It’s a big achievement for Praggnanandhaa, beating Magnus Carlsen, the world champion. First of all, it tells that now he knows ‘I can beat him’. This is something doable. It’s not easy, and I’ve lost games like this, but I can do it when I’m playing well and that is something he can take with him personally. The second thing is, the fame he acquired for a couple of days is very healthy. We all need it to stand out in the world. And this is one chip and it was very valuable, but it’s quite a lot of exposure. Of course, these things will have to happen regularly, to be reinforced. But I think, for him, the most valuable thing is simply the knowledge that ‘I did it once’.

Pragg also had a few setbacks in those 15 games. He had some good results, some bad ones. I want to say it’s a normal performance. The game with Magnus was one of those scrappy affairs that you will tend to encounter more often.

Pragg’s game with Levon was a masterpiece. I mean, it’s a game that you can get and say, “Look this is how you play just in this kind of way.”

Levon pushed him around and Pragg punished him for that. That’s really good because both these games happened a day after he scored half-a-point from four games. Pragg has brilliance. He comes in on Day Two and things bounce off him. It’s a very healthy attitude. He lost six, won five (including three with black pieces). He fought till the end and that’s awesome.

What I mean by a scrappy affair (when referring to the Carlsen-Pragg encounter) is, quite often in these online tournaments, people push their luck even in an even position because of the tournament’s code.


Rare miss: “I think Magnus (Carlsen) was trying to catch up because he pushed hard in a position he could have closed,” says Anand.


I think Magnus was trying to catch up because he pushed hard in a position he could have closed. He could have had that queen that was settling on b2. If he had tried to exchange the knights and bring in his bishop, it’s a draw. Instead, Magnus goes on a fishing expedition, thinking, ‘I can get away with this’. And it’s very important to punish him because he has gotten away with murder against me, against many others.

It’s important to punish Magnus when he goes on these things, because Elizbar Ubilava (Anand’s former trainer) once told me, “Kramnik, every time Kasparov oversteps line, punishes him. That’s why Kasparov doesn’t overstep the line with Kramnik and he learnt the hard way not to do it. And if Pragg repeats it a few times, Magnus will just be that little bit wary of going off the rails against him than he does with others.

Magnus still won the tournament, so let’s not blow it all. But there are lots of nice takeaways and I’m glad. We all need name recognition these days, and people are being bombarded with things to remember.

They are finding it harder and harder to remember. These two days, Pragg got noticed by everyone in the world. Good for his career. And I’m happy about that as well.

These days, nothing stops the players from excelling at 18 or at 21.

They all are competing. Arjun (Erigaisi) will compete in the Tata Steel Masters next year and Pragg will qualify for some big events.

Apart from these two, Gukesh and Nihal (Sarin) are also heading towards 2700 and I just can’t wait for that to happen. I really feel they are very, very close.

(As told to Rakesh Rao)