Chess World Cup: Carlsen, Pragg set the stage for an epic tiebreaker - Hindustan Times
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Chess World Cup: Carlsen, Pragg set the stage for an epic tiebreaker

By, New Delhi
Aug 24, 2023 08:17 AM IST

The second classical game ended in a quick draw with the Norwegian world No.1 still struggling due to a bout of food poisoning

It took R Praggnanandhaa just six moves to figure that Magnus Carlsen wanted a draw out of the second classical game on Wednesday in the Chess World Cup final at Baku, Azerbaijan.

The champion will be decided in the tie-breaks on Thursday.(PTI)
The champion will be decided in the tie-breaks on Thursday.(PTI)

The result was determined by Carlsen's opening choice -- a bailout line with four knights with the e5 variation leading to a balanced endgame. It showed that the Norwegian wasn't in the mood to push for a result and just wanted to get back to his room as quickly as possible.

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"I guess (I knew) when he took d4 on move 6," said Praggnanandhaa, when asked about the easy draw. "Because this is supposed to be nothing for white and one of the moves to make a draw."

Still, the 18-year-old Indian grandmaster had to show composure and not give any chances to the World No.1. He did that and the game ended in a 30-move draw.

After the game, Carlsen, who had been struggling with a bout of food poisoning, revealed that he still wasn't back to his best. "Feeling a bit better. I am very grateful to the organisers, FIDE and the doctors and nurses, who got me some good treatment. Today, I am feeling a bit better but I still didn't feel like I had the energy for a full fight, so I thought, let's get one more day of rest. Hopefully, I will have more strength tomorrow."

"Tomorrow" takes the match into the tiebreak where they with play two Rapid games (25-minute time control). If a clear result is not arrived at, they will play another two Rapid games (10-minute time control). Thereafter, they will move into the Blitz games in case of a tie, with two rounds of five minutes with three seconds added per move per player. Finally, if the players are still level on points, a single blitz round will be played for three minutes with two seconds added per move per player.

Praggnanandhaa has already played three tiebreakers in the tournament and he won't particularly mind this.

In the fourth round against Hikaru Nakamura, people kept telling him that the American, one of the strongest Rapid and Blitz players in the world, is very strong in tiebreak. But Praggnanandhaa just turned around and said, "I am also strong."

He will need to bring the same kind of mindset to the board against Carlsen.

The Elo ratings show that there is huge gap between the two -- Carlsen has a Rapid rating on 2825 and a Blitz rating of 2887 while Praggnanandhaa comes in at 2645 in Rapid and 2623 in Blitz but the Indian GM's performance in this tournament has been way above what the ratings suggest.

After beating Nakamura, Praggnanandhaa also beat Arjun Erigaisi in an exciting tiebreaker that went right down to the wire, and finally beat Fabiano Caruana in the tiebreaker as well.

"I just want to come with a fresh mind," Praggnanandhaa said after the draw. "I also feel exhausted. Now, I can give everything and relax after that."

He added: "I will try to rest now; it is very important because I've been playing a lot of tiebreaks here. I know it can take a lot of games or short ones as well, so I have to be ready for everything."

Given that Carlsen played for a draw, it could also mean that the world No.1 spent the day thinking about the tiebreaker while Praggnanandhaa will only start to focus on it after Game 2.

"He's already played a lot of tiebreaks against very strong players -- (I have) played him a bunch in Rapid before, so I know he is very strong," said Carlsen. "If I have some energy, if I have a good day, obviously I will have good chances."

Caruana gets the win

In the third-place playoff, Caruana, playing with white pieces, beat Nijat Abasov of Azerbaijan in 59 moves to level the tie up at 1-1.

Having lost on Tuesday, the American needed to win and he did that. It was a crazy, imbalanced game and he managed to close it out in the end. The tie, like the Pragg-Carlsen match, will move into the tiebreak.

Thursday's tiebreaks will start an hour earlier than the usual timings. So, we will have a 3.30pm start.

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