Baku: Continuing his dream run, Indian Grandmaster R. Praggnanandhaa on Monday stunned world No. 3 Fabiano Caruana 3.5-2.5 via the tie-break in the semifinals to set up a summit clash with world number one Magnus Carlsen of Norway at the FIDE World Cup chess tournament here. After the two-game classical series ended 1-1, the 18-year-old Indian prodigy outlasted the highly-rated American GM in a battle of wits in a nerve-wracking tie-breaker.
In the final beginning on Tuesday, Praggnanandhaa will take on five-times title winner Carlsen, who beat Azerbaijan’s Nijat Abasov 1.5-0.5 in his semifinal. Praggnanandhaa becomes the third youngest player after the legendary Bobby Fischer and Carlsen to qualify for the Candidates tournament.
“I didn’t expect to play Magnus in this tournament at all because the only way I could play him was in the final, and I didn’t expect to be in the final. I will just try to give my best and see how it goes!” he said after booking a spot in the summit clash.
“It feels really good to qualify for the Candidates; I really wanted to fix this spot.”
With the two 25’+10” games ending at 1-all, Praggnanandhaa prevailed in the first 10’+10” game against Caruana to get within a draw of setting up a final clash with world No.1 Carlsen. “Pragg goes through to the final! He beats Fabiano Caruana in the tiebreak and will face Magnus Carlsen now. What a performance!” chess legend Viswanathan Anand posted on social networking site ‘X’, formerly Twitter.
Pragg goes through to the final! He beats Fabiano Caruana in the tiebreak and will face Magnus Carlsen now.
In the first game of tie-break, the Indian GM withstood a lot of pressure from Caruana and held on for a draw in an exciting encounter. The second rapid game too saw a similar result, pushing the semifinals to the 10’+10’ series.
Praggnanandhaa has been in a rich vein of form in the World Cup and his biggest scalp before Caruana was another American Hikaru Nakamura, the world No. 2 and second-seed, following which he stopped compatriot Arjun Erigaisi. “Congratulations @rpragchess for winning against Fabiano and going to the finals at the World Cup in 2023! Proud and happy!” noted chess coach R B Ramesh wrote on ‘X’.
Former women’s world No.1 Susan Polgar also hailed the young Indian GM. “Congratulations to GM Praggnanandhaa for reaching the 2023 World Cup final to face Magnus! He defeated world #2 Fabiano in the playoff to earn the coveted spot! He also defeated world #3 Hikaru earlier!”
AICF president Sanjay Kapoor said, “Congratulations to Praggnanandhaa @rpragchess on his amazing victory & making it to the FINALS of @FIDE_chess Chess World Cup. Bravo! Indian chess lovers can’t wait for the Final as it promises to be one RED HOT Contest with the World no.1 @MagnusCarlsen on the other side!”
By becoming only the second Indian after Anand to reach the semifinals of the world cup, Pragg booked a spot in the Candidates event in 2024 to determine the challenger to Ding Liren. The top three finishers in the tournament qualify for the Candidates event in 2024 to determine the challenger to current world champion Liren of China.