Chess: Teenagers lead in Reykjavik as England hopes fade at finish | Chess
India’s Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 16, widely tipped as a future world-class grandmaster, added to his growing reputation on Tuesday when he won the €5,000 top prize at the Reykjavik Open with an unbeaten 7 ,5/9. Earlier in his career, the Chennai teenager was the youngest ever international master, among the youngest GMs ever and the second youngest to achieve a 2600 Fide rating.
He was singled out in this column over five years ago for an 18-shot brilliance at 11 on the Isle of Man that went global and was compared to Bobby Fischer’s game of the century against Donald Byrne.
More recently, Praggnandhaa earn online facing Magnus Carlsen in the Airthings Masters made him the youngest to beat #1 in a serious game. The quality of his game in Reykjavik also impressed, especially with a brilliance in the penultimate round.
Yet despite everything, Praggnanandhaa’s victory in Reykjavik came courtesy of a final-round gift from another Indian wonderkid. Dommaraju Gukesh, 15, was two pawns ahead near move 40 time control, but two catastrophic blunders gave first the win, then the draw, before allowing a decisive checkmate in a threat.
Two other teenagers have made their mark in Iceland. The youngest ever GM, 13-year-old Abhimanyu Mishra, came under fire when he won the title via closed all-play in Budapest, which some thought was too easy. Mishra responded to his detractors by continuing to push forward. His second tie in Iceland pushed his Fide rating to 2535, giving him another full year to break the youngest player record of 2600, currently held by John Burke of the United States at 14 years and two months.
Hans Niemann is 18, a prodigal age, but the Californian streamer, rejected by Harvard and 2021 US junior champion, has fought his way into the spotlight with a sustained run where he gained 150 ranking points in 18 months to reach the world’s top 100. , coupled with inventive attacking play. Niemann scored a draw with Black against Carlsen in the online Charity Cup, plans to play nine tournaments in a row this summer and has boundless ambition. See his final round thumbnail in the style of Mikhail Tal.
England had 26 players in Reykjavik, the most at an away open for several years, as players ranging from GMs and MIs to veterans and teenagers seized their opportunity.
Brandon Clarke had the best English result, finishing 12th with 6.5/9 and just one loss. The widely traveled Midlander, 26, has had stints in California and Australia, where he won the New Zealand Open, and is now back home and firmly established in the English top 20.
England’s outstanding success came in the senior over-65 category, where Surrey IMs Peter Large, 66, and Nigel Povah, 69, finished tied for the lead 5.5/9 with the six-time European team gold and USSR Championship silver medalist Oleg Romanishin, 70. Romanishin, now representing Ukraine, placed first in the tiebreak with Large second and Povah third. Large’s tally included draws with Romanishin and with India’s No.4 seed and 2,633-ranked Baskan Adhiban.
The final rounds also brought painful English setbacks, including for ‘Ginger GM’ Simon Williams, Guildford’s Harry Grieve who missed his second GM norm, and 12-year-old talent Sohum Lohia, whose calculating skills were on display in the last two laps, but who still made a significant gain in ranking points.
And Carlsen? The multi-talented world champion, who in 2019 impressed when he led over seven million rivals in Fantasy Football, showed another skill – in poker. The Norwegian Poker Championship was held in Dublin due to Norway’s strict gambling laws, and Carlsen finished 25th out of 1,050 players, winning a cash prize of around €5,000.
Carlsen was eventually eliminated by poker pundit Tom Aksel Bedell, who said afterwards that he didn’t really want to win, as he considered Carlsen to be one of Norway’s top three sportsmen, alongside footballer Erling Haaland and golfer Viktor Hovland.
Carlsen will be back on the chessboard on April 22, when the Oslo Esports Cup, part of the Meltwater Champions Tour, kicks off in Oslo. For the Tour only, all eight players will be physically present in the studio, rather than playing remotely from home. A major attraction for chess fans is that Praggnandhaa, the teenage star of the moment, will be one of Carlsen’s seven rivals.
3811: 1 Qf7+! Nxf7 2 exf7+ Kf8 3 Ng6+ Qxg6 4 hxg6 Kb8 5 Kg2 and White’s two extra pawns will win, even if it takes time. The main point, which Hjartarson missed, is 1 Qf7+ Nxf7 2 exf7+ Kh7 and now 3 fxe8=Q?? Qg2+! 4 Kxg2 is a draw but 3 fxe8=B! won. A forced promotion to bishop is exceptionally rare.