India’s Young Chess Sensation R Praggnanandhaa Speaks Out

India’s newest Chess sensation, R Praggnanandhaa, may have lost in the World Cup final to Magnus Carlsen, but he remains undeterred. The 18-year-old prodigy, who is the third youngest player ever to qualify for the Candidates tournament, shared his thoughts on the competition and his future aspirations.

A Dream World Cup Run

Praggnanandhaa’s journey in the World Cup was nothing short of spectacular. He made history by becoming the youngest-ever finalist in the tournament’s history. This remarkable achievement also secured his spot in the Candidates tournament in 2024, where the winner will challenge China’s Ding Liren for the World Championship title.

Carlsen: Not Invincible

“It’s not like he (Carlsen) is invincible,”

R Praggnanandhaa said in an exclusive interview with PTI.

Despite Carlsen’s dominance in the chess world, Praggnanandhaa has managed to defeat him five times, albeit in online matches. However, he has never managed to secure a victory over the Norwegian world number one in a traditional board match. Praggnanandhaa acknowledges Carlsen’s strength:

“He’s definitely strong. But, he does lose games. It’s just I think he’s consistent in winning. Doesn’t lose many, that’s why. He’s just strong, mentally and physically. Basically strong in everything.”

The Road to Candidates

Praggnanandhaa is now one of the few players who have secured their spots in the Candidates tournament. Currently, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Fabiano Caruana, and Praggnanandhaa have qualified, with five more spots yet to be determined by the end of the year.

Praggnanandhaa maintains a pragmatic approach to the upcoming tournament:

“I don’t think it is going to be added pressure. I just want to take it as another tournament. If you think it’s very important, then you start putting added pressure. I just want to play like how I played in the last three tournaments,”

he said.

High Expectations

The success of Indian players at the World Cup, with four of them reaching the quarterfinals, has raised hopes of another world champion emerging from the country following the footsteps of five-time winner Viswanathan Anand. Praggnanandhaa remains humble about his achievements:

“There is a lot more to achieve in chess for me. This is just one small step, but still a very good one,” Praggnanandhaa said.

Carlsen’s Absence

Notably, Magnus Carlsen has withdrawn from the race to become a world champion again. However, Praggnanandhaa does not believe this makes the competition easier:

“Not really, everyone else is also very strong. It’s not like it’s going to be easy or anything. Candidates is going to be a really strong event. It requires not only a chess aspect but you have to be in good shape to fight, physically and mentally. To win a world championship, you need to be physically and mentally very, very strong. I don’t think because Magnus won’t be there it would make it easier. It would be very tough. I’m just hoping to give my best and see how it goes,”

he emphasized.

Preparation Beyond Chess

Praggnanandhaa is not just focused on chess. He enjoys playing badminton and cricket to stay in shape when he’s in Chennai. During tournaments, he opts for long walks and engages in self-talk to de-stress:

“I try to play badminton when I’m in Chennai. During the tournament, I try to go for walks. One or another to keep myself in shape. Any sport that does not injure me, I play that. It might sound strange, but I talk to myself to prepare myself mentally. In a proper attitude, it works for me. It’s different for everyone, so we have to find our own way in that. I try to be in the right shape,” he revealed about his preparation.

Mentoring by Anand

Praggnanandhaa credits his mentor, Viswanathan Anand, with boosting his confidence:

“It has helped me a lot. I have learned a lot by discussing chess with him (Anand). Discussing chess, other than the technical aspects like talking about psychological things as well. In general, speaking to him gives you a lot of confidence. Knowing that you are working with a five-time world champion and one of the greatest of the game, he has helped me a lot through WACA,” he said.

Life in the Fast Lane

After his triumphant return to Chennai, Praggnanandhaa received a warm welcome, followed by a Sports Ministry felicitation in Delhi. He is now in Kolkata to attend an Asian Games men’s camp before the Indian team heads to Hangzhou at the end of the month. Life has become hectic for the 18-year-old, but he embraces the changes:

“It (life) has changed a lot in the sense that now a lot of people know about chess in general. A lot of people recognize me. It has changed in that way. It’s good for the game. I think many more young players will start playing, many more sponsors will come to the game. So, chess becoming popular, as a fan, I’m very happy to see that,” he said.

Despite the newfound attention, Praggnanandhaa remains focused on his chess career:

“I’m trying to do it so that it does not affect my preparation. I was keen to attend the Indian team camp along with these players Arjun, Gukesh… I’m just trying to focus on chess right now. So far, it’s been okay. I hope to continue the good work,” he concluded.

(This story has not been edited by Smartkhabrinews staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)

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