The sensational rise of Praggnanandhaa from prodigy to superpower is the highlight of Indian chess in 2023

R. Praggnanandha at the Tata Steel India Rapid & Blitz, Kolkata! [Credit: PhotoChess]
As we look back at the highs of Indian sports in 2023, let’s revisit this episode which captivated the intriguing and intricate world of chess. We are talking about Grandmaster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. This 18-year-old prodigy from Chennai made a telling mark on the global stage at the World Cup held in July-August.

He reached the final and took on Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, the world No 1 and five-time world champion. Pragg had beaten the world No 2 Hikaru Nakamura and No 3 Fabio Caruana before that match in Baku. It is the capital of Azerbaijan and the birthplace of Garry Kasparov. There could have been no better venue for an emerging player to announce his arrival.

Pragg showcased his strategic brilliance, and eventually settled for a runner-up finish after a tightly contested duel. The battle between the two Grandmasters extended to tie-breakers, where Carlsen, with his end-game prowess, emerged victorious. It was another trophy in his already full cabinet. At the same time, it was a very famous second-placed player’s award for the young Indian, whose elder sister R Vaishali is also a Grandmaster.

Other than securing the silver medal, Pragg went on to seal a spot at the illustrious Candidates tournament. This is an eight-player event which selects the player to challenge the world champion. No Indian after former five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand had qualified for this. This time, Pragg will be there, with Vidit Gujrathi.


A humble and hardworking boy, who turned his passion into profession, whose parents allowed him to watch only chess tournaments on TV, became a superpower in chess in 2023. During the World Cup final, Grandmasters and live commentators couldn’t help but be in awe of this young master.

Daniel Naroditsky and Peter Leko were all praise for Pragg, calling him a “consummate professional”. Although the teen sensation couldn’t get his hands on the World Cup and victory eluded him in the final, Pragg scripted a remarkable chapter in the history of Indian chess.

Anand has spoken highly of Pragg and marked him out as one for the future. As he grabbed the opportunity to take part in the 2024 Candidates tournament to be held in Canada, he became the third-youngest player to qualify for the esteemed tournament. The names ahead of him? Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen. You know now which league Pragg belongs to.

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