R Praggnanandhaa came up with more impressive performances against world champion Magnus Carlsen, beating the Norwegian thrice in a row at FTX Crypto Cup in the final round. In the overall standings, the Indian finished as the runner-up behind only Carlsen.
Despite the results against Praggnanandhaa, Carlsen secured a a third win of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour season and his first Major win to stretch his lead at the top of the $1.6 million Tour leaderboard.
Praggnanandhaa and Carlsen were neck-and-neck throughout the whole tournament with the youngster putting in a real statement performance throughout. Ahead of the final round, Carlsen had a two-point lead over the Indian teenager.
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.
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 said, who still had work to do to finish second.
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 $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.
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 his tournament off 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.
Watch Pragg’s interview with Chessbase India here:
(With inputs from Meltwater Champions Chess Tour media team)