India’s boy wonder Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa announced himself at the very top table of world chess as he stormed into his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour final in sensational style.
The 16-year-old from Chennai showed off all his skills as he simply overpowered the super-strong Dutch no.1 Anish Giri in the Chessable Masters semi-final, the fourth leg of the $1.6 million Tour season.
Giri had gone into the match unbeaten and in red-hot form having topped the $150,000 event’s Prelim stage leaderboard. But the 29-year-old ran into one of the world’s top talents truly coming of age.
Read more: Youngsters steal the show at Chessable Masters
Pragg’s jaw-dropping performance set up a mouth-watering clash with the new world no.2 Ding Liren who also pulled off a shock to down the world no.1 and Tour leader Magnus Carlsen. Incredibly, schoolboy Pragg has something equally important to do first tomorrow – he has to tackle his 11th grade exams. “I have to be at school around 8:45am,” he said. “And now it’s 2am!”. Read more: 11th-grade exams are the best preparation for Chessable Masters?!
Today’s semi-final delivered incredible drama as the four top players from the Prelim stage, all on top form, made it through the quarter-finals yesterday and went into battle in the semis.
Pragg’s match with Giri caught fire in the second game after a tame first encounter ended in a draw. The youngster set Giri a deadly trap in the endgame and the 29-year-old missed the only defense. Checkmate was guaranteed and Pragg took the lead. Giri had lost his first game of the tournament. Replay the game here
The third game was another cracker. With Giri needing a win, the advantage switched several times. As Giri looked set to break through in the endgame, Pragg found a way to dig in and force a draw. The youngster was 2-1 in front with one game to go. Replay the game here
An astonishingly tricky game followed that let Giri back in. Pragg defended brilliantly but one slip when the position was on a knife-edge and Giri was onto it. The game ended with a beautiful checkmate on the board and the match locked at 2-2 and heading to tiebreaks. Then it all went wrong for Giri. He blundered badly in the first blitz game of the play-off with 32. Qc2, handing Pragg double attack that led to a piece capture. Giri resigned in a hopeless position and looked despondent. Replay the game here
But the Dutchman wasn’t out yet. The second blitz game saw Giri on top before another slip gifted Pragg a pawn. There was no way back. A draw was agreed, but it was the same as a win for Pragg who was through.
Grandmaster David Howell said: “It feels like we’ve got a front-row seat to watch him blossom, month after month.”
In contrast, Carlsen vs Ding was a match of extreme, slow-burning pressure. To add to the intensity, Carlsen found himself plagued early on by internet connection problems at his base for this event in Skagen, Denmark.
After three tense draws where both players probed but couldn’t crack their opponents’ defenses, it all came down to the fourth and final game. And then, a moment no-one expected: Carlsen cracked. Ding broke through and went on to win. Carlsen had failed the make the final for the first time in the 2022 Tour. Replay the game here
Immediately afterwards, Carlsen said: “I’m ok. I’m really disappointed with my play in the last game, but I think overall this match could have gone either way. I’ve played a lot of close matches with Ding and this one went his way which is disappointing but, yeah, that’s what it is.” Read more: Behind the scenes – Carlsen and his team prepare for the World Championship Match
A triumphant Ding, playing from Wengzhou in China, said he was “very happy” and the result was “unbelievable”. Ding added: “I’ve played him so many times and I haven’t beaten him in any of the knockout stage in the Champions Chess Tour. It’s my first time.”
The two-day final of the Chessable Masters starts tomorrow. Play begins at 18:00 CEST. Live broadcast of the games can be followed on Chessdom.com.