16-Year-Old Defeats World Chess Champ

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa's 'biggest dream' just came true
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2022 9:04 AM CST
16-Year-Old Defeats World Chess Champ
A younger Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa is pictured on Dec. 13, 2016, in London.   (Wikimedia Commons/Wolfgang Jekel)

At age 10, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa became the youngest international chess master in history. At age 12, he became the second-youngest grandmaster in history. He also developed a new goal. It's "my biggest dream" to beat world chess champ Magnus Carlsen just once, he told a newspaper at the time, per the Indian Express. Less than four years later, the teen ranked 192 in the world can check that off his list, too. Praggnanandhaa, commonly known as Pragg, stunned Carlsen in the Airthings Masters online rapid tournament late Monday, becoming the youngest player to beat the 31-year-old since he became world chess champion in 2013. Pragg is also just the third Indian grandmaster to defeat the Norwegian player.

It took all of 39 moves for the "cool and collected" teen to emerge the victor, having capitalized on Carlsen's mistakes, CNN reports. Despite the high expectations for Pragg, the result on the second day of the tournament came as a surprise. Carlsen had three straight wins under his belt going into the match. Pragg, on the other hand, suffered three straight losses the previous day, though he did defeat Armenian grandmaster Levon Aronian earlier Monday. He clapped a hand over his mouth in shock as his victory over Carlsen became clear, though he said he was longing for bed once the match finished around 2:30am. "I think yesterday wasn't so good. Today, I think my play was much better," he added. "I hope this continues for the next two days."

"Beating one of the strongest players in chess history is a huge moment for him," coach RB Ramesh said, per AFP, adding that consistency will be key going forward. The same is true for Carlsen, who said he was feeling the effects of a recent COVID-19 infection. "The first couple of days … I didn't have the energy which made it hard to focus because every time I tried to think, I blundered," Carlsen said. "It was a little bit better today, but still pretty bad." He sits in a three-way tie for second place, seven points behind Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi, whom he defeated to retain his championship title in December. Pragg sits in a tie for 11th in the first event in this year's Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The player pool dwindles from 16 to 8 for the knockout stage, beginning Wednesday. (More chess stories.)

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