Breathtaking events taking place in Indian chess: Fly by Dubai

Some breathtaking things are happening in world chess, especially Indian chess.

The great teenage masters are crushing the “old” brigade – and by old I mean those in their 20s and 30s!

About a month ago, we saw Dommaraju Gukesh, 16, the third youngest person in history to qualify for the title of Grand Master, achieve eight consecutive chess Olympics victories, win a gold medal on the chessboard, and run up to No. 23 in the world rankings.

As soon as we had absorbed that phenomenal run, we saw 17-year-old Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa beat the great Magnus Carlsen in three straight games to reach second place on a strong field at the FTX Crypto Rapid Chess tournament in Miami. This brought his live world rankings from somewhere close to number 100 to around number 50.

Pragg flew from Miami to Dubai to participate in the Dubai open with all eyes on him. But in the week before the Dubai Open, 19-year-old Arjun Erigaisi won the Abu Dhabi Open, beating several GMs, including China’s Wang Hao and Spain’s seeded David Anton Guijarro, on the way to the title. In the process, he bypassed Gukesh and saw his world rankings live at number 18

Six of the top ten places in Abu Dhabi were claimed by the Indians.

Gukesh meanwhile retired to play in the Turkish league, where he defeated among others the Grandmasters Aryan Gholami, Andrey Esipenko, Vahap Sanal.

But you’re still thinking to yourself that Pragg and Erigaise will both be at the Dubai open (along with dozens of Indian GMs and IMs), so we’ll know which streak is hottest, if not who’s better, at the moment.

Pragg leads with 4 out of 4 wins, but in the fifth round he is knocked down by Rinat Jumbayev, a 33-year-old Kazakh Grandmaster. Jumbayev is briefly the only leader.

In the sixth round, Erigaisi beats Jumbayev and takes the lead. In the seventh round, Jumbayev is again defeated by another Indian, Arvindh Chithambaram.

Wait, who is Chithambaram and where does he come from, ask. It turns out he is also a strong Indian GM, ranked 118 in the world at a relatively old age of 22.

Meanwhile, Pragg has defeated the Armenian-American Grandmaster Vladimir Akopian, who at 50 is, like Vishy Anand, a senior statesman in the world of chess. The look on Akopian’s face when Pragg wins the game is worth preserving for posterity (you can see the game on YT)

In the eighth round, Arvindh Chithambaram makes another surprise by defeating his Tamil brother Arjun Erigaisi. Pragg meanwhile draws with Russian GM Alexandr Predke, who is ranked # 60 in the world.

So now, going into today’s ninth and final round, there are four GMs tied for first place with six points: Predke, Pragg, Erigaisi and Chitambaram.

Who will win? Don’t forget there are a couple of Indian GMs a short distance away, one point behind.

A couple of observations: both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are betting on the enormous depth and strength of India’s bench in chess now. Dozens of Indian GMs and IMs flock to the Gulf to attend these two events.

It reminds me of bee spelling competitions in the United States: desi dominance is pronounced.

But before our media rah-rah gets into rhapsody, a word of caution: We’re still in the early stages, these teens haven’t been consistently tested at the HIGHEST level, that is, the super grandmaster level – and certainly not in the classic chess.

Pragg got an invitation to the Miami Crypto Cup as a wild card, but concurrent with the Dubai open, a quick and easy tournament took place in St Louis, Missouri that featured the best players in the world, including five of the top ten of the world.

The winner of that event? Alireza Firoujza, born in Iran, took the title four rounds to spare in a field that included Carlsen.

Pragg defeated Firouzja twice in Miami last month.

So, until the Indian boys make it into the world top 20 and stay there constantly to receive invites to the strongest tournaments in the world, we should hope that they continue to receive wildcard signups and special invites.

Exciting times await for Indian chess.



The views expressed above are the author’s own.



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