CHENNAI: Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa was one of the pre-tournament favourites heading into the World Youth Championships in Mumbai. On Saturday, the 14-year-old lived up to his top billing by winning the U-18 category of the competition with 9 points from 11 rounds. This is Praggu’s third age-group category World crown as he won the U-8 and U-10 titles back in 2013 and 2015 respectively. The victory gives Praggu 19 ELO points to take his live rating to 2586.
Praggu, the top seed in the U-18 Open category, conceded that the going was not easy. “Each round was a challenge as all the players came thoroughly prepared. But this victory is a lot special for me since India is hosting this tournament for the first time, and playing in front of the home crowd was a great experience,” Praggu told TOI. Going into the final round with 8.5 points in his kitty, Praggu did well to draw against Germany’s Buckels Valentin. Armenia’s GM Sargsyan Shant (8.5 points) and Davtyan Artur (8) finished second and third respectively.
Praggu started off his campaign by winning his first two rounds. Barring the 7th round when he slipped to the second spot, Praggu led the field for the rest of the competition. “I may have gone undefeated in the tournament but there were a few occasions when things didn’t go as I had planned. But I dug deep to come out unscathed,” said Praggu, who had 7 wins and 4 draws in the competition.
Did he feel the heat when he slipped to the second spot after the 7th round? “I knew where I was placed, but the best part was that there were a few more rounds to go and things change quickly. It was important for me to not overanalyze my position and play well in my next game,” Praggu said.
Coach RB Ramesh felt Praggu’s victory against GM P Iniyan in the 8th round was a very satisfying one. “It was a crunch game and Praggu did well to win it. Praggu’s match against Iran’s Aryan Gholami too was a tight one,” Ramesh said.
Praggu may have just won a World title but he will have very little time to sit back and cherish it. Praggu will next be featuring in the World junior chess championships (U-20) which starts in New Delhi from October 14. “The win in the World youth championships should hold me in good stead when I go for my next event. The competition there will be tougher and I hope to give a good account for myself,” said Praggu.
Rakshitta wins bronze: Chennai girl Rakshitta Ravi won bronze in the girls U-14 category. The silver was won by Divya Deshmukh.