India have been enjoying a stellar run at the ongoing Chess Olympiad in Chennai where there are a total of three Indian teams competing against some of the best chess-playing nations in the world. India have fielded A, B and C teams being the hosts of the Olympiad which has also brought to shore their incredible depth in the game.
There is no dearth of talent in chess for India but being a nation obsessed with cricket, there is still a long way to go for the country in nurturing talent in a proper way to get to a century of Grand Masters. India currently has 75 Grand Masters with 16-year-old V. Pranav the latest to join the elite list.
Pranav, who is not part of the Chess Olympiad in Chennai, became India’s 75th Grandmaster on Sunday after winning the LImpede Open in Romania. With the win, he secured his third and final GM norm to attain the title of Grandmaster. While he is not at the Chess Olympiad, India has some top minds competing at the showpiece event. India now stands only behind Russia (256), USA (101), Germany (96) and Ukraine (94) in the list of countries with the most Grandmasters.
One of those is Dommaraju Gukesh. The 16-year-old has been unstoppable so far at the Chess Olympiad and registered his best victory at the tournament against USA’s Fabiano Caruana last week. Gukesh defeated world no.5 Caruana as India B got the better of the US team comprising of the likes of Carunand, Levon Aronian and Wesley So, who are ranked no.5,6 and 7 in the world rankings respectively.
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However, they were defeated by the India B team comprising of teenage prodigies Gukesh, Praggnanandhaa and Raunak Sadhwani, who are all 16. Nihal Sarin, the other member of the team is 18. While Gukesh defeated Caruana to bag his 8th win on the trot in the tournament, Sadhwani defeated a higher-rated Leinier Domínguez. Sarin and Praggnanandhaa drew their respective matches.
Gukesh has stormed into the world top 20 with his heroics at the Chennai Chess Olympiad and is only behind the legendary Viswanathan Anand, who is in the 12th spot. While Gukesh has been making waves with his performances, Praggnanandhaa needs no introduction.
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Praggnanandhaa, who is only the third Indian to have defeated Magnus Carlsen, the world no.1, saved India’s day at the Olympiad by beating Vasif Durarbayli to help the B team draw 2-2 against Azerbaijan. India B faced some anxious moments in their clash against Azerbaijan as Gukesh’s 8-match winning streak ended with a draw against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. However, Praggnanandhaa kept India in the gold medal race with his victory.
India’s A team, who are the second seed in the tournament this year, defeated Brazil 3-1 to progress further as Arjun Erigaisi, and K Sasikaran won their respective matches while P Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi settled with draws. That both India’s A and B teams remain in contention for a medal finish showcases India’s rise and rise in chess in recent years.