Raymond Keene


Twelve-year-old Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa scored a sensational result in the recent Isle of Man Masters. At the age of ten years and ten months, he achieved the extraordinary distinction of becoming the youngest official international master in the history of chess. The youngest ever grandmaster is last year’s world championship challenger Sergei Karjakin, who was elevated to the chess peerage when he was 12 years and seven months old. Praggnanandhaa now has five months in which to break that record.
In the Isle of Man Praggnanandhaa scored a respectable 50 per cent (4½/9) and notched his first win against a grandmaster rated 2700+ — the former British champion David Howell. Here is Praggnanandhaa’s amazing victory.
Praggnanandhaa-Howell: chess.com Masters, Isle of Man 2017; Caro-Kann Defence
1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 The most celebrated game with this line was Capablanca’s great victory with Black against Nimzowitsch at New York 1927. Interestingly, many commentators are now comparing Praggnanandhaa’s style with that of Capablanca. 3 … Bf5 4 Nf3 Nimzowitsch-Capablanca went 4 Bd3 Bxd3 5 Qxd3 e6 6 Nc3 Qb6 7 Nge2 c5. A wilder alternative is 4 h4 as in Tal-Pachman, Bled 1961. 4 … e6 5 Be2 Ne7 6 0-0 c5 7 c4 dxc4 8 Na3 Nbc6 9 Nxc4 Nd5 10 dxc5 Highly unusual. Normal is 10 Bg5 as in So-Dziuba, Reykjavik 2013. The move chosen by White unduly eases the process of Black’s development. 10 … Bxc5 11 Bg5 Qc7 12 Rc1 0-0 13 Qb3 h6 14 Ne3 Bxe3 15 Bxe3 Nxe3 16 Qxe3 Qb6 This offer to trade queens leaves Black with smashed pawns but it also means that his queen’s rook gains immediate access to the fray. 17 Qxb6 axb6 The position is equal. 18 a3 Be4 19 Nd2 Nd4 20 Rfe1 Bd5 21 Bd3 Rfd8 22 Rc3 g5 23 Ne4 Bxe4 24 Rxe4 Ra5 25 b4 Rad5 26 Bc4 R5d7 27 Bf1 Nf5 28 g3 Rd1 29 Kg2 Ra1 30 Bd3 Kg7 31 h4 (see diagram 1) 31 … gxh4? Missing White’s coming intermezzo.

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