The brilliant winning spree of Indian Grandmaster Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa in the FTX Crypto Cup came to a halt after four perfect rounds as he slumped to a 0.5-2.5 defeat against Vietnam’s Liem Quang Le, ending his chances of taking sole lead in the event.
With world champion Magnus Carlsen losing the fifth round to Jan-Krzysztof Duda of Poland in tiebreak, Praggnanandhaa had an opportunity to take sole lead.
The Indian wonderkid Pragg, who has looked so impressive in this event and was in a neck-and-neck battle with Carlsen, finally cracked under pressure after four straight match wins. He went down in three games 2.5-0.5 to Vietnam’s Liem Quang Le, ending his hopes of taking the sole lead.
It was Pragg’s (12) first defeat of the tournament and it leaves him one point behind Carlsen, who clawed his way into a narrow lead with a point salvaged from a disastrous Round 5 match on Friday.
The out-of-sorts world champion blundered his way to a two-game deficit against Jan-Krzysztof Duda before an unexpected power outage in the Eden Roc Miami Beach affected the playing arena.
It appeared to affect the players too as Carlsen refocused when Duda could not and dug deep to win the next two games. Having looked dead and buried, Carlsen had levelled the match at 2-2 and taken it to tiebreaks.
With momentum behind the Norwegian going into the blitz play-off, history suggested there was only going to be one winner.
But Duda had other ideas. He roared back to win the first blitz game and then, when Carlsen blundered a bishop in the second, the match ended with Poland’s number 1 picking up the win. Duda took 2 points and Carlsen 1.
While Pragg and Carlsen slipped up, French Iranian teenager Alireza Firouzja jumped into the fray when he breezed past the enigmatic American Hans Niemann by 2.5 to 0.5 to sit a point behind Pragg and just two off the lead.
What looked like a two-horse race yesterday now has three riders going into the final two rounds which are becoming increasingly tense.
Anish Giri, another player who has been badly out-of-sorts, took all three points from his match against Levon Aronian. Winning two games in a row to finish Aronian off, Giri showed he has rediscovered his ruthless streak. However, realistically, both players are out of the running.
Giri is placed a distant fourth with seven points while Aronian is on five points.