Magnus Carlsen put on a masterclass to secure a first-round win against Anish Giri as the FTX Crypto Cup got off to a thrilling start in Miami.
With $7,500 at stake for each match win at the Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel, the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Major started with plenty of fire and fighting chess. Most notably, Norway's World Champion went up the gears as he ended the round with two dominant wins to blow Giri away 3-1. It was an ominous sign for the rest of the field.
Giri, the Dutch No.1, did have a strong position in game 2 but was left ruing his decision to bail out for a draw without taking advantage and really going for a win.
Carlsen said after: "It was a lot of fun, we played really, really fighting games. Finally, I managed to break him in the third."
Carlsen now marches into Round 2 against the American Hans Niemann who had drama-packed day which ended with him losing 0-3.
Niemann suffered a disasterous start against Poland's Oslo Esports Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda - and not of his own making. The New Yorker's laptop ran out of power and had to be restarted, allowing his opponent five minutes to find the best moves.
In an expletive-ridden post-match interview, Niemann made his feelings clear and blamed the technical issue for his loss. Niemann didn't recover and went on to lose 0-3.
Meanwhile, India's 17-year-old hotshot Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa got off to the best start possible in the battle of the prodigies, sealing a first-game win by taking advantage of a tiny mistake from Alireza Firouzja.
Pragg followed up Firouzja's 21... c5 with 22. cxd5 and then 23. Rac1 to set up tactics in his favour. Grandmaster David Howell, commentating on the action for chess24, called it "a sign of true quality" before Pragg duly converted.
Firouzja, however, is not known as the world best junior for nothing. Immediately, he hit back in the second to level the score before building up a strong advantage in the third. Pragg looked lost but, incredibly, managed to turn game 3 around and score an improbable second win to go 2-1 up.
In the final game of the tie, Pragg closed out the draw he needed to take the 3pts and continue his incredible form in Meltwater Champions Chess Tour events.
In the last match to finish, Levon Aronian took an early lead against Vietnam's Liem Quang Le and then held on for three draws to take the match win, $7,500 and 3pts. Aronian said afterwards he would hit the beach.
Round 2 starts at 12:00 ET (18:00 CEST). Each match will be played over four rapid games, with blitz tiebreaks in case of a 2:2 draw.
All the action will be broadcast on chess24 with a choice of commentary from our Oslo team of David Howell, Jovanka Houska and Kaja Snare, or from Peter Leko and Tania Sachdev.
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Leon Watson, Head of PR, Play Magnus Group
About the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour
The Champions Chess Tour is the leading online chess Tour worldwide determining the world's best chess player over a full competitive season of online chess. The 2022 season begins in February 2022 and features monthly tournaments culminating in a Final in November 2022. The best chess players in the world are competing in rapid chess. All games take place online on www.chess24.com with players competing for a total prize pool of over USD 1.5 million. For more information visit www.chess24.com/tour.