R Praggnanandhaa: India chess prodigy takes on Magnus Carlsen in World Cup final

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Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa of India ponders his next move against Wesley So of USA during their blitz chess match (open blitz tournament) on the last day of Tata Steel Chess India 2022 tournament, in Kolkata, on December 04, 2022.IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
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R Praggnanandhaa is one of the most talented chess players in India

Indian chess fans are delighted as the country’s R Praggnanandhaa is set to take on No. 1 ranked Magnus Carlsen in the World Cup final.

Praggnanandhaa, 18, had defeated World No. 3 Fabiano Caruana in a tie-breaker on Monday to advance to the finals.

Carlsen had reached the final over the weekend after defeating Nijat Abasov.

This is the first time that Carlsen, 32, will play in the final of the World Cup, held by the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

The final match will begin on Tuesday at Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

Praggnanandhaa, who turned 18 earlier this month, is the youngest to play in the World Cup final.

The teenager has also become the third-youngest person in the world to qualify for the Candidates Tournament, which will be held next year to determine the challenger for the world champion title. Both Carlsen and US chess genius Bobby Fischer had qualified for the tournament when they were 16 years old.

Praggnanandhaa – popularly known as Pragg – is one of India’s most promising chess players.

He was just 10 years old when he became the youngest International Master in the history of the game. Two years later, in 2018, he became the world’s then second-youngest chess grandmaster.

Last year, he defeated Carlsen at the Airthings Masters, an online rapid tournament, becoming only the third Indian to defeat the Norwegian grandmaster.

He’s also the first Indian since chess legend Vishwanathan Anand to make it to the final of the FIDE World Cup.

On Tuesday, Anand led the celebrations after Praggnanandhaa’s victory with a post on X, saying “What a performance!”

Former World champions Susan Polgar and Garry Kasparov also congratulated the teenager on social media.

Reacting to his win on Monday, Praggnanandhaa said that he hadn’t expected to play against Carlsen in the tournament because “the only way I could play him was in the final, and I didn’t expect to be in the final”.

“I will just try to give my best and see how it goes,” he said.

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