Praggnanandhaa begins strongly; gets the better of chess legend Vasyl Ivanchuk


NEW YORK: An intriguing first-round game between 17-year-old R. Praggnanandhaa and 53-year-old chess legend Vasyl Ivanchuk ended with the Indian getting three points against the Ukrainian in the Julius Baer Generation Cup, the star-studded seventh leg of the USD1.6 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.

Ivanchuk was dominating his teenage opponent and looked set to strike the first blow for the older generation but first dropped a rook and then left a bishop hanging in time trouble. However, the Ukrainian quickly shook off the loss in the next round with a win over Serb Ivan Saric to pick up his first three.

In Round 3, Ivanchuk’s genius shone through as the former world No.2 left Anish Giri stunned with the crushing 34. Bxf6+, which forced the Dutchman to instantly resign.

Then, Ivanchuk showed again he was still on top of his game with a Round 4 win over Poland’s World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda. His performance will bring a cheer from fans of the older generation of players taking part in this event.

Pragg, the Indian teen who has beaten Magnus Carlsen twice this season, was heading for the top spot after clocking up three wins but was pegged back in the final round. The 17-year-old suffered a shock loss to the youngest player in the event, 15-year-old US prodigy Christopher Yoo.

Meanwhile, Carlsen burst out of the blocks to take a one-point lead on the opening day of the tournament. The world champion racked up an unbeaten 10/12 points with wins over India’s Arjun Erigaisi, Adhiban Baskaran and Liem Quang Le with only Dutch No.1 Giri preventing him from taking the maximum.

“He’s (Carlsen) really started on fire,” Grandmaster David Howell said in the commentary box, reports Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. “Normally, we’re not used to seeing (him) this sharp in tournaments so soon. Normally, he steps up the gears as the days go on. Impressive stuff, scary for the rest of the field, maybe.”

Behind the favorite are four players on nine points, including American Hans Niemann who, with Carlsen, has been at the center of furore in the chess world over the last two weeks. But Niemann showed he wasn’t going to let internet speculation get to him as he also had a strong day. Carlsen and Niemann are now set for a hotly-anticipated clash later on Monday.

It was Niemann who drew first blood in the tournament by beating 53-year-old legend Boris Gelfand. Niemann went to finish with an impressive three wins.

The final player on 9/12 was 19-year-old Indian Erigaisi, who recovered from his opening round loss to Carlsen to score three wins. He beat Adhiban, Liem and the Czech David Navara.

Once the prelim is completed, the tournament will move to the knockouts before a two-day grand final.

The eight-day event runs from September 18 to 25 and features 16 world-class competitors spanning three generations of players.

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