Indian prodigy R Praggnanandhaa took his winning run to an incredible eight in a row today as he emerged the clear leader of the Polgar Challenge online chess event.
The 15-year-old, playing for Team Kramnik, dominated his opening two games against America’s top female player Carissa Yip and Jiner Zhu, of China.
Two wins in those games added to Praggnanandhaa’s four back-to-back victories yesterday – and then he benefited from some luck to just storm on from there finishing on 8.5/10.
Incredibly, after being tied 25-25 overnight, Team Kramnik and Team Polgar are still locked on 50-50 – although the top three on the individual leaderboard all represent Team Kramnik.
Praggnanandhaa did not have it all his own way, however. His run was nearly derailed in Round 8 by Bulgaria’s Nurgyul Salimova, 17, who missed a chance to win on the spot and then nearly saved a draw against him.
Praggnanandhaa was too strong and a slip in the endgame from Salimova allowed the teenager from Chennai to force a seventh win.
Meanwhile, there was disappointment for Kazakhstan’s Dinara Saduakassova who was forced to forfeit all her remaining games after Round 8 because of a bad internet connection.
Saduakassova’s departure handed Praggnanandhaa another win in Round 9 – albeit without playing – to make it eight full points in a row after losing his first game in the tournament.
It also gifted Praggnanandhaa a rest going into the final round of the day. He ended the day with a draw against US teen Awonder Liang, who was celebrating his 18th birthday.
Top seed Nodirbek Abdusattorov, 16, had kept pace until he suffered his first loss in Round 8 against another Indian prospect, Goa’s Leon Mendonca.
Both Abdusattorov, from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and American Christopher Yoo had been level with Praggnanandhaa overnight but fell back today. The two chasers did however pull back in Round 10 to finish just half a point behind Praggnanandhaa on 8/10.
Yoo remains unbeaten and faces Praggnanandhaa in Round 11 today. A win in that and he will take the lead.
Five more rounds will follow before the first event of the new $100,000 Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour reaches its climax on Sunday.
The 20 young talents on show are divided into two teams, Team Kramnik and Team Polgar. The overall day 1 score finished 25-25.
The young stars of chess represent 12 nations and are competing for a prize pot totalling $100,000 and places on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
They are receiving coaching and support from teams of coaches, which include world champions and legends of the game.
The Polgar Challenge, named after Judit Polgar, is the first of four tournaments before a tour final in September organised by the Play Magnus Group.
The team that wins the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour overall will also get a trip to this year’s World Chess Championship in Dubai.