The teenaged chess Grandmaster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, on Thursday, defeated compatriot Arjun Erigaisi 5-4 in a thrilling tiebreak to enter the semi-finals of the ongoing 2023 FIDE Chess World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Praggnanandhaa, who turned 18 last Thursday, also became only the second Indian after former world champion Viswanathan Anand in 2002 to enter the final four stage of the Chess World Cup.

After the classical round of games ended in 1-1, with both Praggnanandhaa and Erigaisi winning with the black pieces, the tiebreak matches too followed similarly.

While the two 25-minute rapid tiebreak games ending in uneventful draws, the start of 10-minute games saw the tides shift in both directions.

Praggnanandhaa, who seemed to been in a difficult position with the black pieces, bounced back to win the first 10-minute game, leaving Erigaisi in a must-win situation.

The 19-year-old Warangal-lad managed to win on demand with the black pieces and forced the match into five-minute and three-second increment blitz tiebreaks.

While Praggnanandhaa once again took the lead by winning the first blitz game with black pieces, Erigaisi again struck back as the match entered the sudden death territory.

Even as the time-control was reduced to three-minute and two-second increment for the sudden death, Praggnanandhaa arrived at the board 30 seconds late.

But, the Chennai-native still managed to successfully emerge on top and played a precise 72-move game to book his spot in the semi-finals.

“I kind of forgot that I have to run for the game!” Praggnanandhaa said to Chess24. “I lost 30 seconds there, but I kind of recovered from that, and when I managed to equal the time I was quite happy.”

He will now face USA’s Fabiano Carauna in the semi-final.

Candidates spot booked

The win against Erigaisi also helped Praggnanandhaa book his spot for the Candidates tournament next year.

With Magnus Carlsen, one of the four semi-finalists of the World Cup, already revealing his intention to not play in the Candidates, the other three – Praggnanandhaa, Carauna, and Nijat Abasov, will fill the three qualifying spots from this tournament.

The winner of the Candidates tournaments will compete against Ding Liren of China, for the Chess World Championship title.