CHENNAI: Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa got a big boost in his quest for becoming the youngest Grandmaster in the world, when he made his maiden GM norm in the ongoing World Junior Chess Championship in Tarvisio, Italy, on Tuesday. The 12-year-old achieved this feat by defeating one of America’s top juniors Awonder Liang in the eighth round. This victory helped Praggnanandhaa stay in joint second spot along with Kiril Alekseenko of Russia on 6.5 points. Aryan Tari of Norway leads the field with seven points. Three rounds still remain in the tournament.
Viswanathan Anand tweeted: “Praggnanandhaa. 1st norm. Let him just enjoy playing the rest of the event! Very interesting chess! Just play your usual fearless game. Titles always come.”
Pragnnanandhaa’s coach RB Ramesh tweeted: “First GM norm for Praggnanandhaa! So it begins.”
He has been having a great event despite stiff opposition. Starting as the 26th seed, Praggnanandhaa has remained undefeated, besides besting top seed Jorden van Foreest and fourth-seeded compatriot SL Narayanan. His impressive run has fetched him a performance rating of 2,749!
In a crucial clash, Praggnanandhaa faces Tari in the ninth round. If the Chennaiite can pull off a win, his chances of winning the title will become better.
Praggnanandhaa first caught the attention of the chess world, when he became the youngest IM at the age of 10 years, 10 months and 19 days in 2016. From that point, he has been getting better with every tournament, even though the GM norm had eluded him till this tournament.
Having already created a buzz with his achievements, Praggnandhaa can make history if he wins the Open section of the World Junior Championship. Victory will earn him an automatic GM title, besides making him the world’s youngest GM, breaking Sergei Karjakin’s record set in 2003. Karthikeyan Murali (6, joint 4th) and V R Aravindh Chithambaram (5.5, joint 12th) are the other Indians still in the reckoning for a podium finish.
In the girls’ section, India’s R Vaishali and Aakansha Hagawane occupy joint eighth with 5.5 points after eight rounds. Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kazakhstan) and Anastasya Paramzina (Russia) shared the lead with 6.5 points.