In keeping with the rising expectations of the chess world, a confident R. Praggnanandhaa matched favourite Magnus Carlsen for a comfortable 35-move draw in their first-round clash in the final of the FIDE World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Tuesday.
For the third place, worth a spot in the Candidates Tournament, local Nijat Abasov stunned Fabiano Caruana in 26 moves after the American faltered badly on the 23rd move.
“Í don’t think I was in any trouble at all,” said Praggnanandhaa after the game. Asked about the second game, he said, “It’ll be a fight. I’ll definitely push very hard. Today, I’ll just try and rest. Come fresh (tomorrow) and do the best that I can do.”
Praggnanandhaa surprised Carlsen with his choice of opening move – pushing the queen-bishop pawn to the four rank – but admitted he was not clear of how to gain any advantage with white pieces and his rival took his time to play his moves using “common sense.”
AS IT HAPPENED | PRAGGNANANDHAA VS. CARLSEN FIDE WORLD CUP FINAL ROUND 1 HIGHLIGHTS
Carlsen, who mentioned that he suffered from food poisoning on Sunday said, “I really didn’t mind a draw.”
During the post-game chat, Carlsen clearly looked unwell and far from his usual, cheerful best.
Admitting that he had not prepared for Praggananandhaa’s choice of English Opening, Carlsen shared, “Normally, I would probably have a bit of an advantage having a rest day while he had to play a tough tiebreaker yesterday.
“But I’ve been in pretty rough shape these past couple of days like I got some food poisoning after the game against Abasov. I haven’t been able to eat for the last two days. This also meant that I was really calm and I had no energy… so I didn’t have any energy to be nervous.
“Overall, I’m happy with the way I solved the problems from the opening (phase). The result is fine.”
On Wednesday, Carlsen will play with white pieces. Should the game end in a draw, the title will be decided by tie-break games on Thursday.
PRAGGNANANDHAA vs CARLSEN MOVE-BY-MOVE INTERACTIVE
- Board Courtesy - Lichess.org
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