After Magnus Carlsen made sure of the $210,000 FTX Crypto Cup rapid chess title by taking an unsurpassable 2-1 lead in the best-of-four rapid games, R. Praggnanandhaa inflicted an unprecedented hat-trick of defeats on the champion to finish runner-up in Miami on Sunday.
Carlsen tallied 16 points, one more than Praggnanandhaa and Alireza Firouzja. Due to Praggnanandhaa's first-round victory over Firouzja, he was adjudged the runner-up.
This was Praggnanandhaa's third victory over Carlsen in rapid games this year. His earlier victories over Carlsen on the Tour came in the Airthings Masters online rapid event in February and the Chessable Masters in May.
Praggnanandhaa had his moments in the first drawn game before Carlsen let the Indian youngster off the hook in the second.
“I think he defended well,” said Carlsen about Praggnanandhaa’s display and continued, “I just felt like there should have been a way to win, like when he had such a position from the opening you should generally win, but I think he did well. I don’t think I missed anything very obvious. Well done to him, absolutely! As I said, as long as there wasn’t anything obvious, then he didn’t make it easy for me.”
Carlsen took the third game in a dominating fashion and won the crucial third game to raise his tally out of reach of close-contender Praggnanandhaa.
“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,” said Carlsen.
Needing only a draw in the fourth to close the contest, Carlsen gained a good position but let Praggnanandhaa in the game by overlooking certain counterplay.
“I think Magnus wanted to have fun (after pushing a kingside pawn). I also wanted to have fun, so I took everything he gave," commented Praggnanandhaa after Carlsen said, “I’ve been playing badly all day, but now I’m getting the results I deserve... it’s never good to lose, but this is as good a time as any.”
With the scores level at 2-2, it was time for the blitz games.
In the first blitz game, Praggnanandhaa gave nothing away and punished Carlsen for a blunder on the 33rd move and tightened the noose in 63 moves.
Needing a win to force the Armageddon game, Carlsen came close to victory but blundered on the 50th move and resigned two moves later in a lost position to suffer a rare hat-trick of defeats.
“I was feeling terrible today. I just didn’t get enough sleep, I was just not in good shape, so I’m very happy and relieved to have won the tournament, and obviously I would have wished to have done better today, it’s really kind of embarrassing to lose the last three games, but overall the emotions are positive,” said the champion.
In the other matches, Alireza Firouzja (France) defeated Levon Aronian 2.5-1.5, Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland) beat Anish Giri 2.5-1.5 and Le Liem Quang (Vietnam) ended the misery of last-man Hans Niemann (USA) 2.5-1.5.
Final standings: 1. Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 16 points, $40,000), 2-3. R. Praggnanandhaa, Alireza Firouzja (USA, 15, $37,500 each), 4. Liem Le Quang (Vie, 12, $30,000), 5. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Pol, 11, $27,000), 6. Levon Aronian (USA, 8, $20,000), 7. Anish Giri (Ned, 7, $17,000), 8. Hans Niemann (USA, 0, $0).
Meltwaters Champions Chess Tour standings (top-5, after six events): 1. Magnus Carlsen ($146,500), 2. Jan-Krzysztof Duda ($100,500), 3. R. Praggnanandhaa ($98,750), 4. Liem Le Quang ($84,000), 5. Anish Giri ($66,500).