FTX Crypto Cup: Carlsen and Pragg runaway leaders

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/19/2022 – With three rounds to go at the FTX Crypto Cup in Miami, Magnus Carlsen and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu continue to dominate the field, as they both won a fourth consecutive match on Thursday. Carlsen defeated Le Quang Liem, while Pragg got the better of Levon Aronian. Alireza Firouzja, who beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda, stands in sole third place, four points behind the leaders.

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Not a fluke: Pragg beats Aronian

There is no stopping Praggnanandhaa in Miami. The 17-year-old from Chennai beat Levon Aronian on Thursday in what was his fourth consecutive win at the FTX Crypto Cup. His perfect 12/12 score is not enough to go into the last three rounds in the sole lead, as none other than Magnus Carlsen has also collected four wins in a row in the tournament.

After beating Aronian, a long-time member of the chess elite, Pragg showed a mature, level-headed attitude in the post-match interview, noting:

To be honest, I got some lucky wins here and there. [...] Truly I think today the final game I didn’t play so well — I probably had different ways to play, and I chose the wrong one, so I’m not happy with it. But still a win is a win.

Going into the fourth game, Pragg was up a point on the scoreboard after drawing the first two encounters and beating Aronian with white in the third. Fearlessly, the youngster entered a complex struggle when all that he needed to win the match was a draw.


By this point, Pragg had given up two pawns, getting good compensation by forcing the white king to stay in the centre. He further increased the pressure with 20...Nxd4 21.exd4 Rxe2+ 22.Nxe2 Qe4


Here Aronian faltered by losing a tempo with 23.Bg5 Re8 24.Be3, when immediately placing his bishop on the e-file was the way to go. A rollercoaster struggle ensued, with Aronian surviving the attack and getting a clear advantage later on. However, it was the youngster who prevailed amid the complications.

Of course, in a rapid game, sharp positions can go either way event at the highest level, but the courage shown by the Indian while only needing a draw is certainly noteworthy.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Carlsen keeps the winning streak going

As things have developed in Miami, it is likely that the round-7 match (on the final day of action) between Magnus Carlsen and Praggnanandhaa will decide the winner of the tournament, as the world champion obtained a 3-1 win over Le Quang Liem on Thursday to keep his perfect match score — Carlsen has only lost one game so far in Miami, against Hans Niemann in the second round.

Much like Pragg, Carlsen started the day with two draws and then obtained back-to-back wins to collect 3 match points in round 4. The Norwegian’s key victory in game 3 only came after Le blundered unexpectedly in an imbalanced endgame.


Carlsen has two pawns for the knight and a clear space advantage, with his central army dangerously moving forward. While engines and commentators evaluated the position as slightly superior for White, things came to a head for Black after 33...Rb5.

34.Rd8 not only wins the bishop, but also leads to a forced mate — e.g. 34...h5 35.Rxe8+ Kh7 36.g6+ Kh6 and the dark-squared bishop is the one giving mate with 37.Be3#


Firouzja still with chances

The one player with realistic chances of fighting for first place with the runaway leaders is Alireza Firouzja. After starting the tournament with a loss against Pragg, the Frenchman won three matches in a row (one went to tiebreaks) to collect 8 points and go into the fifth round four points behind the event’s protagonists.

Firouzja is paired up against Niemann in round 5, before facing the tough challenge — one that he surely welcomes — of playing the world champion on Saturday.

Against Jan-Krzysztof Duda on Thursday, Firouzja won twice with white to get a 2½-1½ victory. In the fourth game, needing a win to take the match to tiebreaks, Duda failed to find a winning move in an interesting, imbalanced queenless position.


White is an exchange and a pawn down, but his bishop pair and well-coordinated pieces in fact give him an advantage. Duda here went for 41.Bd2+, visibly an alluring move, when 41.Rg1+ was the more incisive alternative that would have kept his winning chances alive.

After the text, Firouzja managed to activate his pieces and even got an edge in the ensuing complications. Instead, after 41.Rg1+, White would have created more problems for his opponent by penetrating with his rook —  e.g. 41...Kh6 42.Rg8 Kg7 43.Re8, and Black needs to be very careful to prevent his position from falling apart.

In the game, Firouzja missed his winning chances in a technical ending, but nonetheless grabbed the draw he needed to win the match.


Giri beats Niemann

In the match between two players who have been struggling in Miami, it was Anish Giri who prevailed over Hans Niemann after winning games 1 and 4.

Niemann had impressively defeated his higher-rated opponent in game 3, and after losing the final game — and the match — he did not shy away from telling the world about his frustration in an interview conducted right outside the playing hall.

While Niemann is set to face Firouzja on Friday, Giri will play Aronian after scoring his first win of the event.


Standings after round 4

FTX Crypto Cup 2022

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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.