San Francisco, Nov 20 () Magnus Carlsen showed his near complete dominance in online chess once again as he marched to victory in the 2022 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals with a round to spare.
The World champion blew away 17-year-old sensation Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa of India to seal the final event of the season held at the SHACK15 venue in San Francisco on Saturday.
Going into Sunday’s Round 6 matches, only Poland’s World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda stood any real chance of overtaking Carlsen on the tournament leaderboard.
But having lost on Saturday to surrender the lead to Carlsen, despite the champ dropping a point himself, Duda lost again to US star Wesley So.
Carlsen has won five of the nine events on the 11-month Tour with Duda in second place winning two. In this event, he has so far won 14 of his 16 games and is undefeated in his six matches. It has been an incredible performance.
Game 1 saw Carlsen decline a draw by repetition while Pragg had a promising attack. But the youngster’s 34. Bf6 mistake allowed a trade of rooks and his attack fizzled out. Then Carlsen took control to close out a win.
The second game saw Pragg get agonisingly close to beating Carlsen for the third time on the Tour this year before a complete turnaround. The teenager from Chennai was heading for the win with Carlsen desperately trying to find a perpetual check before a one-move mistake allowed the champ to swap off queens. Pragg appeared to panic and blundered further with 37…exd5? leaving him in a hopeless position.
The Norwegian was 2-0 up and needed just a draw to secure the match and the tournament. In a must-win situation, Pragg gave up two rooks in an attempt to launch an attack on Carlsen’s king, but the champ stayed cool and defended well to repeat the position three times and force the draw.
Pragg said he was surprised by his opponent’s opening choices, which included the rarely used at the top level 1.b3, and made a mistake in time trouble.
In victory, Carlsen said: “I’m relieved, it was a tough match today.”
Asked whether he would celebrate before tomorrow’s final round, Carlsen added: “It’s a bit too early to celebrate today, that’s for sure.”
In the other matches, the resurgent Wesley So crushed Duda 3-0 to leapfrog him into second. Tomorrow’s final round sees Duda (10pts) and So (12pts) in a race for second-place. So started slowly but has won four matches back-to-back while Duda, who faces Carlsen, has lost two on the bounce.
Another player who has seen his form turn around in the tournament is the 19-year-old Indian Arjun Erigaisi who beat Liem Quang Le 2.5-0.5 and who now stands fourth in the table. The Azerbaijani No.1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov also ended a run of 15 games without a win as he beat Anish Giri 2.5-0.5.