Julius Baer Challengers: Praggnanandhaa wins title with a round to spare

Praggnanandhaa (15.5 points) scored 14 victories, drew thrice and lost twice in the four-day online rapid tournament and earned $3,000 for his efforts.

R. Praggnanandhaa

Praggnanandhaa (15.5 points) scored 14 victories, drew thrice and lost twice in the four-day online rapid tournament and earned $3,000 for his efforts.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Resolute and relentless, R. Praggnanandhaa won the prestigious Polgar Challenge in style with a round to spare on Sunday and gained berth to join the elite players in the next Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event beginning on April 24.

In a field that included the cream of world chess talent, the 15-year old from Chennai stayed clear of the challengers by maintaining his eventual victory margin over the last two rounds of the 20-player round-robin event.

Praggnanandhaa (15.5 points) scored 14 victories, drew thrice and lost twice in the four-day online rapid tournament and earned $3,000 for his efforts. As per the points scored by members of the two teams, Team Polgar beat Team Kramnik, that included Pragnanandhaa, 96.5-88. Team Kramnik will be eager to hit back when the next leg of the $100,000 Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour - the Gelfand Challenge - takes place from June 10 to 13.

D. Gukesh who won the last five rounds and second seed Nihal Sarin, winner of five out of the last six games, were part of the four-way tie at 14 points for the runner-up spot that eventually went to top seed from Uzbekistan, Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

READ| Julius Baer Challengers: Praggnanandhaa stays ahead

Armed with a half-point lead on the final day when four rounds were scheduled,  Pragnanandhaa scored 3.5 points after finishing his campaign with a hard-fought draw against Abdusattorov.

In the day’s earlier rounds, Pragnanandhaa defeated compatriot Leon Mendonca, Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kazakhstan) and Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (Iran). In fact, it was Abdusattorov’s surprise defeat to China’s Lei Tingjie in the 17th round that opened up a 1.5 point gap between the top two finishers.

READ| Julius Baer Challengers: Praggnanandhaa stuns Nihal, shares lead

Commenting on the games, former World champion Vladimir Kramnik drew similarities between Pragnanandhaa and five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand. “He reminds me so much of young Vishy, so much, in everything - in character, in a way, he’s very light, it seems to me he’s very sharp, light, quick. And this passion of chess, I fully agree. And this kind of sharpness, this Vishy stuff. When I saw Pragg for the first time and I could see, ok, we will see if he will achieve as much as Vishy - that’s not easy, let’s put it this way – but… his chess also pretty much reminds me of Vishy - universal, sharp, quick, with a good sense of dynamics, with a good feeling of the position. To me somehow I felt like it’s a reincarnation of Vishy, even if Vishy is still there and still playing chess! But it’s very much reminding me of Vishy at this age, and I played first time with Anand when he was 17. I remember him more or less at this age.”

Anand himself was quick to hail the young champion. “Congrats, Prag dominated and showed his class. But now we have some work, getting him ready for the big one!”

Final standings (after 19 rounds): 1. R. Praggnanandhaa (15.5 points); 2-5. Nodirbek Abdusattorov (Uzb), D. Gukesh, Nihal Sarin, Volodar Murzin (Rus) (14 each); 6. Vincent Keymer (Ger, 13.5); 7. Awonder Liang (USA, 12.5); 8-9. Christopher Yoo (USA), Leon Mendonca (12 each); 10. Jonas Bjerre (Den, 10.5); 11-12. Lei Tingjie (Chn), Zhu Jiner (Chn) (10 each); 13. Nurgyul Salimova (Bul, 7); 14-15. Polina Shuvalova (Rus), Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kaz) (6.5 each); 16-17. Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (Iran), Gunay Mammadzada (Aze) (5.5 each); 18. Carissa Yip (USA, 4); 19. Olga Badelka (Bel, 3); 20. Dinara Saduakassova (Kaz - Withdrawn).

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