The FTX Crypto Cup is set for a blockbuster finale tomorrow as Magnus Carlsen and Indian wonderkid Praggnanandhaa go head-to-head in a final shootout for the title.
The $210,000 elite esports tournament, held at Florida’s Eden Roc Miami Beach, rests on a last-round match between the big two who have dominated the event so far.
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Carlsen is the strong favourite after overcoming a fierce challenge from the exciting teen Alireza Firouzja in today’s sixth round.
Firouzja took the World Champion to tiebreaks but Carlsen won in the end to finish off the youngster’s lingering hopes of cracking into the top two tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Carlsen’s biggest rival Pragg was forced to battle back to take his match with the dangerous Pole Jan-Krzysztof Duda to tiebreaks. In a chaotic blitz play-off, the youngster from Chennai blundered badly and lost.
But it didn’t matter too much: the point gained from getting to that stage was enough to keep Pragg in contention.
Carlsen, however, is now a point ahead and knows if he reaches tiebreaks tomorrow he’ll win the FTX trophy. Pragg has to beat Carlsen in rapid chess.
The 17-year-old’s hopes must have been lifted when Carlsen, who played while listening to a Norwegian comedy podcast, got off to a horrible start. The champ played a series of odd moves before crashing to defeat in his opening game.
Unfortunately for the youngster, he was also on the receiving end of a defeat to Duda, who downed Carlsen yesterday.
In game 2, Carlsen made an important comeback and then two draws, the first a particularly fiery encounter, took it to tiebreaks where Firouzja folded.
Carlsen and Firouzja’s tense final game in the rapid section, with the score level at 1.5-1.5, could have decided the destination of the title. In the end, Carlsen won the play-off which became academic.
Over in Pragg’s match the youngster was staring into the abyss in game 2. Under siege from Duda, he defended like a lion until he found the only move to save the game, 92… Kg6. After 1 hour 7 minutes and 113 moves, Pragg escaped with a draw.
Pragg was still behind at this point needing to win the third against Duda to stand any chance of picking up maximum points. A draw, however, left him needing a final-game win to take it to tiebreaks. Incredibly, Pragg managed it.
The tiebreak was dramatic. Pragg was clearly winning the first blitz game but blundered into a mate in one to gift Duda the lead.
It was heart-breaking for Pragg, but he still had a chance to bounce back. Duda would not relent though and stayed firm to clock up four wins in the day and take the match.
Now attention turns to tomorrow when all eyes will be on Carlsen vs Pragg in Round 7 which will decide the title.
English Grandmaster Simon Williams said: “What more can be said, it’s going to be a brilliant day tomorrow.”
In the other matches, three games was all it took for Liem Quang Le to put Anish Giri to bed. The Vietnamese star was in spectacular form as he won the first two games and drew the third to seal a 2.5-0.5 win.
The struggles of Hans Niemann also continued as he went down 2.5-1.5 to Levon Aronian. Niemann is yet to win a point in the tournament.
Tomorrow’s final round of the eight player all-play-all 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.