Reinforcing his growing stature, R. Praggnanandhaa stunned World No. 4 Alireza Firouzja 2.5-1.5 and joined World champion Magnus Carlen and two others as the winners on the opening day of the $210,000 FTX Crypto Cup rapid chess tournament in Miami on Monday.
In the second major event on the $1.6 million Meltwaters Champions Chess Tour, which offers a $100,000 Bitcoin bonus in the eight-player all-play-all event, Praggnanandhaa won the first and third games with white pieces, lost the second with black and drew the fourth. The victory in the best-of-four games earned Praggnanandhaa three points, worth $7,500.
In the day’s other matches at the Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel, Carlsen defeated Anish Giri 3-1 after winning the last two games, Jan-Krzysztof Duda blanked Hans Nieman 3-0 and Levon Aronian overcame Le Quang Liem 2.5-1.5 by riding on the first-game victory with white pieces.
Praggnanandhaa, fresh from claiming two bronze medals from the Chess Olympiad, exploited a queenside pawn-weakness of Firouzja, established an advanced central pawn and then launched a calculated offensive on the castled black king. Firouzja gave up on the 44th move.
In the second game, Praggnanandhaa not only missed a winning continuation on the 33rd move but also blundered decisively. This let Firouzja capture Praggnanandhaa’s advanced pawn and destroy the king's fortress to win in 42 moves.
Undeterred, Praggnanandhaa regained the lead in the third game after gaining from a late error from Firouzja. In the rook-and-pawn ending, though Praggnanandha held an extra pawn, the game headed for a theoretical draw. Suddenly, Firouzja misplayed his rook on the 68th
move to give Praggnanandhaa a huge, decisive advantage that the Indian went on to convert over the next eight moves.
Facing a must-win situation to stay alive in the contest, Firouzja could not get any advantage in the fourth game. In fact, Praggnanandhaa appeared better after the opening phase. As the game progressed, it became clear that draw was the most likely result. Eventually it ended in 54 moves with just the kings left on the board.
Next, Praggnanandhaa plays Anish, Carlsen takes on Nieman, Firouzja faces Liem and Duda clashes with Aronian.
For each game, the players have 15 minutes on their clocks, plus a 10-second increment for each move. In case of a 2-2 tie, two five-minute blitz games with three-second increment for a move will follow. In case the tie persists, it will be time for the Armageddon game, where white has five minutes to black’s four. A draw counts as a win for black. No draw-offer allowed before move 40.