Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu
Praggnanandhaa RameshbabuIANS (FIle photo)

Champions Chess Tour: Praggnanandhaa stuns Carlsen in tiebreaks to finish runners-up in FTX Crypto Cup

Miami, August 22, 2022

India's Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa came back strongly from a game deficit to stun world champion Magnus Carlsen in tiebreaks in the seventh and final round and finish runner-up in the FTX Crypto Cup, the second major on the Champions Chess Tour.

Starting the round two points behind the Norwegian, the 17-year-old Pragg was looking down and out after losing the third of the four rapid games. But Carlsen, who was steering the fourth game to a draw, blundered in the endgame and the Indian capitalised on it to take the match into blitz tiebreaks.

In the four rapid games, Praggnanandhaa created a number of chances in the drawn first game, defended superbly in the second -- another draw --, went down in a tense third encounter before capitalising on Carlsen's mistake to win the fourth.

He dominated the blitz games to win two points, taking his total to 15. Iranian-French teenager Alireza Firouzja claimed three points in the final round to tie with Pragg at 15 points but eventually had to be satisfied with the third place.

The win in the third rapid game meant that Carlsen took his total to 16 points, and thus emerged the champion, winning the FTX Crypto Cup for the second year in a row.

Carlsen notched up a third win of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour season and his first Major win. The result also stretches his lead at the top of the USD1.6 million Tour leaderboard and wins him the tournament's unique NFT trophy.

Pragg and Carlsen were neck-and-neck throughout the whole tournament with the youngster putting in a real statement performance throughout.

But in Round 7 of the all-play-all event, Pragg faced the real acid test -- world No. 1 Carlsen. The youngster had chances in the first game and then had to defend like a lion in game 2. Finally, he ran out of steam in the third.

Carlsen clinched the win that guaranteed him the title and in classic Magnus-style -- with a piece of endgame brilliance and a huge sense of relief, according to a release on Sunday by the organisers of the event, Play Magnus Group.

Reacting before the final rapid game, Carlsen said, "This game was very nervy, I think, for both of us. Today I haven't been able to find a rhythm at all, but hopefully I can relax a bit in the last game."

Carlsen did relax -- but it barely mattered to him. In the fourth game, the champion looked to be steering the game to a draw but blundered in the endgame.

"I think Magnus just wanted to have more fun!" Pragg, who still had work to do to finish second, was quoted as saying in the release.

In the final tiebreak, Pragg won the first and then ended it in a dramatic second game in which Carlsen blundered badly. Pragg ended the tournament on a high, securing the runner-up spot.

Carlsen hailed his tournament win a "great result".

The USD 210,000 elite esports tournament, held at Florida's Eden Roc Miami Beach, had gone into its final day with all eyes on Carlsen and Pragg's eagerly-awaited showdown.

But in the other matches, Alireza Firouzja was battling to overtake Pragg at the last hurdle and secured at least a third place finish with a 2.5-1.5 win over Levon Aronian.

The struggles continued for 19-year-old New Yorker Hans Niemann, who has entertained everyone throughout with his interviews. Niemann finished pointless as he went down 2.5-1.5 to Vietnam's Liem Quang Le.

However, the newly-crowned "bad boy of chess" can take away from the tournament memorable wins over Carlsen, Pragg and Aronian, plus an army of new fans.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda, the winner of the Oslo Esports Cup, finished off his tournament with a 2.5-0.5 win over Dutch No.1 Anish Giri.

Duda had a tough start to the event but finished with impressive wins over Carlsen, Pragg and then Giri.

The Meltwater Champions Chess Tour will return with its next "regular" event on September 19.


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