Magnus Carlsen came good when it mattered and stopped R. Praggnanandhaa 2.5-1.5 for his maiden World Cup title in Baku, in Azerbaijan, on Thursday.
After the two classical games ended in draws, Carlsen won the first rapid game when Praggnanandhaa’s sense of danger let him down and he erred under time-pressure on the 42nd turn. In the next five moves, Praggnanandhaa faced a loss of bishop and resigned in 47 moves.
Facing a must-win situation in the second game with black pieces, Praggnanandhaa could not get the position from where he could put pressure on Carlsen. Soon it became clear that Praggnanandhaa, at best, could get a draw which he eventually did in just 22 moves.
Praggnanandhaa said, “I could have done better in the tie-breaker. These are shorter time-control and Magnus is very good at it. After the first game, I could have given a better fight, But being in a must-win situation with black pieces against Magnus was difficult. Bu I am happy to qualify for the Candidates, that’s very important.”
Carlsen said, “That I am not feeling good physically is well documented. I was happy to get the match to tie-breaker to get an extra day’s rest. But I was feeling pretty much spent. What prevailed today was experience. There were two key moments in the game today. He caught me out in the opening. Frankly, I did not know this line he played at all.
“I was trying to respond by commonsense moves. Today, I also felt that Praggnanandhaa played impulsively, something that he usually does not. And once he got into a time-scramble, I exploited the weak squares and it was easy. Prag played really well in general in the tournament. He had an exceptional performance. Today, he had two moments of inexperience that cost him.”
Carlsen chose to rate his first classical game against D. Gukesh as the best game of his tournament. “Gukesh is extremely strong and he was sort of unlucky to have faced me that one day when I really showed my best.”
The result saw Carlsen win $110,000 and Praggnanandhaa earn $80,000 (approx. Rs. 66,10,724). Later, Fabiano Caruana finished third after beating Nijat Abasov 3-1 by claiming the first two rapid games.
Carlsen may have proved his class, but this World Cup will be remembered for Praggnanandhaa leading India’s charge in the premier competition. For the first time, four Indians made it to the quarterfinals, with the fourth Indian Vidit Gujrathi accounting for the last Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi, seeded four. Praggnanandhaa took out World No 2 Hikaru Nakamura and World No. 2 Caruana as he played way over his ranking.
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