18-year-old Praggnanandhaa is in chess World Cup final

The Indian-origin Grandmaster progressed to the FIDE World Cup final after defeating world No. 3 Fabiano Caruana in a nail-biting semifinal.

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India’s 18-year old Grandmaster (GM) Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (ELO 2,707) is in the final of the FIDE World Chess Cup, after defeating world No. 3 by rating, American GM Fabiano Caruana (2,782), in the semifinal tie-break games played at Baku, Azerbaijan.

The final score stood at 3.5-2.5 in favour of the Chennai youngster. After drawing the first two tie-break games, the Indian slayed Caruana in the third game and drew the next one.

The match went into tie-breaker after the players drew their two classical games earlier. In the tie-breaker, the first two games had ended in draw. The young Indian then won the third game.

Praggnanandhaa will now cross swords with chess world No. 1 and former world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway in the World Cup final.

Having already defeated world No. 2 and world No. 3 in the tournament, will Praggnanandhaa be able to defeat Carlsen is the question doing the rounds in chess circles now.

With this win, Praggnanandhaa also qualified to play in the Candidates Tournament, the winner of which will be the challenger to Chinese GM Liren Ding, the reigning world champion.

As per the International Chess Federation or FIDE’s rules, the top three players in the World Cup qualify for the Candidates Tournament.

For Praggnanandhaa, giant slaying is not new in this tournament. He had earlier defeated far more higher-rated players, including US GM Hikaru Nakamura, world No. 2 by rating.

India has never performed so well in the World Cup Open Category, though former world champion GM Viswanathan Anand had won the tournament earlier when it was held under a different format.

At Baku this time around, four Indian GMs — Praggnanandhaa, D. Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi and Vidit Santosh Gujrathi — made it to the quarterfinals in a field of over 250 players.

Apart from Praggnanandhaa, there was one more giant slayer from the Indian side –  Gujrathi humbled world No. 5 GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (2779) of Russia.

All is not lost for the other three Indian players – Gujrathi, Gukesh and Erigaisi – to take a shot at the world champion’s title.

“There are a couple of other tournaments the Indian players can play and get qualified for the Candidates Tournament. The other three players reached the quarterfinals in this strong tournament. Hence, they can still qualify for the Candidates. That said, the Indian government and the All India Chess Federation (AICF) should provide all kinds of assistance to the youngsters to become the world champion,” International Arbiter and chess coach R.R. Vasudevan told IANS.

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