Praggnanandhaa – youngest chess IM in history!

by Priyadarshan Banjan
5/29/2016 – Houston, we have an IM – and he is ten years and nine months of age! Better learn to pronounce his name: Praggnanandhaa, Pragg-na-nan-dhaa. A couple of hours ago he won his ninth round game at the KiiT International Chess Festival in Bhubaneswar, India, and made his third IM norm (after norms in Cannes and Moscow). We congratulate Praggu on this historical achievement.

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Praggnanandhaa making waves internationally

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.

 Sergey Karjakin
 Parimarjan Negi
 Magnus Carlsen
 Bu Xiangzhi
 Richard Rapport
 Teimour Radjabov
 Ruslan Ponomariov 
 Wesley So
 Etienne Bacrot
 Jorge Cori

Youngest grandmasters in history

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. 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. People who knew the siblings understood that both the kids would go far.

Video interview with the chess siblings by Amruta Mokal

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. Prggnanandhaa 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 one 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 showed excellent chess in the tournament, made his maiden IM norm despite losing the last round and did not even know about it until some Indians asked Vaishali, who later discovered that yes, her younger brother had done 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 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 – how did Praggu finish off his GM opponent? Check it out:

[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.??.??"] 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 up the c5 pawn with his knight.

Black to play. Why was White's last move, 30.Ne4xc5??, absolutely fatal?

[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"] 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 (32. gxf3 Bxf3#) 32... Qxg3 (32... Qxg3 33. hxg3 Rh6#) 0-1

Little Praggu speaks of his recent few games, his preparations, and more
in this interview by Sagar Shah after Praggu's second IM norm in Moscow

In early April, Praggnanandhaa made his way to the Asian Youth Championship 2016, and almost effortlessly won Gold in the Under-12 section, although the field was devoid of any real challenge. On May 23, 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.

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

Well, the tournament began, and he managed to defeat GM Karen Grigoryan in the fourth round. Praggnanandhaa has managed to remain solid in the remaining games, barring a 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 an hour ago (May 29, 2016). At ten years and nine 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 and ChessBase India congratulate Praggnanandhaa R., and of course,
his parents, Vaishali R., and his coach GM R.B. Ramesh, for this great success!


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Priyadarshan Banjan is a 23-year-old club player from India. He works as an editor for ChessBase News and ChessBase India. He is a chess fanatic and an avid fan of Vishy Anand. He also maintains a blog on a variety of topics.


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