India’s teen chess prodigy Praggnanandhaa beats World No 2, enters World Chess final to meet Carlsen


India’s 18-year old Grandmaster (GM) R. Praggnanandhaa (ELO 2723 as of August 21) on Monday entered the FIDE World Cup final after defeating American World no 2 Fabiano Caruana (ELO 2782 as of August 21) in the semi-final tie-break games played at Baku, Azerbaijan.

The final score stood at 3.5-2.5. After drawing the first two tie-break games, the Indian slayed Caruana in the third game and drew the next one.

The match went into tie-breaker after the players drew their two classical games earlier. In the tie-breaker, the first two games had ended in draw. The young Indian then won the third game.

Praggnanandhaa will now cross swords with world No. 1 and former world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway (ELO 2823 as of August 21) in the final. China’s Ding Liren (ELO 2780 as of August 21) is the current world champion, but is ranked fourth in the world behind Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura (ELO 2780) of the US..

Having already defeated world No. 2 and world No. 3 in the tournament, will Praggnanandhaa be able to defeat the world No.1 is the question doing the rounds in chess circles.

With this win, Praggnanandhaa also qualified to play in the Candidates Tournament, the winner of which will challenge Ding for the world champion status.

As per the International Chess Federation or FIDE’s rules, the top three players in the World Cup qualify for the Candidates Tournament.

For Praggnanandhaa, giant slaying is not new in this tournament. He had earlier defeated far higher-rated players.

India has never performed so well in the World Cup Open Category, though former world champion GM Viswanathan Anand had won the tournament earlier when it was held under a different format.

At Baku this time around, four Indian GMs — Praggnanandhaa, D. Gukesh (ELO 2758), Arjun Erigaisi (ELO 2712) and Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (ELO 2716) — made it to the quarterfinals in a field of over 250 players.

Apart from Praggnanandhaa, there was one more giant slayer from the Indian side. And that was Gujrathi who had humbled world No. 5 GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (ELO 2779) of Russia.

All is not lost for the other three Indian players — Gujrathi, Gukesh and Erigaisi — to take a shot at the world champion’s title.

“There are a couple of other tournaments the Indian players can play and get qualified for the Candidates Tournament. The other three players reached the quarterfinals in this strong tournament. Hence, they can still qualify for the Candidates. That said, the Indian government and the All India Chess Federation (AICF) should provide all kinds of assistance to the youngsters to become the world champion,” International Arbiter and chess coach R.R. Vasudevan said.