Historic day for 16-year-old D. Gukesh as he becomes the youngest to stun world champion Magnus Carlsen

New York: Indian teenager Donnarumma Gukesh made chess history in the Aimchess Rapid on Sunday evening as he became the youngest player ever to beat Norway’s Magnus Carlsen as world champion.

The 16-year-old’s win was Carlsen’s second loss in two days against one of India’s new crop of talented teenagers in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. Carlsen went down on Saturday to 19-year-old Arjun Erigaisi.

“What a monumental day in history,” International Master Jovanka Houska said. “It was just an incredible, incredible performance by Gukesh.”

The key moment in the Round 9 game was after Gukesh played 25.Rc7 in a position that looked good for Carlsen. The champion’s reply 25…Re8? turned out to be a blunder and after 26.Qb6! putting Carlsen’s queen in peril, Gukesh was suddenly winning.

Carlsen, playing from a log cabin in northern Sweden, spent five minutes thinking about his move after realising his mistake. He was shaking his head, gesticulating and spinning on his chair. Clearly, he was angry with himself. A few moves later, he resigned.

International Master Lawrence Trent said, “The opening actually went very well for Magnus and he was kind of cruising. But this move came out of nowhere, literally it was completely unexpected.” Speaking of Carlsen, Trent said, “He’s a man who, let’s put it this way, he doesn’t like to lose so he’s going to have to regroup quite quickly.”

Gukesh is 16 years, 4 months and 20 days old, while the previous record before Gukesh’s win was R. Praggnanandhaa’s 39-move victory over Carlsen in the Airthings Masters in February. Pragg, who is not playing in this event, was 16 years, 6 months and 10 days old.

Despite the win, Gukesh wasn’t impressed with his own play. “Obviously, beating Magnus is always special but I was not really very proud of that game,” he said. However, he did crack a smile when told he was the youngest player to beat Carlsen as world champion.

But as fate would have it, in the next game, Gukesh immediately came back down to earth when he lost in 42 moves to the high-flying Pole Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who ended the day on top of the leaderboard.

Meanwhile in Round 11, Carlsen came up against another wonderkid, the 18-year-old Uzbek World Rapid Champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov who led the first two days. After a crazy game, which IM Trent described as “alien chess”, it ended in a draw.

With a loss and two draws, it took until his last game of the day for Carlsen to record his first win, over the Swede Nils Grandelius. Carlsen, who finished with 21/36 points, is woefully out of form by his own high standards.

On his losses to the young Indians, Carlsen said, “Pragg is the only one I’ve lost multiple times to. As for Arjun and Gukesh: Arjun I’ve generally beaten; Gukesh very similar. I think Gukesh has been extremely impressive in classical chess recently. Perhaps this rapid win wasn’t his proudest effort, even though getting a win is always nice.”

Going into the final round, Round 12 of 15 in the prelim stage, it was Duda making the running three points ahead of the pack after three straight wins. That run was brought to an end by Abdusattorov, and a draw against the Uzbek left Duda two points ahead of the on-form Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on 25/36 points. Both Duda and Mamedyarov (23/36 points) are sure to progress into the event’s knockout.

Going into Monday’s final three rounds of the prelim, the stage is set for a big battle to make the top eight and avoid the cut. Abdusattorov, Anish Giri, Richard Rapport, Daniel Naroditsky and Vidit Gujrathi are right in the thick of it.

The award-winning Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, the world’s leading year-round chess circuit, reaches its penultimate tournament with the Aimchess Rapid. The event features 16 players in a round-robin prelim stage before the field is cut to eight and knockouts begin.

The Aimchess Rapid is the last “Regular” tournament of the 2022 season with a prize pot of USD150,000 before the end-of-season final event starts on November 14.


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