India's teen prodigy Praggnanandhaa has won the Finals of the ground-breaking Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour.
The event was launched by Play Magnus Group back in April to give young chess stars a springboard to stardom during the pandemic and beyond.
It has seen 24 of the brightest talents from around the world take part representing 13 countries. The Tour has also been nominated for a prestigious ESG Award for its work promoting gender equality.
At stake was a total prize pot of $100,000 and, for the individual competition winner, a regular spot in next year's elite Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
The winning team, headed by chess legend Judit Polgar, will also fly to Dubai for the World Chess Championship next month.
Praggnanandhaa, who defeated the American defeated Christopher Yoo 3-0 in the final to pick up $12,500, said: "I'm just very excited to play in the Meltwater next season."
The Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour is unique in that throughout the series, all the players have received support from teams of coaches headed by two captains, Polgar and the former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik.
The line-ups have also been "gender-balanced" to counteract the under-representation of female players at the top level of chess. Currently, there is only one female player among the top 100 in the world.
It is part of a conscious effort by Play Magnus Group and the Swiss private bank Julius Baer to develop young talent, advance gender equality in the sport and find the next big stars in the game.
Larissa Alghisi, Chief Communications Officer at Bank Julius Baer, said: "We are really proud of the young chess stars. Not only have they shown exceptional ability, but also a thorough commitment to the hard work it takes to become a part of the world elite.
"Showing this effort in public coaching sessions streamed on the easily accessible online platforms for all has allowed them to inspire future generations of girls and boys alike, which is one of the core values of our bank."
Polgar, the strongest female player in the history of chess, said: "It's been a dream-come-true opportunity to spend time with and guide these amazing young talents. I'm proud of what the Challengers Chess Tour has accomplished in such a short amount of time and can't wait to meet my team in person in Dubai.
"In chess - and in talent management - you have to look beyond only the chess advice. Accordingly, I feel it is important and gratifying to have been able to give the talented girls and boy players guidance, to build them up and boost their confidence so that they dare to aim as high as possible. Next season we'll aim even higher."
The Tour saw four online rapid chess "Challenge" tournaments held over seven months leading up to the Finals, which ended on Sunday.
In the Finals, Praggnanandhaa conceded just one draw in nine games at the end of season Finals.
Praggnanandhaa was immediately congratulated on Twitter by his inspiration, Indian legend Vishy Anand and World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
Anand said: "Congrats! Was a very convincing performance. Really proud of your play."
The 16-year-old was one of five members of Team Kramnik to have made it to the Finals. Team Polgar had already secured the team battle against Kramnik's Team Kramnik.
The Challengers Chess Tour will be back in 2022. Stay tuned on ChallengersChessTour.com for more information.
For further information, please contact:
Leon Watson, PR for Play Magnus Group
+44 7786 078 770
About the Tour
Fronted by the strongest female player of all time, Judit Polgar, and former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, the Julius Baer Challengers Chess Tour runs alongside the hugely-popular Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
The Tour is organised by the Play Magnus Group and is designed to tackle head-on the lack of female role models competing in top events and promote emerging talent. More information here.