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Praggnanandhaa Triumphs Over Magnus Carlsen in Classical Chess: “His Opening Was Provocative, I Said He Wants to Fight… I Didn’t Mind at All”

In a stunning upset, 18-year-old Indian chess prodigy Praggnanandhaa defeated World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen in a classical game during the third round of the Norway Chess tournament, held in Carlsen’s home country. This victory marked Praggnanandhaa’s first win against Carlsen in classical chess and propelled him to the top of the open standings. Adding to the day’s success, his sister Vaishali also secured a leading position in the women’s standings by edging past Anna Muzychuk in the Armageddon.

Carlsen opted for a ‘risky’ opening strategy, choosing not to castle and attempting to surprise Praggnanandhaa. This tactic backfired as Praggnanandhaa, after an initial period of adjustment, managed to apply significant pressure on the five-time world champion.

“His opening was provocative. I said he wants to fight, because otherwise, he could play something solid. I didn’t mind at all. We’ll fight and we’ll see how it goes,” Praggnanandhaa remarked to The Indian Express following his victory.

Commenting on the match, Hikaru Nakamura noted in the confessional booth, “Magnus has decided to play something very double-edged. I guess you can say, he’s going all in today. He’s either going to win or lose today. Hard to see this end in a draw.” Nakamura later suggested that Carlsen’s risky playstyle is reserved for younger opponents, stating, “I wish Carlsen would take these chances against me or against Fabi. I have this theory that when Magnus is playing the younger kids specifically he wants to sort of prove a point, he wants to go after them and try to beat them and he takes far more risks than he does against us old folks!”

Despite trailing on the clock for most of the match, Praggnanandhaa managed to secure the win. When asked if this was one of his best victories, he humbly responded, “I don’t know, I will have to check. I didn’t think I played really well. I did find some best moves. It’s not my best game for sure.”

The game began with Praggnanandhaa playing 1.e4, which Carlsen countered with c5, leading to an Open Sicilian. Praggnanandhaa noted, “My prep stopped at bishop d3 (his fifth move). Carlsen playing queen c7 (with the fifth move) was a surprise. I couldn’t remember anything after that.”

Carlsen criticized Praggnanandhaa’s 10th move, h3, calling it a “waste of a move” in the confessional booth. “Obviously, a pretty risky opening choice today. I think his move 10.h3, though, was a little bit soft. He thought about it for a long time there. I guess he was calculating f4 and queen c5. I don’t really think that’s worse for black. So that was a little bit of a waste of a move. Apart from that, sometimes h3 can be used for rooks and queens for attacks. I wasn’t overly impressed with that one.”

By the 10th move, Carlsen had a 20-minute advantage on the clock. However, by the 13th move, when Carlsen moved his queen to d7 in response to Praggnanandhaa’s f5, the evaluation indicated an advantage for Praggnanandhaa. Reflecting on this, Praggnanandhaa admitted, “At this stage, I felt it was getting tricky for Carlsen.”

Carlsen expressed concern in the confessional booth after move 15, saying, “I’m a little bit scared that he’s going to go fe6 and knight d5 now. I’ll take the knight and maybe I’ll castle queenside. But it looks quite scary. I doubt that it’s objectively good for white, although I’m not quite sure. I feel that in other lines I’ll be alright. But knight d5 scares me a bit.”

Despite a perceived error on the 20th move, Praggnanandhaa maintained his composure and played correctly throughout the game. “I’m feeling good. The game was quite interesting. I got a very good position from the opening. I kind of misplayed it at some point. I allowed bishop e3 (20.Bxe3) and f6 (21.f6). I was told later that I still played that position correctly. Maybe I was better throughout the game,” he reflected after the win in Stavanger.

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