R Praggnanandhaa beat Arjun Erigaisi on Thursday to become the first Indian since Viswanathan Anand in 2002 to reach the semifinals of a Chess World Cup.
Praggnanandhaa, the 18-year-old from Chennai, beat his compatriot in sudden death after the tie-breaker turned into a series of seemingly interminable draws after the two classical games had failed to throw up a winner earlier this week.
Praggnanandhaa will now face American Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, the third seed, in the semifinals of the 2023 FIDE Chess World Cup quarterfinals in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Top seed Magnus Carlsen will be in the other semifinal. Earlier in the tournament, second seed Hiraku Nakamura had been eliminated by Praggnanandhaa himself.
No Indian had reached the last four stage of the FIDE World Cup since Viswanathan Anand won the first two editions of the tournament in 2000 and 2002.
The 2023 FIDE World Cup has been a special one for India, even for reasons other than Pragg's semifinal entry. There were three Indian Grandmasters who lost in the quarterfinals, as India became the first country other than Russia to have four GMs in the last four of a single edition of the World Cup. Gukesh lost his quarterfinal to Magnus Carlsen and Vidit Gujrathi lost to Azerbaijan's Nijat Abasov.
Will Pragg be the first Indian at Candidates tournament since Anand?
The Candidates tournament, the final contest to determine the challenger for the World Chess Championship in 2024, looks set to feature an Indian other than Viswanathan Anand for the first time. And it looks set to be Praggnanandhaa, the one GM among India's young brigade who has been in the spotlight for the longest.
The top three finishers at the FIDE World Cup will earn places in the 2024 Candidates Tournament, an eight-player chess tournament scheduled to be held from 2 April to 25 April 2024 in Toronto, Canada. Magnus Carlsen's stated intention to skip the Candidates also adds to Praggnanandhaa's chances, even if he does not win another match at the 2023 World Cup.
The winner of the 2024 Candidates tournament will earn the right to play in the World Chess Championship 2024 against the current World Chess Champion Ding Liren.
Anand first qualified for the Candidates tournament in 1993. He last qualified for the 2016 World Chess Championship Candidates tournament by virtue of losing the 2014 World Chess Championship match. No Indian has qualified for the Candidates other than him.