Sports News

Our weekly chess column: Krasenkow and Praggnanandhaa capture true spirit of the International Chess Day




Chess is an affordable activity that can be played anywhere by anyone, across the barriers of language, age and gender. It is exactly because of those attributes that in 2019, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed July 20th as the International Chess Day. Although the chess community has been celebrating the same day for over fifty years, the official recognition came as an important endorsement for chess.

Krasenkow (on left) and Praggnanandhaa battling it out at the FIDE World Cup

In the ongoing FIDE Chess World Cup, there was a fascinating third round matchup that encapsulated everything that is great about chess. It was between Ramesh Babu “Pragg”  Praggnanandhaa and Michal Krasenkow. Both are Grandmasters. Both love playing creative and exciting chess. Both are rated around ELO 2600. But that’s where the similarities end.

Pragg is a 15-year-old prodigy from India, the emerging world power of chess. Marked as the next big thing of Indian chess from a very young age, he became a FIDE Master at the age of seven, the youngest International Master ever at the age of ten, and the second youngest Grandmaster ever (now the fourth youngest) at the age of twelve. So far, in his life, everything has been about chess.

His opponent was Michal Krasenkow, a 57-year-old veteran from Poland. He was born in Russia, the traditional powerhouse of chess. He obtained a Masters in Applied Mathematics in 1985, became a Grandmaster at the age of 26 and emigrated to Poland in 1992. He is also a respected chess author and a well known trainer. For a brief period in 2000, he was ranked among the top ten in the world.

The contrast is truly striking. When the younger player won the first game fairly comfortably, no one expected the veteran to hit back. But that he did, in some stunning style.

Michal Krasenkow – R Praggnanandhaa

“FIDE World Cup 2021 – Round “3.2”

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.Nc3 a6 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.a4 e6 8.axb5 Bb4 9.Qc2 Nb6 10.Qe4 Qd5

This explosive game captured the imagination of everyone so much that Hikaru Nakamura conducted an online tournament where every game started with this position.

But so far it’s all “theory” with 11.Qg4 being played in 40 previous games. 

11.Qg4 axb5 12. Rxa8 Qxa8 13.Qxg7 Rather than 13.Be2, Krasenkow opts to go for the lesser played but more explosive option. 

13…Bxc3+ 14.bxc3 Qa1!

Praggnanandhaa takes up the challenge head on with 14…Qa1!

The two queens are now free to wreak havoc. But which king is safer?

15.Qxh8+ Kd7 16.Be2 (The first new move!) Qxc1+ 17.Bd1 Qxc3+ 18.Nd2 Nc6 19.Qxh7 Nxd4 20.Qxf7+ Kc6 21.Qf4 Nd5 22.Qe4 Kc5 23.h4 Bb7 24.h5 Nb4

After 24…Nb4

With his queen under attack and the black knights swarming all over the king (25.Qxb7 Nd3+ 26. Kf1 Qxd2 27. Qxc7+ Kb4 28. Qe7+ Nc5 and it’s all over), Krasenkow played the “move of the year”. 

25.O-O!! truly stunning! 

25…Qxd2 (25…Bxe4 26.Nxe4+) 26.Qxb7 Nd5 27.h6 c3 28.h7 Qh6 29.Qa7+ Kc4 30.Bg4 c2 31.Qa2+ Kb4 32.Qb2+ Kc4 33.Re1 Nf4?

With the two advanced passed pawns playing a crucial role, Krasenkow finds a way to win by sacrificing his. 

34.h8=Q! (34.Re4 Nh3+ 35.gxh3 c1=Q) Qxh8 35.Re4 c5 36.Rxf4 Qxe5 37.Qxc2+ Kd5 38.Qd2 c4 39.Rxd4+ Qxd4 40.Bxe6+ Kc5 41.Qxd4+ Kxd4 42.g4 Ke5 43.Bf7 Kf4 44.f3 1-0 

Praggnanandhaa hit back to win the tie breaks and progressed to the next round, but we can argue Krasenkow was a winner too, along with the spirit of chess.