Chess — baby beats the babysitter
Praggmentation (n): The process of being taken apart, bit by bit, by chess grandmaster Praggnanandhaa.
Anish Giri found this out the hard way. The world’s 9th ranked grandmaster, himself a relatively young 28, had tweeted before his game against India’s Pragnanandhaa, 16, on Tuesday that he’s “Gonna be babysitting Pragg in three hours. Come watch!” Turned out that the baby bit him.
After three draws in the four-game encounter at the eight-GM chess tournament in Miami, Pragg pounced on a small mistake by Giri in game four to grind out a win, his second in successive days against a Top 10 player, after his victory over Iran-born world No.4 Alireza Firouzja the previous day.
Pragg’s current FIDE world ranking is #89, but he’s playing way above that level. Considering he’s beaten world #1 Magnus Carlsen twice in recent months — plus victories over world #2 Ding Liren and world # 6 Aronian, — these wins over the world #4 and world #9 can’t be a fluke. You know he’s arrived on the world stage when chess commentators start to ask how exactly to pronounce his name. Question is, can he maintain a top 10 standard consistently in classical chess?
Pragg’s over Firouzja was particularly significant. Many chess pundits have anointed Firouzja as Carlsen’s heir apparent, and he was briefly world # 2, before slipping to #4. There is also another legacy matter here — chess originated in India and Persia was its first stop before it traveled further west. Firouzja though has decamped from Iran and plays under the French flag now (problems with mullahs over playing Israel). At the Chess Olympiad in Chennai earlier this month, the draw ensured Firouzja did not get to play Indians.
Pragg took him down in Miami, winning two, losing one, and drawing one. He’s also due to play Carlsen in this tournament. He plays Hans Nieman, another prodigy, on Wednesday. Others in the field are GMs Levon Aronian (world #6), Jan-Krystof Duda (world #18), and Quang Le (world #21).
Pragg’s win against Giri, the babysitting flame bait notwithstanding, was more of a squeeze than a bite. Pouncing on an error by Giri, the young Indian GM crushed him relentlessly, eventually asphyxiating him and forcing him to resign. He then walked off without a handshake, leaving Giri staring at the board in shock, probably wondering if trolling Pragg was such a good idea.
But Giri, whose dad is Nepali and mom Russian, and who plays under the Dutch flag, is a sport with an impish sense of humor. A few hours later, he retweeted a meme showing an infant judoka kicking down a master, signalling the end of his babysitting career.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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