In the post-pandemic world, a new wave of Indian teenagers has flooded the chess scene, but 18-year-old R Praggnanandhaa is still the OG, the prodigy of his early days. Other bright young stars – D Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi, Nihal Sarin – are all walking the path paved by the Chennai boy, whose name is Pragg in the global chess arena.
On Monday, Pragg gave a reminder by knocking out defending US chess champion Fabiano Caruana via tiebreak to reach the final in Baku, where Magnus Carlsen, the modern-day chess genius, another OG, awaits wait for him. Fittingly, Viswanathan Anand, who tweeted breathlessly about Pragg’s progress, will move on to posting: “awesome performance”.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought large-scale chess tournaments to a halt, Pragg was India’s brightest star. He became an international martial artist at the age of 10, the youngest person in the world to do this; became GM at the age of 12 in 2018, being the second youngest player to do so at the time. Sarin and Erigaisi followed him in the same year before D Gukesh became GM in 2019. Pragg hit the 2600 mark in the ELO rating at the age of 14, once again setting a world record at the time.
“Then COVID happened. We lost a year and a half (because of the pandemic)!” RB Ramesh, India’s 10th GM, who has coached Pragg since his early days in the sport, said.
“During that time, he has gained experience playing with all the top players in the world. Overall, he has improved his chess prowess. But the price we paid for that was participating in fewer FIDE-rated tournaments. Last year, he must have played only 60 rated games in standard control time (games that affect ELO ratings). He didn’t slow down at all. He just plays smaller games. This year we are focusing on standard time control,” said Ramesh Indian Express Train.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, when Pragg plays in online fast chess events, his classic rating slows down (classic games last longer, with fast games played in shorter time), but he gained valuable experience participating in the biggest tournaments. players in the world. This includes wins over Carlsen in online blitz in February 2022 and May 2022, before the triple hit in August 2022.
But in the past few months, Gukesh has been making waves, especially after becoming the youngest player to surpass the 2750 mark in July and then overtaking Anand to become the country’s top chess player in the table. FIDE live ratings earlier this month.
For India, the Baku World Cup could be a landmark event. After the four Indians reached the quarterfinals, Pragg won the semi-final convincingly against Caruana. After the two classic games on Saturday and Sunday and a couple of quick games on Monday ended in a draw, Pragg beat the American GM in the third quick game.
The first quick match in the tiebreaker on Monday saw the Indian player having a hard time with time – there were times when he made moves when the clock was down to three seconds, he looked stares into trouble several times with his piece in a forced state, before exiting with a draw of black. The second game ended in a draw without any drama. But in the third tiebreak, Pragg took the advantage and never gave it up. His opponent, Caruana, was shocked to see how quickly his luck had evaporated, as he was forced to defend once, palms cupping various parts of his face as he tried to find an escape route.
INTERACTIVE: You can follow the progress of each move from the third tiebreak (with 10 minutes per player + 10 seconds increments per move) to the semi-final between Praggnanandhaa and Fabiano Caruana below and also Click on the symbols to the right of the board to see how the game evolves:
At the World Cup, Pragg overcame world number 3 Hikaru Nakamura, fellow teen prodigy Erigaisi, and now world number 2 Caruana – all wins come by tie-break. The win over Nakamura was so important that Carlsen had to get up in the middle of his match to step over and pat Pragg on the shoulder.
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Coach Ramesh looks forward to the final match of his students against Carlsen. “He played Magnus so many times. The two are also good friends, with Magnus having a mild-mannered view of Pragg. He is the first prodigy to achieve good results at the highest level. So Magnus has been keeping him informed ever since.
In one of their first games against each other, Magnus offered him a draw. Pragg refused. That prompted Magnus to come and praise his fighting spirit,” Ramesh pointed out.
In the next few days, world No. 1 Carlsen will once again get acquainted with that famous fighting spirit.