Praggnanandhaa faces Pranav in Julius Baer Challengers Championship

Pranav Venkatesh, the winner of the 2022 Challengers Chess Tour, faces Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, the winner of last year’s event, in the first Julius Baer Challengers Championship in Tel Aviv next week, in what is the climax of the year-long hunt for the best new talent in chess.

In a match organised by the Swiss private bank Julius Baer, the two teen sensations will meet in a three-day encounter with a USD10,000 prize purse.

The best-of-four match event, played over rapid and blitz time controls, runs between December 11-13 and will be keenly watched by chess fans.

Pranav, from Tamil Nadu, and Pragg, from Chennai, are two of India’s brightest talents aged just a year apart. Pranav is 16, while Pragg is 17. But both players have set the chess world alight in 2022.

Pranav started the year as an International Master but became India’s 75th GM on August 7 before scoring a shock win in the Magnus Academy Challenge.

Pranav then went on to beat fellow Indian prodigy Raunak Sadhwani in the grand final of the Challengers Chess Tour. In doing so, he booked a ticket to next season’s Meltwater Champions Chess Tour to take on the elite of world chess.

Meanwhile, Pragg has used his win in the 2021 Challengers Chess Tour to go onto bigger and better things.

Pragg had a storming first full season in the Meltwater event as he beat World Champion Magnus Carlsen three times on his way to a third-placed finish overall. Pragg was also runner-up in two tournaments, the Chessable Masters and the FTX Crypto Cup.

In total, he won USD129,000 in prize money — that is the kind of opportunity that now awaits Pranav next year.

Pragg will start the Julius Baer Challengers Championship as the firm favourite. But Pranav has already shown he can beat top opposition, defeating Andrey Esipenko among others on his way to the Challengers title.

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