Indian prodigy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa booked himself a chance to take on the very best in chess with a stunning victory in the Polgar Challenge.
The 15-year-old from Chennai secured the first online title in the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour and a $3,000 top prize with a round to spare on Sunday.
Pragg wins not just the cash purse but a golden ticket to test himself against the best. He will play in the next elite Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event on April 24.
A final round decider against top seed Nodirbek Abdusattorov was on the cards had been hotly-anticipated.
But that clash of the top two title-chasers overnight became irrelevant. Pragg simply won his first three games and after that, he couldn’t be stopped.
Chess legend Judit Polgar said the youngster’s win was “fully deserved and extremely convincing”.
Pragg’s coach for the tour, former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, went further. The 45-year-old predicted Pragg might play a match for the World Championship one day.
“His talent is on the scale of the guys who we all know!”
Kramnik said he thought Pragg was like the “reincarnation” of India’s greatest ever player Vishy Anand.
“He reminds me so much of a young Vishy, so much, in everything – in character, in a way, he’s very light, it seems to me he’s very sharp, light, quick.”
A future World Champion?
Kramnik added: “And this passion of chess, I fully agree. And this kind of sharpness, this Vishy stuff.
“When I saw Pragg for the first time and I could see, ok, we will see if he will achieve as much as Vishy – that’s not easy. Let’s put it this way – but… his chess also pretty much reminds me of Vishy – universal, sharp, quick, with a good sense of dynamics, with a good feeling of the position.
“To me somehow I felt like it’s a reincarnation of Vishy, even if Vishy is still there and still playing chess!
“But it’s very much reminding me of Vishy at this age, and I played first time with Anand when he was 17. I remember him more or less at this age.”
Anand himself paid tribute to his young countryman’s win on Twitter:
Congrats to @rpragchess .Proud to see four of my kids from the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy in the event. Prag dominated and showed his class. But now we have some work ,getting him ready for the big one!— Viswanathan Anand (@vishy64theking) April 11, 2021
Pragg finished a full 1.5 points ahead of the chasing pack of Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Gukesh, Nihal Sarin and Volodar Murzin.
In the team competition, Team Polgar clinched team victory with 96.5 points to Team Kramnik’s 88.
The Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour returns on June 10 for the Gelfand Challenge. Two teams of players will compete again for a $15,000 prize pot and another wildcard entry into the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
That gives Pragg less than two weeks to prepare for a probably match against World Champion Magnus Carlsen.