World Cup Game 1: Praggnanadhaa Holds Carlsen to Fighting Draw
By Winchell Campos
Wed, 23 Aug 2023
Indian wonder boy Rameshbabu Praggnanadhaa held world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway to a fighting draw in Game One of the FIDE World Cup Tuesday in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Game Two was being played as of press time with the 32-year-old Carlsen handling the white pieces against the timid-looking Praggnanadhaa, 18, even as local spectators were cheering for Nijat Abasov, who upset world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana in their battle for third place.
Abasov, the 69th seed Azeri, needed only 26 moves to hand Caruana his first ever defeat in classical chess time controls in the biennial event which started with 206 participants and qualifiers. The list included three Filipinos—Wesley So, now playing for the US, and New York-based Mark Paragua and WGM Janelle Frayna in the distaff side.
Caruana, holder of the third highest Elo rating in history at 2844, and currently world No. 2, blundered on the 23rd move of a Catalan game and needs to win at all costs with white to even the score. A draw gives Abasov a ticket to the Candidates matches as well as $60,000, probably his biggest paycheck yet.
Great fortune in big time chess awaits the 28-year-old Abasov, who qualified in the European championships after years of being a journeyman. Praggnanadhaa, who also took the long route of qualifying by emerging No. 1 in the 2022 Asian championships, is emerging to become one of India’s finest young crop of players.
India’s former world champion Viswanathan Anand, who also comes from the same region of Tamil Nadu, cheered on in cyberspace, wishing the young lad more perseverance in trying to beat the highest rated chesser in history and five-time classical chess world champion, seeking to win his first ever FIDE World Cup.
The 31st seed Indian genius, who started with a 2690 rating, has risen to world No. 23 from his original 48th rank and now has an Elo of 2725. Ranged against Carlsen, who has a daunting 2835 rating, Praggnanandhaa was fearless in playing the English opening, showing his deep knowledge of the opening theory.
One of the youngest in history to ever become a grandmaster at 12, Pragg exchanged complex tactical moves against Carlsen, who like him was a wunderkind, becoming a grandmaster at 14.
Both man and boy never got a substantial advantage throughout the game as forced exchanges led to an endgame of three pawns, a rook and a knight on both sides of the kindside when the draw was agreed on the 36th move.
Praggnanandhaa is already assured of a slot in the Candidates tournament slated in April 2024 in Toronto, Canada. Carlsen, who might once again be dismissing the idea of vying for the title of classical world champion, is hoping not to become Big Fish No. 3, as Praggnanandhaa has beaten erstwhile world No. 2 Hikaru Nakamura of the USA and Caruana, among others.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Winchell Campos.
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