The life story of Praggnanandhaa in 120 pictures: From a talent to a Candidate
by Sagar Shah - 22/08/2023
Praggnanandhaa has created history. He has become the youngest chess player in the world to reach the finals of the FIDE World Cup and also the 2nd Indian after Vishy Anand to qualify to the Candidates tournament. He did so with sparkling wins over Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana. In this article we take you down the memory lane with 120 pictures from the life of Pragg from a boy who was few months old to now 18-year-old super talent who is one of the best in the world with a live rating of 2723 and a world ranking of 23.
Pragg's life in pictures
Amruta and I first met Praggnanandhaa in person in 2014. He was a shy young boy, just 9 years old, playing at the World Juniors (under-20) Championships in Pune. In our 9 years of covering Pragg, we have seen the boy rise from a 1900 player to now a Candidate! When you do something with all your heart, you are bound to learn a lot in the process. The same happened with us. In our bid to bring forth Pragg's journey through pictures, videos, interviews, we started to learn much more about discipline, hardwork, passion, focus and the qualities that have made Pragg the player that he is. Below are some of the pictures that we have selected that help you get an insight into the journey of Pragg and we hope it inspires you. Pragg's life maxim has been "Impossible is nothing" and he lives it through his actions - gracefully and with a smile on his face!
The picture of Pragg when he was just a few months old
Big dreams in those big eyes!
When you dream big you definitely need someone to hold you. Big sister Vaishali has always been by Pragg's side just like in this picture!
A picture of Pragg that went quite viral when he became the youngest IM in the world roughly a year and a half later. This was taken the World Juniors 2014 in Pune by Amruta. This was the first time we met Pragg in a tournament. His rating was 1946 at that point.
Amruta interviewed Pragg and Vaishali and their mom at the World Juniors 2014. It was before ChessBase India was founded!
At this point Pragg and Vaishali were both World Champions in under-8 and under-12 respectively and quickly becoming well-known names in Indian chess
Vishy Anand visiting the Velammal School and felicitating the siblings!
One of Pragg and Vaishali's first trainer Thiyagrajan from Bloom Chess Academy
What a picture taken at the World Youth under-10 in Durban, South Africa in 2014. Pragg, Nihal Sarin (who had won the gold), Vincent Keymer, David Peng and Nodirbek Abdusattorov.
In 2015 Pragg became the World under-10 champion. The most amazing thing about this event was five Indians winning gold medals in five different age categories - Bharath Subramaniyam (U-8 O). R. Vaishali (U-12 G), Rakshitta Ravi (U-10 G) and M. Mahalakshmi (U-18 G). All five of them were trained by GM R.B. Ramesh in his academy.
Don't miss this beautiful tactical game played by Pragg in the under-10 event against the current Uzbek sensation Javokhir Sindarov:
Pragg felicitated by AICF for becoming the World Youth under-10 Champion. He is being given the cheque by Venketrama Raja, the founder of Ramco Group. Ramco began supporting Pragg right since he became an IM and that support has continued till date! Such stability and foresight is rare.
Pragg made his first IM norm at the Cannes tournament in 2016. Mother Nagalakshmi is there to support him as he takes on Harshit Raja, who later on went on to become India's 69th GM | Photo: Nisha Mohota
Pragg sits next to his very good friend and the ultra creative Aravindh Chithambaram! Nisha in her report writes, Aravindh played the opening 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Na6!? in this game | Photo: Nisha Mohota
Taking on the big boys! Pragg against GM Levon Babujian. Pragg scored his 2nd IM norm at the Aeroflot Open 2016 | Photo: Amruta Mokal
A very nice picture taken by Amruta at the event. Pragg with his razor sharp focus! A lot of people always ask what exactly is it that Pragg applies on his forehead. It's called Vibhuti - the sacred ash. You can read more about it here.
After the closing ceremony at the Aeroflot Open 2016, I joined Pragg, Vaishali and Aravindh to play in pair chess!
Who cares about IM norms, when chess is so much fun! Look at the joy on Pragg's face!
My first solo interview with Pragg!
Later that year at the Baku Olympiad, Anish Giri made an accurate representation of Pragg's answers in the above interview! This one was shot by GM R.B. Ramesh
The future champions of India at the KIIT Open 2016 - Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin. This was the tournament where Pragg achieved his final IM norm and became world's youngest IM at the age of 10 years and 10 months.
Rupali Mullick, a chess parent, was present at the venue where Pragg became the youngest IM, and we asked her if she could interview Pragg. This was an amazing interview!
If you do understand Tamil, this interview is for you. If you do not understand Tamil, we have the translation here. Tarun Kanth studied chess at the same academy as Pragg - Chess Gurukul. He decided to interview Pragg when he became the youngest IM in the world.
The creative that we made to celebrate Pragg's achievement. Of course it was a great moment of pride for us!
Praggnanandhaa with two huge talents of Nagpur chess - Divya Deshmukh and Mrudul Dehankar. Pragg won a bronze medal at the World Youth under-12 in 2016 held in Georgia. Starting as the top seed, this was maybe not the best result for Pragg, but he lost to Nikhil Kumar, a talented player from the US, and drew with Vincent Keymer and Nihal Sarin
In December 2016 Pragg went to the London Chess Classic. He was playing at the open event and Lennart Ootes took some wonderful pictures of the upcoming talent!
At the same event Vishy Anand was playing at the London Chess Classic Super Tournament. A day before Vishy's games began, Pragg sat at Anand's board! A worthy successor? | Photo: Lennart Ootes
One of the things that coach Ramesh has always managed to do is keep things fun, jovial and light with his students! Pragg is often known for his silly little jokes and this just like his many chess skills has been learnt from Ramesh!
In June 2017, I visited Pragg's house in Chennai. The one-storeyed structure is where the family lives.
Vaishali had gone to a tournament. So it was Pragg with his parents Nagalakshmi and Rameshbabu.
This is generally how the family travels - on a scooter!
Pragg and his father dropped me in their scooter to a place where I could find a taxi to where I had to go! On the next day I visited GM Vishnu Prasanna's wedding with WIM Raghavi. The entire experience of meeting Pragg and his family is narrated here.
Don't miss this insightful interview of Pragg's father Rameshbabu
Later in the year Pragg visited Saint Louis Chess Club to play the Match of Millenials. Vishy was also there and they took this wonderful photo in front of the Big king outside the club. Everyone had already started seeing Pragg as a potential successor of Vishy in Indian chess.
Pragg gave a clock simul in Vlissingen, Netherlands in 2017. He won it 20/20! A 12-year-old boy giving a simul to adults was quite a sight.
Pragg's typical pose of sitting
Pragg took on the strongest active female player on the planet Hou Yifan at the Isle of Man tournament in 2017
In the same tournament, Pragg managed to score his first win against a 2700+ rated opponent David Howell
After achieving the IM title in May 2016, it took some time for Pragg to achieve his first GM but it did happen in November 2017. The youngster scored his first GM norm at the World Juniors 2017:
Just at 12 years of age, Pragg was fighting with players under the age of 20 at the World Juniors 2017. Look at his performance:
Pragg's performance at the World Juniors 2017 to score his first GM norm. It took him nearly a year and a half after achieving his IM title. But that's the thing with Pragg, it takes some time for him to achieve his next leap, but when he does it, he is sort of unstoppable.
Pragg with Vaishali and mom Nagalakshmi at the World Youth Olympiad held in India in 2017
A very raw and authentic interview that gives a glimpse into the life of super mom Nagalakshmi
In 2017, we launched the ChessBase India merchandise with Pragg and Vaishali! They have always been kind and helpful in all our endeavours!
In 2019, Pragg was also our first ChessBase India Elite Pass user!
I had a wonderful time with Pragg and Nihal at the Chess Youth Olympiad 2017 and recorded some wonderful analysis videos with them. Here is one of them:
Here is one of the analysis sessions!
AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan congratulates Pragg for his fine performance!
The India A team at the World Youth Olympiad 2017 with coach Prasenjit Dutta. Naughty Pragg doing his thing!
Creating horns on his sisters head is Pragg's favourite past time!
But as you sow so shall you reap!
Pragg achieved his 2nd GM norm at the Fischer Memorial GM tournament in Heraklion, Greece
A clinical performance to achieve his 2nd GM norm
Pragg was up against GM Moroni Luca Jr. at the Gredine Open in Ortisei, Italy. He won his game to achieve his 3rd and final GM norm and the GM title!
Pragg achieved his final GM norm with one round to spare
23rd of June 2018 is when Pragg achieved his final GM norm and became a GM. He became a GM at the age of 12 years 10 months and 13 days!
Praggnanandhaa became the 52nd GM of India
First interview of Pragg after he became a GM was done by 8-year-old Suhani Lohia
Pragg's friends at Velammal school celebrating his success after becoming a GM | Photo: Arun Sankar
The first time Praggnanandhaa played against a super GM
Pragg received a huge opportunity from the Tata Steel Chess India tournament in 2018. He played in the blitz event against the best in the world and managed to beat players like Karjakin, Surya Ganguly and also held his own in both the games against one of the best speed players on the planet Hikaru Nakamura.
That epic moment when Pragg and Vishy met each other for the first time over the board
Both the blitz games between Pragg and Vishy Anand were very exciting and at the press conference we had a very nice atmosphere!
Their game was the first ever video that hit a million views on the ChessBase India channel.
Clash of generations! The video that everyone loved to watch! This is also Vishy's favourite video on the ChessBase India channel.
Pragg was a huge crowd favourite!
Little Pragg looking up to Nakamura's two trophies at the Tata Steel Chess India
When Amruta and I were on our 1 year nomadic journey across India, we decided to end it in Chennai by visiting the homes of some of the most prominent chess players. When we asked Ramesh if we could do the live commentary together for the 11th game. As it was happening in London, it used to be quite late in the night. Pragg stayed back at Ramesh's home to join the commentary!
Although the game wasn't very exciting and ended in a draw in the Petroff, we had a wonderful time analyzing with Ramesh and Pragg
For the first time in his life Pragg played at the prestigious Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk Aan Zee, Netherlands. Above he is seen plaing against the talented German prodigy Vincent Keymer. Although Pragg didn't do so well and scored just 5.0/13, finishing 11th in a field of 14 players, tournaments like these were great learning experiences for the youngster.
In 2019, Microsense organized a training camp with former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik in Chens Sure Leman, on the border of France and Switzerland. 10 days of training with Kramnik, really opened up the minds of these youngsters including Praggnanandhaa. Amruta and I went there to report as well as take care of the kids!
Pragg always wanted to go to the lawn behind the house to play some games! Here we are playing Kho Kho!
On the free day, we conducted rapid fires with each youngster! Pragg's one was the funniest...
...a very relaxed Pragg!
One of Pragg's famous interviews where most of his answers were his favourite catchphrase - "I don't know!"
A few days into the camp, Frederic visited the camp and started giving the kids logical puzzles to solve. Pragg was naturally interested.
In each break we would have kids trying to break their head over Frederic's tricky puzzles!
Even Kramnik got hooked. Pragg and Vladimir tried to solve this one together.
Pragg is always keen to learn new things! Be it interviewing skills from me or photography skills from Amruta. Inquisitiveness and wanting to learn new things is the core of his being!
This has to be one of the most thrilling games you will ever witness! Pragg vs Amruta
One of the biggest qualities of Pragg, just like many other youngsters at the camp, was that he would be fine with everything that was given to him for food and he would eat it without any complaints!
Pragg sporting the Microsense batch! In the distance look at the focused Gukesh!
Kramnik always felt that Pragg's games reminded him of young Vishy Anand
After the Kramnik Microsense training camp, Pragg and Gukesh came home in Mumbai. Then together we travelled to Nashik where the youngsters got a chance to train with Vidit.
While Gukesh decided to work on his calculations with Dvoretsky's Analytical Manual, Pragg chose the book on Alphazero games!
Dropping little Pragg at the airport to take his flight back to Chennai. He was just 14 years old, but Pragg could already travel alone!
In 2019, the World Youth Championships were held in India - Pragg and Divya Deshmukh were two of the brightest stars at the event
The young national champions had now become full blown champions!
Pragg won the gold medal in the under-18 section. He was just 14 years old. It was absolutely epic to see the support Pragg had and the national anthem that was played when he stood on the podium!
Goosebumps! Check out the video as Praggnanandhaa stands on the podium receiving his gold medal and the trophy.
The joy on the face of Nagalakshmi as Pragg won the under-18 title!
While for Pragg it was just another day at office, Nagalakshmi has made sure that she enjoys the successes of her children with all her heart!
Pragg's pillars of support - GM R.B. Ramesh (his coach) and mom Nagalakshmi!
Immediately after the World Youth under-18 in 2019, Pragg travelled to Delhi to play at the World Juniors (under-20). He played there with his good friends and top players of India - Karthikeyan Murali and Aravindh Chithambaram. Pragg finished 9th in the event.
The Fantastic Four!
In 2020, Microsense invited two world class players - Kramnik and Gelfand in Chennai for the training camp. This picture of the entire family was taken one day before the event.
You my dear friend will qualify for the Candidates 2024!
The first three youngsters to cross 2700 Elo in Indian chess - Pragg, Gukesh and Arjun!
Pragg would often record videos with me to show what he learnt from the camp. In this way he was helping others back home who would watch the video to also improve!
Everyone would be curious to learn a bit more of photography from Amruta!
With Pragg around, there is always some time to pose for the camera!
Little Akhil (Vishy Anand's son) and Aruna Anand visited the training camp.
Who is your favourite player Akhil?
The lockdown was tough for one and all. But Pragg kept himself busy not just preparing and playing online tournaments, but also by...
...Cleaning the house!
Cleaning his own trophies!
Pragg and Vaishali were part of the gold medal winning Indian team at the Online Chess Olympiad 2020
In 2021, the online olympiad was sort of a hybrid event where the entire Indian team stayed together in a hotel in Chennai. This year we won the bronze medal.
The boys did grow up, but they are still together. Manning the junior boards for the Indian team were Nihal and Pragg
The future predicted? Praggnanandhaa on the hot seat at the World Championship 2021. I remember Pragg was very uncomfortable sitting on the chair, because he felt he needed to earn the right to sit there! But many of the photographers were keen for this to happen and so the boy reluctantly agreed.
Pragg made the first move 1.c4 for Nepo and actually managed to guess the correct first move! Nepo did let the move stay!
Pragg was very happy that he could get his prediction right for the first move of the game
The Chennai boys at the FIDE World Championships 2021 - Saravanan, Ramesh, Anand and Praggnanandhaa
With the famous Indian cricketer R. Ashwin!
In 2022, Pragg faced Magnus Carlsen for the first time over the board and he definitely had a tough time. From a normal position, the youngster over extended himself losing the game in just a few moves.
Working at the WestBridge Anand Chess Academy has helped Pragg to take his game to the next level
At the WACA meet up, a relaxed time at the end of the day! It has always been amazing to see the youngsters spending time with each other together.
Pragg became the Asian Champion 2022 and thereby booked his spot to the FIDE World Cup 2023
Praggnanandhaa received the Arjuna Award from the Government of India at the age of 17 in 2022
Pragg's proud parents on their son achieving something truly special
Pragg and Vaishali together at the Tata Steel Chess India
Pragg took on Vaishali at the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid 2021 - They fought until the very end and the game ended in a draw!
A completely focussed Pragg at the Tata Steel Chess India. A beautiful capture by Amruta
Hikaru was ruthless against Pragg at the Tata Steel Chess India 2022, where he won both his games. Pragg was surely itching for a revenge!
Magnus Carlsen applauding Pragg for his phenomenal play at one of the Champion Chess Tour events. Until now Pragg has beaten Magnus in five online games. These are the ones:
Airthings Masters 2022:
Chessable Masters 2022:
FTX Crypto Cup 2022:
Even at this tender age Pragg feels very close to positive causes and we instituted with him the Pragg CCT scholarship of Rs.2,07,530. This went to the young talent Ethan Vaz. Ethan has moved from strength to strength and is now 2300+ rated.
Fighting it out against the best in the world - Magnus Carlsen, at the Tata Steel Chess 2023. Pragg fought like a lion and drew the game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes
A huge win for Pragg came at the Tata Steel Masters 2023 against Ding Liren. It was his first classical win against a 2800+ rated opponent.
Pragg analyzes with Aronian as Vishy Anand, who was a guest at the Tata Steel Masters 2023 joins in. We also have the young Abhimanyu Mishra in the frame.
It's amazing to see that these two youngsters are now fighting against each other at super tournaments. Gukesh and Pragg played against each other at the Tata Steel Masters 2023 and WR Masters 2023 and both of them were won by Gukesh.
Pragg with the Chairman of Indian Oil. The youngster was included in the IOCL family even before he turned 18. Now that he crossed 18 years of age, he is now a permanent employee.
Pragg showed how valuable he was to the team, when in a complex game against Vidit Gujrathi, he managed to beat him and that proved the crucial encounter that helped Team IOCL beat ONGC and clinch the gold medal. Later Pragg also won the individual championships of PSPB 2023.
The Global Chess League proved to be a great breakthrough for Pragg as playing for Team SG Alpine Warriors that also had Magnus Carlsen on board, Pragg scored 8.5/10 on the prodigy board. He was given the award of the King of the tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova
The victory that Pragg helped Pragg cross the 2700 Elo mark in Classical chess. It happened at the Geza Hetenyi Memorial in the 2nd round against Parham Maghsoodloo. Pragg began with an Elo of 2690 and then won both his games to cross 2700!
A nice thumbnail made by Abhyudaya after Pragg reached the Elo of 2700 recently by winning the Geza Hetenyi Memorial in Hungary
Beating Hikaru Nakamura in round 4 was a big achievement by Pragg at the FIDE World Cup 2023
The final game that made Pragg a Candidate - after beating Arjun with a score of 5-4
Beating Caruana at the World Cup 2023 and setting up a finals clash with Magnus Carlsen
Through the entire journey of Pragg, his mother has stayed there rock solid!