Can Pragg, playing black, Beat Carlsen in FIDE 2023 World Cup final?

The FIDE World Cup in Baku is offering the highest ever prize money, with the winner taking away USD 110,000 (Rs 91 lakh) and the runner-up USD 80,000 (Rs 66 lakh)

R. Praggnanandhaa (photo: @rpragchess/Instagram)
R. Praggnanandhaa (photo: @rpragchess/Instagram)

NH Sports Bureau

Indian chess sensation R Praggnanandhaa, not yet 18 actually, has already created history by being the first Indian to reach the finals of the World Cup after 21 years. A win will be historic but even as a runner-up, he would make his country and coach proud.

In the second game in the final (the first one on Tuesday was a draw) on Wednesday Pragg, as he is called by friends, will be playing with black. On Tuesday playing with white he had a chance to force a win against the five-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen.

But after catching Carlsen by surprise with his opening gambit, the Indian prodigy lost his way and allowed Carlsen to claw back into the game for a draw after three hours and 35 moves. Carlsen will have an advantage on Wednesday while playing with white.

However, Pragg is known for mounting a solid defence; and while defeating world no. 3 Hikaru Nakamura and world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana, both tight games which went to the wire, he would be better prepared, his mentors are hoping. If he beats Carlsen today, he will create history as the youngest ever player in the world to win the FIDE World Cup.

Praggnanandhaa has been in scintillating form and has the advantage of having been in Carlsen’s team in Dubai for the inaugural franchise-based Global Chess League in July.

Carlsen and Praggnanandhaa have faced each other a total of 19 times till last week. In classical chess, they have played one game against each other and it ended in a draw. In Rapid/Exhibition games, Carlsen holds a 7-5 advantage with six games finishing in a draw.

In February, 2022 Pragg became the youngest person to defeat Carlsen since he became world champion in 2013 in an online rapid chess tournament. In May last year Pragg was once again the victor against Carlsen at the Chessable Masters online rapid chess tournament. In August he again defeated Carlsen in three consecutive games — one rapid and two blitz — at 2022 FTX Crypto Cup.

For the record, Pragg is the third youngest player to become a grandmaster at the age of 12 years, 10 months and 10 days. Another Indian prodigy D. Gukesh reached the landmark at 12 years and seven months. But Gukesh missed becoming the youngest grandmaster by just 17 days.

A billion Indians are praying for him to win and even before the final game is played — if today’s match is drawn, it will spill into a tie-breaker tomorrow — congratulations have been pouring in.

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