In only 30 moves, taking just about an hour and 10 minutes, the second Classical game of the FIDE World Cup final between Magnus Carlsen and R Praggnanandhaa on Wednesday was done. It was almost like the five-time world champion and India’s young superstar wanted to finish their match in time to see the landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon.
With both the games drawn, the match now heads into tiebreakers on Thursday and it promises to be an exciting affair.
The FIDE World Cup is the only major chess trophy missing from Carlsen’s overflowing cabinet and one would think that the 32-year-old would go on the offensive with white pieces. After all, he is the world’s only 2800+ rated player and though he’s not the current world champion, there’s no doubt he’s the best player.
You can follow our liveblog for the Praggnanandhaa vs Magnus Carlsen FIDE World Cup final here
More importantly, one would have thought he would like to avoid playing tiebreakers against his 18-year-old opponent who wears his wizard hat when it comes to the shorter formats.
Maybe it’s the fact that Carlsen is suffering from a bout of food poisoning and has admittedly barely eaten in the past three days, but he chose one of the most defensive openings in chess which came as a real shock to those who expected a showdown.
Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay said the only purpose of the move by white was to play for a draw.
“The move is called a 4 Knights Game as all four knights are played. It is considered to be defensive and the sole purpose of this is generally to play out a draw,” Thipsay said.
Thipsay opined that perhaps Carlsen had something strategic on his mind and wanted to use that in shorter formats.
“Sometimes when you have a new strategy, you want to use it in a shorter format as your opponent has very little time to decipher it. In the longer format, it’s easier to find out your opponent’s strategy,” he said.
Carlsen, though, put his defensive play entirely down to him feeling unwell.
“I didn’t feel like I had the energy for a fight so I thought I’d get one more day of rest and have more strength tomorrow (Thursday),” the Norwegian said after the game.
INTERACTIVE: You can follow the move-by-move action from Wednesday’s second game in the final between Praggnanandhaa and Magnus Carlsen below and also click on the notations at the right of the board to retrace the way the game developed:
Pragg no pushover
For the Indian, this is a perfect opportunity to win his first major individual title. Carlsen is undoubtedly much stronger in the Classical format and Pragg will be thankful that he wanted to settle for a quick draw and take it to the tie-break.
“I didn’t really think that he (Carlsen) would go for a quick draw. I’m fine with that. I also feel exhausted,” Pragg told FIDE after the game.
The Chennai lad is a real fighter when it comes to the shorter formats, as seen in this tournament and countless times earlier. He’s very quick at analysing moves ahead of time, something imperative to succeed in tie-breaks.
“Pragg has very strong openings and systems in the shorter format. He has different openings in different time controls so he’s quite prepared. The fact that he has beaten top players in tie-breakers en route to the final means he will be quite confident. By now, it doesn’t seem like Carlsen intimidates him at all,” Thipsay said.
Chandrayaan-3 landing live updates: Rover to come out soon after Vikram lander makes soft-landing
Chess World Cup 2023 Final LIVE: Praggnanandhaa and Magnus Carlsen agree to draw after 30 moves
In tiebreakers at this tournament, Pragg has beaten World No. 2 Hikaru Nakamura in Round 4, got the better of his 19-year-old compatriot Arjun Erigaisi in the quarterfinals and then stunned World No. 3 Fabiano Caruana in the semifinal. In comparison, only one of Carlsen’s matches — against 18-year-old German Vincent Keymer – went to tie-breakers.
Pragg though is ready for one final push on Thursday. He’s ready to forget all the Classical games he’s played at the tournament in Baku.
“I just want to come with a fresh mind. I will try to rest; it is very important because I’ve been playing a lot of tie-breaks here. I know it (tie-breakers vs Carlsen) can take a lot of games or short ones as well, so I have to be ready for everything,” he said.
Carlsen, on the other hand, will be focused on recovering properly rather than preparing for tie-breakers, for, in his own words, “If I have some energy, obviously I will have a good chance”