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Indian Grandmaster Rameshbabu “Pragg” Praggnanandhaa is just 16 years old but his play over the past year has made him one of the biggest sensations in chess. Pragg has been known as a prodigy since winning the World Under-8 chess title in 2013. He gained attention as a competitor in high level open tournaments as a 15-year-old by reaching the fourth round of the 2021 Chess World Cup, an event similar to tennis’ U.S. Open.

A series of excellent results in online rapid tournaments in 2022 has further increased Pragg’s visibility. In February he defeated Magnus Carlsen in the Airthings Masters online rapid tournament, becoming, at age 16, the youngest player to ever defeat the World Champion in tournament play. He recently defeated Carlsen for a second time in the preliminary round of the Chessable Masters online rapid tournament. He went on to defeat onetime prodigies Wei Yi and Anish Giri before losing in the tournament finals to Ding Liren of China.

Pragg is showing that he’s among the world’s elite rapid chess players, but he’ll need to produce similar results in longer games before he can be considered a world championship contender. His playing style has some similarities to Carlsen’s, which could be a sign that he will continue to improve. Both players tend to play openings that may not be the best in theory but give them opportunities to outplay their opponents during the later stages of the game. His more recent win over Carlsen demonstrates this approach.

Chessable Masters Preliminary Round 5

White: R. Praggnanandhaa

Black: Magnus Carlsen

1e4 e5 2Nf3 Nc6 3bb5 a6 4Ba4 Nf6 5d3 This move, which immediately protects white’s e4 pawn, has become a popular alternative to the traditional plan of 50-0, followed by Re1 to protect the pawn.

5…Bc5 6c3 b5 7Bb3 d6 8Bg5 h6 9Bh4 Bb6 10a4 Rb8 This defensive move allows white to take the initiative on the queenside. A good alternative is 10…g5 11Bg3 b4, keeping the a-file closed.

11axb5 axb5 12Na3 g5 13Bg3 Na5 14Bc2

Black to move

14…b4?! 15cxb4 Nc6 16Ba4 Bd7 17Nc4?! White can hold onto the b4 pawn, with a clear advantage, by playing 17Bxc6 Bxc6 18h4 g4 19Nd2, followed by Ndc4.

17…Nxb4 18Bxd7+ Nxd7 190-0 0-0

White to move

20Nxb6?! Rxb6 This trade makes it easier for black to defend his position. A stronger move is 20h4, intending to open up the kingside. If black plays 20…g4 21Nh2 h5, white can expose black’s kingside weaknesses with 22Nxb6 Rxb6 23f3, while 20…Nc5 allows 21Ne3 Nbxd3 22Nf5, building a strong attack against the black king.

21d4 If 21h4, black can now safely respond with Nc5, threatening white’s d3 pawn.

21…Nc6 22Rc1 Nxd4 23Nxd4 Bxd4 24 Qxd4 Nc5 25Rcd1 Ne6 26 Qc3

Black to move

26…f6?! Instead of playing this precautionary move, black could have equalized the game by playing 26..Qa8, attacking white’s pawn on e4, and if 27Rde1 Qa2, threatening the b2 pawn.

27f4 Qe7 28b4 Rbb8 29f5?! This move forces black’s knight to retreat, but only temporarily, as it will be able to maneuver onto a strong spot on e5.

29…Nd8 30Rd4 Nf7 31Rc4 Rb7 32Rc1 Rfb8 33h4 gxh4 34Bxh4 Ne5

White to move

35Rxc7 Trading into an endgame that should theoretically end in a draw. However, this endgame is somewhat easier for white to play than black, and a blunder by black is more possible in a rapid game, with more limited thinking time than in a longer classical game.

35…Rxc7 36Qxc7 Qxc7 37Rxc7 Rxb4 38Re7 Immediately capturing the f6 pawn would lose for white: 38Bxf6? Rb1+ 39Kf2 Ng4+ forks white’s king and bishop.

38…d5 39Kf1 dxe4 40Bxf6

Black to move

40…Ng4?? With just seconds left on his clock, Carlsen blunders horribly. Black keeps a draw within sight after 40…Nd3 or 40…Nc4.

41Rg7+ and black resigns. White will be a piece ahead with a very easy win.

To view this game on a virtual board, go to https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/meltwater-champions-chess-tour-chessable-masters-2022-prelims/5/1/1.

Keith Holzmueller

Keith Holzmueller has been the head coach of the Evanston Township High School Chess Club and Team since 2017. He became a serious chess player during his high school years. As an adult player, he obtained...

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