It was Move 32. Carlsen held the advantage of playing with white pieces and moving first, opening with the Queen’s Gambit. But he moved his knight, and things changed. Praggu, as Praggnanandhaa is fondly called, termed it an error, and a “crucial” one.
Seven moves later, Carlsen’s resignation was final. Praggnanadhaa had become only the third Indian, after Viswanathan Anand and P Harikrishna, to shake hands with Carlsen as the winner at the end of a game in tournament play.
Most in the country were asleep when one of India’s finest young chess brains created history. He woke his father up to break the news to him, messaged coach RB Ramesh and enjoyed a few hours of sound sleep before social media started buzzing with his achievement.
The New York Times wrote: “The man he had just defeated, world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway, was tending to the wounds of his shocking loss somewhere offline. Pragg had just become the youngest person to defeat Carlsen, 31, since he became world champion in 2013.”
(Praggu with his family and Indian cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin – Photo: @rpragchess Twitter)
It was a monumental victory, despite the fact that the eighth-round win over Carlsen — after Praggnanandhaa had defeated Levon Aronian on the second day of the online Airthings Masters tournament — couldn’t take him through to the quarterfinals.
Praggu finished 11th in the 16-player tournament.
“What I liked about Pragg’s win against Magnus was that he played the opening well. He seemed to know where his pieces should be,” said the legendary Viswanathan Anand, when TimesofIndia.com contacted the former world champion for his analysis.
Thank you very much sir! It means a lot coming from you!! https://t.co/NwlZDksfmZ
— Praggnanandhaa (@rpragchess) 1645462182000
Coach Ramesh woke up on Tuesday morning, saw Praggu’s message on WhatsApp and replied with something that always cheers up the coach and his prodigy: a sticker of Vadivelu — the famous comedian of Tamil Cinema.
Vadivelu’s clips are one of Praggnanandha’s favourite stress-busters. But before that ‘Move 32’ of Carlsen’s, it was all about managing the stress and the clock.
“With a player like Magnus, you just can’t take it easy. Move 32 was a crucial one, as till then positions of both white and black were equal. Things began to change after that error from Magnus,” Praggu told TOI in an interview.
While analyzing the game replying to TimesofIndia.com, Anand agreed with the teenager, who, he felt, had “punished” the world champion for “unjustified risks”.
“Objectively at some point the game was about equal, but then Magnus started to take quite unjustified risks. Magnus has gotten away with this in the past; in fact, quite a lot. But Pragg punished him, never let the situation get out of hand and (when) Magnus over-reached, he took advantage of it,” said Anand.
“These are the kind of crunch points that you have to take. That was the most impressive thing.”
Truly Honoured Thank you very much sir!🙏 https://t.co/Og4umS6rVJ
— Praggnanandhaa (@rpragchess) 1645633887000
But in Praggu’s words: “With Magnus, it never is over till it is over.”
However, the teen held firm to cross another landmark in his remarkable career, which includes the achievement of becoming the youngest ever international master at the age of just 10.
At 12, he became a grandmaster. Anand has closely followed the youngster as he crossed these milestones.
“Praggnanandhaa has always been a fairly aggressive player. He likes a good mess at the board where he can give his tactical skill full rein. I believe he has grown into a more diverse player. He is able to play more positions comfortably and he’s on his way to the top. He has got better openings, he’s more organized, which is what he needs to compete at the highest level,” Anand further told TimesofIndia.com.
Praggu is part of the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy and keeps picking the Indian legend’s brains to analyse the progress of his own game.
Great to see our Waca boy trend !! https://t.co/riAjADVtg8
— Viswanathan Anand (@vishy64theking) 1645597073000
“Being part of the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy (WACA) and sharing inputs with Anand sir has brought a different dimension to my game. His specific insights on the game are a big plus,” the young Chennai boy said in his interview with TOI.
Anand was also asked to compare himself with the teenager when he himself was a 16-year-old.
“He is very good…able to play on even terms with the world’s best and never backs down, goes for the jugular every time. Those are impressive qualities.
“It is very difficult to compare when I was 16, and now that he is, because chess itself has changed so much that it (a comparison) is hard to do. But he is very strong and I think on his way to the top,” Anand said to conclude.