A tenacious R. Praggnanandhaa displayed his defensive skills to hold World No. 2 Fabiano Caruana and take their World Cup semifinal clash into Monday’s tie-breaker in Baku, Azerbaijan on Sunday.
Fought on an even keel, the second game saw Caruana press hard for advantage and succeed in establishing two connected passed pawns on the king’s side. But Praggnanandhaa was equal to the challenge in their 47-move battle.
Periodic exchange of pieces pushed the game towards a draw but Caruana stayed hopeful and brought his younger rival under sustained pressure. But Praggnanandhaa gave nothing away and defended accurately with his rook and knight.
Since the shorter duration games suit Praggnanandhaa’s style more and Caruana is not consistent as he is seen in classical time-control, Monday’s games hold the potential of producing some thrilling contests.
In the other semifinal, a 74-move deadlock gave Magnus Carlsen the draw he needed against local challenger Nijat Abasov for a 1.5-0.5 victory.
Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s 20-year-old sensation Nurgyul Salimova missed a golden opportunity to become the new World champion. After a draw on Saturday, she blew away a winning position against second-seeded Russian Aleksandra Goryachkina in the second game.
The resultant draw saw Goryachkina survive to fight another day. The women’s title will be decided after Monday’s tie-breaker.
In the battle for third place and a place in the next Candidates tournament, Ukraine’s Anna Muzychuk overpowered China’s Tan Zhongyi 1.5-0.5 after drawing the second game in 54 moves. Muzychuk took the third prize of $25,000 - $5,000 more than Zhongyi.
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