The big guns struck back in the FTX Road to Miami today as the tournament’s established stars overcame the youngsters. Levon Aronian, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Wei Yi and Richard Rapport all clinched semi-final places in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event.
It meant heartbreak for the young Americans Jeffery Xiong and Sam Sevian while India’s teen sensation Arjun Erigaisi also went out along with the more established Anish Giri.
Erigaisi started brightly in his match against 39-year-old Levon Aronian, the top seed and world No.5. The youngster took the lead in the first game after a dramatic pawn race on opposite sides of the board. Erigaisi, faced with a narrow path to the win, found the winning move to trap Aronian’s knight and promote the pawn, just in time.
But after a draw in the second, Aronian hit back in game 3 to level the score. Then, in game 4, the decisive moment in the match came when Erigaisi, in a position where he could have forced a draw, allowed his king to be trapped on the back rank.
FTX Crypto Cup 2022 all the information / FTX Crypto Cup 2022 Miami Qualifier live
With 41. Qe4 Aronian took control and there was no way back for the youngster. Aronian, who only just scraped into the knockout stage, had won two games in a row to clinch his semi-final against Duda. Playing from Yerevan in Armenia, Aronian said after that he got his confidence back after the third game.
Meanwhile, Dutch No.1 Giri crashed out to Poland’s World Cup winner Duda in a bizarre fashion.
Giri saved a seemingly lost position in game 2 before falling behind in the third after having rejected a draw offer. It left left him teetering on the edge of elimination. Then, in a must-win situation in the final game, Giri allowed a draw under the 50-move rule after there were no captures or pawn pushes from move 23.
Fans watching thought Giri was waiting patiently for the right moment to push the aggressive g4, but it never came. On move 73 the game ended in an automatic draw and Giri went out. Afterward, Duda said: “I was hoping he wouldn’t notice the 50-move rule was coming… I was trying to discourage him from pushing a pawn.”. Anish Giri vs Jan-Krzysztof Duda LIVE
Sevian, the winner of the prelim stage, had looked to be cruising into the semis with ease against China’s Wei Yi when he went ahead on game 2. But the 21-year-old from Massachusetts found a clean match win slip through his fingers in the final game as Wei staged a comeback to level the score at 2-2 and send the quarter-final into tiebreaks. Until that point, Wei hadn’t won for 12 games. Then, in the second blitz tiebreak game, Wei did it again to end Sevian’s impressive debut tournament.
It was a similar story in the last quarter-final match to finish as the 21-year-old Texan Jeffrey Xiong went ahead in his match against Richard Rapport, before the world No. 8 hit back. A final game draw made the score 2-2 and took it to tiebreaks. Rapport won the first of the blitz tiebreaks with a brilliant endgame before crashing through again in second. Xiong was out and the more experienced Rapport through.
The semi-final starts tomorrow before the two-day final kicks off over the weekend.
The FTX Road to Miami is the fifth leg of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and the qualifier for the Tour’s next Major, the FTX Crypto Cup. The line-up of top players is competing for places in the Major and a prize fund of up to $150,000. Those who make it through to the FTX Crypto Cup can vie for the Tour’s largest prize fund so far this year: $210K plus an additional $100K tied to the price of bitcoin provided by leading cryptocurrency exchange FTX.
FTX is the Official Cryptocurrency Exchange Partner of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and was the title partner of the first FTX Crypto Cup in the inaugural season of the Tour. Every move will be streamed live and for free on chess24.com/tour with commentary for all.