He is exactly 11 years, three months and four days old today. To break the record of Russian Sergey Karjakin, who became a Grandmaster at the age of 12 years and seven months, he still has nearly 16 months left. Ask Pragga, and he replies confidently: “I think I can do it before I turn 12.”
To put this dream in perspective, world champion Magnus Carlsen became a Grandmaster seven months past his 13th birthday. India’s first Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand completed the norm when he was 18. The youngest Indian to have achieved it is Parimarjan Negi, at 13 years and four months.
Babu says it’s the uncomplicated exuberance of his age, but his son has done his maths. “Before August, I’ll be playing in at least 5-6 tournaments. Now I have a FIDE rating of 2,455 (Elo points). So if I play well in the next three tournaments, I can complete 2,500 points before March,” says Pragga.
To acquire the Grandmaster status, he will have to get three norms of 2,600+ performances from individual tournaments. Pragga could complete 2,500 points, if he comes up with impressive results in Tradewise Gibraltar and Tata Steel Wijk B in January.
However, he regrets losing out on easy points that would have helped him attain the norm much earlier. “In the Isle of Man tournament (in October), I got only 5.5 out of 9. It was a satisfactory result, but one or two points could have helped me. I slipped up in a couple of crucial junctures in the final round,” he says, revealing a fierce streak of ambition.