Carlsen Wins FTX Crypto Cup
Carlsen went all out showing his emotions after winning the armageddon game. Image: Champions Chess Tour.

Carlsen Wins FTX Crypto Cup

| 102 | Chess Event Coverage

On the third attempt, GM Magnus Carlsen finally managed to beat GM Wesley So in a Champions Chess Tour final. In a thriller of a second match, the world champion ended up winning the all-decisive armageddon game. 

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi came in third after beating GM Teimour Radjabov in the consolation final, winning two games to one. 

How to watch?
The games of the FTX Crypto Cup can be found here as part of our live events platform.

Carlsen FTX Crypto results
Carlsen-So 4-3

It was another match where Carlsen started well but couldn't avoid getting into trouble later. So had all the chances to complete his hattrick of Champions Chess Tour finals against the world champion but this time, Carlsen was strong enough to come back and pull through.

How much this victory meant to him became clear right away. On camera, Carlsen went all out showing his emotions as he punched the air in delight.

"It's pretty sick! I came back five times when I sort of needed to win, and I also lost twice when I was up," he said. "It was just absolutely insane. I am just so happy to have pulled through. It's a massive, massive, massive relief."

This long-running rivalry between Carlsen and So is also interesting for theory lovers. In the first game, the players repeated the Queen's Gambit Accepted (coming from a Tarrasch move order) that they had also played in the Skilling Open. 

Back then Carlsen failed to win, but this time he managed with a superb strategical game:

Interestingly, Carlsen did not play the solid 1...e5 in the next game while being in the lead. It became a Rossolimo Sicilian with the off-beat 3...e5 and 4...d6 setup, perhaps borrowed from his former second GM Daniil Dubov who had played it against GM Anish Giri recently.

However, So was well prepared for it, was much better out of the opening, and left Carlsen without a chance in this game:

Wesley So Ftx Crypto chess
A very powerful game by So. Image: FTX Crypto Cup.

Two draws followed, including another theoretical move repetition in game four so that the players quickly moved to two 5+3 games.

Call him original, call him nuts, but for his white game, Carlsen repeated the Orangutan (1.b4) that he had played before in this tournament! So's reaction was not overly ambitious but ultra-solid. Just as the game was heading to a draw, Carlsen blundered a full rook:

This meant that Carlsen had to win on demand with the black pieces. To clear his mind, he changed his neat, white, sponsor-logo-filled shirt and came back wearing a casual T-shirt. And this time, he chose 2...d6 in the Sicilian that led to the Moscow Variation.

It looks like So hesitated at the critical moment, taking a time-out with 23.h3 where 23.Bd2! would have kept things under control:

Carlsen initially showed his emotions after this win, but he wasn't there yet. The armageddon was another must-win for him because So had chosen to play with the black pieces.

"I wouldn't say I was confident per se, but I did feel as though there were decent chances," said Carlsen. "I wasn't even that unhappy that he chose black. I thought if neither of us is playing their best, having the extra minute is nice. In the end, that turned out to be pretty important."

Carlsen: "I do feel that at the end we were both pretty broken, and sometimes it goes your way. It was a great fight."

Carlsen FTX Crypto Cup chess
Carlsen put back on his neat shirt for the post-match interview. Image: Champions Chess Tour.

"I'd like to congratulate Magnus on a great performance. He's a well-deserved winner for this one. I think he played the best overall," said So.

Carlsen won $60,000 and the equivalent of 0.6 Bitcoin, which was at a value of about $22,000 when the tournament had finished.

Nepomniachtchi-Radjabov 2.5-1.5

After their four quick, theoretical move repetitions from the previous day, Nepomniachtchi and Radjabov returned to normal chess and actually produced three decisive games. The Russian came out on top, winning his two white games that he both started with 1.b3. Here's the third:

Radjabov's win deserves a mention too, if only for the material imbalance at the end of the game. The seven-man tablebase says it was never a fortress:

Ian Nepomniachtchi FTX Crypto
Two wins for Nepomniachtchi with 1.b3. Photo: Peter Doggers/

All Games Day 9

The FTX Crypto Cup ran May 23-31 on chess24. The preliminary phase was a 16-player rapid (15|10) round-robin. The top eight players advanced to a six-day knockout that consisted of two days of four-game rapid matches, which advanced to blitz (5|3) and armageddon (White had five minutes, Black four with no increment) tiebreaks only if a knockout match was tied after the second day. The prize fund was $220,000 with a bonus of 2.1825 Bitcoin.

Previous reports:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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