This week, R. Praggnanandhaa was widely expected to make a splash in the big league by stunning a few big names in the elite field of Airthings Masters online rapid chess tournament.
As it turned out, this prodigiously talented 16-year-old warmed up for the big moment by shocking World No. 4 Levon Aronian and then pulled off the biggest upset by bringing down World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen, that too, with black pieces on Sunday.
In between, Praggnanandhaa also drew with World No. 9 Anish Giri after losing to World No. 7 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
By scoring two wins and a draw against four top-10 players in the world, Praggnanandhaa made the chess world sit up and take note of his abilities in the shorter format of the game.
The performance, seen in the background of Praggnanandhaa’s three straight defeats on Saturday, assumes greater significance. It aptly reflects Praggnanandhaa’s temperament and the remarkable toughness of a young mind.
Since a victory brings three points and a draw one, Praggnanandhaa jumped from a solitary one point in the first four rounds to eight from the next four.
The Chennai-lad improved his position from the overnight 15th to 14th. However, he faces an uphill task to finish among the eight quarterfinalists from the remaining seven rounds in the 16-player field.
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Coming back to the moment of the day, when Carlsen resigned after the 39th moves, Praggnanandhaa became the third Indian - Viswanathan Anand and P. Harikrishna being the other two - to emerge triumphant against the irrepressible Norwegian in tournament-play.
In fact, after 21 moves, Praggnanandhaa appeared to have a great chance to slam the door on Carlsen but the crucial bishop-move and with it, the winning continuation.
Carlsen is not known to give his rivals a second chance but on this day, with aggressive play Praggnanandhaa managed to catch him on the wrong foot 11 moves later.
On the 32nd move, once Carlsen faltered with a knight move, Praggnanandhaa found a lethal response and a flawless sequence of knight and queen moves that pushed Carlsen to the edge and finally forced resignation with a timely bishop-block.
Even after Carlsen resigned and left the board, it was amazing to find a cool and calm Praggnanandhaa continuing to study the final position without any show of emotion.
White: Magnus Carlsen (Norway)
Black: R. Praggnanandhaa (India)
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c5 5. e3 Nc6 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Bb5 cxd4 8. exd4 Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. h3 h6 11. Re1 Bf5 12. Ne5 Rc8 13. Bf4 Re8 14. Rc1 Qb6 15. Bxc6 bxc6 16. Na4 Qa6 17. Re3 Ne4 18. f3 Ng5 19. Rec3 Qb7 20. Bh2 Ne6 21. Nxc6
Nf4 22. Ne5 Bxe5 23. dxe5 Nd3 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. Rxc8+ Qxc8 26. Bg3 d4 27. b3 Qc6 28. Qd2 Kh7 29. Kh2 Bg6 30. Qa5 Qc1 31. Qxa7 Qe3 32. Nc3 Nf4 33. Nd1 Qd2 34. Nf2 Ne2 35. h4 Qe1 36. Qd7 Nxg3 37. Qxd4 Nf1+ 38. Kh3 Ne3 39. Qb2 Bc2
Before this incredible win, Praggnanandhaa dominated Aronian from the 27th move during the 80-move triumph with white pieces and held Giri in 38 moves.
Ian Nepomniatchtchi continued to lead with 19 points from a maximum of 24, followed by Ding Liren and Eric Hansen at 15. Andrey Esipenko (14) is fourth and Carlsen trails in the joint fifth spot with 13 points with youngster Vincent Keymer.
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