Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, a boy from Chennai, just achieved something unbelievable on February 22, 2022. At just 16-years-old, he defeated Magnus Carlsen, the Roger Federer of chess. In fact, Praggnanandhaa was the youngest person to defeat Carlsen since he began his reign as World Champion in 2013. In fact, the two had met in competition once before, with Carlsen being the victor.
This tournament featured 16 of the best current players in the world, and they would face off in an online tournament. Because of his long last name, Praggnanandhaa he is referred to as Pragg, a shortened form of his last name.
On the first day of the tournament, Pragg notched 3 straight losses before this day of chess. That kind of performance is hard to rebound from at just 16-years-old. Furthermore, the opponent he was going to face next was a World Champion and had just won 3 straight games prior to that. Also, because of the major time difference, Pragg was forced to stay up late to play the match. However, he was not the only person with a disadvantage. Magnus Carlsen had recently contracted COVID-19 and mentioned that he was still feeling the effects of the disease. He said that it was hard for him to focus, and whenever he tried to focus, he made a bad move. This didn’t seem to affect him that much, as he had just won 3 games in a row.
The game began. Pragg was playing with the black pieces, another disadvantage to him. Carlsen started off with the famous Queen’s Gambit move, but Pragg didn’t fall for the trap. Carlsen then took an advantage of one pawn, but later added one more to give him an advantage of 2. Throughout this, Praggnanandhaa stayed calm and was able to pressure Carlsen’s king piece. On the 32nd move, Carlsen broke. He made a move that was later deemed an error. Pragg never looked back, and in the next 10 moves, he was able to make Carlsen resign. Overall, the game was played in 39 moves. When asked what he would do after this victory, Pragganandhaa said that he would sleep because it was 2:30 am in Chennai, India where he lives.
It was a brilliant day of chess for Pragg, as he had defeated Levon Aronian earlier on in the day. Aronian was the fourth-highest ranked player in the tournament, but Pragg still beat him. Pragg also said that he prepared for this late-night game by staying up late in the nights before it to train his body for his new grueling schedule.
Unfortunately, Pragg’s earlier losses set him back and he failed to qualify for the quarterfinals of the tournament. Magnus Carlsen, however, is still in the tournament and continues to fight symptoms of the COVID-19 disease. Pragg also said that Carlsen was his idol growing up, and he will always look at this game if he ever needs confidence.
He got congratulations from many famous people, most notably India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, Sachin Tendulkar, and the Chennai Super Kings franchise. They all congratulated him and said that there would be more to come. India has a strong history of producing chess champions, with Viswanathan Anand, the highest-ranked Indian player being 16th in the world. There has also been a surge in world-class players from India recently, with the number of grandmasters increasing from 20 in 2007 to 73 now. Certainly, Praggnanandhaa’s achievement will inspire even more young Indians to play chess.
All in all, Praggnanandhaa achieved the unbelievable which has excited the whole country. This victory is monumental and hopefully, he will continue his amazing ascendency in world chess.
Adi Anand is 13-years-old and an 8th grader living in San Jose, California. He is an avid cricketer and sports aficionado.