Indian Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa defeated compatriot Arjun Erigaisi 5-4 via the sudden death tie-break to enter the semifinals of the FIDE World Cup chess tournament Baku, Azerbaijan on Thursday. With the win, the 17-year old Praggnanandhaa booked a place in the semifinals against American ace Fabiano Caruana and almost secured a spot in next year’s Candidates event.
The teenaged chess star from Chennai, by virtually securing a place in the Candidates tournament, would be the only other Indian other than five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand to feature in the Candidates.
With world No.1 Magnus Carlsen not likely to feature in the Candidates, Praggnanandhaa could be playing in the tournament to decide the challenger to current world champion Ding Liren.
Praggnanandhaa had bounced back after losing the first game of the two-game classical series to win the second on Wednesday to force the tie-break.
In the first 5+3 blitz game, Praggnanandhaa played fantastic to take down Erigaisi.
Erigaisi hit back in the next to level the match.
Games three and four were won by Praggnanandhaa and Erigaisi respectively as the quarterfinal headed to a sudden death decider. Interestingly, all games were won by players with black pieces.
Both the Indians showed nerves of steel, scoring wins in crucial games as the last eight clash ebbed and flowed due to enterprising play by the duo.
Noted coach R B Ramesh said on X (formerly Twitter) after the match: “What an epic match! Well played both young lions! Proud of both players for their fighting spirit throughout! @rpragchess @ArjunErigaisi.” Two other Indians — 17-year old D Gukesh and Vidit Santosh Gujrathi — had crashed out in the quarterfinals, losing to world No.1 Carlsen and Nijat Abasov respectively.
The top three finishers in the tournament qualify for the Candidates event in 2024 to determine the challenger to Ding Liren.