Young Praggnanandhaa A Surprise Winner At Xtracon Chess Open
The Indian prodigy took home one of the biggest titles of his career. | Photo: Xtracon Chess Open.

Young Praggnanandhaa A Surprise Winner At Xtracon Chess Open

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

The Indian chess prodigy Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu made history this week to become one of the youngest winners of the traditional Copenhagen Open, now known as the Xtracon Chess Open, held in Helsingor, Denmark.

The Xtracon Chess Open was the main event of the 41st Copenhagen Chess Festival. This event was a 10-round Swiss-system open to all players. The tournament was held from July 20-28 with a double round on the second day. Some 368 players from 25 countries participated. Eighty-seven of them were titled, including 25 grandmasters.

The event ran into a huge problem before it began, as the chief organizer Lars-Henrik Bech Hansen died suddenly, three weeks before the event. The organizing team decided to continue the chess festival in the spirit and honor of Bech Hansen. Before the start of the event, a minute of silence was observed for Bech Hansen, who was heavily involved with the festival for over a decade.

The playing hall with 79 live DGT boards. | Photo: Xtracon Chess Open.

The tournament boasted several strong titled players including 13 grandmasters rated above 2600. Three top Nordic stars were the favorites: the top seed Nils Grandelius of Sweden, Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway and current Norwegian champion Aryan Tari. But it was the young Indian, Praggnanandhaa, who stole the show. His elder sister WGM Vaishali also had a dream event and picked up her first grandmaster norm. 

The 13-year-old Praggnanandhaa started as the 21st seed and led almost from start to finish. He survived a scare in the last round to win the tournament alone with 8.5/10, earning a performance rating of 2741. He gained 29 Elo points to his existing 2540 FIDE rating.

Praggnanandhaa won seven games and drew three, and was unbeaten throughout.

A career-best result for Praggnanandhaa in Denmark. | Photo: Xtracon Chess Open.

One of his best games of the event came in round four when he defeated Swedish FM Erik Malmstig. Playing Black, Praggnanandhaa played a fine game as he employed the Tango defense. He brought all his pieces to grab the initiative and bring home the point.

 This author, IM Rakesh Kulkarni, analyzes Pragg's win in round four.

The best thing about large opens is the variety of tactics-rich games and upsets. A talented Danish player, IM Kassa Korley, played a fascinating game against the sixth seed of the event, GM Alexander Moiseenko. Korley's dancing knights created havoc and a brilliant rook lift 19...Re5 sealed White's fate. Interestingly, Korley had already played a similar game recently and so did German grandmaster Jakob Meister back in 1997.

The partner streamer FM Ingvar Johannesson annotated the following game and also wrote a detailed blog about this game. That blog can be read here.

FM Ingvar Johannesson analyzes this crazy game on his Twitch account.

This win eventually propelled Korley to achieve his second grandmaster norm and win the best-game prize with a one-year subscription to the Dutch magazine New in Chess (who now also sponsors's monthly Titled Tuesday event).
Meanwhile, Pragg picked up a lucky win when the second seed Anton Korobov blundered in round six.

Thanks to this win, Praggnanandhaa shared the lead with three others. Then, his thumping win over Italian number-one Daniele Vocaturo in round seven gave him the sole lead. Hereafter, he hung onto the top board and never left it. But, as is typical in a Swiss open, as many as five players had a crack at first place before the last round started. Unsurprisingly, boards two and three drew rather quickly, assuring themselves good prize money.

Two young players who were both part of the Junior Speed Chess Championship on were now battling it out for first. The American rising star Sam Sevian had Praggnanandhaa on the ropes. He was pushing but the Indian GM held on in the end.

The last round between two talented juniors who played in the Junior Speed Chess Championship, Sevian and Praggnanandhaa. | Photo: Xtracon Chess Open.

2019 Xtracon Chess Open | Final Standings (Top 22)

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2
1 21 GM R Praggnanandhaa 2540 8.5 55 57.25
2 8 GM Tari Aryan 2620 8 57 54.75
3 3 GM Sargissian Gabriel 2681 8 54.5 50.25
4 13 GM Postny Evgeny 2601 8 53.5 51.5
5 4 GM Sevian Samuel 2667 8 53.5 46.5
6 17 GM Rasmussen Allan Stig 2569 8 52 51.75
7 14 GM Kryakvin Dmitry 2586 7.5 57.5 51
8 9 GM Svane Rasmus 2615 7.5 55.5 50.75
9 2 GM Korobov Anton 2687 7.5 55.5 48.5
10 1 GM Grandelius Nils 2691 7.5 54.5 49.25
11 5 GM Hammer Jon Ludvig 2637 7.5 53.5 48.25
12 11 GM Vocaturo Daniele 2612 7.5 53.5 47.5
13 12 GM Andersen Mads 2605 7.5 53 47.25
14 15 GM Kollars Dmitrij 2581 7.5 52.5 48.25
15 49 WGM R Vaishali 2344 7.5 52 47.25
16 32 CM H Bharath Subramaniyam 2405 7.5 52 47
17 10 GM Karthikeyan Murali 2613 7.5 52 46
18 30 IM Holm Kristian Stuvik 2469 7.5 49 44.5
19 6 GM Moiseenko Alexander 2628 7.5 49 43.75
20 28 IM Hauge Lars Oskar 2476 7.5 49 42.5
21 18 GM Maze Sebastien 2565 7.5 48 44
22 40 FM Sawatzki Frank 2385 7.5 46.5 42.75

Full standings (here)

Praggnanandhaa's coach, GM Ramesh RB, was full of praise for his protegee. He congratulated Praggnanandhaa for winning the Xtracon Open, and his elder sister for scoring her first GM norm. He also congratulated the 12-year-old Bharath Subramaniyam for beating a 2600+ GM.

The Copenhagen Chess Festival included various side events like a lecture by the chess legend Jan Timman, a simultaneous exhibition and several blitz events. 

Timman shared his expert knowledge on a Kasparov-Karpov game. | Photo: Xtracon Chess Open.
The reigning Norwegian champion GM Aryan Tari played a 22-board simul, scoring 19-3. | Photo: Xtracon Chess Open.

You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official website is here.

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