R Praggnanandhaa’s ability to defend seamlessly in pressure situations and the deductive mind to quickly gauge his opponent’s weakness is the hallmark of a world class player, national coach GM M Shyam Sundar said on Tuesday.
The Indian champion now faces the Norwegian superstar Magnus Carlsen in the final of the FIDE World Cup, one of the game’s biggest events.
According to GM Shyam, who is in Baku, Praggnanandhaa has an all-round game.
“One of his biggest strengths is his ability to defend bad positions even against the absolute elite. His calculational abilities are excellent and he can confidently convert better positions to a win,” he said.
Most importantly, Praggnanandhaa is good in all formats, he reckons.
“I believe that’s one of the key factors that helped him reach the finals (here)! He also felt that “Pragg has very strong family support. The positive energy is definitely a bliss for him.” Also, the emergence of a bunch of talented youngsters and a healthy competition among them was making the players excel.
“It is heartening to see the growth of guys like D Gukesh, Pragg, Arjun Erigaisi, Nihal Sarin, etc. There is healthy competition among them and they keep excelling.” “Hoping to see these stars consistently perform well and inspire many more to take up the sport,” Shyam added.
Terming Praggnanandhaa’s rise as incredible, GM Sundararajan Kidambi, opined that his performance is an indication of how chess was growing rapidly in India.
“Praggnanandhaa’s rise is incredible...I have followed him from his younger days, becoming an IM at a young age and then going all the way up. He could have even become the youngest Grandmaster ever by winning World Junior, which he missed narrowly.
“He has beaten Carlsen in online blitz/ rapid games, which caused a sensation and within a year has qualified to meet him in the world cup final. The rise is stunning,” he added.
Listing Pragg, Gukesh, Arjun and Nihal among those to watch out for, Kidambi said, “Our coming generation is in safe hands and we can safely make a bet that one of these players will surely become World Champion at some point of time...” The Chennai-based GM said, “I really am astounded at their growth, but we couldn’t have asked for a better thing to happen to Indian chess. Super quick rise and that too an army of youngsters have come up, we have become like the old Soviet Union- talent churning machine!” Earlier this week, pictures of Praggnanandhaa, who turned 18 during the ongoing FIDE World Cup chess tourney in Baku, with his mother Nagalakshmi, went viral on social media.
It is also indicative of the strength that the teenage star draws from her.
“Definitely good to have someone here. My mother is always supportive! Even after losing games, she was just trying to calm me down. It’s good to have someone rooting for you here, and for me my mother is a big support - not only for me, for my sister as well,” Pragg was quoted as saying during the World Cup.
Player-turned-coach V Saravanan, an International Master, said, “Pragg’s rise in the last two years is phenomenal. So is that of Arjun (Erigaisi) and Gukesh.” About the World Cup final, he said, “It will be very difficult for Pragg against Carlsen. I think Carlsen holds the edge, he is the favourite. Having said that, there is always a chance in chess that a prodigy like Pragg can tilt that conventional estimate (and win)!” The 18-year old player’s personal coach R B Ramesh, who has trained some of the country’s best young talent, says player’s parents have been a pillar of strength and stood by him and his sister (R Vaishali, a WGM).
“Parents have been extremely supportive and encouraging for Pragg and Vaishali all these years. They never put any pressure on the coach and give a free hand. That is very important for the player and the coach,” he told PTI from Romania.
Ramesh also highlighted how Pragg’s parents - A Ramesh Babu and Nagalakshmi - handled things well during tough times.
“Initially, they did not have any sponsors and it was extremely tough but they still handled it well without denying what the children needed,” he added.
Pragg’s mother has been around with him in Baku at the World Cup and he seems to be making the most of her presence, staying cool and focussed and dismantling one big name after the other. Now only, Carlsen stands in the way!
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