FTX Crypto Cup: Aronian, Carlsen, Praggnanandhaa, Duda Start With Wins

GMs Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen, Praggnanandhaa R., and Jan-Krzysztof Duda started with wins in a first round full of fighting chess at the FTX Crypto Cup in Miami, Florida. The tournament is the sixth event in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and its second “major.”

For this FTX Crypto Cup, the eight players are all playing from the Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel in Florida, with their laptops placed together in one room—or rather, a chess-themed studio designed for what the royal game seems to be in these type of events: an esport.

In each of the seven rounds, a match of four rapid games is played and if needed, blitz and armageddon follows. In each of those matches, $7,500 is at stake. Players get three points for a straight out victory in the rapid, or two points vs. one in case of a tiebreak.

Carlsen-Giri 3-1

The world champion immediately had one of the tougher matchups on paper as he was paired with Dutch GM Anish Giri. A

fter two draws, it was Carlsen who struck in game game three using the French defense as Black. Giri, who employed the Advance variation (which is also seeing some kind of a revival!), should not have given up his light-squared bishop according to Carlsen, who called that a “serious misjudgement.”

After winning game four as well, Carlsen said: “It was a lot of fun. We played really, really fighting games. Finally, I managed to break him in the third.”

Praggnanandhaa-Firouzja 2.5-1.5

Coming straight from the Olympiad, where he won bronze with the India 2 team, Praggnanandhaa had a good start in Miami. “I am very happy to win this match against Alireza because especially in rapid and blitz he is very strong,” he said after the first day of play.

Pragg won both of his white games, and held one black game to a draw. Game three was critical as Firouzja was close to a draw:

A good start for Praggnanandhaa after a long flight from Chennai. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Aronian-Le 2.5-1.5

Aronian summarized his match with GM Le Quang Liem as “catenaccio.” According to the American-Armenian grandmaster his first game was good, his second game “terrible,” and in the remaining two he was “just trying to defend.” Explaining that catenaccio term, he referred to the old Italian style of play in football, adding: “You have Paolo Maldini in the center and everything is going to be good!”

Here’s that first game:

Duda-Niemann 3-0

This match had an unfortunate start especially for GM Hans Niemann, whose laptop wasn’t plugged in and ran out of power already after 10 minutes of play in the first game. The game was resumed, but apparently Niemann was so upset that he couldn’t get himself together and lost three games straight.

“I tried to be fair and not calculate too much,” said Duda—the winner of the first major, the Oslo Esports Cup—about the short period when everything had to be set up again. “But it was too interesting, too tempting to analyze it!” 

Below is the second game, which was visually nice with the many white pawns marching forward. White got a decisive advantage with a relatively simple tactic that both GMs didn’t spot immediately:

Jan-Krzysztof Duda
Duda: “I don’t think I am playing particularly well but I am successful and that is of course the most successful thing.” Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

All games round 1

FTX Crypto Cup | Round 1 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Pts
1-4 Magnus Carlsen 2822 3
1-4 Levon Aronian 2793 3
1-4 Praggnanandhaa R. 2751 3
1-4 Jan-Krzyztof Duda 2792 3
5-8 Anish Giri 2783 0
5-8 Le Quang Liem 2775 0
5-8 Alireza Firouzja 2793 0
5-8 Hans Niemann 2615 0

The FTX Crypto Cup, the sixth event in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, takes place August 15-21, 2022 on chess24. The format is a round-robin among eight players, who each round play a match of four rapid games (15+10). The winner earns $7,500 and three points. In case of a tie, a two-game blitz tiebreak is played (5+3), followed by an armageddon game (5 vs. 4). In that case, the winner earns $5,000 and two points; the loser $2,500 and one point. The prize fund is $210,000 plus an additional $100K tied to the price of bitcoin.

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