Pragg sallies forth against Anish Giri in Tata Steel Chess

The Indian teenager is playing one of the most decisive games of the tournament as he meets the Dutch grandmaster

Praggnanandhaa (pictured right), ranked third with 2.5 points, defeating world champion Ding Liren (pictured right) in the fourth round (photo: @ChessbaseIndia/X)
Praggnanandhaa (pictured right), ranked third with 2.5 points, defeating world champion Ding Liren (pictured right) in the fourth round (photo: @ChessbaseIndia/X)

Shalini Sahay

In the fifth round of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament just now, India’s won chess sensation Praggnanandhaa is sitting down to play Dutch grandmaster Anish Giri, who is leading after the fourth round.

Two other Indian players, Gukesh and Vidit Gujrathi, are taking on Ian Nepomniachtchi and Max Warmerdam respectively at the same time (6.30 pm IST, 18 January).

Praggnanandhaa is now third in the ranking, with 2.5 points in the Masters event. Having beaten world champion Ding Liren of China in the fourth round, Pragg will not be short on confidence.

Then again, Giri too is having a dream run and has taken a lead with 3.5 points. If the Indian teenage sensation manages to beat Giri, they will be even as far as points go.

A draw, however, will give Giri an almost unassailable lead with 4 points; defeating Praggnanandhaa will take him to 4.5 points.

The victory over Ding Liren helped Praggnanandhaa become only the second Indian chess player (after the legendary Viswanathan Anand) to have beaten the reigning world champion.

He has also emerged as the top-rated Indian player, with the 18-year-old having a slender lead over Anand in his 2748.3 points, as against Anand’s 2748 points, in the FIDE live ratings published at the start of each month.

Anand is of course a five-time world champion—no Indian player is even close to matching that feat yet.

Praggnanandhaa, deemed to be among the best defensive chess players today, played with black against Liren, wrapping up the game in the 62nd move. Liren allowed Praggnanandhaa to take the initiative after the 15th move and, after squandering his chances for a draw in the 43rd move, never quite regained the initiative.

Pragg had also beaten Liren at the 2023 Tata Steel tournament.

'Big cheers to @rpraggnachess for this remarkable triumph against World Champion, Ding Liren,' wrote former India cricket captain Sachin Tendulkar on X. 'At the young age of 18, you haven’t just dominated the game but also risen to become India’s top-rated player. Best wishes for your upcoming challenges. Continue to bring glory to India on the international stage in chess.'

The Indian grandmaster has been in good form, having finished runner-up in the World Cup to Magnus Carlsen late last year to qualify for the Candidates tournament to be held in April 2024. That in turn will determine the challenger to Liren.

The year 2024 began well for the young chess sensation from Tamil Nadu when the Adani Group announced that it would be sponsoring him.

While thanking the Group, Praggnanandhaa had said, “I am extremely keen on ensuring that my country does well on the global stage. Whenever I play, my sole aim is to win more laurels for the nation.”

The points table at the end of the fourth round:

1. Giri, Anish NED 2749 3½

2. Firouzja, Alireza FRA 2759 3

3-6. Praggnanandhaa, R IND 2743 2½

3-6. Abdusattorov, Nodirbek UZB 2727 2½

3-6. Wei, Yi CHN 2740 2½

3-6. Nepomniachtchi, Ian FID 2769 2½

7-9. Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi IND 2742 2

7-9. Ding, Liren CHN 2780 2

7-9. Warmerdam, Max NED 2625 2

10-11. Gukesh, D IND 2725 1½

10-11. Van Foreest, Jorden NED 2682 1½

12-13. Donchenko, Alexander GER 2643 1

12-13. Ju, Wenjun CHN 2549 1

14. Maghsoodloo, Parham IRI 2740 ½

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