Magnus Carlsen and Indian star Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa are neck-and-neck on a perfect 9/9 after both won their FTX Crypto Cup matches today.
Norway’s World Champion overpowered Levon Aronian in a classic encounter that saw some thrilling fighting chess before the 31-year-old sealed a 2.5-1.5 win.
Pragg, bidding for his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour title, wasn’t at his best against an aggressive opponent in Hans Niemann but still ground out 3pts with a final game win.
Replay the action here:
Niemann had shown he meant business as he got off to a winning start against the 17-year-old joint-leader.
But Pragg struck back with a game Grandmaster Peter Leko called a “fantastic positional masterpiece”. It meant Niemann, as he did yesterday against Carlsen, had surrendered a hard-fought lead immediately.
A draw in the third left the match hanging on the final game which could have gone either way before Niemann made a fatal blunder.
Carlsen, meanwhile, played another offbeat opening in the first game, this time with the black pieces, and then slowly took over to win in 69 moves.
Two tense draws followed before, in a sharp final game, Carlsen clinched all 3 points with a draw.
The champion got the result he needed after throwing caution to the wind by sacrificing his queen. Carlsen could have played safely but said he decided to “take the bull by the horns”.
He added: “Truth be told, I feel like I escaped more than I just crushed him today. But it was a lot of fun. It was a very, very interesting, very very tense match and the result is great.”
Vietnam’s Liem Quang Le picked up his first points of the tournament with a quick 2.5-0.5 win over the dangerous Pole Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
Liem stormed into a 2-0 lead before finding himself in deep trouble in the final game, but still managed to salvage the draw he needed to take the match.
Defeat capped a bad day for Duda, whose challenge in the tournament was dented. Liem, meanwhile, was able to hit the beach early.
The last match to finish was Anish Giri vs Alireza Firouzja, which went to tiebreaks after four straight draws.
Giri bailed out for a draw in the first blitz game and then the second swung both ways before also ending in a draw. It meant an armageddon game.
But the final decider ended in heartbreak for Giri, who fell apart under time pressure and lost the match. He did pick up one point though to get off the mark while Firouzja took two.
Round 4 of the round-robin event starts at 12:00 ET (18:00 CEST). Each match will be played over four rapid games, with blitz tiebreaks in case of a 2:2 draw.
All the action will be broadcast on chess24 with a choice of commentary from our Oslo team of David Howell, Jovanka Houska and Kaja Snare, or from Peter Leko and Tania Sachdev.