Raunak bullets to Magnus proportions and becomes Indian first to book KO berth

Nagpur:- A month after clinching gold at an Arena 1196-player game, Raunak Sadhwani became the first Indian to qualify for a possible face-off with world champion Magnus Carlsen. One of 2495 masters in the Katara Online International Arena Chess tourney vying for a top-five spot, the city’s only Grandmaster (GM) blazed through to Monday’s knockout stage.

The 15-year-old played 52 games with an output rating of 2906 in the first leg of a 90-minute bullet blitz, to end the joint third, earning 109 points. Raunak has earned a place in the 16-player knockout round in an event to be played in three legs, where Magnus Carlsen is awaiting the 15 qualifiers. The “super excited” city boy said, “I got pumped up when I came to know that Magnus is being seeded for the finals. Magnus inspired me in away.”

Raunak, who is the ninth youngest in the world and 65th Grandmaster of India, finished behind Super GMs, including Armenia’s 2630 Elo Haik Martirosyan, US Andrew Tang (2538), and Russian David Paravyan, 2653. Raunak and Paravyan have tied for third place at 109 points.

Explaining how he achieved the result in a strong field, Raunak said, “Without worrying about the results, I kept playing well, enjoying the tournament. I knew there were three chances of qualifying but chose to forget about them and find the first as the final.” He added, “I firmly believe in positive self-talking and did the same before the event began.”

The 16-player Bullet Finals will be played on Wednesday, with Raunak and other players playing 12 games each to book a berth for the semifinals. The remaining two qualifying tournaments are being played later in the evening. Ten more players from each of those tournaments will qualify for the finals.

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