CHENNAI: R Praggnanandhaa upstaged higher-ranked players like Nils Grandelius, Anton Korobov and Gabriel Sargissian en route winning the Xtracon Chess Open in Elsinore, Denmark, on Sunday.
It was 13-year-old’s best performance till date. The world’s fourth youngest GM triumphed with a stunning 8.5/10. Staying unbeaten, he won with a + 7 score (seven wins, three draws), and gained 28.5 rating points.
“Praggu has been going through prolonged stagnation for some time. He has been working hard and trying to learn a new set of skills, including opening choices. Supportive parents and sponsorship (Ramco) helped him come out of this phase shining,” points out Praggnanandhaa’s coach RB Ramesh.
Going into the final round with half a point lead, Praggnanandhaa needed at least a draw to have a chance of winning the title. He got into a difficult position against Samuel Sevian, one of America’s top juniors. However, in a pawn down queen and pawn ending, Praggnanandhaa showed fighting spirit to salvage a draw, and become the champion. His closest pursuers Aryan Tari, Allan Stig Rasmussen and Sargissian could only manage draws, helping Praggnanandhaa’s cause.
After becoming GM, he had victories over former world No 2 Wesley So and India No 3 Vidit Gujrathi but he didn’t have any magical moments to savour. It finally came in the land of Bent Larsen, one of the greatest players of chess.
Praggnanandhaa has one of the best techniques among juniors. Once he gets an advantage, he converts it into a full point even against strong GMs.Training with Ramesh has also improved his imagination. Ramesh used to test him with difficult studies (a form of exercise to improve skills), which Praggnanandhaa used to solve blindfolded. After becoming a GM, he gave a blindfold simulation against three players in Chennai, winning all three games.
Vaishali, Praggnanandhaa’s elder sister, also made a mark, making her first GM norm and second IM norm. She secured 7.5 points to finish 15th.
Third Indian to win meet
Starting as 21st seed, Praggnanandhaa emulated Krishnan Sasikiran (2003) and Parimarjan Negi (2009), who were the other Indians to win the event.
Standings (top 10): 1. R Praggnanandhaa (Ind) 8.5, 2-6: A Tari (Nor), G Sargissian (Arm), E Postny (Isr), S Sevian (USA), A S Rasmussen (Den) 8, 7-10: D Kryakvin (Rus), Rasmus Svane (Den), A Korobov (Ukr), N Grandelius (Swe) 7.5.