Exclusive! How India's 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa prepared to beat World No.1 Magnus Carlsen

Written By: Sidharth MP WION Web Team
Chennai, India Updated: Feb 22, 2022, 04:02 PM(IST)

Praggnanandhaa won in a Tarrasch variation game against world number one Carlsen. Photograph:( WION )

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16-year-old Praggnanandhaa created history when he defeated World no.1 chess player Magnus Carlsen at the Airthings Masters, an online rapid chess tournament. In an exclusive interaction with WION, Praggnanandhaa's sister Vaishali revealed how the young Grandmaster achieved the remarkable feat.

Three losses and one draw in four games on the first day of a tournament, would've had a debilitating impact on any Chess player. But, 16-year-old Praggnanandhaa is an exception.

He came back stronger on day two and how! He pulled off this comeback while knowing fully well that on the second day, he would be up against experienced players, who also feature in the Top10 global rankings in the game.

In a way, this pressure of being up against the world's best was what fuelled the young man's drive to succeed. As the family cherishes their boy's win against World No1. Chess player Magnus Carlsen, WION/Zee Media spoke to Praggnanandhaa's sister Vaishali to know how it all unfolded.
 
Elder to him by four years, Vaishali was the first in the family to be initiated into formal training in Chess. In fact, this was a typical case of Indian parents trying out different methods to reduce the Television viewing time of their kids.

Then aged seven, Vaishali was enrolled in both drawing and chess classes. It was around this time that a three-year-old Praggnanandhaa started seeing the chessboard.

ALSO READ: Sachin Tendulkar congratulates 16-year-old Indian Grand Master R Praggnanandhaa on defeating Magnus Carlsen

The pieces were his playthings and by the time he was aged four, the little one began to arrange the board and even play. Both kids began to play tournaments and the younger sibling went on to break records at a tender age.

Since then, there's been no looking back- R Praggnanandhaa is the fifth-youngest person to achieve the Grandmaster title and the second-youngest International Master, whereas his sister Vaishali is a Woman International Master and a Woman Grandmaster.
 
Online chess games were nothing more than fun contests for a player like Praggnanandhaa. However, the pandemic changed it all. Real-world tournaments that involved intense travel and hectic schedules were all reduced to online contests.

Chess

Thanks to the new normal, the young lad played a few online games against Carlsen. While this helped in understanding the World No.1 and his game a little bit, it was a recent tournament held in Netherlands that proved really helpful.

"Last month was his first-ever over-the-board game against Carlsen. Everytime he played Carlsen, Praggnanandhaa would be very excited and ready to take on the challenge" says his sister.
 
In order to prepare for the ongoing tournament, for which he'd have to be awake and razor-sharp focussed during wee hours(as per Indian time), the otherwise naughty and playful teenager had to alter his routine, at least ten days in advance. This meant, getting acclimatized to late nights and early morning hours.

"Over the last ten days, he's been preparing his mind for this online tournament. From staying wide awake in the late hours to waking up late in the day, he changed his routine to stay extremely focussed" Vaishali adds.

Imagine being up late in the night and having to focus on an extremely attention-intensive and strategic game, playing four games, each of which is an-hour-long and taking on the best in the world, that's been the last few days for the 11th grade student.
 
Pursuing a course in Commerce with Computer science, Praggnanandhaa the student is supported by his students and teachers, who go the extra mile to help him catch up with lessons, back at his school.

Chess

ALSO READ: Airthings Masters: India's 16-year-old R Praggnanandhaa stuns world champion Magnus Carlsen

He barely goes to school, and when he does it is to attend the special classes that teachers conduct for him or to write his exams that help him get to the next level.

While the family is thrilled beyond measure with his latest feat, Praggnanandhaa barely has the time to look back at it and celebrate, says his sister.

"Over the next few days he has a handful of matches, if he does make it to the Top8, then there are qualifier knockouts, followed by the finals on 26th. On 27th February, the young man leaves for a tournament in Italy.
 
Since 2014, Praggnanadhaa is being coached by Ramesh, a renowned Grandmaster from Chennai. From early 2021 onwards, he is also being specially mentored by Chess legend Viswanathan Anand.

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