Carlsen survives almighty scare as Caruana dominates

Carlsen after

A frantic end to the FTX Crypto Cup’s prelim stage saw a surprise winner and Magnus Carlsen narrowly avoid being knocked early.

The World Champion survived by the skin of his teeth as the three-day round-robin finished with Fabiano Caruana out on top.

Caruana may be world number 2, but he is playing in his first Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event and was thought to have struggled to adapt to the rapid format.

The American dispelled those myths immediately with a dominant 10/15 to sail into the knockout stage.

Line-up

However, the real surprise was Carlsen in serious danger of being knocked out at the first hurdle of a Tour event before pulling out a win when it mattered most.

Carlsen got the vital point he needed to save the day in a nerve-jangling final round against Airthings Masters champ Teimour Radjabov.

Anything less than a win would have meant Carlsen’s exit at the prelim stage for the first time since elite chess went online last year.

The result meant heartbreak for Levon Aronian who had won his final game to pile even more pressure on Carlsen – but when it mattered most the champ held firm.

“Obviously it’s a massive relief,” Carlsen said after.

Standings

Tied for second behind Caruana were four players: Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesley So all on 9/15.

Radjabov finished level with Carlsen on 8.5, half a point ahead of this year’s World Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Like his opponent in November, the Russian also had a rough ride and only just scraped into the top 8 at Aronian’s expense on a tiebreak.

Tournament bracket

Caruana said: “After the first day it went as well as I could possibly have hoped for.

“I was a bit nervous that my form wasn’t good on the second day, I was concerned. But after that, it all went very smoothly, and also today it all went very smoothly.”

Eight players were eliminated and the top eight go forward to battle for the top prize.

Play will begin again at 17:00 CEST with the quarter-finals on chess24.com’s new playzone.