It was a case of a Britney “Oops!….I did it again” from Rameshbabu “Pragg” Praggnanandhaa, as the young 16-year-old Indian prodigy inflicted a rare second successive defeat over World Champion Magnus Carlsen in as many months on the $1.6m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, with a rare oversight from the defending Tour champion in the Chessable Masters prelims coming with his almost immediate resignation.
And that somewhat fortunate win was to prove vital for Pragg, as amongst a strong field and some fierce competition to make it through to the business end of the Chessable Masters knockout – with Anish Giri jut pipping his long-time rival Carlsen to top the leaderboard with 29 points and $7,250 earned – the rapidly rising teen made the cut by being among the eight quarter-finalists in the next stage of the $150,000 competition.
In qualifying order, the fateful eight is: Anish Giri, Magnus Carlsen, Ding Liren, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, Wei Yi, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, David Anton and Aryan Tari. The Knockout starts at 18:00 CEST on Monday, May 23rd with live GM commentary coverage. Tour leader Carlsen will be the favourite to go on to take the title, but standing in his path first will be Anton. Giri takes on Tari and the battle of two prodigies present and past will see Pragg vs Wei and the last quarter final is Ding vs Mamedyarov.
In one Tour it was a tale of an Indian rising star, but in the rivalling $1.4m Grand Chess Tour, the story has been the dramatic return to form of a now veteran Indian superstar. Despite an almost two-year pandemic lay-off, Vishy Anand demonstrated that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks as he stormed the opening day of the Superbet Warsaw Rapid and Blitz. The five-time ex-World Champion was in superlative form, winning all of his three first-day games to dominate the rapid contest.
And the carnage didn’t stop there. Anand relentlessly continued his rampage in day two by beating Kirill Schevchenko and Levon Aronian in rounds 4 and 5 respectively, en route to top-scoring on 14/18 to take the rapid tournament title, and establish what could prove to be a vital one-point lead over the field heading into the blitz tournament.
1. V. Anand (India) 14/18; 2. R. Rapport (Hungary) 13; 3. JK. Duda (Poland) 12; 4. W. So (USA) 11; 5. L. Aronian (USA) 10; 6. F. Caruana (USA) 9; 7-8. R. Wojaszek (Poland), K. Shevchenko (Ukraine) 7; 9. A. Korobov (Ukraine) 5; 10. D. Gavrilescu (Romania) 2.
Photo: Vishy Anand roll back the years in Warsaw | © Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
GM Levon Aronian – GM Vishy Anand
Superbet Rapid, (5)
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 The ‘Great Dane’, Bent Larsen, is single-handedly responsible for reviving the Bishop’s Opening in the 1960s and 1970s at top level, as it was a long-forgotten system that was first studied in the 16th century by Greco. And by pure coincidence, Anand is the last active pro-player left standing who has met Larsen in serious praxis! 2…Nf6 3.d3 Bc5 4.Nf3 d6 5.0-0 0-0 6.c3 Bb6 7.Nbd2 c6 8.Bb3 Re8 9.Re1 Be6 10.Bc2 This promises White nothing – and indeed, if anything, balking with the exchange of 10.Bxe6 fxe6 just offers Black a slight advantage due to his more actively-placed pieces….not to mention pressure on f2! 10…Nbd7 11.d4 Bg4 12.h3 Bh5 13.g4?! The game begins to slip out of Aronian’s control here. Hindsight is always 20/20, but he had to play 13.Nc4 and take his chances with this position, which is still in Black’s favour – but not big-time, as happens now with the game continuation! 13…Bg6 14.dxe5 The correct recapture, and unwittingly, Aronian walks into a massive tactical resource that Anand quickly pounces on. 14…Nxe5! 15.Nxe5 Rxe5 16.Nc4? Aronian doesn’t realise he’s sleepwalking to disaster – he simply had to play 16.Kg2 for survival. 16…Nxe4! 17.Nxb6? Doubly oblivious to what’s coming down the track – but then again, the best continuation with 17.Bxe4 Rxe4 18.Rxe4 Bxe4 19.Qxd6 Qh4! 20.Qh2 Bxf2+! 21.Qxf2 Qxh3 22.Qh2 Qxg4+ looked perilous for White anyway. 17…Nxf2!! [see diagram] A stunning sacrificial zwischenzug overlooked by Aronian that all but leaves him for dead, with all the tactics now working in Anand’s favour. 18.Qd2 The knight is simply taboo. If 18.Kxf2 Qh4+ 19.Kf1 Bxc2! and White faces a decisive material loss. 18…Qxb6 19.Rxe5 And the rook is also taboo too, due to the pin on the queen and king, such as 19.Qxf2 Rxe1+ 20.Kg2 Qxf2+ 21.Kxf2 Rae8 22.Bxg6 hxg6 23.a4 R8e2+ 24.Kf3 Rc2 and with the bishop lost, White will be a full rook down. 19…Nxg4+! 20.Kg2 No better was 20.Re3 Nxe3 21.Qxe3 Bxc2 22.Qxb6 axb6 23.Bf4 d5 and the ending is hopelessly lost with White three-pawns to the worse. 20…Nxe5 As the dust settles, Anand’s tactical awareness has left the five-time ex-world champion a couple of pawns ahead – not bad going for the old man! 21.Bxg6 hxg6 22.Qxd6 Qb5 23.Qd1 Nd3 And with it, Aronian’s resignation is not far off now, facing a hopelessly lost ending not only two pawns down, but more crucially his king left heavily exposed. 24.b3 Qd5+ 0-1 Aronian resigns, faced with 25.Kg3 Qd6+ 26.Kg2 Re8 27.Bd2 Qd5+ 28.Kg3 Nb2! and White is either going to lose his bishop or the king.