FTX Crypto Cup: Carlsen beats Firouzja in thrilling match, leads

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/21/2022 – Magnus Carlsen has a 2-point lead on Praggnanandhaa going into Sunday’s final round. The young Indian star will get a chance to win the whole thing if he beats the world champion in the rapid section of their direct encounter — winning in tiebreaks will not cut it for Pragg. In round 6, Carlsen beat Alireza Firouzja in an exciting match that went to tiebreaks, while Jan-Krzysztof Duda defeated Pragg, also in tiebreaks.

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Pragg wins on demand, then gets mated

In a crucial match, Praggnanandhaa faced Jan-Krzysztof Duda in round 6 of the FTX Crypto Cup. Pragg came from losing for the first time in the whole event, while Duda had just stopped Magnus Carlsen’s winning streak in the previous round.

The Polish grandmaster did not have a stable performance in Miami, so he is no longer in the fight for first place, while Pragg entered the round in sole second place a point behind the leader (an outright win grants 3 points; a win in tiebreaks grants 2 points). However, Duda is a principled player known for fighting in every game, and this was no exception.

Playing with the black pieces, Duda kicked off the day with a convincing victory. Pragg was again outplayed in game 2, but Duda failed to convert his advantage in a queen endgame a pawn to the good, as Pragg’s defensive efforts were rewarded with a 113-move draw.

Another —quieter— draw followed, and Pragg was in a must-win situation, needing to score with black in game 4 to take the match to tiebreaks. The youngster delivered.


Pragg had been putting pressure on his opponent throughout the game, but converting from the black side of this position is no trivial task. Here, however, Duda played the wrong rook move, giving his young rival a larger advantage. While 33.Rf2 was the most resilient response, Duda’s 33.Rc1 allowed 33...Rxe3, giving Black ‘the material and the compensation’. Pragg went on to win the game and level the match score.

In the blitz tiebreaks, the 17-year-old started strong, getting a winning advantage with the white pieces (+5 according to the engines). Suddenly disaster struck, though.


Pragg’s 55.Nd3 allowed 55...Re2#, and Duda only needed a draw in the second blitz game to win the match. The Polish star also won the following encounter, thus getting back-to-back victories over the tournament’s early runaway leaders.

The organizers captured the turning point of the tiebreaks, showing Pragg’s emotional response as he allowed mate-in-one from a winning position.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

A laughing Carlsen beats Firouzja

Unlike a regular over-the-board tournament, the FTX Crypto Cup, despite taking place on-site in Miami, has the players making their moves on chess24’s online server. The contenders are also allowed to listen to music while they play. During Saturday’s sixth round, Magnus Carlsen sporadically laughed while facing Alireza Firouzja. It turns out the world champion was listening to a Norwegian comedy podcast.

After trading wins with the white pieces in the first two games, Carlsen and Firouzja drew the remaining two rapid encounters to take the match to tiebreaks. In game 3 of the rapid, things could have gone either way, as a sharp struggle saw both players showcasing their tactical awareness to keep the balance despite the massive amount of tension.


Carlsen here found the crucial 31...f4, giving up a pawn to quickly counterattack on the queenside via 32.Qxf4 c3.

In the first blitz tiebreaker, Carlsen was clearly stronger than his opponent, with white, and ended up winning to get ahead on the scoreboard. Firouzja seemed headed to level the score in the rematch, but missed a few winning moves in critical positions, allowing the world champion to equalize and eventually get the all-important draw.

Firouzja is now out of the race for first place. Everything is to be decided in Sunday’s match between Pragg and Carlsen: a win for Pragg in the 4-game rapid section will give the youngster tournament victory, while any other result will favour the world champion.


Le in great form

For a second day in a row, Le Quang Liem only needed three games to take down his opponent. In round 6, the Vietnamese star defeated Anish Giri after scoring wins in the first two games and drawing the third encounter with the black pieces.

In game 1, Giri missed a good-looking winning move in a sharp position.


Surely the Dutchman was looking for a way to break through on the kingside, but his 28.Nh5 turned out to be too slow, as Le got a key tempo to play 28...Qb4 and stop White’s momentum. 

Instead of the text move, 28.Nxf6+ at once wins, with the queen and the g3-knight placed perfectly to decisively join the attack. Soon after, Giri lost the thread and found himself in a miserable position.


Aronian beats Niemann

After starting strong, Levon Aronian had not won a single game since the second round in Miami. Facing Hans Niemann, the trend continued in game 1, as the young American scored a convincing victory with the white pieces.

This was not the first time Niemann won the first game in a match during this tournament — he also beat Carlsen and Praggnanandhaa in the first encounters of the day — but, unfortunately for him, he once again saw his opponent bouncing back and eventually winning the match. Aronian won games 2 and 4 to grab 3 points for the standings.

A sharp struggle in game 2 finished in this position.


A final checkmating on the long diagonal trick backfired, and Black resigned.


Standings after round 6

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.