Meet R Praggnanandhaa, the Indian chess prodigy shaping the future of the game

“You aren’t the ‘runner-up’…this is simply your ‘run-up’ to Gold and to greatness.” This is what Mahindra Group chairperson Anand Mahindra wrote on his Twitter handle after Indian Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa finished second best in the FIDE World Cup final on Thursday.

How often do first impressions shape our perceptions? As the age-old saying suggests, appearances can often be deceiving. R Praggnanandhaa, 18-year-old, took the chess world by storm after becoming the second India after Viswanathan Anand to reach the World Chess Final. Praggnanandhaa, a true embodiment of humility, remained unaware of the magnitude of his tournament achievement. However, during his post-game interview, he spoke candidly, indicating that his remarkable journey might inspire others to embrace the sport more seriously.

In a tough game that showcased his grit and patience, the 18-year-old held current World No. 1 and Magnus Carlsen to a draw in two classical games before losing in the tie-break. Praggnanandhaa’s World Cup campaign saw him outclass both World No.2 Hikaru Nakamura and World No.3 Fabiano Caruana. His superhuman feats do not end there, as he also became the third youngest player to qualify for the Candidates tournament after chess giant Bobby Fischer and Carlsen himself.

Initiated into the sport at the behest of his parents, who aimed to shield him from prolonged television exposure, Pragg, affectionately known as such, has forged an individual trajectory towards success. 

His career-defining accomplishments have already resonated with countless individuals. Presently, children across the globe are scouring online chess tutorials.  

Under the aegis of Anand, Praggnanandhaa’s progress has been steadily ticking upward. After defeating Carlsen in an elite online rapid chess tournament last year, he brought chess to the front page of national dailies, taking the five-time world champion and everyone else by surprise. He clinched the national under-7 title and there has been no stopping him ever since. He achieved the title of International Master at the tender age of 10, followed by the remarkable feat of becoming a Grandmaster just two years later.

He achieved an ELO rating of 2600 at 14 years and three months late in 2019, as reported by PTI until Covid-19 engulfed the world. But it could not dampen his spirits as he kept getting better at his game. He fared exceptionally well in the 2021 Meltwater Champions Tour, outclassing tournament favourites Sergey Karjakin, Teimour Radjabov and Jan-Krzystof Duda and holding Carlsen to a draw.

Also Read: Is India the new talent-churning machine in chess?

Praggnanandhaa further made waves when he pulled off a stunning win in the rapid tournament in 2022. With this triumph, he became the third Indian after Anand and Harikrishna to defeat the seemingly unbeatable Carlsen. 

Much like his mentor Anand, family support has played a pivotal role in Praggnanandhaa’s evolution as a chess player. His mother Nagalakshmi has been a huge support and is a regular at international tournaments that he plays.

Somehow, questions remain on Praggnanandhaa`s opening repertoire but he is undeniably a force to be reckoned with in the rapid and blitz formats, a glimpse of which we were treated to not a long time ago. With each passing day, it`s evident that Praggnanandhaa`s skills are consistently on the rise. His accomplishments at the age of 18 seem to suggest he is already on the path to greatness. 

His remarkable feat in the FIDE World Cup has turned the spotlight firmly on him even as compatriots like D Gukesh and Arjun Erigaisi kept reminding us about the impact of chess on the Indian youth in recent years.

However, determining Praggnanandhaa`s exact position within the esteemed ranks of Indian grandmasters is a matter that remains uncertain at this stage. While it might be premature to definitively categorise him, it is already evident that this exceptional prodigy, undeniably brilliant, is making his presence felt among the world`s finest players.



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