Magnus Carlsen upped his game for the big occasion today as he ended young pretender Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa’s unbeaten streak to go level at the top of the Oslo Esports Cup leaderboard. The World Champion shrugged off the illness he has suffered since the start of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event to brush aside the challenge of the in-form Indian teen with a dominant 3-0 win. With a game to spare, Carlsen grabbed the maximum 3 points and $7,500 win bonus to move alongside Pragg on 9/12. It also took the Norwegian to five straight wins in rapid chess. Carlsen, when asked whether he was feeling extra determination playing Pragg, said: “I am the best — I don’t have any doubt about that, but you gotta prove it when you play!” More: Oslo cup participants / Live games / Round 1 / Round 2 / Round 3 / Round 4
Pragg had gone into the Round 4 match ahead of Carlsen having played fantastic chess on his way to three match-wins in a row. In doing so, Pragg had also chalked up $22,500 in earnings and ignited hope he could win the first Major of the Tour season overall. But against world No.1 Carlsen, the supremely-talented 16-year-old found himself up against next-level opposition. Carlsen went into the match with a spring in his step that has been missing over the last couple of days during which he has complained about feeling under the weather.
In the first game, Pragg showed no fear whatsoever as he opted for a Sicilian. But it was Carlsen who went on to take first blood. The champ overcame Pragg in a brilliant game that went right down to the wire when the champ showed his endgame prowess with the excellent 60.Qd6! In between games, Carlsen said he was feeling “quite a lot better” – and it showed. Pragg had to hit back. The youngster pushed aggressively in the second but then suffered an agonising mistake with 31.Bxd8 that lost a rook for a piece. It was a killer blow that lost the game and left him in a must-win situation going into the third game. Try as he might, Pragg could not hold back the tide and Carlsen broke through to finish him off in style. The champ shook his young opponent’s hand when the victory was secured before saying Pragg still has a “great chance” to win the event.
Pragg said: “I think my play in the first and second games was good, but then in less time I started to play bad moves. Then in the third game I just didn’t get the position.
“But I think it’s a great experience for me and I always enjoy playing top players.”
He added: “Next time I’d like to put up more resistance against Magnus!”
Vietnam’s Liem Quang Le also won his match against Eric Hansen with a game to spare, recording two wins in a 2.5-0.5 victory.
The two other R4 matches both went to nervy tiebreaks after the regular matches finished 2-2.
Poland’s World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda, moved into contention after he beat Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov in a close match that went to tiebreaks. It was Duda’s third win in a row and took him to 7/12.
Meanwhile, the tiebreak in the all-Dutch encounter between Anish Giri and Jorden van Foreest started dramatically as a mouse-slip from Giri in the first blitz game left him behind.
Giri then made a huge blunder in the second to hand the match to his countryman.