FTX Crypto Cup Semis: Carlsen-Radjabov, Nepomniachtchi-So
Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated Fabiano Caruana in the blitz tiebreak. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

FTX Crypto Cup Semis: Carlsen-Radjabov, Nepomniachtchi-So

| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

The semifinals of the FTX Crypto Cup will start on Friday with the matches GM Magnus Carlsen vs. GM Teimour Radjabov and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi vs. GM Wesley So.

While Radjabov and So quickly secured victory against GM Anish Giri and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave respectively, both Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi needed a blitz playoff to eliminate GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Fabiano Caruana.

How to watch?
The games of the FTX Crypto Cup can be found here as part of our live events platform. IM Levy Rozman and IM Anna Rudolf are providing daily commentary on GM Hikaru Nakamura's Twitch channel starting at 8:00 a.m. Pacific / 17:00 Central Europe.

FTX Crypto Cup knockout

Carlsen-Nakamura 4-2

Carlsen and Nakamura continued their second match where they had left the first, by trading wins. This time, however, they both chose to win with the black pieces! Nakamura scored first, tactically outwitting the world champ:

Nakamura then came very close to a 2-0 lead in the next game, in which Carlsen played the Hedgehog setup but was bulldozed on the queenside. Afterward, Nakamura said that if he had stopped Black's h-pawn with h3 at some point, he probably would have won the game.

Hikaru Nakamura FTX Crypto Cup
Hikaru Nakamura. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Two draws followed, with Carlsen playing 1.b4!? once again in his white game (see the game viewer below). Nakamura's reaction to that: "It's a move. It's not like it's losing or anything."

With both matches ending in 2-2, a blitz playoff was needed, and Carlsen was the first to strike. Nakamura said he was "too jumpy" in the opening and mixed up the move order. "I forgot it's 5+3," he added, meaning the time control is slower than he thought.

Nakamura had to force things in the second blitz game, but that didn't work out and he lost again.

“Thanks to Hikaru as well for making it a great match,” said Carlsen. “It’s always a pleasure to play these matches against him, and they are never boring!”

Quickly joining the live stream on his own Twitch channel, Nakamura didn't have to be sad at all because there was some great news awaiting him.

The channel had completed a charity stream, and a record $430,000 was raised for CARE and the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in India.

"I know I lost the match, but this is definitely a silver lining to see that," said Nakamura.

The count is now at over $450,000 and you can still donate.

Team Hikaru Care donations

Caruana-Nepomniachtchi 2.5-3.5

As Nepomniachtchi also advanced, it is still possible to have a final between the two who are going to play for the world title in November. It would be a nice prelude.

The Russian GM also decided the outcome in the blitz portion after all four rapid games ended in draws this time. He won the first blitz game:

So-MVL 2-1

After winning the first match, So needed to score just two game points, and he did that with two draws and a win with the black pieces. Vachier-Lagrave decided not to try his luck once more against the Berlin but with the London/Jobava System instead.

An interesting exchange sacrifice was enough for a move repetition, but understandably MVL wanted more.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FTX Crypto Cup
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Radjabov-Giri 2-2

Radjabov also had the comfort of a first-match win and qualified by drawing all four rapid games. He trusted his ability to draw as Black so much that he "gave up" his white games completely by using the exact same theoretical drawing line in the Grunfeld.

The most interesting moment of the match was the following.

Teimour Radjavov FTX Crypto Cup
Teimour Radjabov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

All Games Day 5

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

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