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A 16-year-old from India has beaten world chess champion Magnus Carlsen

Indian chess prodigy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, shown here in 2018, has beaten world champion Magnus Carlsen.
Arun Sankar
AFP via Getty Images
Indian chess prodigy Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, shown here in 2018, has beaten world champion Magnus Carlsen.

At just 16 years old, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa is now the youngest chess player ever to defeat Magnus Carlsen in his long reign as world champion. The two faced off in an online tournament that had featured 16 elite players.

Praggnanandhaa is a grandmaster from India who is commonly referred to simply as Pragg. The chess prodigy said after the game that he was glad to improve on his play from the tournament's first day — and to avoid a draw in his game against Carlsen, which included 39 moves.

"I'm just really happy," he said in an interview from Chennai, India.

Pragg is the youngest person to defeat Carlsen since he became world champion — a streak that extends back to 2013, as World Chess notes.

For Carlsen, it was another disappointing game in a tournament that has seen him make uncharacteristic blunders. The Norwegian said he's feeling the effects of COVID-19, after testing positive for the coronavirus before the tournament.

"It's been pretty bad. I played a couple of decent games, but the rest of them have been poor. I need to do a lot better than that," Carlsen said, according to the International Chess Federation website.

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"It's been a little bit better today," Carlsen said Monday, "but the first couple of days I was feeling like I'm OK, but I didn't have the energy, which made it hard to focus because every time I tried to think I blundered. It was a little bit better today, but still pretty bad."

Before running into Pragg, Carlsen had notched three straight wins, showing signs of returning to form after a rough start. In contrast, Pragg was bouncing back from three losses.

Because of the time difference involved in playing the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour 2022 online tournament, the teenager is required to stay up late at night to face the world's best chess players. After his win, Pragg was asked whether he would get some rest or take time to celebrate with a nice dinner.

"It's about just going to bed, because I don't think I will have dinner at 2:30 in the morning," he said.

A version of this story first appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.