Praggnanandhaa - His intuitive powers are clearly above the ordinary

No doubt, the future presents a tougher passage, but given his talent and ability to work hard, Praggnanandhaa should continue to thrill chess lovers around the world.

First and the latest: Praggnanandhaa, who became the world’s second youngest Grandmaster seen with former World chesss champion Viswanathan Anand at the felicitation function in Chennai.   -  R. Ragu

The emergence of an extraordinary talent is always accompanied by hopes of witnessing the unprecedented. In the cerebral world of chess, where champions are becoming younger and younger, India continues to corner its share of global attention. Refreshingly, another glorious chapter has been added to the tale.

After Viswanathan Anand in the late 1980s and Parimarjan Negi at the end of the millennium, Indian chess fans now have something and someone to feel excited about.

The steady rise of R. Praggnanandhaa, who is yet to turn 13, has been the delight of chess watchers in the country. Recently, this prodigious talent from Chennai became the country’s 52nd Grandmaster.

He made the third and final norm needed to become a GM at the Gredine Open in Ortisei, Italy. But what was significant about the youngster’s achievement was the fact that he is the country’s first pre-teen Grandmaster and the second youngest on the sport’s all-time list.

In the process, Praggu, as he is fondly called, emulated Negi’s feat of 2006 when he became the second youngest-ever GM. At present, Russia’s Sergey Karjakin retains the record of being the youngest GM, which he set in 2002. Negi has slipped to fourth on the list behind Karjakin, Praggnanandhaa and Uzbekistan’s Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

Quite understandably, India adding to the list of Grandmasters is no longer a source of excitement as it once was. For instance, the country’s 50th GM was Karnataka’s M. S. Thej Kumar, who became one in September 2017 at the age of 36. Saptarshi Roy, 32, joined the list in January this year, 13 years after he became an International Master.

As Anand once said, “these days, if you don’t become a Grandmaster before turning 15, the journey to be among the elite will be that much more difficult. Not everyone can become a world champion but one can enjoy the sport without being too harsh about the results.”

One for the album: Praggnanandhaa, with his parents Rameshbabu and N. Nagalakshmi, and sister R. Vaishali, on his return from the Gredine chess tournament at Ortiesi, Italy, after becoming a GM.   -  M. Vedhan


Praggnanandhaa gained the environment that helped him blossom as a chess talent. Father Rameshbabu and mother Nagalakshmi faced challenges in varying degrees but gave it all to support the chess careers of Praggnanandhaa and elder daughter R. Vaishali.

While Praggnanandhaa became the world under-13 champion in 2013 and claimed the world under-15 title in 2015 before becoming the youngest International Master in 2016, Vaishali continued to chart her own course in an impressive manner. A former world under-12 and under-14 champion, she won the national challengers’ title and claimed her second Woman Grandmaster norm in the same event where her younger sibling became a Grandmaster.

Rameshbabu, a branch manager at Tamil Nadu State Corporation Bank, introduced Vaishali to chess after he feared she was getting addicted to watching television. Vaishali soon took to chess and, as she did well, young Praggnanandha followed suit.

Since the age of eight, Praggnanandhaa has been training under Grandmaster R. B. Ramesh. This coach-cum-mentor is clearly among the best chess brains in the country and remains the undisputed king of coaching in the region.

In February 2016, Praggnanandhaa earned his first IM norm in Cannes, France, and added a second one in Moscow in March. In May, he collected the third and final norm in Bhubaneswar to become the youngest-ever IM at 10 years, nine months and 19 days, breaking Karjakin’s record.

Since then, the chess world was excited about the Russian GM’s record being under serious threat. To become a Grandmaster, a player should have three performances of 2,600+ rating to go with a personal rating of 2,500. The Chennai-lad collected his first GM-norm in the World Junior Chess Championship in November last year. Had he collected the next two norms by March 9 this year, he would have become the youngest-ever GM. But that was not to be.

Praggnanandhaa ended the wait for a second norm at the Heraklion Fischer Memorial tournament in Greece in April and, finally, on June 23, completed the technical requirements of becoming a GM at the age of 12 years, 10 months and 13 days!

What makes this youngster special is what he consistently manages to do at this age. The speed with which he calculates his next move and the accuracy with which he identifies strong continuations among the host of variations to choose from are truly amazing. In short, Praggnanadhaa’s intuitive powers are clearly above the ordinary.

Now the question is whether Praggnanandhaa is going to live up to the expectations. The answer, or the pointer, lies in the way he moves forward. Now that the pressure of becoming a GM is off, the youngster can be expected to play freely. On the flip side, his potential rivals will be studying his games deeply.

No doubt, the future presents a tougher passage, but given his talent and ability to work hard, Praggnanandhaa should continue to thrill chess lovers around the world. Going by his hunger to excel, the next decade could well belong to Praggnanandhaa.