After having beaten World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen twice this year - at the Airthings Masters in February and at the Chessable Masters in May – Praggnanandhaa got the better of Carlsen 4-2 in the seventh and final round of the FTX Crypto Cup in Miami on Sunday - an online event which is part of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
The superb show notwithstanding, Praggu finished second, taking home $37,000 in prize money. Carlsen won the tournament as he topped the table with 16 points as opposed to Praggu’s 15. Praggu said that there is always an extra impetus to win when he takes on Carlsen. “It is a big motivation each time I play him because he is such a tough player. You have to be on top of your game facing Carlsen,” he said.
Carlsen went into the last round with a two-point lead and needed only a win or draw in the first four rapid games to become the champion. The encounter began with the first two rapid games in which the two players split points. The 31-year-old world champion won the third rapid game and with it the title.
Having lost a chance to clinch the title, Praggu achieved the next best thing - finish the event on a high. The 17-year-old Indian won the fourth rapid clash in 51 moves to take the encounter into the tiebreakers. Praggu won both tie-breaker games to eventually win the match.
Praggnanandhaa revealed that his motivation levels dipped after losing a chance to win the event following the reversal in the third rapid game. “It was disappointing to not bag the tournament after having done well in the initial rounds. But I tried to have fun in the remaining games (against Carlsen) and I am happy to have won against him and eventually finish second,” Praggu said.
For Praggu’s long-time coach R B Ramesh, the youngster’s resilience stood out. “Praggu showed nerves of steel and made fewer mistakes during difficult situations. The best quality about him is his ability to make a comeback after a loss. He is learning a lot by taking on players of such high quality. It will do a world of good for him going forward,” Ramesh said.