Indian Chess Sensation, 16, Beats World Champion Magnus Carlsen
India's teen chess grandmaster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa is winning widespread praise after becoming the youngest person to beat Magnus Carlsen since the Norwegian player became world champion in 2013. Following his victory at the online rapid chess competition, celebrities and thought leaders across the spectrum have congratulated the teenager. His contest against world champion Carlsen from Norway who had successively won three championships makes the victory even more emphatic. The exacting game witnessed the 16-year-old manoeuvre black pieces against his 31-year-old opponent.
Born as Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa on 10 August 2005 in Chennai, he is the sibling of noted Indian chess player Vaishali Rameshbabu. He is the fifth-youngest person after Abhimanyu Mishra, Gukesh D, Sergey Karjakin, and Javokhir Sindarovt to achieve the title of Grandmaster. Praggnanandhaa won the World Youth Chess Championship Under-8 title in 2013. At 7, the victory secured him the title of FIDE Master, an open title that is below Grandmaster and International Master. His trail of victories continued in 2016 when he became the youngest International Master in history at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days. Two years later, at 12 years, 10 months and 13 days, Praggnanandhaa became the youngest Grandmaster after Russian chess star Sergey Karjakin. He won his first Grand Master norm at the World Junior Championships in Tarvisio in November 2017. He achieved his second norm by winning the Herkalion Fischer Memorial Grand Master Norm tournament in Greece in April 2018. He practices 4-5 hours on daily basis and is coached by R B Ramesh. He idolises Vishwanathan Anand and Mangus Carlsen.
He’s just the third Indian, after Viswanathan Anand and P Harikrishna, to accomplish the rare feat of beating Carlsen underlines his incredible potential. That he toppled him in 39 moves and with black pieces, a perceived handicap in the game, brightens the dazzle of his victory. Aggressive from the start, he pushed Carlsen onto the back foot but missed a glorious chance to kill the game in the middle stage. But he regained his wits and bounced back, piling relentless pressure on Carlsen, who cracked and blundered.
Soon after, Anand, who had picked him and Iranian-French GM Alireza Firouzja as the future stars of chess, took him under his wings for the Chess Olympiad and smoothened the rough edges, the occasional tendency to make hasty moves and embrace risks. Adding caution to his aggression made him a better player — one who could be the flag-bearer of Indian chess after Anand’s days. Carlsen was not the only elite player he scaled in the tournament. Hours before beating him, he had out-smarted Armenian GM Levon Aronian. Some time ago, he had defeated Wesley So and Michal Krasenkow, too. He has broken into the 2600 Elo pointing ceiling, a rarefied space in chess.
Perhaps, more importantly, India has discovered a potential successor to Anand as well as a poster boy for the imminent chess boom in the country — the Indian Chess League is set to unroll from June with a prize money of at least Rs 2 crore. Praggnanandhaa’s resurgence is also a timely fillip for the game’s profile in the country. It was a timely reminder of his talent, too.