FTX Crypto Cup: Praggnanandhaa posts third win, leads with Carlsen

R. Praggnanandhaa defeats Hans Niemann of USA to stay in the joint lead, at nine points, with Magnus Carlsen.

R. Praggnanandhaa has won all three of his matches played in tournament so far.

R. Praggnanandhaa has won all three of his matches played in tournament so far. | Photo Credit: PTI

R. Praggnanandhaa defeats Hans Niemann of USA to stay in the joint lead, at nine points, with Magnus Carlsen.

Continuing his eye-catching run, R. Praggnanandhaa defeated Hans Niemann (USA) 2.5-1.5 to stay in the joint lead, at nine points, with Magnus Carlsen after the third round of the USD 210,000 FTX Crypto Cup rapid chess tournament in Miami on Thursday.

Bouncing back from losing the first game with black pieces, Praggnanandhaa won the second and fourth games to close the contest.

Meanwhile, Carlsen won the first game and drew the rest against Levon Aronian. For the third day, Carlsen and Praggnanandhaa added USD 7500 for emerging winners without needing the tiebreak games. In the other two matches, Le Quang Liem (Vietnam) opened his account by racing away to a 2.5-0.5 victory over Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland) before Alireza Firouzja (France) ended a sequence of six draws to claim the Armageddon game against Anish Giri (Netherlands).

Praggnanandhaa was never comfortable in the first game. Down two pawns, he hastened the end with his king-move on the 45th turn. Though the game lasted 64 moves, Niemann's victory was never in doubt.

In the second game, Praggnanandhaa returned the favour with a dominating show that ended in 56 moves, with the Indian having an extra bishop. The even-battle continued in the third where Praggnanandhaa overlooked a chance to gain a decisive edge following the 28th move. Thereafter, Niemann forced a draw by perpetual checks in 34 moves.

The exciting fourth game, too, headed for a draw until Neimann erred by not going for an exchange of rooks on the 57th move. Instead, his decision to move his rook away swung the match decisively in favour of Praggnanandhaa. The Indian took just seven seconds to find the winning continuation, grabbed Niemann’s bishop for a pawn to close the match with his 64th move.

“It should have been an easy way to win but I couldn’t find it with little time,“ said Praggnanandhaa, who was woefully short of time during the fourth game. “It’s always tricky. He always had these tricks, so it wasn’t easy. Maybe he could have exchanged the rooks and (then) it’s a draw.”

Looking back on the games, Praggnanandhaa said, “In the first game, I didn’t play so well. One moment, I misplayed and it was over after that. In the second game, I think I played very well. Considering it's a rapid game, I think I outplayed him very nicely. In the third game, I had one chance, where I could have played for a win, probably, I was much better, but I missed it. So I just took a draw there.

“In the fourth game, I felt I was better but somehow, the game kind of equalised. Then I got another chance, but again it was counter-play. So it was just a strange game,” concluded Praggnanandha, who plays Aronian in the fourth round.

In the other matches, Carlsen faces Liem, Firouzja takes on Duda and Giri meets Niemann.

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