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Praggnanandhaa holds Carlsen to fighting draw


Indian wonder boy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa held world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway to a fighting draw in Game 1 of the FIDE World Cup Tuesday in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Game 2 was being played as of press time with the 32-year-old Carlsen handling the white pieces against the timid-looking Praggnanandhaa, 18, even as local spectators were cheering for Nijat Abasov, who upset world No. 2 Fabiano Caruana in their battle for third place.

Abasov, the 69th seed Azeri, needed only 26 moves to hand Caruana his first ever defeat in classical chess time controls in the biennial event which started with 206 participants and qualifiers.

The list included three Filipinos — Wesley So, now playing for the United States, and New York-based Mark Paragua and WGM Janelle Frayna in the distaff side.

Caruana, holder of the third highest Elo rating in history at 2844, and currently world No. 2, blundered on the 23rd move of a Catalan game and needed to win at all costs with white to even the score.

A draw gives Abasov a ticket to the Candidates matches as well as $60,000, probably his biggest paycheck yet.

Great fortune in big time chess awaits the 28-year-old Abasov, who qualified in the European championships after years of being a journeyman.

Praggnanandhaa, who also took the long route of qualifying by emerging No. 1 in the 2022 Asian championships, is emerging to become one of India’s finest young crop of players.

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