FTX Crypto Cup: A Tournament Full of Drama
FTX Crypto Cup was a thrilling major tournament of Meltwater Champions Chess Tour 2022. In a previous article called FTX Road to Miami: The Fifth Event of Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, the minor tournament of this major was discussed. In the minor tournament, Armenian super grandmaster Levon Aronian took first place in the competition and earned his seat at Miami.
FTX Crypto Cup took place in Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel in Miami, Florida (See “Eden Roc”). This second major tour event lasted six days, starting on the 15th of August, and ending on the 21st of August. However, players arrived early in Miami. They spent their time playing chess on the beach and learning golf from one of the Puma golf ambassadors and golf trick shot artist Ryan Rustand.
There were eight elite players: World Champion Magnus Carlsen, world number four player Alireza Firouzja, world number six player Aronian Levon, world number nine player Anish Giri, Polish super grandmaster Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Chinese super grandmaster Liem Quang Le, “the future of American chess” Hans Moke Niemann, and the Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa R. Since all of the players were physically in Miami, one might assume that games were played over the physical board; yet, it was not the case in this tour. The Meltwater Champions Chess Tour’s tournaments are entirely online. Players are playing their games on the chess24 platform, which is a part of World Champion’s Play Magnus Group. This had some advantages for the viewers and a disadvantage for players. Anybody could see the playlists that players were listening to while playing. My favorite is the playlist Magnus Carlsen listened to. It is made by one of the members of the Play Magnus Group, Askild Bryn, and called “David’s greatest hits challenge!” It has Queen, ABBA, Daft Punk, David Bowie, Shakira, Frank Sinatra, and many others. In the playlist, there is even a song called Magnus Carlsen and a song that features Magnus Carlsen. If you want to give it a shot and listen to the playlist, you can access the playlist through this link. The disadvantage was that the internet connection was lost during a game. Players had to wait to continue their games. Some players had more time to calculate and save their positions.
The Cup was seven rounds. Each match consisted of four rapid games with both colors twice, except if three games ended in a result of 3-0 or 2.5-0.5 when the fourth game would not be needed anymore. But if the score was 2-2 after four games, players had to play a blitz tiebreak that consisted of two blitz games once with each color. The time control for the rapid games was fifteen minutes and move ten seconds increments per move. On the other hand, the time control for the blitz games was five minutes and three seconds increment after each move. Similar to the other events of the tournament, each win after the four rapid games was worth three points for the winner, and the loser earned, unfortunately, zero points. If after the four rapid games a tiebreak was needed, the winner would get two points, and the loser would get one point.
After each point earned, players gained cash prizes. For three points earned after a match, the player would get 7500 dollars. If the winner was decided by a tiebreak, the tiebreak’s winner would get 5000 dollars and the loser would get 2500 dollars. There was only a player who could not receive any cash prize, and it was the young grandmaster Hans Moke Niemann. Niemann’s presence in this tournament was debatable. Some viewers argued that he was invited due to his entertaining nature. He is a Twitch streamer and his words are very strong. In the second round, Niemann was playing with Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen was outplayed by Niemann in the first game. After the first game, Niemann stopped for an interview, where he said that “the chess speaks for itself,” and turned around to leave the interview. He did not answer the interviewer’s next question. Isn’t this act of his interesting After this short live-streamed interview, chat on the Twitch stream of chess24 started to write his sentence and wanted Niemann back. Niemann did not join back in the interview. It went viral on Reddit. You can watch the viral interview through this link. After his strong words, he lost all three remaining games against Carlsen and lost the match. Viewers mocked him a lot. But it did not matter for Niemann. After the tough day against Carlsen, Niemann tweeted: “I will be declining all interviews today, the chess will speak for itself,” (See “Niemann’s Tweet”).
YouTuber, Twitch streamer, and Japanese-American super grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura created a few content from Niemann’s situation, some of which were named “The Future of American Chess Blundered”, “Don’t Get Cocky Against Magnus Carlsen”, “Hans’ Chess Keeps Speaking for Itself”, and “Hope This Helps You Out, Hans - We're All Pulling For You!” If you even read the captions of these videos, you can easily understand that Nakamura is joking around with Hans. Although Niemann was the sole reason for the entertaining memories, he lost all seven rounds. It must be harsh yet, he took it professionally. Right after the cup, he came to Türkiye to play in the Isbank Turkish Super League.
One other interview was made with the first player in the tour standings, Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen had some struggles throughout the tournament. His game quality was off in some games. As discussed earlier, he was outplayed by Hans in the first game, but Hans was not the only one who outplayed him. Alireza Firouzja won against Carlsen in their first game as well. Carlsen could not bring anything to the table. After moves 13… exd5 and 14. cxd5, Firouzja was already better (See “Firouzja - Carlsen”). Maybe he did not take the tournament seriously, or maybe he was just exhausted and could not concentrate. In a video, he said, “I’m going home first time in two months”*. In these two months, he played many prestigious tournaments and performed as expected from him. Here as well, he became the champion by scoring sixteen points. In an interview in this cup, Carlsen stated, “I lost my motivation long ago”. It is sad to hear that from maybe the best chess player ever in history. However, it explains why his performance was not stable in the cup.
Firouzja - Carlsen
Actually, Carlsen and Niemann were not the only ones who performed poorly. Super grandmasters Aronian and Giri did not perform at their level. Lately, Aronian seems to struggle. On the other hand; Duda, Praggnanandhaa, Firouzja, and Le had a pleasant tournament. Especially, young talent Praggnanandha had an outstanding tournament. He was the runner-up (See “Standings”). In between games, he said, “I’m kind of underrated in classical chess” which is true considering his ability. But, surely, he has many years ahead to be a top 10 player. He will come there eventually.
There was a lot to talk about in this tournament. It had entertainment, some drama, and amazing chess. But if you would ask me, it was obvious from the start that this tournament would be an interesting one.
*Actually this video has two other news. Firstly, in the same video, exciting news was given to chess.com users. Chess.com have submitted an offer to Play Magnus Group, and they will finalize the legal process in a few months. It means we will see Carlsen on chess.com more. He will probably play in the Titled Tuesdays and Speed Chess Championship. Lastly, this video should have been uploaded as a zoom meeting and every participant should have stayed in the meeting for it to upload. However, Carlsen kept losing connection, and after a few times this situation repeated itself, Carlsen said “Yeah… I don’t think the hotel wifi here in Miami is the fastest, right?”. I think this sentence of his is funny even though he did not intend for it to be. Since an internet outage happened during a match and players had to wait to continue their games, it is no doubt that the internet was not the best in the hotel.
"Chess.com Makes Offer To Play Magnus Group." YouTube, uploaded by Chess.com, www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP-K0mYHeD0&t=203s. Accessed 26 Aug. 2022.
Eden Roc. www.cntraveler.com/hotels/united-states/miami/eden-roc-miami-beach. Accessed 26 Aug. 2022.
Firouzja - Carlsen. chess24.com/tr/watch/live-tournaments/meltwater-champions-chess-tour-ftx-crypto-cup-2022/6/1/1. Accessed 26 Aug. 2022.
"Magnus Carlsen LOST His Motivation." YouTube, uploaded by Magnus Carlsen, www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxZi7Gym4hA. Accessed 2022.
"Niemann's Tweet." 17 Aug. 2022. Twitter, twitter.com/HansMokeNiemann/status/1559920360732213249?s=20&t=qHeZjMxb9t2rnxoMWFVZTg. Accessed 26 Aug. 2022.
"Praggnanandhaa Says He is UNDERRATED." YouTube, uploaded by Chess24.5, www.youtube.com/watch?v=dABkyUpt4q0. Accessed 26 Aug. 2022.
"Standings." chess24.com/tr/watch/live-tournaments/meltwater-champions-chess-tour-ftx-crypto-cup-2022/2/3/3. Accessed 26 Aug. 2022.