lead to a mistake. But considering his laid-back appearance, Praggnanandhaa wouldn’t know anything.
Praggnanandhaa will also regain confidence from the draw. Almost everyone expected him to have a hard time in the classic games, but this time was different. He has been playing far beyond his level and has shown the composure of a player rated above 2700 for a while. He seems comfortable now even in slower positions where it’s impossible to counter-attack too much, and we saw that against Caruana too.
Praggnanandhaa can play no matter what the opponent throws at him and against top players, that’s an irreplaceable quality. “I don’t think I’m in any trouble,” the 18-year-old said. “Yeah, I did go through it (the opening part) but it wasn’t very detailed. I almost remembered the Ba3 position in the previous preparation.”
When asked if he was noticed during the opening, Carlsen said: “Pragg moves a lot in the opening and I don’t know what will happen. To be honest, I’m not prepared for c4. I tried to play some common moves. I think I’m a little bit better but I don’t really mind the draw.”
Carlsen will play white in the second classic game on Wednesday and he’s unlikely to stop when he feels motivated enough. Praggnanandhaa will be aware of the threat he will face but he will not be threatened. “It will be a war,” Praggnanandhaa said. “He will definitely try a lot. I will try to rest and come back fresh. It was the best I could do.”
The effect of Monday’s tough tiebreak was more evident in the third place match between Nijat Abasov and Fabiano Caruana. Abasov scored a victory in just 26 moves against the world number 3 from the US, who clearly still seemed a bit out of place.
Abasov said: “Since my last three matches were in London (opening) and before that I had attended Queens Gambit rejected slots, he did not expect Catalan from me. “But I have been watching his matches closely with Pragg and there are already some Catalan players in this row, so I decided to try my luck here. I had some ideas and it turned out that Fabi wasn’t ready for that.” Abasov is currently leading the game 1-0 and Caruana, playing white, will have to win by request on Wednesday.