The FIDE Chess World Cup 2023 final between R Pragnanandhaa and Magnus Carlsen will be decided in tie-breaks on Thursday – a scenario that might suit both players – after a second consecutive draw today. They mutually agreed to the draw at the first possible opportunity – after move 30 – with both queens and pairs of rooks having been traded by then.
For Pragnanandhaa, rapid chess represents his best shot at beating Carlsen – he has beaten him in that format before – and he’s already played three tie-breakers in this tournament. For Carlsen, it gives him a bit more time to recover from the bout of food poisoning he suffered after the semi-final.
A draw today was an inevitability from the moment Carlsen, with the white pieces, made his first move of the game. He was happy to not force the initiative, while in return Praggnanandhaa adopted a solid approach and ensured that he didn’t give the Norwegian any openings to put pressure on him.
– Viswanathan Anand (@vishy64theking) August 23, 2023
Praggnanandhaa said after the first game that he felt he wasn’t in any trouble there, and that continued on Wednesday as well. He was relaxed right from the beginning, and it showed in his body language and demanour. Even his opening move only came after a delay, making Carlsen wait to see what he was going to throw at him, showing that he was in a good state of mind.
– chess24.com (@chess24com) August 23, 2023
Speaking after the game, Praggnanandhaa said that he was initially surprised at the approach Carlsen took, but said he was happy to take the draw.
“I didn’t think he would go for a quick draw, I realized quickly he just wants to make a draw. But I’m fine with that,” the Indian said. Carlsen said later that his approach to the second game was due to his health. He had been suffering from food poisoning after his semifinal victory and had said even after the first game that he didn’t really have the energy for a long game.
“I’m feeling a bit better, very grateful to the organisers, FIDE, and to the doctors and nurses as well yesterday who got me some good treatment,” he said.
“I still didn’t feel like I had the energy for a full fight, so I thought let’s get one more day of rest, and hopefully I’ll have more strength tomorrow,” the five-time world champion added.
What are Pragg’s chances in the tie-break?
Praggnanandhaa’s live rapid ELO rating is 2645, compared to Carlsen’s 2820. Only world champion Ding Liren has a higher rapid rating than the Norwegian at the moment, while Praggnanandhaa is ranked 67th. The Indian has beaten Carlsen in Rapid play before, in 2022 at the Airthings Masters and the FTX Crypto Cup, both of which were part of the Champions Chess Tour.
Both players have had to come through tie-breaks at this tournament before, but Praggnanandhaa has been fiercely tested in them, by the likes of Hikaru Nakamura, Arjun Erigaisi and Fabiano Caruana. Carlsen has played only one tie-break at this tournament, in the fourth round against Vincent Kaymer of Germany.
“I’ve been playing a lot of tie-breaks, it can take a lot of games or short ones as well, so I have to be ready for everything,” Praggnanandhaa said. Praggnanandhaa’s all-Indian quarterfinal against Erigaisi went all the way to sudden-death blitz games, with the former having to pull off wins on demand with black pieces to get that far. He has proven throughout the last couple of weeks that he has it in him to play incisive, accurate chess even under pressure.
“He [Praggnanandhaa] has already played a lot of tie-breaks against very strong players. I’ve played him a bunch in rapid before, I know he’s very strong,” Carlsen said.
The Norwegian once again stressed the need for him to have the energy for a tough clash tomorrow. “If I have some energy, if I have a good day, obviously I will have good chances,” he said.
The 18-year-old Indian has had to take the tough route to get to the final, and now has gone the distance in the summit clash as well, which has taken a toll on his physical fitness.
“It’ll be tough, definitely,” he said. “But I can give everything I have tomorrow, and then relax after that,” he signed off.