In a stunning 39-move game, 16-year-old Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa defeated World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen this week, and is now the third Indian to ever do so. Following in the footsteps of Viswanathan Anand and P. Harikrishna, the young player managed to trump Carlsen despite playing with black pieces — a disadvantage noted by none other than legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
Praggnanandhaa, who sometimes goes by ‘Pragg’, has a face off against the world champ during the eighth round of the Airthings Masters online rapid chess tournament. The game itself seemed to be a battle of equals all the way until move 32. It was then that Carlsen put himself in a bind — trapping his knight on the C3 square. Seven moves later, his young opponent found himself set for a victory, as a stunned Carlsen resigned.
Speaking to ESPN, Viswanathan ‘Vishy’ Anand gave enthusiasts a closer understanding of the young player’s skills and temperament.
“What I really admire about him is that he takes the blows and does it his way, as the song goes. In Wijk aan Zee, he had some really tough blows but still fought and beat (Andrey) Esipenko in the last round. The first day in the current tournament was really bad for him but on the second day he came up with two very good wins. His fighting spirit is really something.”
Praggnanandhaa’s talent was always latent, it would seem. Born on August 10th, 2005, in Chennai, he first made headlines for becoming the youngest International Master in history, at 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days of age. He soon became the world’s second-youngest Grandmaster in 2018, and continued to hone his skills on the world chess stage.
“Before the pandemic, he was in a really good form and reached 2600 Elo rating at the age of 14. The long break in tournaments impacted him quite a bit, particularly in confidence,” Praggnanandhaa’s coach RB Ramesh said, “His results in the past six months have swung between extremes. In some games he has been playing like a 2750 player, in others he’s operating at a 2550 level. The fluctuation can be worrying and needs to be stabilized. This win against Magnus is important. Beating one of the strongest players in chess history is a huge moment for him.”
Meanwhile, a host of proud fans and fellow Indians congratulated Praggnanandhan on his win, wishing him the best for the following rounds of the tournament:
Apart from the extreme levels of competition, the champ also had to deal with tough daily schedules to keep up with the tournament’s Euro-centric timings. After a long two-week stint of preparation and tough games, his win at 2am was sealed with an amusing final statement:
“I’m just going to go to bed,” the young Grandmaster sighed.
(Featured Image Credits: Airthings, @rpragchess/Twitter)