FTX Crypto Cup: Three leaders, Carlsen still in danger

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/25/2021 – Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Teimour Radjabov are sharing the lead on 6½/10 points in the preliminaries of the FTX Crypto Cup after two days of action. Out of the 16 participants, those that finish at the top half of the standings table will move on to the knockout stage. World champion Magnus Carlsen is currently sharing 6th-9th place with a 5½/10 score. | Photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit

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Crowded at the top

Anish Giri finished day 1 of the FTX Crypto Cup as the sole leader, and after 8 rounds it seemed like he was en route to also finish the second day of action atop the standings. In fact, the Dutch star had a 1-point lead after scoring his first win of the day over Alireza Firouzja. However, back-to-back losses in rounds 9 and 10 allowed three players to leapfrog him in the standings going into the last five rounds of the preliminaries.

Fabiano Caruana, who was the one inflicting Giri’s second consecutive loss, was the top scorer on day 2, getting three wins and two draws to climb to shared first place. Two players have as many points as him — Hikaru Nakamura and Teimour Radjabov, who have yet to lose a game in the tournament.

Giri stands a half point behind, much like Wesley So, who kicked off the event with two wins and is currently on an 8-game streak of draws. With four players a half point back on 5½/10 even these two players need to tread lightly on day 3 if they want to reach the quarterfinals.

Magnus Carlsen is one of those four players on +1, as he finished the day with a loss against Levon Aronian after having gained some momentum by beating Daniil Dubov and Alexander Grischuk in rounds 8 and 9.

FTX Crypto Cup 2021

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Caruana kicked off the day with a victory over Ian Nepomniachtchi. The Russian tried to muddy the waters from a lost position, but to no avail — Caruanadid not falter in the last stage of the game.


26...Nh3+ 27.gxh3 Rxf3 28.Rxd4 cxd4 29.Nxf3 Rxd6 and White has emerged from the sequence with a piece for a pawn.


The rest is easy for Caruana: 30.Re7+ Kh6 31.h4 d3 32.Ne5 Rd8 and Nepo resigned after 33.Bg8. This was the first of two consecutive losses for the World Championship challenger, who will need a strong performance on Tuesday to finish at the top half of the leaderboard.


The clash between Giri and Carlsen was also played in round 6. Carlsen had the white pieces and reached an ending with opposite-coloured bishops, rooks and an extra pawn, but could not convert his advantage into a win.


Endgame specialist Karsten Müller looked deeper into this position, noting that the world champion could have put more pressure on his opponent. Müller also analysed the endgame which Shakhriyar Mamedyarov did convert into a full point against Aronian in round 7. Replay both instructive endgames below.


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Magical Chess Endgames

In over 4 hours in front of the camera, Karsten Müller presents to you sensations from the world of endgames - partly reaching far beyond standard techniques and rules of thumb - and rounds off with some cases of with own examples.


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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