CHENNAI: R Praggnanandhaa may not have broken Sergey Karjakin’s record of becoming the youngest ever Grandmaster, but the youngster has certainly left an impression on the 28-year-old Russian. In a chat with TOI on Monday, five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand revealed how Karjakin was pleased with his victory over Praggu at the Aeroflot Open blitz meet in Moscow earlier this year.
“Lots of people have been impressed with Praggu’s play. In the blitz tournament at Moscow recently, Karjakin was very proud when he came to me and told me that he had managed to beat Praggu,” Anand mentioned. In that event, Karjakin faced Praggu in a series of two games of 3 minutes each. Praggu had pushed Karjakin in the opening encounter but settled for a draw. In the second clash, Karjakin brought in all his experience to get the better of Praggu and win the clash 1.5-0.5.
For more than three decades now, Anand has been the flag-bearer for chess in India. However, in the last few years, there have been many who have made a mark in the sport, but none of them have managed to capture Anand’s attention quite like Praggu. Anand — who was India’s first ever Grandmaster — believes Praggu is blessed with an innate understanding of the game. “Given his young age, Praggu is able to play a wide range of systems and play technical positions as well. This kind of broad understanding is important in modern chess and that’s what makes him special,” Anand told TOI on Monday.
While Anand has no doubt in Praggu’s potential to become a world beater, he does feel the youngster will have to constantly fine-tune his game in order to beat the best in the business. “He will have to keep improving and sharpening his playing skills in all areas. He has to be aware that people will now start making special preparations for him and Praggu will get a lot attention. Luckily, he is starting early and has a lot of time to get used to all of that,” Anand said.
Praggu, who became the second quickest in history to become a Grandmaster on Saturday, was at one point of time bidding to beat Karjakin’s record. Anand feels the 12-year-old would have certainly felt the weight of expectations at some point. “It’s such a prestigious record, he must have thought about it. I think it (the pressure) probably did (affect him) but only in the last stages. When there was a 3-4 month deadline to become the youngest ever GM, it’s hard to believe that it didn’t affect him at all. Even if he tried not to, it might have been working on him subconsciously. I think getting the GM title is a weight off his back and he can concentrate on his chess,” Anand pointed out.