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Praggnanandhaa Triumphs In Julius Baer Challenger Championship
Praggnanandhaa, 17 years old, continues to rise in the ranks of chess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Praggnanandhaa Triumphs In Julius Baer Challenger Championship

JackRodgers
| 5 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa was crowned the winner of the 2022 Julius Baer Challenger Championship on Tuesday after overcoming rising star GM Pranav Venkatesh, requiring only three of their four scheduled mini-matches to do so.

Praggnanandhaa was unstoppable in both the rapid and blitz time controls, scoring 6.5 to Pranav's 1.5 over eight games in Tel Aviv, Israel.

How to review?
The games of the 2022 Challengers Chess Championship can be found here.


The first day of play featured the first three-game mini-match which Praggnanandhaa was able to clinch in three games with two wins and one draw. In the first game, the higher-rated superstar set the tone of the match with a crushing victory on the black side of the Spanish Game: Morphy Defense, hopping his knights toward Pranav's king and forcing resignation on move 30.

Pranav, who just recently earned the GM title to become India's 75th grandmaster, showed a willingness to fight with the black pieces in the second game but could only manage a draw after castling opposite sides.

History would repeat itself in game three where Praggnanandhaa repeated the Morphy Defense once more and found himself content with equality on move 40. Sensing the need to press, Pranav played the dubious 41.h4 and fell victim to a nasty double-check and lost the game and the match 0.5-2.5.

Starting the second day of rapid with a fresh scorecard, Pranav opted to change up his black repertoire and play the Sicilian Defense: Najdorf Variation in an attempt to challenge his opponent's theoretical knowledge. Never one to shy away from such a battle, the 2022 Reykjavik Open winner played a novelty on move 10 and slowly ground down his less experienced opponent.

Although the following game was the longest of the event, one thing was becoming clear: Praggnanandhaa's experience and grinding style was leaving Pranav with few opportunities to insert himself into the match. The Indian number-six, who has been a real thorn in GM Magnus Carlsen's side in recent matches such as these, confirmed his second match win with a 2-0 score after the 75-mover.

The third day left Pranav with a tremendous deficit to overcome, needing to win both remaining matches. However, one thing that stood in his favor was his aptitude in the blitz time controls. The 16-year-old from Tamil Nadu demonstrated his speed chess excellence (evident by his 3050 rating on Chess.com) and scored his first win of the event to kick off day three.

Now in with a sniff to steal a match off his illustrious opponent, Pranav was hoping for some dynamic play in the second game but was snared once more by constricting play from his opponent. The Italian Opening: Pianissimo Variation lived up to its name and the quiet but deadly play from Praggnanandhaa allowed him to equalize in the match.

Clearly stunted by the previous game, Pranav found himself in trouble early on in the final game of the day and was decisively beaten.

Having won his first three matches, Praggnanandhaa alleviated the need for a fourth match and claimed the tournament, adding yet another title to a breakout year for the 17-year-old.


After a breakout year (and a healthy 600-point blitz jump due to FIDE's new regulations), Praggnanandhaa will likely soon establish himself amongst the top players in the world. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com. 

Legendary player and event commentator GM Judit Polgar was present at the prizegiving ceremony to congratulate Praggnanandhaa for his "convincing victory".

 The Indian GM won $,6,000 of the $ 10,000 prize pot for his efforts while Pranav picked up $4,000 and can take solace in the fact that he recently secured a spot in the 2023 Meltwater Championships.

All Games - Julius Baer Challenger Championship


The Julius Baer Challenger Championship took place December 11-14, 2022, on chess24. It is the final stage of the Magnus Chess Academy Challenge Challengers Chess Tour. The format includes four, three-game mini-matches between Praggnanandhaa and Pranav, the 2021 Challengers champion against the 2022 Challengers champion. The prize fund is $10,000.

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