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Praggnanandhaa — International Master!

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 30/05/2016

A. Rameshbabu's children Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa were giving him sleepless nights. The kids were so good at chess that they kept winning titles at state, national and international levels. Coming from a humble background, Rameshbabu was struggling to afford his children's leap to the higher planes of chess competition. Making decisions in such a situation of conflict due to the lack of resources is difficult. But what do they say about life balancing things out eventually? Praggnanandhaa R. just completed the requirements an hour back, and at the age of ten years and ten months, has become the youngest International Master of the world, ever!

Praggnanandhaa — International Master!

Uzbek GM Marat Dzhumaev was hanging on to dear life in the chill of Delhi as a ten-year-old youngster kept pressing giving him no respite. Time pressure did not help the grandmaster either, but he had a lucky escape as he played accurately to hold the draw. The boy seemed to be putting in more efforts to pick the pieces from the last rank than in calculating one of the many tough variations. He was disappointed that he could get no more than a draw.

Praggu at the World Junior Championship, 2014 (Photo: Amruta Mokal)

The title of grandmaster has a certain charm to it that entices people to revere the ones who achieve it. Even more so, when the one who annexes the title is a youngster. Many of the top players today have made it to the youngest grandmasters list in the past. In fact, the World Champion today was the third youngest grandmaster in chess history, and his challenger to the title, Karjakin that is, is the youngest ever. Although it in no way assures what is in store for the future, one thing is certain — the group of juniors who rule the roost today is likely to be ruling the top in the coming decade.

 

A. Rameshbabu's children Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa were giving him sleepless nights. The kids were so good at chess that they kept winning titles at state, national and international levels. People who knew the siblings understood that both the kids would go far. Vaishali became the Indian National Women's 'B' champion in 2015, besides winning a handful of medals in the various youth events. Praggnanandhaa, besides his share of youth medals, is in the process of rewriting history books.

 

Expenditure — coaching, travelling, lodging — were already costly and to afford it for two chess playing kids is a tough task. Coming from a humble background, their parents were struggling to afford their leap to the higher planes of chess competition. Making decisions in such a situation of conflict due to the lack of resources is difficult. But what do they say about life balancing things out eventually? Praggnanandhaa equalled his sister’s gold medals by winning the World under 8 boys in 2013 and the under 10 boys in 2015.

He continued to make his moves do the talking. As he went on adding medals to his kitty, his play began to develop in the rough and tough competition of Indian tournaments.

In the middle of 2014, FIDE brought in a new concept — the k factor for juniors aged below 18 was increased to 40 — and this witnessed players rising and even falling up and down the rating charts almost as consistently as the heat in Chennai, the city to which Praggu belongs. The change in the k factor has made it difficult to compare the talents from the previous decade with Prggnanandhaa's generation, and he himself suffered his share of ups and downs, but already by February 2016, at the age of ten years and seven months, he was rated 2301.

 

Then began a fairytale period as he reeled off a norm performance after another. He made a trip to the French city of Cannes in late February to play his first grandmaster open outside India.  Praggnanandhaa played excellent chess in the tournament, made his maiden IM norm despite losing the last round and did not even know about it till some Indians asked Vaishali, who later discovered that yes, her younger sibling had made it! 

 

From the windy Cannes, he made way to the strong open tournament in the chill of Moscow — Aeroflot B Open. After three rounds, Praggu's score read 0.5/3.

 

But it did not matter him — chess is fun anyway!

The young lad didn't mind — he just came back stronger, picking pace to score 3.5 points in the next four rounds, including this cute tactic against GM Levon Babujian (2491) of Armenia.

 

White to play
[Event "aeroflot open B 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.03.07"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Praggnanandhaa, R."]
[Black "Babujian, Levon"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C54"]
[WhiteElo "2339"]
[BlackElo "2491"]
[Annotator "Praggnanandhaa"]
[PlyCount "67"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 d6 6. Bb3 O-O 7. O-O a6 8. h3 h6
9. Re1 Be6 10. Bc2 Ba7 11. Nbd2 d5 12. exd5 Qxd5 13. Qe2 Rfe8 14. Nf1 Qd7 15.
Be3 Bxe3 16. fxe3 Rad8 17. Ng3 b5 18. Qf2 {with the idea of d4} (18. d4 $6 exd4
19. exd4 $2 (19. cxd4 Nb4 20. Bb1 c5 $15 {Black has active pieces}) 19... Bxh3
$17) 18... Qd6 19. d4 b4 $6 20. Ba4 {drawback of b4} exd4 21. Nxd4 Bd7 22. Bxc6
Bxc6 23. Ngf5 Qd7 (23... Qd5 24. c4 Qd7 {now b4 pawn will not be hanging}) 24.
Qg3 Nh5 (24... g6 25. Nxh6+ Kf8 (25... Kg7 26. Rf1 $18) (25... Kh7 26. Qf2 $18)
26. Rf1 $18) 25. Qg4 g6 26. Nxh6+ Kg7 (26... Kh7 27. Nxc6 Qxc6 28. Nxf7 Rd2 29.
cxb4 $18) 27. Nhf5+ Kg8 (27... Kh7 28. cxb4 $18) 28. Rf1 Bd5 29. cxb4 Re4 30.
Qg5 Rde8 31. Nh6+ Kh8 32. Ng4 Kg8 $4 33. Qxh5 Qd6 (33... gxh5 34. Nf6+ {
family fork}) 34. Qxd5 1-0

 

 

It is not how hard you can hit that counts, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. Praggnanandhaa needed a win in the final round to clinch his second IM-norm. And he did just that after his opponent erroneously picked the c5 pawn with his knight.

 

Black to play
[Event "Aeroflot Open 2016 B"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Date "2016.03.09"]
[Round "9.24"]
[White "Kharchenko, Boris"]
[Black "Praggnanandhaa, R."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C56"]
[WhiteElo "2488"]
[BlackElo "2339"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "6k1/5rpp/p5r1/2pb3q/3pN3/4bPB1/PPP3PP/R3QR1K w - - 0 30"]
[PlyCount "6"]
[EventDate "2016.03.01"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
30. Nxc5 $4 (30. Qa5 {is tenable because} h6 31. Qd8+ Kh7 32. Qh4 Qxh4 33. Bxh4
c4 $17) 30... Rxf3 31. Rxf3 Qxf3 32. Qf1 Qxg3 0-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Praggu speaks of his recent few games, his preparations, and more, in this crisp interview by IM Sagar Shah

In early April, Praggnanandhaa made his way to the Asian Youth Championship 2016, and almost effortlessly won the Gold in Under-12 section, although the field was devoid of any real challenge. On 23 May 2016, he started as the twentieth seed in the KIIT International Open in Bhubaneswar, India with a rating of 2368. And although the tournament is not over yet, and the organisers have not bothered to provide us the PGN, Praggu was well on course to register, at least, his final IM-norm.

Praggu has been working with GM R.B. Ramesh for three years now, and Ramesh firmly believes that this is him just doing his work. Results take care of themselves.

Ramesh is an honest person, and he candidly admits that he had a slip of the tongue. "When he left for the tournament, I slipped and told Praggu go for a GM norm, adding that he was capable of it. That is when Aravindh (GM Aravindh Chithambaram) interrupted saying 'Sir, why are you asking him to play for silly results?' I admitted, sorry, my bad!" he recounts .

 

Well, the tournament began, and:

Rd. Bo. SNo   Name Rtg FED Club/City Pts. Res. K rtg+/-
1 20 119 WCM Chandreyee Hajra 1996 IND WB 4,0 s 1 20 2,00
2 19 81   Dhananjay 2119 IND CHHT 4,5 w 1 20 3,80
3 12 89 AGM Sa Kannan 2074 IND TN 5,0 s 1 20 3,00
4 2 3 GM Grigoryan Karen H. 2616 ARM ARM 6,0 w 1 20 16,20
5 2 5 GM Sandipan Chanda 2585 IND WB 6,5 s ½ 20 5,60
6 2 1 GM Popov Ivan 2645 RUS RUS 6,5 w ½ 20 6,60
7 4 11 GM Gleizerov Evgeny 2508 RUS RUS 6,0 s ½ 20 3,80
8 3 6 IM Ghosh Diptayan 2562 IND WB 6,5 s 0 20 -5,00

He managed to defeat GM Karen Grigoryan in the fourth round and has managed to remain solid in the remaining games, barring the loss in the eighth round. He has already touched the 2400 mark in this tournament. He was just a regulation finish away from doing the needful, and he did so, with a win in the ninth round over Al Muthiah (2308) just a few minutes back. At ten years and ten months of age, Praggnanandhaa has created history by becoming the world's youngest International Master.

But this is hardly the end, this is just the beginning. Praggnanandhaa is up there in the bunch of prodigies creating humongous waves of late, and he has only just begun. Exciting times ahead!

 

Chessbase India congratulates Praggnanandhaa R., and of course, his parents, Vaishali R., and his coach GM R.B. Ramesh, for the success! In our effort to help his further progress, ChessBase gifts Praggu a Komodo 10!

 


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