Carlsen wins FTX Crypto Cup, Pragg impresses by securing second place

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/22/2022 – Magnus Carlsen won the FTX Crypto Cup in Miami after losing in tiebreaks against Praggnanandhaa in the final-round tournament-deciding match. Pragg stood two points behind the world champion before the round, so his victory was not enough to claim first place (he gained 2 points to Carlsen’s 1). The youngster nonetheless finished in second place, despite tying on points with Alireza Firouzja, as he had defeated the Frenchman in their round-1’s direct encounter.

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Pragg beats Carlsen in tiebreaks

The two protagonists of this year’s FTX Crypto Cup — in its second edition — were coincidentally paired up against each other in the final round. Magnus Carlsen entered the match against Praggnanandhaa only needing a draw in the 4-game rapid section to clinch the title. After drawing the first two games, the Norwegian won game 3, thus securing first place in the tournament’s final standings.

Already relieved from the pressure of fighting for first place, the contenders continued to show a fighting attitude in the remainder of the match. Pragg managed to level the score in game 4, and even won both blitz tiebreakers to end the event on a high note.

The 17-year-old’s performance in Miami was nothing short of astounding, as he fought neck-and-neck with the strongest player in the world, beating a number of experienced GMs to prove that his great showing at the Olympiad is illustrative of his real playing strength.

In an interview given to the official commentators, the ever-humble Pragg, who was joined by his long-time coach RB Ramesh, confessed:

I think it could have gone better the last few days, but I think overall second is good.

Four years ago, Ramesh had said the following about his young mentee, highlighting his tenacious fighting spirit and drive:

Praggu has immense drive, which is difficult to spot at this age. Generally, after a few rounds, many kids tire and stop. But there’s no stopping him. He keeps on playing as if he’s unhappy if he couldn’t beat every player inside the hall.

At the tournament in Miami, Pragg beat all but two of his opponents (Le Quang Liem and Jan-Krzysztof Duda), including the world champion himself! Pragg listened to her sister’s simple advice going into the deciding match against Carlsen.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu

Pragg’s great performance does not take away from Carlsen’s magnificent showing — in fact, it only makes it all the more impressive, as the Norwegian once again demonstrated that he can up his game while under pressure, even against extremely motivated, in-form opponents.

With this victory, Carlsen secured his third triumph in this year’s Meltwater Champions Chess Tour (six events have taken place so far). This was also his first win in a Major, as he was outscored by Duda at the Oslo Esports Cup back in April. Having played 5 out of 6 events, the world champion is the clear leader in the tour rankings, with US$146.500 in total earnings, exactly US$46.000 more than Duda in second place.

Two more regular events will take place before the final Major — set to begin on November 11 — puts an end to a series that has increased its prize fund to US$1.6 million and is experimenting with on-site tournaments.

 

Select an entry from the list to switch between games

Firouzja beats Aronian, gets third place

With so many (extremely) young Indian players making the news lately, we might forget that the strongest junior in the world, by quite a margin, is 19-year-old Alireza Firouzja. The player now representing France suffered a setback in round 1, but made up for it in brilliant fashion, as he only lost to Carlsen (in tiebreaks) on his way to a third-place finish.

Firouzja tied on points with Pragg, but was relegated to third place given the first criterion to break a tie in the standings: the result in their direct encounter.

In round 7, Firouzja defeated the ever-dangerous Levon Aronian. After failing to convert winning chances in three endgames in a row (!), the youngster finally got the win he needed to keep his chances of finishing second alive — at that point, Pragg was still playing Carlsen.

The deciding fourth encounter saw Aronian entering an unfavourable tactical sequence in an imbalanced middlegame position.

 

White has more space and a better structure. For Black, his best alternative here is to simplify with 24...Nxe5, even when the ensuing position is not at all enviable for him. But Aronian, who is known for playing ambitiously especially in complex positions, went for 24...Bxh3.

An in-form Firouzja did not falter in showing why this was a bad idea — 25.Bxc7 Be6 26.Bd6 Qf6 27.e5 followed, and White had a strong initiative. 

 

Firouzja’s play from this point on was exemplary, as Aronian ended up throwing in the towel on move 41. The US grandmaster finished in sixth place after collecting 8 points throughout the week in Miami.

 

Le and Duda win on the last day of action

Both Le Quang Liem and Jan-Krzysztof Duda had uneven performances in Miami, but coincidentally they also finished the event with three match wins in a row. Le got fourth place after collecting 12 points, while Duda finished fifth a point behind his Vietnamese colleague.

In round 7, Le defeated Hans Niemann by a 2½-1½ score. The match saw Niemann bouncing back from a loss in game 1 but faltering in the last hurdle, as Le won game 4 to secure match victory.

Meanwhile, Duda beat Anish Giri in the first two games of the match, before ending things early with a draw in game 3. The Polish grandmaster sacrificed an exchange to further weaken Giri’s king position in the second game of the day.

 

22...Rxe2 23.Kxe2 Qxc4+ 24.Qd3 Qxa2+ 25.Kf1 and Giri accepted defeat a move later.

 

Final standings

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.
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