The final of the Chessable Masters started with China’s Ding Liren giving 16-year-old Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa a tough test just hours after the talented youngster sat a real-life school exam.
The Chinese star showed exactly why he’s ranked World No 2 with a cool and classy display to take the first of two matches of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour’s first all-Asian final 2.5-1.5.
The second will be played tomorrow and, if needed, tiebreaks to decide who is the tournament winner.
Ding started the final perfectly as he reeled off a smooth win. For Pragg, it was hard to see where he went wrong. Just a culmination of small mistakes was enough for Ding to take the lead.
But Pragg came back hard in the second as two extra pawns in the endgame proved too much for his opponent. Ding resigned and had to sigh, hours after his opponent took an 11th standard end-of-year exam.
Then Pragg crumbled again in the third as Ding went 2-1 up. Ding clinched the encounter by forcing through a pawn in the endgame. Finally, Ding steered the fourth game to a draw to see out the match-win.
Grandmaster David Howell said: “He’s the World No 2 for a reason, and he showed that in the last two games.”
However, there was no big celebration or show of relief after Ding’s win.
“It was a tough match, I’m very happy with my performance,” the 29-year-old said. “My strategy is to avoid any complicated lines and any long or forced lines.”
Pragg though was not pleased at all with his performance.
“It was a tough match. I’m not happy that I lost two games with one, usually even losing one game with the white is a tough thing. But losing two, not so good,” he said.
He did surprise himself by winning the second game, using black.
“I didn’t expect it myself. I think overall that game was quite good. I managed to put pressure throughout the game. Okay, at the end there were some mistakes, but in time trouble it’s not easy to convert such positions. Overall I’m happy with that game, but I think with white I could have improved. Tomorrow I’ll probably try to focus on my opening,” he said.
“I’ll try to give my best and see how it goes. Importantly, I’ll probably get more rest tomorrow and come fresh for the match.”
Giving an update on his school exam earlier in the day, Pragg said: “It went decent, it went well, I could say. Probably it shouldn’t be a problem. I guess I will pass.”
The pair will resume the final on Thursday with the teenager needing to win the second match to take the final to tiebreaks.
Play starts at 21:30 hrs IST.