Can Pragg outsmart American Fabiano Caruana ?

New Delhi: In this ninth and last round of the Norway chess competition, Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa will play American Fabiano Caruana.

With only two rounds remaining, the Indian super-talent has experienced ups and downs as he has won two games under Classical and two matches under Armageddon to secure the third slot.

His two wins against world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway and world No. 2 Caruana in the Classical division earlier in the competition have been the tournament’s high points; the low points have been three defeats to Armageddon.

With three wins in the Classical, Carlsen leads the battle with 14.5 points. American Hikaru Nakamura is a whole point behind him. With 12 points, Praggnanandhaa is third in the rankings, one point ahead of France’s Firouzja Alireza with 11 points. With nine points, Caruana is the next in line, ahead of China’s Ding Liren, the world champion, who seems certain to finish last.

Even though Carlsen and Nakamura seem to be in a straight fight for the top rank, Praggnanandhaa is hoping to hang on to his current ranking of world No. 10, which he attained so far thanks to some helpful rating increases.

Following his match against Caruana, Praggnanandhaa will play Nakamura in the championship round, and two draws would probably confirm his status in the top ten worldwide.

In the next round, Carlsen will face Alireza, followed by Caruana in the final. Nakamura, who will face China’s Ding Liren in the following round as a white player, is the only player capable of surpassing Carlsen.

inside the women’s division. With 14.5 points, Wenjun Ju is in front of Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine by 1.5 points. With 11.5 points each, R Vaishali and Tingjie Lei from China are tied for third place. Koneru Humpy, who is in fifth position on 8.5, is well behind Pia Cramling of Sweden, who is in last place, by 2.5 points.

Vaishali will play as black against Lei in the last round, while Humpy will play as white against Ju. Muzychuk meets 61-year-old Cramling, a seasoned veteran who has done rather well.

Unless Humpy can find her magic touch and defeat Wenjun in the $1,61,000 prize money event, not much is expected to change in this division.

PAIRINGS (ROUND 9): Men: Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 13.4) vs. Ding Liren (Chn, 4.5); Firouzja Alireza (Fra, 11) vs. Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 14.5); Fabiano Caruana (Usa, 9) vs. R Praggnanandhaa (Ind, 12).

Women: Pia Cramling (Swe, 5.5) vs. Anna Muzychuk (Ukr, 13); Koneru Humpy (Ind, 8) vs. Wenjun Ju (Chn, 14.5); Tingjie Lei (Chn, 11.5) vs. R Vaishali (Ind, 11.5).


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