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Praggnanandhaa achieves his second GM norm in Greece

by Sagar Shah - 21/04/2018

Praggnanandhaa became an IM at the age of 10 years and 10 months. Sergey Karjakin held the record for the youngest GM in the world - 12 years and 7 months. With nearly one year and nine months to go it seemed as if Pragg would break Karjakin's record. However, it was not to be and although the young lad from Chennai crossed 2500 Elo mark, he could achieve just one GM norm. Many people felt that it was the pressure on his shoulders of becoming that youngest GM in the world that was not letting Pragg play his natural game. Now that we are past that phase, Pragg is showing his free flowing game and achieved his second GM norm in smooth style at the 4th Fischer Memorial GM norm tournament in Heraklion, Greece.

Pragg wins the Fischer Memorial GM norm tournament in Heraklion with 7.0/9

Closed tournaments are quite tricky in nature. The upside is that you know your opponents and you also know the score that you will need in order to make a GM norm. The downside is that because you know the score you need, you often lose your sense of objectivity and are not able to play normal chess. Well, I guess Pragg had learnt valuable lessons from his last two GM norm tournaments which he had played in the Charlotte Chess Club in USA, and the Adelaide Lidums GM in Australia. These were two closed Round Robin events where he had a chance of making a norm. Everyone thought that Pragg had good chances of making a GM norm, but he fell short by quite some margin.

Pragg and his mother Nagalakshmi arrive in Heraklion, Crete and are welcomed by the organizer of the event Kostas Klokas | Photo: Official website

Starting rank list of players

3GMNikolaidis Ioannis4202139GRE2535ΑΜΕΣ ΝΕΑΣ ΕΡΥΘΡΑΙΑΣ
5IMPraggnanandhaa R25059530IND2520
7GMPetr Martin318299CZE2466
9GMArkell Keith C400270ENG2416
8FMGoumas Georgios4208935GRE2403ΕΟΑΟ "Ο ΦΥΣΙΟΛΑΤΡΗΣ" ΝΙΚΑΙΑΣ
10Markidis Konstantinos4203500GRE2370ΜΓΣ "Ο ΕΘΝΙΚΟΣ" ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥΠΟΛΗΣ
2FMAnand Nadar25009141IND2359
1Anagnostopoulos Konstantinos4251067GRE2329Ο.Α.Α. ΗΡΑΚΛΕΙΟ
6FMTaylor Adam C424668ENG2318
4Mitsis Georgios4295676GRE2258ΣΟ "ΘΩΜΑΣ ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΥ"

With a rating of 2520 Pragg was the second seed. He needed to score 7.0/9 to make a GM norm.

Round one - 1.0/1: a bright start!

Pragg began with a blistering attack against Adam Taylor's king. The g6 point was soft in the game and Pragg concentrated on that point with all his pieces including the rooks, knight and queen. He sacrificed quite a bit of material but made sure that he checkmated the black king!

Round two - 1.5/2: taming the King's Gambit

GM Petr Martin is well known for playing the King's Gambit. Out of the 69 games that he has faced 1...e5 in response to 1.e4, he has played the King's Gambit in 22 games. Pragg was well prepared and was able to equalize the game without any real problems.

If you are looking for solid recommendations for Black against White Gambits like King's Gambit, Cochrane, Belgrade, etc after 1.e4 e5 then you must definitely have a look at Erwin l'Ami's DVD on the open games:

Round three - 2.5/3: Squeezing water out of stone!

There was absolutely no way that Pragg was going to win this one, but he did win it. There were draws to be taken on many occasions but the Indian prodigy kept posing problems to his 2400+ rated opponent, as he succumbed to defeat.

Round four - 3.0/4: A solid draw

Keith Arkell is an experienced GM with a solid opening style. He played a relatively unambitious opening, and Pragg managed to exchange his light squared bishop, which is black's major headache in the Queen's Gambit Declined. The game ended in a quick draw.

Round five - 4.0/5: Imaginative and enterprising opening play

You are white in this position. Your opponent has just played ...b6. What would you play?

Of course it is possible to develop normally with Be2. But in closed Round Robin events, you have got to take calculated risks! Pragg went for the move...

g4! And within just a couple of moves he had a very promising position

Round six - 5.0/6: Squeezing more water from the stone!

Anand Nadar, the other Indian in the fray was doing exceedingly well. But Pragg wanted to win. Hence, he played the Chigorin Defence. Black equalized without any problems and it seemed that in the rook endgame the game would end in a draw. But Pragg played well and Anand was off colour. The result was a win for Pragg.

Round seven - 5.5/7: Draw against the top seed

The top seed of the tournament was Pragg's opponent in the seventh round. Pragg tried hard with the white pieces, but couldn't really make any headway. The game was drawn.

Round eight - 6.0/8: A lucky escape?!

Perhaps, Pragg was a little lucky in this game. His opponent was the last seed and Pragg came to the game to ensure that he won today. If he did that he would need just a draw in the last round. However, Georgios Mitsis showed some very good preparation and was very soon having a very promising position:

Pragg has just played ...Nc5. I think if White has tried harder than he would have surely gone for the move g5! However Pragg made a smart move here. He played ...Nc5 and offered a draw. The opponent agreed to a draw, which meant that he was in a must win scenario in order to make his second GM.

Round nine - 7.0/9: delivering under pressure

Pragg was in a must win situation in the final round. He had the white pieces and he played his simple Reti/ King's Indian Attack setup. Very soon Black equalized and it seemed as if Pragg would miss his GM norm, but in the late middlegame, IM Markidis (rated 2370), made an elementary error:

Here Black can take on d3 and then play Rd8 when he has excellent compensation. However Black took on e4 and White recaptured, after which he was completely winning!

Final Ranking crosstable after 9 Rounds

Rk.NameRtgFED12345678910Pts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
1IMPraggnanandhaa R2520IND*½1½½½11117,00,040,0
2GMNikolaidis Ioannis2535GRE½*½11½½½116,50,040,0
3FMAnand Nadar2359IND0½*1½½11½½5,50,040,0
4GMPetr Martin2466CZE½00*½11½½15,00,550,0
5Mitsis Georgios2258GRE½0½½*1½½½15,00,540,0
6GMArkell Keith C2416ENG½½½00*1½½14,50,050,0
7Anagnostopoulos Konstantinos2329GRE0½00½0*11½3,50,040,0
8Markidis Konstantinos2370GRE0½0½½½0*½½3,00,550,0
9FMTaylor Adam C2318ENG00½½½½0½*½3,00,550,0
10FMGoumas Georgios2403GRE00½000½½½*2,00,050,0

The amount of risks that Pragg took were immense. He had to play risky openings, play consistently in the middlegame and more importantly grind out those endgames with a very minute edge to bring home the full point. To all those who think that Closed Round Robin events are easy, games of Pragg should be enough to convince you hat they are not and Pragg's achievement is truly special.

Pragg receiving the winner's trophy! | Photo; Heraklion Facebook page

Anand Nadar performed really well to finish third and score an IM norm. His only loss came against Pragg. Second place went to GM Ioannis Nikolaidis.  | Photo; Heraklion Facebook page

The entire group of participants at the event  | Photo; Heraklion Facebook page

Video interviews:

Pragg's interview at the start of the event
Pragg's interview at the end of the event

Interview of Nagalakshmi, Pragg's mother:

For a young boy like Pragg, a constant support is required not only to improve at chess, but also so that he can share his thoughts about a particular game. For Pragg that person is his mother Nagalakshmi. She has travelled with him to almost all the tournaments and taken care of his every little need. A few months ago ChessBase India's Amruta Mokal conducted an interview with Nagalakshmi, Pragg and Vaishali's mother, and gave us an idea of how down to earth and hard working she is.


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