Friday, June 2, 2023

Champions Chess Tour: Praggnanandhaa to play Carlsen in final day shoot-out for title

 Carlsen, who played while listening to a Norwegian comedy podcast, got off to a horrible start. The champ played a series of odd moves before crashing to defeat in his opening game.

Unfortunately for the youngster, he was also on the receiving end of a defeat to Duda, who downed Carlsen on Friday.

In game 2, Carlsen made an important comeback and then two draws, the first a particularly fiery encounter, took it to tiebreaks where Firouzja folded.

Carlsen and Firouzja’s tense final game in the rapid section, with the score level at 1.5-1.5, could have decided the destination of the title. In the end, Carlsen won the play-off which became academic.

Over in Pragg’s match, the youngster was staring into the abyss in game 2. Under siege from Duda, he defended like a lion until he found the only move to save the game (92… Kg6). After 1 hour 7 minutes and 113 moves, Pragg escaped with a draw.

Pragg was still behind at this point needing to win the third against Duda to stand any chance of picking up maximum points. A draw, however, left him needing a final-game win to take it to tiebreaks.

Incredibly, Pragg managed it.

The tiebreak was dramatic. Pragg was clearly winning the first blitz game but blundered into a mate in one to gift Duda the lead. It was heart-breaking for Pragg, but he still had a chance to bounce back. Duda would not relent though and stayed firm to cloise n the day and take the match.

In the other matches, three games was all it took for Liem Quang Le to put Dutch Grandmaster Anish Giri to bed. The Vietnamese star was in spectacular form as he won the first two games and drew the third to seal a 2.5-0.5 win. He is on nine points.

The struggles of Hans Niemann also continued as he went down 2.5-1.5 to Levon Aronian. Niemann is yet to win a point in the tournament.

Now, the attention turns to Sunday when all eyes will be on Carlsen vs Pragg in Round 7 which will decide the title.


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