A teenage chess player leans over the board with intense concentration
Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, 18, who is taking on Magnus Carlsen © Getty Images

Magnus Carlsen, who has never won the chess World Cup, needs to defeat an 18-year-old Indian in the second game of a two-game mini-match final at Baku on Wednesday (midday BST start, live on chess24.com) to win the match. A 1-1 score will mean speed tie-break games on Thursday. Their first game this afternoon was drawn in 35 moves after level play.

The encounter is a true inter-generation battle at the highest level, as Carlsen, 32, the world No 1, takes on Rameshbabu “Pragg” Praggnanandhaa, 18. As reported here last week, Praggnanandhaa has already knocked out the US world No 3 Hikaru Nakamura, and the Indian star followed up last weekend by eliminating the world No 2 and reigning US champion Fabiano Caruana, by 3.5-2.5 in the semi-final.

The decisive game was a thrilling marathon that was level until around move 30 when the Indian won a pawn by a subtle sequence. Thereafter Praggnanandhaa conceived the grandiose plan of marching his king across the board in the face of harassing queen checks to support his passed pawn. Finally, he queened a second pawn and used his two queens to checkmate the American. To play through the game, press Autoplay in the menu at the bottom of the board.

Praggnanandhaa’s success has already qualified him for the eight-player 2024 Candidates, which will decide the official challenger to China’s world champion, Ding Liren, who succeeded to the crown after Carlsen abdicated earlier this year. He will be the third youngest Candidate ever, after Carlsen and Bobby Fischer.

For his part,  Carlsen has already defeated Vincent Keymer, 18, and Dommaraju Gukesh, 17, from the new teenage generation and will relish today’s struggle. However, last weekend’s World Cup semi-final against the lowly ranked Azerbaijani Nijat Abasov, the surprise hometown hero, which Carlsen won 1.5-0.5, had a moment when the underdog could have turned the tables on the No 1.   

Puzzle number 2534A   

Magnus Carlsen v Nijat Abasov, World Cup semi-final, Baku 2023. Black chose 1 . . . Rg6 and lost. How could he have beaten the World No 1? Abasov’s  missed opportunity went against the run of play. Carlsen had been the one pressing, and when you have been on the back foot the whole time, you have a “I can still hold this” mindset rather than a “can I win?”   

Puzzle number 2534

White mates in four moves, against any defence (by Alfred Mongredien, 1930). There are only two lines of play, with Black making almost all forced replies.

Click here for solutions

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