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Sunday, April 21 2024
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Grandiose success of a young Indian chess player

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Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa’s impressive journey in the World Cup came to an end without a championship title, but pundits believe that his remarkable performances will leave an enduring impact on chess in India.

The young Indian grandmaster ultimately secured the runner-up position when he faced off against the world’s number one player, Magnus Carlsen, and endured a round of tie-breakers, following two draws in their previous encounters. Nonetheless, experts have underlined the prodigious talent and unwavering determination displayed by Praggnanandhaa throughout the tournament in Baku. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his congratulations to the young chess prodigy for his “exceptional” performance and his commendable resilience. Analysts have characterized this accomplishment as “tectonic and seminal”.

The Indian prodigy who toppled a world champion

The 18-year-old’s odyssey in the tournament has been nothing short of extraordinary. Praggnanandhaa, affectionately known as Pragg, conquered the world’s second and third-ranked players, propelling him to the World Cup final—a remarkable achievement in itself, considering that no other Indian has reached the finals since chess legend Vishwanathan Anand’s victory in 2002. Pragg’s participation also earned him the distinction of being the world’s youngest player to compete in the finals and the third-youngest to qualify for the Candidates Tournament, a league typically reserved for prodigies of the likes of Carlsen and Bobby Fischer. The teenager’s accomplishments have cemented his reputation as a rising star in the field.

Throughout this World Cup, four Indian players progressed to the quarterfinals, securing an impressive 50% of the available slots. Currently, India boasts 21 players under the age of 20 ranked within the top 100 junior players worldwide, with four breaking into the top 10 and seven in the top 20. You can bet on the World Chess Cup and many other sports tournaments on the Pin-Up website. Also on the site you can play the classic simulator game Aviator Pin-Up.

Chess in India: A Rapid Rise and Aspiring Future

These young talents are poised to dominate the world of chess for the next decade or possibly even longer. This forecast appears plausible because thousands of young Indians have now embraced chess—a trend that gained momentum in the 2000s following Anand’s headline-making victories. This trend has only accelerated over the years. The proliferation of smartphones and affordable internet access has made it easier for children to refine their skills through chess apps and online tournaments. Basic chess coaching is readily accessible as well. This marks a significant departure from the conditions that prevailed just a couple of decades ago.

As sports writer Susan Ninan notes in The Indian Express, “For Indian players who arrived on the scene even two decades after Anand, access to regular training under a GM (Grandmaster) was almost inconceivable.” While the chess landscape in the country has evolved dramatically, experts suggest that more needs to be done if India genuinely aspires for its players to make a lasting impact on the global stage.

Presently, the chess ecosystem lacks comprehensive support structures, and parents still often find themselves financially backing their children’s aspirations. Praggnanandhaa’s journey reflects this narrative. Born to a father who worked as a bank manager and a mother who was a homemaker, his parents reportedly had to borrow money to support his chess pursuits, at least until 2016 when he achieved the title of the world’s youngest International Master at the age of 10. Soon after, a sponsor stepped in to provide assistance. Both Praggnanandhaa and his sister, who inspired his foray into the sport, represent the first generation of chess players in their family. Even today, their mother accompanies Praggnanandhaa to tournaments around the world, where she prepares her son’s favorite Tamil dishes. Praggnanandhaa’s meteoric ascent to the pinnacle of chess is an inspiration to many, a testament to his relentless dedication and innate talent, and perhaps, a touch of good fortune.

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