FTX Crypto Cup: Giri leads, Carlsen struggling

by Klaus Besenthal
5/24/2021 – The preliminaries of the FTX Crypto Cup, the sixth event of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, started on Sunday. Anish Giri grabbed the sole lead with a 4/5 score, while world champion Magnus Carlsen only managed to get fifty percent of the points. There are ten more preliminary round games to come, so Carlsen is well in time to climb up the standings table. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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FTX Crypto Cup - Day 1

In the second round, our in-house endgame expert Karsten Müller noticed an interesting rook ending — Alexander Grischuk missed a study-like save against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.


The second round also saw the much-anticipated game between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi. The Russian went for a Sicilian. At first, everything went according to plan, with Carlsen giving up a pawn for initiative. However, a blunder on move 21 by Nepo resulted in him losing an exchange, which should have been enough to lose the game.

But sometimes even world champions struggle to convert their advantages into victories. The endgame, which looks fairly simple at first sight, becomes more and more difficult and is suddenly no longer so easy to win. Karsten Müller shows in his analysis how it could still have been done.


Knight versus rook was already a topic in the first round. If the side with the knight has a few extra pawns, then the side with the rook has a hard time dealing with the situation. It gets even worse when one of these pawns acts “as a nail in the coffin”. Karsten Müller:


Magnus Carlsen even lost a game in round 4 — it was a very strong performance by his opponent Maxime Vachier-Lagrave:


In round 5, the world champion drew with Alan Pichot, who got his first half point of the day against the Norwegian.

Levon Aronian had to deal with entirely different difficulties at his Yerevan home: the Armenian sat in the dark for a while due to a power failure, but was able to continue playing because the battery of his computer was still sufficiently charged. These are a few problems of online chess for which the ideal solution has not yet been found: cheating (with the help of an engine — of course, this is not to be expected with these world-class players), power failures, server crashes, and so on.

This tweet shows a poorly lit Aronian:

Standings after round 5


All games



Klaus Besenthal is computer scientist, has followed and still follows the chess scene avidly since 1972 and since then has also regularly played in tournaments.


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