Teenager stuns world’s No. 1 chess player

On Sunday, 16-year-old Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa surprised Magnus Carlsen by beating the world No. 1 in the Airthings Masters.

Praggnanandhaa, nicknamed Pragg, belied his age and experience as he remained calm and collected, while Carlsen appeared to make mistakes to present opportunities to the young Indian.

And although the five-time world champion fought his way back into the game, Pragg gave him no opening, ultimately clinging on to a famous victory in the rapid chess tournament.

When it became clear that a win was certain, the feat seemed to dawn on Pragg, as he covered his mouth with his hand in shock.

It was Pragg’s first victory over Carlsen, and he became the youngest player to beat Carlsen since the superstar became world champion in 2013.

He also became the third Indian grandmaster to win against the Norwegian after Viswanathan Anand and Pentala Harikrishna.

“I’m just very happy,” he said afterwards.

When asked how he was going to celebrate, Pragg – with competitive days left in the tournament – was realistic given the time he was playing India-based games: “I think it’s just go to bed.”

“It’s time to go to bed, because I don’t plan to have dinner at 2:30 in the morning.”

The result was probably not expected before it started. Carlsen had won three in a row as he appeared to be warming up, while Pragg finished day one of the Airthings Masters with three straight losses.

However, when the two faced off, the 16-year-old grandmaster seemed resolute, ultimately defeating the chess legend in 39 moves.

“I think yesterday wasn’t so good,” Pragg said after the game. “Today I think my game was much better, so hopefully that will continue for the next two days.”

Pragg is one of the most promising stars in chess and was tipped for big things from an early age. In 2016, he became the youngest international master in history at the age of 10, and many people predicted that he could be a title contender in the years to come.

His famous victory over Carlsen was praised by some well-known compatriots.

Five-time world champion Anand tweeted that he was “always proud of our talents”, also saying it was a “really good day” for Pragg.

Elsewhere, Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar – widely regarded as one of the greatest hitters of all time – also praised Pragg.

“What a wonderful feeling that must be for Pragg. All at 16, and having beaten the experienced and decorated Magnus Carlsen, and that too by playing black, it’s magic! Tendulkar wrote.

“Best wishes for a long and successful chess career. You have made India proud!

For Carlsen, it was a potentially damaging defeat in his hunt to add another trophy to his already prestigious collection.

The 31-year-old contracted Covid-19 in the days leading up to the tournament, and he believes his game is affected by the aftereffects of the virus which he is still feeling.


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