Irrespective of the result of the tiebreaker which is set to decide the fate of the FIDE World Cup 2023 finals between one of the finest young sportsmen in India, Praggnanandhaa R, and the Scandinavian master Magnus Carlsen, it is safe to say that the teenage sensation from the subcontinent is a national pride in himself.
Smartkhabrinews had the opportunity to pick the brains of RB Ramesh, Prag’s coach of ten years and one of the strongest influences on the wunderkind from Tamil Nadu, who has been giving the world leaders in the game of chess a run for their money.
Prag’s journey to the summit clash of the prestigious tournament in Azerbaijan has been underlined by the fact that he bested both the World No. 2 and 3 ranked players, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabio Caruana, en route to the final.
Technical Evaluation of Praggnanandhaa’s Performance
Ramesh gave his technical evaluation of the 18-year-old’s display against the top players in the world, which ultimately propelled him to the final frontier against Carlsen.
“Prag has outplayed World No.2 and World No.3,” Ramesh begins with a more than just a hint of pride in his voice.
“On this journey, he had done a couple of key stuff incredibly well. One is his end game and the other thing is how he defended a bad position.
“When you play a lot of games, you make mistakes and get trapped in bad positions frequently. What happens subsequently is that you get frustrated and end up losing the game,” he explained.
“But, Prag has defended those positions and has fought back to salvage multiple half points to claw back into the game. This is very crucial and I feel he has done it really well.
“And of course in certain games he has attacked really well, so overall, he has done well in multiple areas.
“A small concern, however, would be time management. I feel it would be a bit better if he could address that. But, then again it is something I have had a feeling about for a long while now. But, Prag is a perfectionist, and he intends to play without committing mistakes. And to cater to such perfectionism, one has to analyse in depth and that could be the cause of the time troubles,” he said as he explained the core reason behind the concern.
“We have spoken about it in detail, but it isn’t something that changes overnight. If he can manage to adapt to this, I feel he will be a complete player,” Ramesh asserted.
Praggnanandhaa’s Triumph over Arjun Erigasi
Prag also had to survive a marathon game against the likes of compatriot Arjun Erigasi in the quarter-final of the tournament in Baku, as he mounted a come-from-behind win over his countrymate, which elicited a reaction from Caruana-his semi-final opponent.
Ramesh shed light on the challenges Prag faced during his encounter against his fellow Indian and revealed how he rallied back to seal progress despite losing the opening game playing as white.
“There was a series of nine tournaments that happened last year in which Prag beat Magnus Carlsen five times over in addition to beating other top players too. Multiple players have come up to me and praised his talents. People hail his strong mental setup and maturity for his age,” the star coach reflected.
“The game against Arjun was a difficult one as he opened with a loss in the fixture playing white. And this is something that is always hard to digest.”
“It becomes incredibly difficult to overturn a best-of-two game when you’re surrendered a game playing white,” he explained further.
“And that is what Fabiano meant when he said wouldn’t have backed himself to win from a situation such as the one Prag found himself in against Arjun.”
“But, Prag won back immediately and then on it was a back-and-forth. Such battles are tricky in the sense that there is a swing in momentum and confidence with each oscillating win or defeat,” Ramesh said giving us a peek into the mind of a grandmaster during ebb-and-flow games.
“It is a psychologically daunting task and that is what Fabiano appreciated about the win,” said the coach.
“When big-name players hail you, the feeling you get is special and it boosts your confidence. Carlsen has heaped praise on Prag publicly multiple times and when such legends acknowledge you, it lifts your morale,” Ramesh opined.
Impact on Indian Chess
When the achievements of an teenager bring joy to millions across the vast nation, it is only natural that the reaction it bestows upon one of those fundamentally responsible for the accolades is much more amplified.
“I’ve coached him for the past ten years and I feel immensely proud of whatever he has achieved,” Ramesh said with unassuming delight.
The coach of the prodigy also touched upon the impact Prag’s win has had in helping proliferate interest in the game nationwide.
“Another positive is the fact that media outlets have started picking up on the sport, which is a good sign for the game overall,” he said.
“Chess is a niche sport in India, and not many players are known. Everybody knows Viswanathan Anand, but a lot of good players go unnoticed.
“The fact that the media outlets are taking note of Prag and are singing his praise makes me very happy,” Ramesh concluded.