Fifty years to the day since Bobby Fischer took on Boris Spassky in the most famous match in chess history, another American showed off his supreme talent on the game’s biggest stage online.
Sam Sevian, the record-breaking former chess prodigy, came of age in the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour’s $150,000 FTX Road to Miami tournament as he shot into the lead with an unbeaten 20/24. The 21-year-old American made it four wins in a row and then picked up another 3 points from a walkover after 8 rounds of his debut on the elite-level $1.6 million Tour.
Meanwhile, Sevian wasn’t the only underdog to impress on a day of shocks. Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun thrust herself into contention to make the knockouts with a stunning three wins out of four. Ju, the lowest rated player in the field and the only female, followed up her win over Radjabov yesterday by beating Richard Rapport, Sam Shankland and Wei Yi.
FTX Crypto Cup 2022 all the information / FTX Crypto Cup 2022 Miami Qualifier live
Ju downplayed the achievement in an interview afterwards. She said: “Maybe it is because they want to beat me so they play an unclear game and I get some chances.”
International Master Jovanka Houska, in the commentary box, said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic. When the women play on the Tour I just cheer for them and I think it’s so fantastic to see Ju Wenjun do so well. I think she’s making that jump up to the next level.”
Among Sevian’s victims was world number 5 and top seed Levon Aronian, who has so far struggled with form in this event. Aronian is in a battle now to make the cut for the knockout when the prelims end on Wednesday. Sevian also dispatched Norway’s Aryan Tari and fellow American Hans Niemann before the walkover against Teimour Radjabov guaranteed him the sole lead without playing in round 8.
Azerbaijan’s No.1, who finished as the overall runner-up on the 2021 Tour, had become the first player to exit the tournament when he pulled out sick after the first round of the day.
Radjabov, who entered the tournament as one of the favourites, informed arbiters that he was suffering a health issue straight after losing to the Dutchman Anish Giri in round 5. Radjabov will be missed in the event.
Meanwhile, the overnight leader Jeffery Xiong impressed again in round 5 by beating Aronian but then fell back into third after a loss against Rapport and a draw with Radek Wojtaszek. Moving into second with 17/24 is 18-year-old Indian Arjun Erigaisi.
Tomorrow rounds 9 to 12 will be played. There are two big days to come in the prelim stage before eight are eliminated and the knockout starts.
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.