Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa creates history, enters World Cup semis

CHENNAI: Teenager Chennai lad and Indian Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa defeated compatriot Arjun Erigaisi 5-4 via the sudden death tie-break to enter the semifinals of the FIDE World Cup chess tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan on Thursday.

By virtually securing a place in the Candidates' tournament, the teenage chess star from Warangal would be the only other Indian other than five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand to feature in the Candidates.

After losing the first game of the two-game classical series Praggnanandhaa bounced back to win the second on Wednesday to force the tie-break. In the first 5+3 blitz game, Praggnanandhaa played excellently to take down Erigaisi who hit back in the next to level the match.

Games three and four were won by Praggnanandhaa and Erigaisi respectively as the quarterfinal headed to a sudden death decider. All the games by the players were won with black pieces.

With the win, the 17-year-old Praggnanandhaa secured a spot in next year's Candidates event and will now face American ace Fabiano Caruana in the semi-final.

With Magnus Carlsen, one of the four semi-finalists of the World Cup, already revealing his intention to not play in the Candidates, the other three – Praggnanandhaa, Carauna, and Nijat Abasov, will fill the three qualifying spots from this tournament.

The winner of the Candidates' tournaments will compete against Ding Liren of China, for the Chess World Championship title.

The top three in the tournament will qualify for the Candidates event in 2024 to determine the challenger to Ding Liren. With world no. 1 Magnus Carlsen not likely to play in the Candidates, Praggnanandhaa could be playing in the tournament to decide the challenger to reigning world champion Ding Liren.

Later talking to Chess24, Praggnanandhaa said, "I kind of forgot that I have to run for the game. I lost 30 seconds there, but I kind of recovered from that, and when I managed to equal the time I was quite happy."

The photographers at the event captured the emotional moments of his mother Nagalakshmi, as tears of joy rolled down her face when he won in a thrilling tiebreak.

Nagalakshmi was filled with emotion as her son became the second Indian, to reach the semifinals of the prestigious tournament. In a widely circulated picture on social media, Nagalakshmi can be seen with a smile standing next to her son, who was giving an interview.

After the match, noted coach R B Ramesh tweeted on X microblogging site, "What an epic match! Well played both young lions! Proud of both players for their fighting spirit throughout! @rpragchess @ArjunErigaisi."


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