Praggnanandhaa falls in final hurdle as Carlsen wins World Cup
Norwegian overcame a stiff challenge from his 18-year-old Indian opponent in the first tie-break game
INDIAN prodigy R Praggnanandhaa could not pull off a repeat of his giant-killing acts of the last few days as fancied Magnus Carlsen beat him 1.5-0.5 in the tie-break to win the FIDE World Cup in Baki on Thursday (24).
Praggnanandhaa’s dream run in the tournament ended at the hands of the world number 1 after the classical games ended in a stalemate.
For the five-time World Championship winner and Norwegian superstar Carlsen, who has been at the top of the sport for over a decade now, this was his first-ever World Cup title.
The second 25+10 tie-break game ended in a draw in 22 moves as Carlsen played it safe after he had won the first one, displaying his superior end-game skills.
After a keenly contested first game, the second game was a rather tame affair with Praggnanandhaa falling behind quickly and agreeing to a draw.
The two classical games on Tuesday (22) and Wednesday (23) had ended in draws, forcing the final into a tie-break.
Carlsen, who had been under the weather due to food poisoning and did not look at his best in the first classical game, showed why he is so tough to get past with his remarkable comeback in the tie-break.
He overcame a stiff challenge from his 18-year-old Indian opponent in the first tie-break game, winning it in 45 moves. Carlsen then saw off the problems he encountered due to Praggnanandhaa’s enterprising play in the middle to turn the tables on the Indian and seize the advantage.
As fortunes swung from one side to other, the Indian surrendered the point after coming under time pressure in the first rapid game.
Carlsen won game one in 45 moves and made full use of the advantage of playing with white pieces in the second game.
Praggnanandhaa, playing with white in the day’s first game, made the first move -e4 – and got into a better position due to some careful maneuvering.
At one point of time, the players were left with their two rooks and minor pieces – two knights for Carlsen and a knight and a light coloured bishop for Praggnanandhaa. The Indian was under time pressure and resigned after making a mistake, having realised that the game was gone.
In the second game, Carlsen began with e4. The first exchange happened when the sport’s superstar took a pawn on the eighth move after Praggnanandhaa took a second pawn with the queen.
Faced with a must-win situation in the second game, the Indian teen came under time pressure early and chose to agree to a draw with white (Carlsen) holding the upper hand.
Earlier, the two classical games ended in draws that forced a tie-break to decide the World Cup champion.
Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand wrote on social media platform ‘X’ after the final, “Praggnanandhaa can come back with a candidates spot and a truly wonderful result.”
He congratulated Carlsen and wrote: “In the end, it’s Magnus! His persistence is rewarded with a victory in the only tournament that eluded him so far! Congratulations to the #FIDEWorldCup2023 winner Magnus Carlsen!”
The Indian teenager’s coach R B Ramesh wrote on ‘X’: Congratulations @MagnusCarlsen for a well deserved World Cup title! Well done @rpragchess! Lots of good memories and some hard lessons as well. Onward !”
Praggnanandhaa enjoyed an incredible run in the tournament, having beaten world number two Hikaru Nakamura and world number theee Fabiano Caruana to set up a final date with Carlsen.
The results in the ongoing tournament also helped Praggnanandhaa qualify for the Candidates 2024 tournament, which will be held in Canada to determine the challenger to world champion Ding Liren of China.
Praggnanandhaa also became the third youngest player after the legendary Bobby Fischer and Carlsen to qualify for the Candidates tournament.
Meanwhile, American Fabiano Caruana beat local star Nijat Abasov via the tie-break to clinch the third place and secure a ticket to the Candidates tournament.