India’s Praggnanandhaa has become the second youngest grandmaster in chess history after gaining his final grandmaster norm in a tournament in Ortisei, Italy. Only Sergey Karjakin became a grandmaster at a younger age, 12 years and 7 months, but at 12 years, 10 months and 13 days, Praggnanandhaa is the only other player to earn the title before his 13th birthday. Magnus Carlsen, for instance, required another six months.
Ever since Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa became the youngest International Master in history in 2016 at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days the chess world has been transfixed by his quest to become the youngest grandmaster in history. It's been a long road...
At one point it looked almost a certainty that he’d break Sergey Karjakin’s record, and at the 2017 World Junior Championship in Tarvisio, Italy he almost took a Bobby Fischer-like shortcut. Fischer gained his title at the age of 15 by qualifying for the Candidates Tournament, and if Praggnanandhaa had won the World Junior Championship he would also automatically have gained the title - and smashed Karjakin’s record:
Instead he finished half a point behind the winner, but he did get his first of the three Grandmaster norms required to earn the title the hard way.
After that the Indian youngster fell just short on numerous occasions, and the dream of winning the record slipped away. He kept working, though, and finally got a second norm in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete in April this year:
They say the darkest hour comes just before the dawn, and Praggnanandhaa’s performance at the Schaakweek Apeldoorn GM Tournament earlier this month was his worst in a long time:
Getting not a single draw perhaps suggested his coach wanted him to play with more freedom and try and forget about the grandmaster title, and if that didn’t work out in the Netherlands it worked to perfection just afterwards in Italy!
A crushing win over local star Luca Moroni in Round 8 of the 4th ad Gredine Open was enough to complete a final grandmaster norm and give Praggnanandhaa the title whatever happened in the final round.
Just to put the icing on the cake, though, he beat another grandmaster to complete a perfect tournament on a tie for 1st place.
He also made up for almost all of the rating damage done in the previous event:
Finally the kid had become a grandmaster (subject to FIDE confirming the title), and 5-time Indian World Chess Champion Vishy Anand was among the first to congratulate him:
Here’s where Praggnanandhaa ranks on the list of the youngest grandmasters ever:
As you can see, he’s in great company, though of course speed isn’t everything. The likes of Parimarjan Negi and Bu Xiangzhi didn’t go on to reach the very top, and a player like Fabiano Caruana “only” gained the title at the age of 14 years, 11 months and 20 days. What ultimately matters is a player’s rating ceiling, but Praggnanandhaa’s achievements will rightfully earn him a lot of chances to prove himself on the top stage.
It’s going to be an
exciting time to be an Indian chess fan – and in fact just to be a chess fan at
all! Which of the young generation will barge their way to the very top?
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