Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa earned a hard-fought win in the third round as the Indian star and World No 1 Magnus Carlsen remained are neck-and-neck on a perfect 9/9 score after both won their matches in the FTX Crypto Cup.
Pragg, bidding for his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour title, wasn’t at his best against an aggressive opponent in Hans Niemann but still ground out 3 points with a final game win on Wednesday.
Niemann had shown he meant business as he got off to a winning start against the 17-year-old joint-leader.
But Pragg struck back with a game Grandmaster Peter Leko called a “fantastic positional masterpiece”. Niemann, as he did on Tuesday day against Carlsen, surrendered a hard-fought lead immediately, the organisers if the event Play Magnus Group informed in a release.
A draw in the third left the match hanging on the final game which could have gone either way before Niemann made a fatal blunder and Pragg won it for a 2.5-1.5 win in thus eight-player all-play-all field in the first offline event on the tour in which players get three points for winning their four-gane mini-match.
Norway’s World Champion Carlsen overpowered Levon Aronian in a classic encounter that saw some thrilling fighting chess before the 31-year-old sealed a 2.5-1.5 win.
Carlsen played another offbeat opening in the first game, this time with the black pieces, and then slowly took over to win in 69 moves.
Two tense draws followed before, in a sharp final game, Carlsen clinched all 3 points with a draw.
The champion got the result he needed after throwing caution to the wind by sacrificing his queen. Carlsen could have played safely but said he decided to “take the bull by the horns”.
“Truth be told, I feel like I escaped more than I just crushed him today. But it was a lot of fun. It was a very, very interesting, very very tense match and the result is great,” Carlsen was quoted as saying in the release.
While Praggnanandhaa and Carlsen are sharing the top spot with nine points, Aronian and Alireza Firouzja were sharing the third spot with five points each
Vietnam’s Liem Quang Le picked up his first points of the tournament with a quick 2.5-0.5 win over the dangerous Pole Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
Liem stormed into a 2-0 lead before finding himself in deep trouble in the final game, but still managed to salvage the draw he needed to take the match.
Defeat capped a bad day for Duda, whose challenge in the tournament was dented. Liem, meanwhile, was able to hit the beach early.
The last match to finish was Anish Giri vs Alireza Firouzja, which went to tiebreaks after four straight draws.
Giri bailed out for a draw in the first blitz game and then the second swung both ways before also ending in a draw. It meant an armageddon game.
But it ended in heartbreak for Giri, who fell apart under time pressure and lost the match. He did pick up one point though to get off the mark while Firouzja took two.
In the fourth round to be played later on Thursday, Praggnanandhaa will take on Levon Aronian while Carlsen will play Liem Quang Le of Vietnam.