Reports Apr 25, 2021 | 4:59 PMby Colin McGourty

New in Chess Classic, Day 1: Pragg off to flying start

15-year-old Praggnanandhaa was expected to face a baptism of fire on his debut on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, but instead he beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Sergey Karjakin to finish the day on 3/5, tied for 4th place with Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura and Vidit. Leading the pack is Teimour Radjabov on 4/5, with Magnus Carlsen and Alireza Firouzja half a point behind. Wesley So was the one player to beat Pragg, but the tour leader lost a shocking 3 games, while Sergey Karjakin scored only 1.5/5. 

Praggnanandhaa ended Day 1 in a tie for 4th place

You can replay all the games from the New in Chess Classic, the 5th event on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, using the selector below. 

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Kaja Snare, Jovanka Houska and David Howell in Oslo…

…and Simon Williams and Harikrishna.

Don't miss out on a special offer on the New in Chess magazine, and more deals, at chess24.com/deals.


Praggnanandhaa fits right in

15-year-old Praggnanandhaa had been extremely impressive as he won the Polgar Challenge to qualify for the main tour, but this was another level entirely. How would he adapt? In style! His first game featured an amazing king march after a complicated struggle against Jan-Krzysztof Duda.


37…Kf7 was just the start, as the king, running some risks, raced to d2 to support the d-pawn. Some more adventures followed, but it was soon time for Jan-Krzysztof to resign. 

Draws against Gawain Jones and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov followed, there was one loss to Wesley So, and then Pragg wrapped up the day by beating 2016 World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin. 46…d3? (again that d-pawn!) was a blunder.


Pragg pounced with 47.Rg8! Qxg8 48.Qa8+ Ke7 49.Qxg8 and Sergey gave up a few moves later, with his material deficit less of an immediate worry than getting mated. “I’m just happy about the day,” said the Indian grandmaster.

Teimour Radjabov off to a fast start

At the top we have Teimour Radjabov in the sole lead, after efficient wins with White against three relative underdogs and solid draws with Black against two monsters. 


The finish of his game against Aryan Tari was a well-known theme, but pretty, nevertheless!


34.Rb8! was either winning the rook or, as Aryan preferred, giving checkmate: 34…Rxb8 35.Bxd4+ Nf6 36.Bxf6# 

Aryan Tari, Johan-Sebastian Christiansen and Magnus Carlsen are playing from the Meltwater Offices in Oslo

The only other player to win three games was 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja, who beat So, Karjakin and Dominguez but fell to Mamedyarov. He’s joined in 2nd place by Magnus Carlsen, who missed a win against Sergey Karjakin in the first game but beat Liem Quang Le and Leinier Dominguez and remained unbeaten. 

The only player to start taking 14-move draws on Day 1 was Hikaru Nakamura (and his opponents Karjakin and Dominguez)…

…but he could be forgiven after opening with a win against Mamedyarov and pushing hard with White against Vidit and Liem Quang Le. In that latter game he overlooked a great chance to play one of those moves you love to play.


45.Bb1! would have locked up the black rook for good, while after 45.Bd3 Rd1 46.Bc4 Rd4! it turned out White was only slightly better and we got a draw in 93 moves.

Wesley So suffers

Sergey Karjakin was the lowest scoring top player, but Meltwater Champions Chess Tour leader Wesley So perhaps had the roughest day. First he was outfoxed by Firouzja in the ending, then he missed a chance against Duda:

After 11…Ke7 he would have been winning with 12.Qh5+!, with Bg5+, Kxd6 and Qc5# a recurring theme. Instead after 12.Bc4? Nxc2+! 13.Kf1 Qa1! it was all Duda. 

That wasn’t the worst mishap Wesley suffered, however, since he blundered into a lost position on move 11 against tour debutant Gawain Jones, who gave credit to the Chessable course co-authored by one of our commentators!

The standings after Day 1 look as follows, but with 10 rounds remaining there’s a long fight to go to finish in the Top 8 and qualify for the knockout stages. 


Don't miss the commentary from 19:00 CEST each day live here on chess24 until May 2nd!

See also:


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