Carlsen Triumphs at World Cup: Defeats Pragg in Tie-Breakers

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Aug 24, 2023, 08:30 AM ET

R Praggnanandhaa began the third day of his epic final with Magnus Carlsen in the FIDE World Cup on a strong note but the day, and match, ended as predicted: Carlsen, the world no. 1, winning his first ever World Cup, 2.5 – 1.5. Carlsen bossed the endgame of the first tiebreak to win the first rapid game; that result and three draws (two in classical over the past two days), gave him the title.

Praggnanandhaa, who like Carlsen was playing in his first World Cup final, will now play in the Candidates tournament in 2024, where the winner will face China’s Ding Liren in the next World Championship. The 18-year-old Indian is the third youngest player after Bobby Fischer and Carlsen to qualify for the Candidates tournament.

After a tight first game, which Carlsen won after bossing the endgame, he played out a cautious draw with white pieces to ensure there was no drama, In the first game with white pieces, Praggnanandhaa was comfortably placed until the endgame, but Carlsen turned on the screw to leave the Indian under time pressure before he eventually resigned.

Praggnanandhaa’s opening choice put him in a comfortable position, both on the board and in terms of the clock, but the middle-game was the pendulum swing between both players. The Indian even held a small time advantage heading into the endgame.

In a relatively even position, the game was heading towards a draw, when Carlsen finally made his move with his knights advancing to threatening positions, before the Indian resigned with just about 10 seconds left on the clock.

That meant Praggnanandhaa had to win on demand with black pieces. He had done it before in this tournament, in the quarterfinal against Arjun Erigaisi, but he was facing a completely different beast here.

He began the second game with a little prayer, but soon Carlsen ensured that was in vain. The five-time world champions nous and know-how showed, as it became very clear in the opening that the world no 1 had snuffed out Praggnanandhaa’s chances of winning with black pieces. After a few major pieces were traded, the players agreed to a draw, and the smile on Carlsen’s face was the only show of emotion from either player. The Norwegian has now won the one title that was missing from his illustrious cabinet, to go along with his five World Championship titles.

For Praggnanandhaa, this was still a tournament to remember. He has had to come through adversity in three previous rounds before the final, and did it with aplomb. He had beaten both world no.2 Hikaru Nakamura and world no.3 Fabiano Caruana to reach the final, a feat that even he said he didn’t expect.

At the age of 18, he is the youngest Chess World Cup finalist ever to date. One can be sure that this isn’t the last we will hear of R Praggnanandhaa.

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